Category Archives: List

What’s in my rehearsal bag?

I confess. Every single time I pack a bag, I can hear my Grandma’s voice in my ear. “Abbie, you might need this…Abbie, you might need that…”
Between Grandma and my mother, the two most beautiful women I know, I always left the house with far more than I intended. But given that I’m now five years out of acting school and currently working on 3 different productions, there’s a fine art to what I need to take to a rehearsal/tech week. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list, as what you’ll need to pack will vary depending on what kind of show you’re doing. And by all means, if there’s any must-have items I’ve missed, feel free to add them to the comments below!

  1.  A bag big enough to hold everything.
    Personally, I use the Bloch Bagtastic Dance Bag. It’s not too big but holds so much. It has a mesh compartment, a wet pocket, an insulated pocket, and tons of internal compartments as well. It comes in a variety of colours. I chose purple because it’s my favourite colour and I accessorised it with a pointe show keyring.  Plus, it’s sturdy and will last a long time.
  2. Water Bottle
    Do I even need to explain this one? Keep hydrated. Make sure your bottle is a big one.
  3. Dance Shoes
    Admittedly this does depend on what you’re doing, but the most common is ballet/jazz/tap/chorus.  For ballet shoes, you’ll want to bring a sewing kit along. For the show I’m doing right now, I have to have chorus heels. And for the last show I did, I had foot wraps. 
  4. Your script, a highlighter and pencil, notebook
    Always useful to have your script and writing implements to mark cues, blocking and directorial notes.
  5. Headphones
    There’s usually downtime at rehearsals, so headphones are a great idea. I’m doing a musical right now and I use the time to go over my music and harmony lines.
  6. A Jacket
    Rehearsal rooms are either a furnace or a blizzard. It seems there’s no in between. So a jacket is very advisable.
  7. Snacks
    Do you really want to black out due to lack of sustenance?
  8. Thermos full of tea, and extra tea bags
    Recently, I spent several days in the recording studio, for the original cast soundtrack of the musical I’m in right now. The show is sung through with a total of 37 songs, and we were there til 1am some nights. 
    Without my thermos full of tea, my voice would have died. Thank the vocal gods for chamomile, honey and vanilla tea. That particular blend was calming and soothing. It was the only thing that prevented vocal fatigue and kept my vocal chords warm the entire time.
  9. Eucosteamer
    Like a lot of performers, I’m a slave to the Eucosteamer. It’s great for keeping your voice clear, especially if you’re sick and have to rehearse.
  10. Therabands
    These are great for stretching and warming up.
  11. Phone Charger
    Self explanatory. Either this or a portable battery. I carry both, Because tech week, am I right?
  12. Painkillers, Band-Aids, Allergy tablets, hand sanitiser
    Having a mini first-aid kit will save you more times than you can imagine. Someone will get hurt. Someone will have a headache. Someone will have allergies. This will minimise disruption.
  13. Deodorant and a towel/wipes
    Do you really want to be that person?
  14. Tissues
    Trust me, you do NOT want to get caught without these. 

Did I miss anything? What do you always take with you in the studio? Let me know in the comments!

Pre-Europe: Long Haul Flight Survival

It’s lucky for the world that long-haul flights aren’t an Olympic Sport. Australia would win hands down. I’m only in my 20s, but the longest single flight I’ve ever done was Sydney to Los Angeles in 2016, and that was 15 hours. For Europe, it was 8 hours Sydney to Hong Kong, a ten hour layover, then 13 hours Hong Kong to London. It was something I really needed to be much better prepared for, because on my first long haul flight to the States, I was naive and made just about every mistake you can possibly make on a long haul.

But not this time.

1. Be Organised

I always make sure I’ve finished packing by the time I go to bed the night before a trip, including my carry-on/personal item. For things I can’t pack til leaving for the airport (like my phone, charger, toothbrush etc) I write a list of these on a post-it note and stick it to my bag. That way I’ll never forget anything. 
Don’t forget to bring a pen for the immigration forms. Check online for luggage item and liquid restrictions/regulations to save yourself unnecessary stress, and weigh your luggage before checking in. And for the love of all that’s good and holy, NEVER PACK YOUR VALUABLES IN CHECKED LUGGAGE.

2. Dress Carefully

You never want to wear anything tight or restrictive, and there’s no need to dress to the nines. Stick to stretch fabrics and light, breathable fibres like cotton and wool. Remember that planes can get extremely cold, and the airline blankets are tissue-thin, so layering is your friend here. I’d also recommend slip on shoes for security.
My first 15 hour flight to America, I wore a fairly thin biker-style jacket, a tight tank top…and skinny jeans. The less you know about the results, the better. Suffice to say, you could have poured me into a bucket about halfway.

Having learned the error of my ways, my go-to long haul flight outfit NOW is stretch hybrid pants – AKA ponte pants. They’re thicker and warmer than leggings, but just as comfortable and look incredibly stylish with just about anything. I also wear a soft cup wire-free bra, a loose cotton t-shirt, neutral coloured sneakers, and I wear a blue sweater/jumper which is 50% wool, 50% cotton. In my carry-on I’ll take a pashmina scarf as an extra layer against the downright Arctic chill after ascension. On the way to Europe I took my packable down coat as a blanket which worked wonders, even as a pillow.

3. Health and Beauty

Who here wears makeup while travelling? I never wear makeup on a flight because cabin air sucks the moisture from your skin, vampire style. Regardless of whether you do or don’t, it’s advisable to bring a bit of facial cleanser/micellar water/facial wipes to clean your skin. You’ll also want to regularly apply facial moisturiser and hand cream. I always take my contact lens case and a travel size bottle of solution so I can swap to glasses and hopefully get some shut-eye.
I’ve never been game enough to use a sheet facial mask on a flight, but I do have a small routine. As soon as I settle into my seat, I brush my hair into a low ponytail. Then I take antibacterial wipes and wipe down the tray table and armrests, and regularly use hand sanitiser, since planes are breeding grounds for germs. I’ll cleanse my skin and use face cream, hand cream and lip balm.
If you can before the flight lands, brushing your teeth is highly advisable. A fresh minty mouth always makes you feel a little bit better. And don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Bring an empty water bottle to fill up when you pass security and get the flight attendants to fill it up during the journey.

And for everyone’s sake, don’t forget deodorant.

4. Dinner and a Show

I never step onto a flight of any kind without my phone, portable battery, charger, a good book and my headphones/iPod. You can’t be sure your entertainment system will work (hell, if there’ll even be one in the first place!) so be prepared. Noise cancelling headphones will drown out that screaming infant, a book is great when you’re tired of staring at a screen. Puzzle books are fun too. There’s usually charging ports at every seat, so take advantage of that if you bring an iPad or something. I never go anywhere without my portable phone charger though. 
I think we can all agree that plane food is one of the most abominable experiences known to mankind, so bringing your own snacks is always a good idea. 

My Carry-On

For a day bag, I used the  Pacsafe Metrosafe 100 Crossbody,  but it wasn’t quite big enough for all my flight essentials, so my carry-on bag was a foldable tote bag from Typo which was bigger, and could be packed away in my suitcase until I flew home. 
Here’s everything I took in my carry on. Again, it might seem like a lot in a list format, but it was quite minimal in real life.

Passport
Wallet 
Phone
Charger
Portable battery
Headphones
iPod
Water bottle
Hand cream
Face moisturiser
Travel size contact lens solution
Contact lens case
Glasses
Perfume (the solid kind from Lush)
Scarf
Facial wipes
Antibacterial wipes
Hand Sanitiser
Lip Balm
Hairbrush (travel size)
Hair elastics
Book
Pen
Snacks
Eye Mask

Pre-Europe: Packing Light

I’ve always considered myself a good packer. I went between my parent’s homes for 15 years, I’ve been on a lot of holidays interstate. I spent 2016 touring theatre in Australia. I’ve done New Zealand twice, I’ve been to America. But this trip was something else altogether. Five weeks, 13 countries, literally the other side of the globe, and in the dead of a European winter.

Now, we Australians know how to handle heat. When my mother and I visited Disneyland in 2016, it was 38ºC. That’s pretty standard heat, but without the humidity. The cast members, on hearing our accents, kept apologising for the weather and we just waved it off. “This is nothing!” And we meant that. Give me dry heat any day of the week. I’ll take it. But with the levels of humidity we get in Sydney, neither I nor my hair enjoy that situation.

Until I went to Europe, I had seen snow exactly twice in my life. Once when I was eight, and my Dad drove my brother and me out to a town called Oberon, located 180km from Sydney’s CBD. There were a few patches on the ground and we got to make a snowman for the only time in our lives. Then, in 2004 when I was in Year 6, we went on school camp to Canberra and the Snowy Mountains. All you need to know about that trip is I vowed I’d never go skiing again, and to this day it remains a threat I have carried out.

Childhood trauma aside, I did an immense amount of research on what to pack. Having never really had to dress for extreme cold and snow, nor having ever stayed in hostels before, I needed help. Plus, I’m just one of those people who loves researching and planning, so it was a lot of fun anyway.
I knew I’d be limited in weight and space for Topdeck, and I’ve never been one to overpack in the first place. However, I discovered there were plenty of ways I could improve on my already formidable packing abilities.

Now before I go on, a lot of the websites I looked at were advocates for packing carry-on only. As appealing as this idea can be, you also need to be realistic. For me, this was the other side of the world, in winter, 34 days, changing countries every few days…it just wasn’t going to happen. This didn’t mean that I was going to pack three suitcases containing my entire wardrobe and the kitchen sink, but I also wasn’t going to get everything I needed into seven kilograms either. Some airlines in America and Europe may allow more generous carry-on allowances, but in Australia, 7kg is standard. In this post, I’m going to go through some tips for packing light, and what I actually ended up packing.
Not packing carry-on only doesn’t mean you’re overpacking!

1. Get a smaller, lightweight suitcase

Some people on the Winter Spirit had a backpack, and if that works for you, great. I’m more of a suitcase girl myself, and I prefer soft ones. If you’re going on a coach trip like I did, you will likely have luggage limits in terms of dimensions and weight. For Topdeck the weight limit was 20kg, and my airline, Cathay Pacific, was 30kg.

The bag I travelled with was the Lanza Roam 68cm Expand Spin Suitcase. It measures 68cm x 41cm x 27cm, and weighs 2.6kg when empty. It also has an expandable section if you’re really in dire straits. I have a larger Flylite suitcase which came in handy while touring and moving house, but I needed something smaller for this trip. The lighter the suitcase, the more you can pack. And the smaller the suitcase, the less you can fit.
Also, it’s not a bad idea to get a bag with a distinct colour or design, or using some kind of tag to identify it at the carousel.

2. Choose clothing carefully

Every tip I’ve read about packing light comes down to one thing when talking about clothes: Choose clothes that mix and match.
I went through every item of clothing I picked to take with me and made sure they went with every other piece. Stick with solid colours rather than patterns, and neutral colours like black, grey, blue, red. You can add accessories to spice up your outfits. You’d be amazed how many outfits you can make with just a few pieces. And if you’re travelling in cold weather, your outfits will be hidden under your jacket most of the time. For me, I had a taupe down coat from Uniqlo. It was perfect.
Layering is your friend. To stay warm in Europe’s winter, I packed thermals to keep myself warm. I chose a lightweight down coat and lightweight merino wool jumpers/sweaters, and I bought wool socks from Kathmandu. Pick clothes that you can easily wash and will dry quickly. Wool is your friend, because it’s light, very warm, easily layered, and doesn’t need to be washed often. Also, think of clothes that can be dressed up or down for versatility on nice nights out.
I’m a low maintenance kind of girl, and pyjamas aren’t really important so I stuck with some cheap leggings from Supre instead of thick flannel fabric. Lightweight, comfortable and hardly take up any room
Typically for a day of sightseeing in Europe, I would wear a thermal top and leggings underneath jeans/ponte pants and a merino sweater with my down coat on top, scarf, hat, gloves. With my lined boots and wool socks, I was warm as toast. I did laundry maybe once or twice a week, and didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Be brutal when packing. If you don’t wear it in normal life, you won’t wear it on holiday. If it needs dry cleaning, ditch it. If it takes a week to dry, forget it too. Leave the heels unless you actually need them for an event or something. 2-3 pairs of shoes MAXIMUM is all you need.

Another tip I know to keep baggage weight and space down is you can wear your winter boots and coat on the plane. This has worked wonders for me in the past, but because I was flying out in the blazing Australian summer, this wasn’t an option for Europe.

3. Packing cubes are your new best friend

I wish, I wish, I WISH I’d known about packing cubes years ago. They have changed my life. I will literally never travel without them again. They’re small fabric zippered bags which serve to keep your clothes organised. They help you pack less (you’ll be amazed how much they fit when you roll your clothes!), stop you digging around in your bag for that elusive pair of socks and when you need to repack (as I did every couple of days), you just throw them in your suitcase and away you go. I had one for sweaters and tops, one for socks and underwear, one for pants and one for thermals, scarves, hats and my gloves. Just four packing cubes held everything. My down coat came with its own pouch, and I had a toiletry bag. All electronic cords stayed in the zippered section in the lid of my suitcase. I also packed a cheap laundry bag from Daiso to keep my dirty and clean clothes separate.
You can get packing cubes in different sizes all over the place. Amazon, Kathmandu, travel stores, even the $2 shop. Get a few and prepare to have your life improve.

4. Downsize toiletries and makeup

Toiletries and makeup, along with shoes can be the bane of your life. You can either decant all your toiletries into smaller bottles, buy full size once you arrive, or go with solids. For makeup, I did just fine with mineral powder, blush, brown eyeshadow, neutral pink lipstick and light eyeliner. In fairness, I don’t wear makeup much except when I’m performing. Regardless, you don’t want to be packing heavy glass foundation bottles.

I highly recommend getting a hanging toiletries bag, especially for Europe, because the bathrooms can be very tiny and there usually isn’t anywhere for the bag to go.
And for the girls, if you want to make everything easier, ditch the pads/tampons and go with a menstrual cup. For more reasons why, click here. Again, I wish to heaven I’d known about these a long time ago.

5. Whatever you do, don’t pack at the last minute.

The best thing you can do is start packing at least two days before you go. Last minute packing is stressful, and tends to lead to overpacking. If you find you’re missing something a day or so before you leave, you have time to fix this. Take the time to write a list, and stick to it!

Below, I present my packing list. In this form it may seem like a lot, but in total it weighed 9kg.
Next blog will be dedicated to the long haul flights and carry on.

My European Winter Packing List

Clothes
7 x underwear
4 x socks
3 x bras
3 x thermal tops
2 x thermal leggings
5 x merino/merino blend sweaters (1 black turtleneck, 1 red crewneck, 1 blue crewneck, 1 light blue crewneck, 1 grey turtleneck)
4 x ponte stretch pants (1 black, 1 navy blue, 1 green, 1 dark grey)
1 x skinny jeans
1 x belt
1 x blue top (for going out)
1 x black skirt (for going out, wore thermal leggings to keep warm)
2 x cotton leggings (used as pyjama pants)
1 x cotton pyjama shirt
1 x cotton t-shirt (for the flights)
1 x taupe down coat
2 x scarves
1 x merino wool gloves (these had touchscreen fingers so I could still use my phone)
2 x merino wool hats
1 x lined walking boots (could be dressed up or down for nights out)
1 x sneakers (for the flights and long travel days on the coach

Toiletries
Prescription medication
Lush solid shampoo bar
Hair conditioner (also doubled as shaving cream)
Body wash (replenished in Vienna)
Face wash (replenished in London)
SPF moisturiser
Night cream
Body lotion
Exfoliator
Deodorant
Razor
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Body puff
Contact Lenses
Contact Solution/Case
Makeup (powder, blush, eyeshadow quad, eyeliner, lipstick, mascara, eyelash curler)

Miscellaneous
Laundry bag
Portable clothesline
Microfibre towel (a must if staying in hostels)
Plug adaptors
Chargers
Portable luggage scale
Spare padlock

https://thesavvybackpacker.com/

Dedicated to European travel, this website is brilliant. It’s full of tips, packing advice, travel guides, scam warnings, you name it. I would have been lost without it.

https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/

A great website for packing light. Literally has a list for every destination, in all weathers. They’re big fans of carry-on only, and they also have ideas for reducing toiletries, makeup etc. Great for the ladies.

Next time: Long haul flights and carry on advice

Top 10 Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

I’ve been waiting a long time to do this list! The Simpsons is without doubt my favourite TV show of all time. I don’t watch it much anymore (lack of pay TV), but on the rare occasion I do catch it, it’s not that bad. Of course, the show is nowhere near as good as it was but I wouldn’t call it terrible. The characters are still there, I still laugh, and there’s the occasional good joke.

But of course, what we’re talking about today is the Halloween episodes. When I was growing up, Halloween was purely an American tradition, and all I really knew about it came from, you guessed it, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.
Even today, the Halloween specials are a must. From parodies to an all-out cartoon gore-fest, we wonder what the writers will do this year. And I’m going to count down the best segments today.

A quick disclaimer. This was probably the hardest list to select. They’re that good. ALL of the segments are great in their own way.
These are the ones that I personally enjoy the most. For a moment to qualify, I need to have seen it entirely.

What will be on the list? Let’s get started!

10. The Shinning (Treehouse of Horror V)

the-shinning

The family become winter caretakers at Mr Burn’s hotel. However, he has cut off the cable TV and destroyed any Duff Beer in the house, causing Homer to go crazy.
The Simpsons have done hundreds of great parodies over the years but this is one of their best. Even people who have never seen The Shining are able to appreciate the jokes.
From the blood in the elevator to the iconic “No TV and No Beer Make Homer Go Crazy”, there’s never ending laughs while still paying homage to Stanley Kubrick.

9. Easy Bake Coven (Treehouse of Horror VIII)

easy-bake-coven

In the year 1692, the town of Springfield is now Salem in the grip of the infamous witch trials. At a town meeting, Goody Simpson is accused of being a witch, and later at her kangaroo trial, it’s revealed that she actually is. Marge joins her fellow witch sisters Patty and Selma, and they plan to eat the town’s children. Thanks to the Flanders’ quick thinking, the witches start asking for treats instead, thus beginning the trick or treat tradition of Halloween.
Maybe it’s because The Crucible is one of my favourite plays, or maybe it’s the fact that as an Australian I never got to go trick or treating as a child. But this segment really does make me laugh years later, and I get more of the references now that I’m in my twenties.
Incidentally, is there an age restriction on trick or treating? Now that Halloween has come to Australia in a big way, I may just get my chance…

8. Time and Punishment (Treehouse of Horror V)
time and punishment.jpg

Remember this classic? Homer, while repairing the family toaster, accidentally creates a time machine. Despite his best efforts, he manages to alter the future in horrifying ways. Swatting a mosquito makes Ned Flanders the maniacal world dictator. Accidentally killing all the dinosaurs causes a seemingly perfect world, but donuts apparently don’t exist.
Yes, like everyone else, the scene where Homer misses that donuts rain from the sky absolutely breaks my heart every single time. And I will always laugh at “Oh, I wish I wish I hadn’t killed that fish,”
The scenarios the writers and animators come up with here are beyond ingenious and hysterically funny. James Earl Jones’ cameo as Maggie’s voice is great. And you really do wonder how Homer is going to get out of this mess. The ending of course, is perfect and while it’s unlikely any of my readers haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it here. It’s just a wildly creative and fun segment.

7. Homer3 (Treehouse of Horror VI)

homer3.jpg

How could I not put this one on the list? It may be a tad dated now, but the computer animation of this episode was absolutely groundbreaking for 1995.
While attempting to hide from Patty and Selma, Homer stumbles upon the third dimension behind the bookcase, but sadly makes the world collapse on itself and he ends up in – how could we ever forget? – the real world.
The set up is great, the animation still looks cool, the background is crammed with in-jokes and easter eggs, and it’s still hilarious 21 years on. Homer’s foray into our world is probably the most memorable in the history of the show and despite the lack of closure in the ending, nobody really cares. It’s one of the most famous segments in all the Halloween episodes and for good reason.

6. The Devil and Homer Simpson (Treehouse of Horror IV)

the-devil-and-homer-simpson.jpg

For a long time, this was my favourite Treehouse of Horror segment. While I may have changed my mind about that, I still adore this segment.
Homer, in sheer desperation, sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders), for a donut. Later, when the Devil comes to claim what is his, Lisa asks for a fair trial. But Homer first has to spend a day in Hell, where he is subjected to eating all the donuts in the world (we all know where that would end up). By the end, Homer’s soul is legally found to be Marge’s property.
I love this episode for the set up, the clever jokes and the scenes where Homer is in Hell. Even the deleted scenes revealed in ‘The Simpsons’ 138th Episode Spectacular’ are a riot. I may have a new favourite now, but I will always have a special place in my heart for this one.

5. Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace (Treehouse of Horror VI)

nightmareonevergreenterrace.jpg

I will freely admit that I have never seen A Nightmare on Elm Street because I am too much of a coward. And when I first saw this episode at twelve, it did freak me out slightly (I was a sensitive child, ok?)
But now that I’m older and slightly braver (well, brave enough to not get spooked by The Simpsons), I can appreciate the merits of this segment. The parody. The hilarious indifference and bureaucracy of the parents and teachers at the school. The scenarios where the children die, and how Maggie ultimately saves the day with her trademark pacifier. It’s a ton of fun every time.

4. Nightmare Cafeteria (Treehouse of Horror V)

nightmarecafeteria.jpg

Yeah, I know I’ve put all three segments from Treehouse of Horror V on, but hey, give me a break. It’s arguably the best Halloween Special of all.
Due to budget cuts and overcrowded detention halls, Principal Skinner and the faculty at Springfield Elementary start cooking and eating the misbehaving students, and soon only Bart, Lisa and Milhouse remain.
This one is just straight up funny. Despite the horrifying scenario and gore, the jokes come thick and fast. And they’re all great. The Joy of Cooking Milhouse. The free-range children. Grade F meat. And of course, one of my favourite jokes involving Marge ever!
“Listen, kids, you’re eight and ten years old now. I can’t be fighting all your battles for you…no buts! You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say ‘Don’t eat me!'”

3. Bart Simpson’s Dracula (Treehouse of Horror IV)

bart-simpsons-dracula

The Simpsons are invited to dinner at Mr Burns’ mansion. Lisa begins to suspect that Burns is a vampire. Bart and Lisa stumble upon his secret lair, and Bart is turned into a vampire.
Vampires are a staple in horror, and The Simpsons take full advantage of all the possibilities here. And of course, there’s some of the most memorable jokes in the show’s history here.
“Kill my boss?!? Do I dare live out the American dream?”
Oh Lisa, you and your stories. Bart is a vampire. Beer kills brain cells. Now…let’s go back….to that building thingy…where our beds and TV….is,” the attempt to kill Mr Burns and then of course the ending where the head vampire is revealed.

2. Dial Z for Zombies (Treehouse of Horror III)

dial z for zombies.jpg

While attempting to resurrect Lisa’s dead cat, Bart accidentally unleashes zombies….sorry, the living-impaired, on the town. The citizens are turned one by one and it’s up to the Simpson family to reverse it.
There’s little need to go into detail here. We all know this episode. We all know the jokes. We all know every single moment. It’s just a complete riot.

It’s time to unveil number one, which you may have already guessed, but first, some

Honourable Mentions

Monkey’s Paw (Treehouse of Horror II)

monkeys-paw

 

Terror at 5 1/2 Feet (Treehouse of Horror IV)

BartVsGremlin.jpg

 

Attack of the 50ft Eyesores (Treehouse of Horror VI)

attackofthe50fteyesores.jpg

 

Desperately Xeeking Xena (Treehouse of Horror X)

desperately-xeeking-xena

 

1. The Raven (Treehouse of Horror I)

the-raven

Admit it. You all knew this one was coming. And how could I not select this as my number one? Ask anyone in my generation and I guarantee that this episode is how we know about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

A simultaneous parody and homage to a masterwork, The Raven manages to give us everything we love about the Halloween Specials right at the very beginning. It’s funny, full of clever references and still maintains that slightly spooky feel which keeps us on edge. It satirises the work but never to a point that’s insulting or degrading. It managed to give us a genuinely new take on a very old work and keep it alive in our memories to this very day.

With Halloween well and truly dusted and a nasty horror story looming over America for the next four years, I can’t help but wonder what the Simpsons will have in store for next Halloween….

Top 10 Dr Seuss books

March 2nd, 2016 marks Theodore Seuss Geisel’s 112th birthday. As my regular readers and friends will know all too well, Dr Seuss is my all-time favourite writer. The master of rhyme and rhythm, he inspires imagination through endearing morals, clever words and his signature art style. He made reading fun for generations of children.
As a child, I devoured his books. He felt like a friend to me. Now in my glorious early twenties, I love his books more than ever.

Dr Seuss believed in the intelligence of children and treated them as equals. “I write for myself,” he once said. “Children are just as smart as you are. The main difference is they don’t know so many words. If your story is simple, you can tell it just as if you’re telling it to adults,” 
With this in mind and in honour of Dr Seuss’ birthday, here are my ten favourite Dr Seuss books.

10. Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)/Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

In Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton the elephant is scammed by a bird named Mayzie into sitting on her egg while she takes a vacation (she doesn’t return). Horton is mocked by the Jungle of Nool and ends up being sold to a circus. However, he is unwavering in his resolve, saying “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent.”
Seuss came up with the concept for the book when he left a window open in his office one day and returned to find a transparent sketch of an elephant had blown onto a tree. 
The titular elephant made a reappearance in the sequel, Horton Hears a Who! Horton hears the tiny planet of Who on a dust speck, and swear to protect him, despite the entire Jungle of Nool believing Horton to be insane. It’s a common belief that the story was a comment on abortion, but it was actually about how the Japanese were treated post WWII. Seuss was very active during the war with drawing propaganda cartoons. As the grandson of German immigrants, Seuss was very keen to prove his patriotism. When a pro-life group used Horton’s line “A person’s a person, no matter how small,” for their campaigns, Seuss was enraged and received a retraction from the group.
Overall, these are two very basic moral stories which even adults can learn from. Horton is a great role model, there’s a lot of creativity in the narratives and Seuss doesn’t shy away from drama and comedy, knowing exactly where and how to mix both.
Of course, there was a very sub-par film adaption starring Jim Carrey in 2008, and if you haven’t already read my thoughts on the movie, you can check it out here.

9. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)
yertle-the-turtle-and-other-stories

The chaplain at my second high school was a massive Dr Seuss fan, and sometimes he’d use the books in Scripture class. That’s where I first discovered this gem. Yertle the Turtle, possibly the greatest middle finger to Hitler ever, tells a great story of King Yertle who forces his turtle subjects to stack on top of his rock so he can be king of “all that he sees”. Of course, the lone turtle at the very bottom, Mack, stands up and topples the chair over, leaving Yertle to be king of the mud.

It’s an allegory to Nazi Germany, but in all seriousness, Yertle could be applied to a number of people and situations. Yertle is every bullying monster with delusions of grandeur and a sense of entitlement the size of the Soviet union.

Can’t imagine who this could apply to. At all.

images (19)

 

When a message is based on a historical event, yet is hidden enough to be unnoticeable and still holds up sixty odd years later, that’s the sign of a skilled and wise writer.

Gertrude McFuzz and The Big Brag deal with themes of vanity, self-image and the futility of comparing yourself to others. All three are great stories and considering how long I searched to find a copy of the book, I’d say it’s definitely worthy of a spot on the list.

8. There’s a Wocket in my Pocket! (1974)

wocket

In this book, Dr Seuss shows his wildly creative drawing and rhyming style. I remember reading this book as a little girl and laughing out loud at the absurdity of these creatures living in this house. Frankly I don’t think I’d mind having a Noothgrush on my toothbrush.

With a title like that, at first glance it would appear this was a hilarious mistake, but personally I doubt that very much. Though known and revered for his unique take on the English language, Seuss was in reality a quiet man of few words, preferring to let the work speak for itself. This didn’t stop him from having a very wicked sense of humour however. To ensure his editors were actually paying attention, he inserted an extra page into the manuscript of Dr Seuss’ ABC. For the letter X, a large-chested woman brandished the words

Big X, little x,
X, X, X
Some day, kiddies, you will learn about SEX.

A note scrawled in the corner read “If Bob Bernstein sees any sales problems inherent in this concept, I won’t object to substituting my alternative suggestion. Signed, T.S.G”
Another time, at an event in a large department store, Seuss grew weary of the crowd and vanished. He was found in the women’s shoe section, marking down the prices.

7. The Cat in the Hat (1957)/The Cat in the Hat Comes Back! (1958)

Doubtless the titular character is the Seuss mascot, instantly recognisable to all. Both books written to address the crippling illiteracy in young people, Seuss created a highly memorable and fun book while still managing to be educational. Too bad the movie was not.
“Hollywood is not suited to me, and I am not suited to it,”  Seuss said after the disaster of The 5000 Fingers of Dr T, the only feature film of his work made in his lifetime.
Seuss himself may have known this. Sadly, Hollywood has not learned. After that trainwreck film adaptation in 2003, which I absolutely ripped to shreds, Audrey Geisel (Ted’s widow) refused to allow any more live action films of her husband’s work.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1982)
grinchcover

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! One of the most iconic Christmas villains based on Seuss himself, the Grinch has ingrained himself in the holiday season.
The movie isn’t perfect, but as I’ve said before, it’s a guilty pleasure.

5. Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
greeneggsandham

As if I even need to go into much detail. If there’s anyone who hasn’t read this book I haven’t met them.

Green Eggs and Ham came around when Seuss’ publisher Bennet Cerf bet Seuss $50 that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. It took him a year but considering it remains one of the highest selling books ever and still has a good message about trying new things, I’d say Seuss won that bet.

If you’re wondering, the 50 words are:

A, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs,fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

For the record, Bennet Cerf never paid up.

4. The Butter Battle Book (1984)

The_Butter_Battle_Book_cover
Now, I doubt many of you have ever read or even heard of this book. It was rather controversial and copies of it are very hard to find but trust me, it’s one of Seuss’ finest.

The Yooks and Zooks are fighting a terrible war….over, you guessed it, butter. The Yooks eat bread butter side up while the Zooks commit the terrible crime of eating bread with the butter side down. Gasp! Both sides despise and mistrust the other while vying to build bigger and better weapons to deter their enemy. But this ends in an unresolved climax with the leaders of both armies trying to drop highly destructive bombs on the opposite town.

As you might have figured out, the book is a not-so-subtle stab at the Cold War. The satire is obvious, as is the message. But when viewed from this perspective, we are once again reminded of how futile a lot of conflict is.

If you can manage to get a copy give this a read, watch the animated special or listen to the audio book. You’ll likely end with chills.

3. I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965)

sollasollew

After a very bad day filled with various troubles, our unnamed protagonist is invited to move to Solla Sollew, where troubles are few. He proceeds to travel along with a variety of companions, each getting him into worse scrapes and detours as time goes on. The only thing sustaining him is the thought of finally reaching the paradise of Solla Sollew.

I read this book at the age of about eight and I still remember every bit of emotion as I turned the pages. And it has stayed with me ever since. This might not be the most original of stories. We’ve all seen road trips and travels. But it’s what Seuss does with the storytelling that makes it so powerful. Speaking of which, the ending is so perfect I will not dare spoil it for you. It has to be read to be fully appreciated.

So what are you waiting for? Get your hands on this gem and read it!

2. The Lorax (1971)

the-lorax

I must admit, when I first picked up The Lorax, I had my doubts. I grew up watching Captain Planet and Pocahontas, and overall I’m not exactly fond of environmental themed media. Thankfully this is a shining example of subtlety and brilliant writing, making everyone who reads it come away with an unshakeable realisation of how fragile life is. It’s a sad and grim warning of greed and misplaced priorities without pointing the finger of blame and anyone in particular. There’s no villain, just characters. The ambiguous nature and truth of the story brings people back over and over with the choices they can make. There’s no question. This book is about as flawless an environmental and morality tale as you can ever find. 

And while the 2012 film adaptation isn’t as bad as Cat in the Hat, it’s definitely the one I hated the most, and for good reason.

 

The time has come to unveil my favourite book by my favourite author. But first, some honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)

one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fish.jpg“If you never did, you should.
These things are fun, and fun is good,”

Fox in Socks (1965)

fox-in-socks

When tweetle beetles fight, it’s called a tweetle beetle battle
And when they battle in a puddle, it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle

Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973)

how lucky you are

“When the news is all bad, when you feel sour and blue,
When you start to get mad, you should do what I do.
Just tell yourself Duckie, you’re really quite lucky.
Some people are much more, ever so much more,
Oh muchly-much-much more unlucky than you!”

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937)*
mulberrystreet.jpg

“That can’t be my story. That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a zebra was pulling the cart!”
*Seuss’ first book, rejected by 27 publishers. He was on his way home to burn the manuscript when he ran into an old friend who worked in publishing. Seuss said if he’d walked on the other side of the street that day, he would have ended up in the dry cleaning business.
I’m very glad he didn’t.

McElligot’s Pool (1947)

itspossible.jpeg

“Oh the sea is so full of a number of fish.
If a fellow is patient, he MIGHT get his wish,
And that’s why I think that I’m not such a fool,
When I sit here and fish in McElligot’s pool!”

 

1. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)

oh-the-places-you-ll-go.jpg

Is it a coincidence that my favourite Dr Seuss book is the final one published in his lifetime? Probably not.

This book is a masterpiece and I will argue this til my dying day. Written in second person, the reader is the protagonist receving commentary and advice on the journey of life.

How often do you see that?

This was the farewell message Dr Seuss wanted to leave to the world. He is open and honest about the ups and downs of being human. He doesn’t shy away from reality. He is completely honest that life is not easy. Not everything turns out the way you expect or want. But at the same time, he gives a message or hope and encouragement. 

The book is again very high on the all time best sellers list, with sales going up around graduation season every year. I myself used this book as the basis for my graduating recital when I finished my music theatre degree in 2014. I know people who read this book not only to their children, but to adults as well.

I’m not kidding when I say everybody needs to read this book regardless of age. It’s a masterpiece of writing. It showcases Dr Seuss’ infinite wisdom to absolute perfection. I still re-read this book whenever I’m feeling down. It always manages to give me a lift. It remains not only at the top of my list here but also on my favourite books of all time.

“On and on you will hike and I know you’ll hike far, and face up to your problems, whatever they are.”

Next week: What’s happening to Australian theatre?

Top 10 Touching Simpsons Moments Part 2

5. Lisa’s Wedding (Season 6, Episode 19)

lisa'swedding

How could I not put this entire episode up? I can’t pick just one moment from Lisa’s Wedding. They’d take up half the list.
Lisa runs into a fortune teller at a medieval fair who tells her the tale of her apparent first love. In 2010, Lisa becomes engaged to the charming Hugh Parkfield. Hugh tries to fit in with the Simpson family but is continually injured, annoyed and genuinely frightened by them. However, once Lisa discovers Hugh plans to move back to London, essentially cutting Lisa off from her family, she is completely outraged and calls off the wedding.
Everything about this episode is done perfectly. The framing device of a fortune teller, The Simpsons’ version of what the future might look like (they got Skype somewhat right!), Maggie being a talented singer and chatterbox that we still never hear talk. Every reveal of what happened to the characters is a riot, particularly the revelation that Martin Prince has become the Phantom of the Opera. Hugh, voiced by acting legend Mandy Patinkin, is a very enjoyable character. Granted, he isn’t the nicest guy, but you really sympathise with his reactions to the Simpson family and he has some good lines here and there. It’s an extremely funny episode because of the subject matter and the choices they make in telling this story.
However, what makes this episode stand out as one of The Simpsons’ finest is Lisa’s fierce loyalty to her family, and how she would never abandon them no matter how much irritation they cause her. The scene between her and Homer is absolutely stunning and heartfelt. But the line that sums up Lisa best in this episode is an exchange between her and Hugh.

Hugh: But Lisa, you’re better than this place. You’re like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt.
Lisa: That’s a horrible thing to say!
Hugh: Oh come on. You complain about them more than anyone.
Lisa: Maybe, but I still love them. And I don’t think you understand that. 

Any way you slice it, Lisa’s Wedding is one of the most emotional and memorable episodes ever and more than earns its place on the list.

4.  After the prom (The Way We Was, Season 2 Episode 12)

waywewas.jpg

The family’s beloved TV blows up, so they pass the time by telling the story of how Homer and Marge met.
Homer and Marge met in high school, where Homer pretended to be in need of Marge’s tutoring in order to get to know her. Once Marge discovered the deception, she went to the prom with resident genius Artie Ziff. However, after the festivities Artie wouldn’t take no for an answer, leading Marge to realise who she should have chosen as her date. What follows is a simple scene of beautiful romance.

Marge: Why so glum?
Homer: I’ve got a problem. As soon as you stop this car, I’m going to hug you. And kiss you. And then I’ll never be able to let you go. (Cut to the present) And I never have.

3. Do It For Her (And Maggie Makes Three, Season 6 Episode 13)

do it for her

Wondering why there are no photos of Maggie in the family albums, Marge and Homer tell the story of Maggie’s birth.
Homer quit his hated job at the power plant to take up his dream role of working at the local bowling alley. However, while ‘celebrating’ their new life, Marge became pregnant with Maggie, forcing Homer to return to the plant. As punishment for quitting in the first place, Mr Burns installed a demotivational plaque at Homer’s workstation reading DON’T FORGET: YOU’RE HERE FOREVER.
However, when Maggie was born, Homer was enraptured by his daughter. It’s revealed that he has all her photos at work, strategically placed over the plaque so it reads DO IT FOR HER.
This is definitely one of the most famous moments in the entire series and for good reason. For all Homer’s flaws and stupidity, he truly has a lot of kindness in his heart. This is also an episode which shows real life struggles. Having to support a family. Making sacrifices for the good of those around you. Sometimes you have to work a job you don’t like because it’s the only option. There’s no rosy ending here. Homer has to live with the situation, but still finds the motivation and joy to keep going in his daughter. Definitely worthy for the third spot on the list.

2. Lisa and Bart Montage (Lisa on Ice, Season 6 Episode 8)

lisa on ice

Lisa discovers she is failing gym class at school. Desperate to avoid failing, she tries her hardest at junior sports. She discovers a natural talent for ice hockey and quickly becomes the star player of the Kwik-E-Mart Gougers. However, Bart is the star player on the opposing team, the Mighty Pigs. Homer’s favouritism and overall idiocy pins the two siblings against each other until they have to face off in the final game.
Of course this episode is hilarious. Homer is at his douchebag finest, there’s the iconic fist fight between Bart and Lisa and Ralph Wiggum’s unforgettable quip (Me fail English? That’s un-possible). There’s plenty more jokes I could mention, but that’s not why we love this episode. We love it because of the ending.
After spending the entire episode at odds, Bart and Lisa come to the final, deciding shot of the game. The entire crowd is screaming for blood. But then, Bart and Lisa begin to remember all the times they shared when they were little. They both step aside and the match is declared a draw.
Again, this is why we love this show. We can laugh at and relate to it. Bart and Lisa may be very different people, but they are siblings first and foremost and share a very fierce bond. The scenarios shown in the montage are all very simple and sweet, and it’s all done through music and visuals. In the end, they make the big choice and decide their relationship is more important that who wins. It’s a case of blood being thicker than water, or rather, a petty sports match.
Of course, the hilarity with the ending is how the town riots over a mere children’s hockey game but again, that shows the maturity and love between Bart and Lisa, and gave us the moment which still tugs at the heartstrings.

Before I unveil the top pick, here are a few honourable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Maude Flanders’ Death (Alone Again, Natura-Diddly S11 Ep14)
maude

Homer’s Note to Lisa (HOMR, S12 Ep9)
HOMR

Lisa and Bleeding Gums Murphy (‘Round Springfield, S6 Ep22)
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1. Night Sky (Mother Simpson, Season 7 Episode 8)

mother simpson

Homer’s long presumed-dead mother Mona returns to Springfield after being on the run for many years. In the 60s, Mona was part of a hippie group which destroyed Mr Burns’ germ warfare lab. Mona was the only one to be identified as a suspect and was subsequently forced into hiding to protect her family. The whole family and especially Homer embraces Mona with open arms. But when Mr Burns discovers Mona’s whereabouts, she’s once again forced to the underground.
As if I even need to go into much detail. This moment is so famous it’s still talked about. Homer’s goodbye to his mother is nothing short of iconic, and the dialogue is some of The Simpsons’ finest writing.

Homer: At least this time I’m awake for your goodbye.
Mona: Oh Homer. Remember, whatever happens, you have a mother, and she’s truly proud of you.
Homer: Don’t forget me!
Mona: Don’t worry Homer. You’ll always be a part of me. (Hits head) D’OH!

Glenn Close is of course perfect as the guest star, and it’s fun to finally learn a few secrets, such as where Lisa’s intelligence comes from. But that final shot of Homer staring at the sky is seared into our memories. Even the production team decided no promotions should be played over those credits because the moment was so touching. This was absolutely the right choice.
For all these reasons and more, the ending of Mother Simpson earns the top spot.

Next Week: Is RENT a masterpiece?

Top 10 Touching Simpsons Moments Part 1

Since 1989, The Simpsons have been making us laugh and redefining comedy and satire. But as we all know, the earlier seasons not only gave us sheer hilarity and biting social commentary, it also  gave us some of the most heartfelt and tear-jerking moments in television. And I’m going to bring out the tissues while counting them down today (actually, it’s very unlikely I’ll get teary since I’m a total robot when it comes to crying in movies and TV shows. Just ask my boyfriend).
The only rule for this list is I have to have seen the episode in it’s entirety for the moment to qualify. Obviously there’s spoilers for the two of you out there who’ve never seen the show, but I’m going to assume if you’re reading this, you’ve seen the show too many times to count. Anyhow, prepare yourself to cry all over again, as we count down the Top Ten Touching Simpsons Moments.

10. Homer sells his ride on the Duff Blimp (Lisa the Beauty Queen, Season 4 Episode 4)

Lisa_the_Beauty_Queen_26.JPG

In this classic from Season 4, Lisa becomes highly insecure about her looks after an unflattering caricature. Homer, eager to prove to Lisa how beautiful she is, decides to enter her in the Little Miss Springfield beauty pageant. However, he can’t afford it, so he sells his winning ticket for a ride on the Duff Blimp.
The scene where Homer looks in his wallet and sees a picture of Lisa beside the ticket is one of the most lovely images in The Simpsons history. He chooses his daughter’s happiness over something material that meant the world to him.
Homer gets criticised both on and off screen for being a bad father. But this is one of many shining examples of Homer showing how loving he truly is. It’s summed up beautifully at the end.

Lisa: Do you remember why you entered me in that pageant?
Homer: I don’t know. Was I drunk?
Lisa: Possibly. But the point is you wanted me to feel better about myself. And I do.
Homer: Will you remember this the next time I wreck your life?
Lisa: It’s a deal

It’s certainly not a moment we’re likely to forget anytime soon.

9. “You are Lisa Simpson” (Lisa’s Substitute, Season 2 Episode 19)

you are lisa simpson

I’ve put this one pretty low on the list since I talked about it on my Top Ten Episodes blog, but it really is a gem in the show’s history. The scene where Lisa says goodbye to Mr Bergstrom, the only person to ever truly understand and encourage her is genuinely heartbreaking. She feels that her life will have no meaning without his validation. But Mr Bergstrom says “When you feel like you’re alone, and there’s no-one you can rely on, this is all you need to know,”

You are Lisa Simpson.
We all know Lisa is one of the best characters on the show but this was the first time she’d been given the assurance that she is enough.
Every time the episode plays, there’s not a dry eye in the house. Except me. Because I’m a robot.

8. “Daddy” (Lisa’s First Word, Season 4 Episode 2)

maggie's first word

Bemoaning Maggie’s inability to talk, Marge decides to tell the story of Lisa’s first word. It turns out Bart had a serious case of jealousy when Lisa was born, but this changed when Lisa’s first word is “Bart”.
There’s a number of classic moments in this episode. America winning the Olympics, the gymnast landing on a broken leg, Bart staying at the Flanders’ house, then trying various schemes to get rid of Lisa. Personally my favourite is the terrifying clown bed Homer builds to please Bart.  But as great as the episode is, that’s not why we remember it. See, both Bart and Lisa called their father ‘Homer’ as infants, something which always bothered him. But in the last few seconds, Maggie is the one to finally call Homer what he always wanted: Daddy. It’s simultaneously heartfelt and infuriatingly sad, since Homer never hears it.
But maybe in the end that’s what makes it so memorable. We keep coming back to the episode hoping it will have a different outcome. It never changes but still gives us a moment we will never forget.

7. Bike Ride (Duffless, Season 4 Episode 16)

duffless

Homer is arrested for a DUI and Marge persuades him to give up beer for a month. Homer faces terrible temptations and attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings only to be kicked out, but manages to keep his promise to remain sober.
Of course, there’s a very funny side plot involving Lisa testing and unknowing Bart’s intelligence against a hamster, but the heart of Duffless is the relationship between Homer and Marge. At the end of the episode, Homer eagerly rushes back to Moe’s, ignoring Marge’s request for a bike ride. However, once he sees what his alcoholic friends have been reduced to, he decides to join Marge for a bike ride after all.

This moment gets overlooked a lot, but it’s a very beautiful scene. No words necessary, just a really lovely example of Homer putting his wife first, and it leads to one of the most romantic moments in The Simpsons.

6. Bart’s Breakdown (Bart Gets an F, Season 2 Episode 1)

bart gets an f

I’ll admit it’s not my favourite episode, but it’s still one I have a lot of respect for. Bart, having failed too many times, is told he may have to repeat Year 4 (4th grade for any American readers). He studies insanely hard to the point of practically torturing himself, and even appeals to God for a blizzard so he has one more day to study. But despite everything, he doesn’t appear to pass his exam.
Bart’s resulting devastation is probably the saddest thing you’ll ever see on The Simpsons. He truly works his hardest and still doesn’t succeed (I’m aware there’s a happy ending, but let’s leave that for now). This is a very hard lesson to learn and there is zero sugar coating of it here. It’s not heightened, it’s not surreal. It’s a tough slice of reality. We see the struggle Bart goes through, we feel the bitter disappointment of failure despite his efforts and we rejoice at his eventual triumph. 33 million viewers went through it for the first time on October 11th, 1990. As of 2016, Bart Gets an F remains the highest rated episode of The Simpsons.

Halfway through the list with plenty more tear-jerking moments to come!

Next Week: Part 2!