I spent the Easter break with my family in Port Macquarie followed by a few days spent on a permaculture farm. The farm is owned and operated by a 60-year-old Parisian woman and her Malaysian-Australian husband. Neither were farmers a year ago. She was a teacher and he worked in finance. After moving from Paris to Sydney, both found themselves frustrated with city living, specifically how expensive everything was.

They have two adult sons, the older of which is passionate about permaculture farming. He suggested they buy some cheap farmland on the mid-north coast and put permaculture principles to work. Despite having no farming experience, the couple decided to take the gamble.

A year later the farm is operating successfully, crops are coming in and the family are almost completely self-sufficient. They have goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, donkeys and an excitable border collie named, Buddha. Solar power provides electricity, tanks collect rainwater for drinking and washing. Life is good.

I’d never heard of permaculture farming before so was fascinated to learn more. Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centred on simulating or utilising the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. Basically, working with the land rather than trying to bend it to your will.

Staying with us on the farm were a half dozen French twenty-somethings working for free food and board. At night, they played steel drums and smoked weed. They were engaged about environmental issues and genuinely seemed to give a shit about our future as a society. .

Looking at the current political climate I sometimes find myself despairing. All those red-faced blowhards only concerned with holding onto power at the expense of everything else. Spending time with the farm folk was inspiring. Here was a micro-society living harmoniously with each other and the land. They made it look easy.

This is what I watched, read and listened to this week when I should have been writing.

TV

Moone Boy, Netflix

Based on writer/creator Chris O’Dowd’s experiences growing up in a small Irish town, Moone Boy follows the misadventures of Martin Moone and his imaginary friend (played by O’Dowd). It’s hilarious and quirky. Kind of like a serialised Wes Anderson joint filtered through a bawdy Irish lens.

GIRLS, HBO Now

For the most part, the final season of GIRLS was strong. I particularly enjoyed Ray and Elijah’s arcs, yet felt the other characters suffered due to the focus on Hannah’s pregnancy. I get why. GIRLS began as Hannah Horvath’s story so it makes sense the final season was Hannah-centric. I just wish Marnie, Jessa, Adam, and especially Shoshanna were given a little more attention. I’m also conflicted about the change of location for the final episode. New York was so central to the show it feels like a miscalculation to abandon it at the end. As for the idea of motherhood pushing Hannah to a new level of self-awareness – again, I get it, it works thematically. It just feels a little too obvious and simple. Then again, I’m in the midst of parenting a baby myself so there was nothing particularly insightful I felt Lena Dunham had to offer on the experience. Maybe, if I was a single twenty-something it would have blown my mind? Despite these misgivings, my opinion of GIRLS being a seminal artistic work hasn’t changed. The true impact of this show has yet to be felt and I suspect in a decade or so we’ll see an influx of brilliant personal filmmaking inspired by Dunham’s achievement.

Better Call Saul, Stan

Two episodes in and there is a pervasive sense of impending doom. Jimmy’s struggles with his brother and Mike’s petty criminal forays are about to give way to something violent and dark. Everything about this show is stellar – the writing, directing, acting. I particular admire the long stretches of dialogue-free visual sequences that have cropped up in both episodes so far. It feels daringly cinematic – a refutation of TV being a medium best suited for dialogue.

MOVIES

I don’t feel at home in this world, Netflix

Earning rave reviews at Sundance, this little indie was picked up as a Netflix exclusive. It’s a grimy little Coen Bros-esque slice of small town crime and dysfunctionality. Elijah Wood is hilarious in his supporting role as a martial arts obsessed devout Christian.

Suspiria, Stan

Haunting, operatic, and the best music score for a horror movie ever. This is my favourite Dario Argento film because it’s the one that most closely resembles a conventional narrative without sacrificing his nightmarish surrealist tendencies. Watch it on the biggest screen you can find with the volume turned up.

Train to Busan, Netflix

Zombies on a train. Well-shot, admirably crafted suspense sequences, sympathetic characters and buckets of gore.

Drunken Master, Netflix

Early Jackie Chan. The story is simplistic, but the Kung-Fu and athleticism on display is frequently jaw-dropping.

BOOKS

The Fireman, Joe Hill

I was a little slow to warm up to Joe Hill’s post-apocalyptic story of a world ravaged by a deadly spore but once I keyed into what he was doing I found The Fireman a gripping read. The final third, in particular, is a masterclass in escalating tension and the climax, when it comes, is both thrilling and cathartic.

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That’s it for this week. Take care, read, watch and listen to good stuff.

M.J.