An update on life and what-not

Hi guys, hope everyone is well and that life is treating you kindly as it is me.  I’ve just found out that I’ve been admitted into the Grad Diploma in Library and Information Services for next year, so go me!!! One step closer to my ultimate dream: to work in the Death Star. Yes, you read that right. The Geelong Regional Library had a recent facelift (well actually it was completely rebuilt) and now it looks like this:

GLHC

Pretty cool, huh? To be honest though, when most of my townsfolk saw the first plans for the new building, it was fair to say that they were a tad sceptical, especially since it was going to be built where the old library once stood, right beside the heritage-listed town hall. I think a lot of people were worried it was going to look jarring and strange. I just liked the Lucas-inspired design. I still call it the Death Star, and it’s been my personal ambition to work there, or at the very least gain a work placement spot there while I do my Diploma, so that I can continually make feeble jokes about working in the Death Star. I know … I’m a Star Wars nerd. Whatchagonnado?!

Speaking of which, I officially love Eddie Izzard. You may wonder how that ties in. Well, I’ve got three words for you: Death. Star. Canteen. Yes, I’m going to. Don’t complain, you know you love it …

 

Anyhow, lots of stuff going on with me at the moment. My son just had top surgery two weeks ago and finally looks how he’s supposed to look.  Now we can start getting fit by going swimming and cycling and he’s not going to be hampered by wearing a binder, which is terribly restrictive with regards to movement and even just breathing. He seems much happier now that it’s finally done, too. Much more confident in himself and less anxious about how people are going to perceive him. If I have anything negative to say about the whole experience it’s that his father has had very little contact with him in the past few weeks.  You’d think that a person would be concerned that everything went well and that his son is feeling better etc but there has barely been a murmur from him and although I’m not surprised, I am annoyed.  I realise that he’s still having difficultly accepting his son’s transition but for fuck’s sake, it’s just gender. It’s not like somebody’s died, here, or been replaced by a pod-person (if anyone’s been replaced by a pod-person it would be my ex, the one person I thought would be cool and open-minded about stuff like this, but no). Alister’s the same person he’s always been. The way I look at it is, I haven’t lost a daughter. I’ve gained a son. The son I always felt I had anyway, but he was just hidden beneath a social construct called gender.

And that brings me to my next subject. I recently read an article about a female rabbi whose child had recently come out to her and her husband as gender fluid. She accepted him wholeheartedly, which is what any decent mother concerned about her kid would do. And what did she get for this? A fuck-tonne of vicious, senseless, ignorant bile from uneducated hicks, is what. Some of the comments were so bad, I felt like I was having a stroke. What is it with Americans and the transgender community?  Do they really not comprehend the difference between gender and sexuality? I had to block and report a couple of guys who were being particularly nasty toward not only the subject of the article but also myself and another person who chose to comment in a positive vein. Apparently we’re bleeding heart lefties/helicopter parents/politically correct social justice warriors for accepting our children as they are; supporting and loving them. Apparently we’re supposed to disown them, or put them in conversion therapy, or something. I don’t know … perhaps its the rampant religiosity over there that causes them to lack a few thousand fucking brain cells, but I’m over it.  Over trying to explain myself or my child to people. I’m just happy that he’s alive and safe and feeling much more confident in himself. And if people can’t deal with that, then they can go fuck themselves gently with a chainsaw. Over and out.

 

 

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A question for fellow writers…

Hi guys…

I’m about to embark on a new story, and I’m champing at the bit to get going, but the problem is, I always start stories with half an idea of what the plot’s going to be and no idea of the ending. The only bit I seem to have fixed in my mind are my characters – protagonist and antagonist. Is anyone else like this? I don’t take the time to fully plot things out because when I have done in the past, I’ve gotten bored with the idea before I’ve even started.  This time I have the main idea, the main characters (even their names and little quirks of personality) but still no idea what’s going to happen. Please tell me I’m not the only one like this.  I feel like a freak.

Speaking of plots and stories and some-such, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls lately, from the beginning, and one thing is sticking in my craw like nobody’s business (pardon the mixed metaphor).  And it has to do with Lane’s band. Anyone who lived during the late 80’s, early 90’s and got into hairbands like Bon Jovi, Motley Crue etc would know that Sebastian Bach, blonde lead singer of Skid Row, had a semi-regular part on the show as Gil, Hep Alien’s guitar player.  I wouldn’t normally have a problem with something like this – Dave Grohl has played drums for other bands apart from his gig as singer in Foo Fighters and Anthony and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers had bit parts in Back to the Future 2 and Point Break. But what I don’t get is, GG had in their midst one of the best rock voices of an entire decade, and he plays second fiddle to Zach?! (Todd Lowe). I mean, come on! You’ve got to be kidding, right? That would be like Freddie Mercury taking a back seat in Queen and letting John Deacon sing Bo Rhap!  (nothing against John, love the guy dearly but there’s a reason he played bass and never chipped in on lead vocals).  I get that Hep Alien weren’t exactly a glam rock band, but Baz was super versatile. He’d have put his own spin on pretty much anything they wanted to play. I felt cheated, let’s just put that out there.  But i do love that the band gave the older guy a chance and didn’t just write him off at the audition because he was old enough to be the dad of any one of them.  Although Zach did have his reservations at first (probably because he knew the guy would upstage him any day of the week). To be fair, Baz did tell US Weekly in December 2016 that Hep Alien never covered any Skid Row song because that would be breaking the fourth wall – he’s not Sebastian Bach on the show, he’s Gil, a guy who plays guitar, has a family and runs a sub sandwich store – but at the very least, he could have edged out Zach and been lead singer. Just sayin’.

 

But then, there was this….

 

 

LMAO… I love that he covered that song, even though I hate the original with a passion.  But that still doesn’t show his range quite like this:

 

 

Let’s face it, the man’s a god.

 

I knew it! We’re surrounded by assholes!

I don’t know what it is, but my area seems loaded with utter mouth-breathing morons who either don’t know how to control their animals or don’t care (I’m betting on the latter).   A week ago I took our white German Shepherd for a walk around the block and a Rhodesian Ridge-back came gallivanting up to us from its front yard and started sniffing around Booker excitedly. Booker, being as docile as he is, barely seemed to give a fuck. Oh he had a sniff, but then it was like, “okay, that’s done, so can we keep moving?” but the dog wouldn’t let him leave. The owner, standing on his front lawn, eventually looked over from his conversation with a friend and said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about him, he doesn’t bite.’  Hm… but what if mine did? What would you do, then? Blame me for your dog getting bitten despite the fact that he had no leash, was not on his property and you didn’t bother asking me if Booker was snaky around other dogs?  The mind boggles.  He eventually came over and dragged his dog away by the collar so we could be on our way. But it could have been a completely different scenario had my dog not been such a laid-back sweetie.

Then today, Al and I were heading down to the local shops for some fish and chips.  We had decided to leave our dog behind because Al is still only a couple of weeks post-surgery and couldn’t have hung onto him while I was in the shops.  A block or two from our house two small dogs had managed to escape the flimsy wire fence out the front of their property.  I think they were both Chihuahuas crossed with something else. Anyway, one ran straight onto the side road and Al tried to usher it back off the road but it started barking at him. We called out to the house we knew they came from, to let them know their dogs were on the loose but no one responded. So Al decided to walk over and open the gate to let them back in, and that’s when the one on the road leapt back up onto the nature strip and launched himself at Al’s leg. He didn’t hang on or anything, but he did puncture the skin and cause a graze-like mark with his other teeth.

Now, Al acknowledges that he probably should have let them be because they were obviously territorial about the house they’d just escaped from, but he’s an animal lover and didn’t want to see them get hit by a car. After the dog bit him though, the owner came straight out and said, ‘Aw, yeah, he’s like that, he’s a little shit,’ referring to the white Chihuahua. No apologies, not even an ‘Are you okay?’ He just herded the dogs back into the house and shut the door.  Rude! At the very least, if  your animal has caused damage, you ask the person if they’re okay. That’s what any normal, law-abiding, non-sociopathic person does, right? Or am I expecting too much from my fellow human beings?!

Both stunned at the owner’s response (or lack thereof), we walked back to our place and cleaned up Al’s wound. Now he really does look like the walking wounded, with his pressure vest still on after surgery, and now the gauze patch on his calf. I took him to the local medical centre and he got it looked at and had a Tetanus shot just in case (we don’t get rabies in Australia).   He has to be careful of infection for his surgery incisions but now also the dog bite.  It is pretty safe to say that I was not impressed. We called the RSPCA and they suggested we call the council and have a ranger come out and take our statements so that the owner can be issued with an infringement (fine).   So we did that, but I’m not convinced that a fine alone is going to ensure the owner cleans up his act. People like that don’t change overnight because of a piddly financial inconvenience.  I don’t want to say that I hope he has other complaints against him (so the fine will be more substantial) because then that would mean he’s a repeat offender, and who knows how he treats his dogs in private?! AAARRGH… it just makes me so mad!  It isn’t hard to provide animals with a safe, loving home.  It’s not fucking rocket science. If you can’t look after your pets for whatever reason, give them up to the pound so that someone else can. I’d hate to think what might have happened had Booker been with us (I think we would have seen a rather rapid change in temperament after the dog bit Al – in fact, i think Booker would have had that dog for a late lunch). Or worse,  had my niece or nephew decided to join us for a walk. Even if they hadn’t been bitten, it would have frightened them (they’re seven and four years old respectively) and made them even more wary of dogs than they already are.

Oh, just because I can, and for your viewing pleasure, here’s our puppy:

 

 

Well, he’s not technically a puppy (he’s almost 12 years old) but that’s my name for him because as you can see, he’s adorable.

Anyway, I’d just like to add that I know most pet owners are conscientious, caring people who would do anything for their pets, including ensuring that they don’t attack other people and wind up being put down, but at the same time, there are those who continually flout the law and don’t seem to care what their animals do to others.  It’s those people I think should have a lifetime ban from owning a pet (there should be a three strikes and you’re out policy)  because their attitude toward their animals tends to reflect back in the behaviour of their pets, particularly dogs. They’re the ones who end up having their dogs taken away and/or put down because they’ve attacked a human. And in my opinion, that’s way too late to start caring.

Rant over.

Getting to know you …

Copy and paste then add your own answers, and let your readers get to know you better as I’ve done here.

  1. Where were you born?
    Geelong, Victoria, Australia
  2. Who did you look up to growing up? My cousin Kylie. She always seemed so much cooler than me.
  3. What are your best characteristics?  Sense of humour, caring, imagination
  4. What has required the most courage of you in your life so far?  Probably going to uni at the age of 41 (four years ago) and attempting a Bachelor of Arts degree alongside over 200 people half my age.
  5. Who is your favorite musician?  Freddie Mercury/Queen, John Lennon and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance
  6. What is your favorite childhood memory?  Going to the old Corio skating rink with my cousin Ngari; summers at Norlane Pool working at the kiosk.
  7. What is your favorite color? Dark purple.
  8. What is your favorite holiday destination?  Haven’t been out of the country yet but if I could it would be New Zealand to check out where the LOTR and Hobbit movies were filmed, or the UK so I can do the Jack the Ripper tour in London and visit the Cavern where the Beatles started out.
  9. What is your favorite ice-cream flavor?  Macadamia
  10. What is your favorite song?  So hard to choose, there are so many, but if I had to it would be Silent Lucidity by Queensryche; Everybody knows by Leonard Cohen, or I want to break free by Queen.
  11. What is your favorite way to pass time? Reading or writing fiction; bingeing Netflix
  12. What is your favorite candle scent?  Prefer oils really, I like blends like Lavender, Rose geranium and Bergamot.
  13. Are you scared of heights?  Depends where I am. Can deal with a  Ferris Wheel but you wouldn’t get me jumping out of a plane.
  14. Are you high maintenance?  No
  15. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be?  My tendency to be antisocial. I hate getting on the phone.
  16. Who has left the most impact on your life?  My kids. They’re my very best friends and I would be nothing without them.
  17. Can you do a split?  A banana one, yes. A physical one, no.
  18. Can you whistle? Yes
  19. Can you dance?  No I specialise in the Rick Astley shuffle
  20. Do you remember your dreams?  Only the bad ones, or the really really weird ones.
  21. Do you save old greeting cards and letters? Throw them away? I’ve kept some of my kids’ birthday cards from when they were little but I don’t keep mine anymore.
  22. Do you sing in the shower? No. Bathrooms have a echo thing going on. You don’t want to be there when that happens. My brother got all the singing genes.
  23. Do you have a whole lot of acquaintances or just a few very close friends? Why?  A few close friends.
  24. Do you have any allergies?  Boysenberries bring me out in hives, copha gives me migraines.
  25. Do you believe in love at first sight?  No. Lust maybe, but how can you know someone’s soul on sight? It’s the whole of a person you fall in love with, not just the looks.
  26. How far away from your birthplace do you live now?   Roughly 8-15kms
  27. Have you read any of the Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Twilight series? Which one is your favorite? I’ve read all the Twilight books, a couple of Harry Potter and the first Hunger Games. Seen all the movies. I’d have to say Harry Potter’s my favourite of the three.  Probably Goblet of Fire because there was so much going on in that movie.
  28. What is a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? Hm… nothing stranger than thinking about a song I haven’t heard for a while and then it plays on the radio, stuff like that.
  29. What is the scariest movie you’ve watched?  JAWS. Without a doubt. Installed a phobia in me from age seven, when I saw it for the first time. Oddly, my brother watched it at the same time and he was five. Never affected him.
  30. What was the first concert you ever attended?  I don’t know if anyone born and raised in Geelong, Victoria will remember this, but Southern Sons came and played a free concert at Norlane Waterworld back in about 1989. My grandparents ran the kiosk at the time and I worked there that day, had my breaks sitting on top of the amps (well, not really, but close enough) and swimming afterwards.  Everyone I knew was there, it was epic.
  31. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life? Mostly retail, first job was at my old man’s donut shop for about three or four years, the kiosk at Norlane pool, trained as a pathology collector but it didn’t work out, a few temporary admin positions here and there, and my longest job as a typist/synopsis writer for World Wide Entertainment/Switch International/Meadow Media (ten years this year).
  32. What app do you use most?  Facebook and Spotify
  33. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, rate your fashion sense?  Fashion? What’s that? 5
  34. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, rate your driving skills?  6
  35. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, rate your cooking skills? 7
  36. Which animals scare you most? Why? Sharks (I should think this would be obvious),  rats (they’re unhygenic and they bite) and cassowaries because of their giant front claw on each foot. Word is they can gut you with it.  Eeeek.
  37. What are some of your bad habits? Leaving the dishes on the drying rack overnight, not dusting my room enough, and I think my family would say my tendency not to be able to hide my irritation at times is a bad habit, or is that a weakness of character? Correcting people’s grammar according to my son.
  38. What is something most people don’t know about you? I failed my driving test five times.
  39. What pipe dreams do you have that you wish could come true?  To own a bookstore like Ellen’s on her old TV show, with a coffee shop attached where people can sit and read the books they’ve bought.
  40. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be? Freddie Mercury. 70’s Freddie, though, not big on the moustache.
  41. If you could give your younger self any advice what would it be? Forget nursing and pathology. Do your BA in writing and become a librarian and write in your spare time.
  42. If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be? Stephen King or Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies).
  43. Do you see the glass as half empty or half full?  If it’s beer or wine it doesn’t stay half full for long.
  44. Pick one, cats or dogs?  Normally I’d go with cats because I’m a cat person but our white German Shepherd is a total sweetie so dogs.
  45. Pick one, chicken or beef? Chicken
  46. Pick one, Halloween or Valentine’s Day? Halloween, and the Day of the Dead.
  47. Pick one, meat or fish?  Meat. Not a seafood fan.
  48. Pick one, vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate
  49. Would you rather be a lonely genius or an idiot with a lot of friends? A genius. but I’d never be lonely because most geniuses are eccentric at best and wildly mentally ill at worst, so I’d always have company.
  50. Would you rather have a friend who’s very blunt with their words or a friend who tells a lot of white lies? Blunt people because you know they’ll tell you the truth. Fuck sparing your feelings. I’d rather know if I had a booger hanging out my nose, thanks.

Not quite 488 Rules for Life … (because that would be insane)

Recently Kitty Flanagan, one of my personal favourites when it comes to Aussie comediennes, appeared on Charlie Pickering’s show on the ABC touting her antidote to Jordan Peterson’s Rules for Life.  (see video below) . Now that’s some funny shit, right there, and it got me thinking: this chickis me. This is what I’m like when I go cold turkey off my happy pills. I can cheerfully relate to just about every rule/pet hate she talks about, especially the last one (people scraping their chairs along the floor), which makes me want to get up and throw my own chair at their heads.  I SO want this to be a real book, only I’m pretty sure it’s just a plug for her live stand-up show. Which I’d go to in a heartbeat, and probably will, next time the Melbourne Comedy Festival is on. Comedy is such a great help for people like me. I’m always watching those clips on Facebook from stand-up shows like Dry Bar Comedy.  But it kind of makes me sad also because one of the funniest women on earth, Carrie Fisher, is no longer around, and I much preferred the world with her in it.  R.I.P Carrie, can’t believe it’s almost been two years since you left us.

So in the spirit of cranky funny ladies, here’s my own Rules for Life, and I apologise in advance if some of mine sound a lot like Kitty’s. But as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  The only difference is, for her I’m sure it’s just done for a laugh. For me, the extreme irritation I feel when someone around me keeps sniffing / talks with a mouthful of spit / sits far too close for comfort on a train / uses the word “Bae”/peppers their conversations with the word “like” repeatedly etc is REAL. It’s real, it’s intense and it’s dangerous, especially for the person committing the sin. Okay I know I’m far from perfect myself, but I live by the credo “do unto others as you would have done to you”, and that goes for anything I wouldn’t like done around me.  Please, dear readers, respect your fellow Earthling, because she might just be suffering from an acute case of accidental Zoloft withdrawal, and you really wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.

 

DESPITE WHAT YOU MAY HAVE BEEN LED TO BELIEVE, BLINKERS ARE THERE FOR A REASON

If you’ve ever been in a car, as I’m sure you have at some point, either as a driver or a passenger, there are these stick-like things on either side of the steering wheel. One gives you the ability to turn on the windscreen wipers to clean off some poor bug that got lost on his own personal highway, or to improve vision during inclement weather. The other … well, if you had to poll a decent percentage of people in any of our capital cities, I’m fairly sure they wouldn’t be able to tell you the purpose of the stick just behind the wheel on the right, because they don’t know what it’s for. Odds are, since they passed the driving test some twenty odd years ago, they stopped seeing a need for it, altogether. Well, I’m here to remind them, and you: it’s called a BLINKER / INDICATOR, and you use it to tell other drivers where you’re going. You may think it’s just plain courtesy, and fuck that for a joke because courtesy’s for pussies, but NO. It’s a god-damn law, and if you don’t know that, you must have gotten your license out of a cereal box, because IT”S ON THE TEST. Or it was, back when I took it.

 

IF YOU CAN READ THIS BUMPER STICKER YOU’RE DRIVING TOO CLOSE, FUCK OFF BEFORE I END YOU.

Another thing that’s on the test, and that people ignore with the glee of someone who’s had their brain sucked out from watching too much reality TV is: you need to keep a respectable distance between you and the car in front of you. At least two car lengths when driving over 60km p.h, and one car length for under. AT LEAST.  Because if you don’t, and you tailgate, odds are the person in front is going to be a cheeky fucker like me, and decide to slow down just to piss you off.

 

IT’S JUST PLAIN MANNERS

Chewing with your mouth open. Kitty said it best. I don’t want to see that car crash. Zip it. And if you’re having trouble breathing and eating at the same time … just forgo the breathing. It’s overrated.

 

SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL. CAN’T GET MORE SPECIFIC THAN THAT. 

Shepherd Book from Firefly was another whose way with words is much better than mine, so I’ll go with him on this. “There’s a special place in hell for those who hurt animals or children, and people who talk in the cinema.” Not sure if that’s the exact quote – I’ve probably paraphrased, but you get the gist. Special place in hell. Which probably only means something if you believe in hell. That said, break this rule in my presence and you risk copping an ice cold Coke in your lap. Either that or I’ll be the pest gleefully pinging Jaffas at the back of your head.

 

PHONE-STALKING IS ILLEGAL AND NTH LEVEL ANNOYING

Look, I know times are tough. I know that some people are doing it so hard that they have to take any job they’re offered, and that sometimes that means working in a call centre for an energy or insurance company, or a charitable organisation looking for donations. And I try my best to quell my fury when the same company calls me repeatedly for days on end, from different phone numbers each time, despite the fact that I’ve told them on more than one occasion to stop calling me or i’d report them to whatever legal body deals with phone-stalking. But sometimes the effort to keep it together is tenuous at best. So if you don’t want to be hung up on and added to a customer’s blacklist, here’s a tip: if someone tells you not to call them again, there’s a pretty good chance that they actually mean it.

 

 

 

PUT THE DAMN PHONE DOWN. ASSHATS

Again with the handy driving tips. Now, pay particularly close attention to this one, boys and girls because I’m only going to say this once.  Distracted people DIE. And they kill other people. So next time you’re coasting along the Great Ocean Road without a care in the world, and someone decides to send you a text, wait five fucking minutes until you can pull over and read that shit, because my daughter’s boyfriend is now a licensed driver.  And if inadvertently killing someone while you’re answering that sext from the hottie you met on Tinder last week isn’t enough to put you off texting and driving, perhaps the fact that a grief-stricken parent wanting to remove your lungs with a sfork without anaesthesia might do the trick. Then again, it might not. You might be into that. In which case, I can’t help you. It’s above my pay grade.

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE … IDIOT

To all the mums out there who allow their feral toddlers to run around busy cafes while they sit and chat and drink their chai lattes – be warned that if I’m there, I’m gonna stick a foot out in the aisle so that when your little spawn of Satan happens by, they’re gonna go A over T. Just saying.  I’m pretty sure most cafe owners would be with me on this. Leaving the childcare up to the waiting staff is both stupid and dangerous. They have a job to do, and it’s not to make sure Tommy, Tiffany or Taylor is sufficiently occupied and not getting underfoot. They say it takes a village to raise a child – actually no, it takes ONE FUCKING PARENT who’s on the ball. So if you don’t want your kid permanently scarred because they ran into a waitress carrying a tray of scalding coffee, teach them some fucking manners, or leave them in the stroller.

 

YOU’RE GOING THE RIGHT WAY FOR A SMACKED BOTTOM

Here’s a fun fact for y’all: I’m about 30% deaf in both ears. Well, if I’m not it certainly feels that way sometimes. Especially in a crowded bar trying to chat to someone when the background music is too loud. But despite this, what I always seem to be able to hear, rather like a dog hears thunder a mile off, is the soul-cringing sound of a child’s high-pitched squeal. Whether it’s due to a temper tantrum or delight at the misfortune of others, it doesn’t much matter. My kids never squealed as young children because I instilled a little something in them politely referred to in these ‘enlightened’ times as FEAR OF GOD (MUM). Otherwise known as a smacked bottom. Yeah, I said it. Sue me. *and if your child is 8 years old or over, a guaranteed way to stop them from embarrassing you in public is by embarrassing them. It never fails, trust me. Just start spouting lines from Shrek or Austin Powers in a bad Scottish/ Liverpudlian accent. Guaranteed to make sure they will walk about twenty paces in front of you, so that no one knows you’re related.

 

FEAR AND RESPECT THAT ESCALATOR

This is similar to Kitty’s rule (see above) except that I’m referring in particular to children who like to try and run up the down escalator, and vice versa. Here’s the thing: almost more than lifts, escalators are a scary prospect. First you have the fact that you’re on a set of moving stairs that disappear when they reach the top. Don’t laugh but I’ve had nightmares about getting sucked under an escalator. It’s not fun. Then you have small children who think of it as an adventure playground and don’t see or care about obstacles in the way of their enjoyment.  If you’ve seen Mallrats you’ll know what I”m getting at. Brodie (Jason Lee) loses his shit because a kid is repeatedly playing Devil May Care on an escalator. That’s me, folks. I’m Brodie. So when an article of the kid’s clothing gets stuck under the bottom of the escalator, he basically said what everyone else would have been thinking: “Man, there’s not a year that goes by–not a year–that I don’t read about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid that could’ve easily been avoided had some parent–I don’t care which one–but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator!”

Brodie

 

AND HERE IT IS … THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF ALL

You’ve probably heard people say “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s bullshit propaganda created to fool people into thinking that they can let down their guard and reveal their startling lack of common sense, often for the enjoyment of those who get off on such things. I’m not one of them.  Take my mum for example. Look, I love her to the moon and back but sometimes I’m forced to wonder if she sleepwalks through the day because she’ll enter the room, look at the TV, see that it’s clearly a)a movie I’ve seen a billion times in her presence, b) a TV show I’ve been bingeing for the past fortnight and a half on Netflix, or some-such business that she ought to instantly recognise, and she’ll say, and I quote: “What are you watching?” Literally, one time it was Buffy and Buffy herself was on the screen, and my dear mother still asks “What are you watching?”  Go figure.

 

 

 

 

 

The American Pie

Okay so I know that many of my followers may not be big sports fans so don’t get turned off by the fact that this post is technically about sport – specifically Australian Rules Football – because if you are from the US of A you might be interested to know that our great game has a new hero.  Mason Cox, a 211cm former soccer and basketball player from Texas was recruited three years ago by Collingwood Football Club (my club,  incidentally) not knowing very much about the code beyond the fact that it’s a differently shaped ball from any he is used to.  A few months later he informed his parents that he was off to the arse end of the world to play Australian Rules. His parents must have had conniptions at the time but they’ve supported him in his career choices and this week flew from the US to Australia to watch Mason in his first Preliminary final. If you want to know the importance of AFL in Australia, it’s sort of on a par with the Superbowl. Pretty much everyone has their favourite team – even my kids, who claim to hate sports, still occasionally show the barest of interest in who’s playing whom and who’s winning. Or, in the case of my ex, who’s injured.  Six months of the year is invested in this crazy sport where men run after a ball shaped like a blimp, kick and handball it down the field until someone kicks a goal.  Our national sport is unique for two reasons: a) its the only football code where you jump to catch the ball (take a mark) either in a pack (contested) or in space (uncontested); and b) it’s a high-contact sport, but despite the fact that there are collisions, injuries and concussions galore, we don’t wear padding. Plus, for the straight girl and gay guy alike, there’s eye-candy. Lots and lots of eye-candy.

Interested yet?

But I digress. As I mentioned, Mason joined Collingwood as a rookie three years ago knowing next to nothing about the sport.  His very first game was a baptism of fire: Anzac Day 2016 in front of roughly 96,000 people (and the rest, watching on TV).  He didn’t do too badly; kicked a couple of goals from memory. This year he starred in our Big Freeze game against Melbourne Demons, kicking five goals as a Full-Forward. Last night, in the penultimate game of the season, the Preliminary Final against the ladder leaders Richmond, he tore the Tigers apart with three goals in the second quarter and 11 marks – the second highest mark tally for an individual in a final … EVER. He was just unstoppable.  This morning the papers said “Bye Bye said the American Pie” (bye bye Richmond, that is, who were so sure they were going to go back-to-back quite a few of their players were in tears after the 39 point thrashing). Of course it wasn’t just Mason who contributed to the win that put us in the AFL Grand Final. All 22 knew their role and played it to perfection. There are so many great stories in this team that a sports journalist would be salivating.

*There’s Jordan DeGoey, who was suspended at the beginning of the year for an off-field drink-driving indiscretion but came back and repaid the faith the Pies had shown in him by becoming one of the most dynamic, exciting forwards in the game in just six months;

*Tyson Goldsack, who came back from a season-ending knee injury in March and played in the last three games, including two finals;

*Travis Varcoe, who lost his sister Maggie in a sickening on-field collision in the women’s reserves league in Adelaide (she was in a coma for a week before the life support was turned off). He could have had that week off but decided to play in the Qualifying Final vs the Eagles two weeks ago.  There was a minute’s silence at the game in Maggie’s honour and all the players wore black armbands. He said afterward that Maggie would have wanted him to play, even though the Pies eventually lost by 16pts.

*Josh Thomas, who, along with another team mate who’s no longer at Collingwood, was suspended for two years under the performance-enhancing drug laws for taking a prohibited substance but has since, like DeGoey, repaid the faith Collingwood showed in keeping him on the list and supporting him.

There’s Mason of course, but the biggest story of them all would have to be that of our coach, Nathan Buckley. Former player, captain, Norm Smith Medallist, Brownlow Medallist, All Australian multiple times, Rising Star winner (1993), winner of 6 club Best and Fairests … the list goes on. There is nothing Bucks hasn’t done… except win a premiership. He retired in 2007 after the prelim final loss to Geelong with a recurring hamstring injury. Since then he’s studied coaching in the US, been to the Australian Institute of Sport, and finally became our coach in 2012, part of a succession plan that had many detractors predicting would cause dissension in the ranks.  And they were right: after reaching the finals in 2011 under Mick Malthouse, the boys were told Mick was leaving.  He’d just steered them to a flag the year before but the succession plan had him play a mentoring role his ego couldn’t handle. But that’s another story altogether.

I’ll admit that I was one of Bucks’ critics early on. By 2016,when we’d missed the finals for the third year in a row and were sliding down the ladder by increments every year, I was convinced the club had made a huge mistake. ‘We were on the brink of a dynasty’ fans were crying, ‘Why did you let Mick go?”  I even posted about it in here, with a lengthy diatribe about how I thought it was time for a change.

How wrong I was.

Nathan Buckley, with the help of a extensive review that saw a shakeup of his coaching panel, was given two year contract extension and allowed to have more say in recruiting. after a poor 2017 where the club ended up 13th on the ladder (just so you know, there are 18 teams).  Our injury list was longer than Mason Cox’s arm. Now, we still have injuries, but Bucks has the boys playing an exciting game plan based on pressure, pressure, and more pressure, as well as linking handballs, and a dynamic, fluid forward line that’s hard to match up on. Our ruckman, Brodie Grundy, as well as premiership player Steele Sidebottom, made All-Australian.  But better than all of that, next week, on the last Saturday in September, we play the West Coast Eagles in the AFL Grand Final.

CARN THE PIES!!!!!!!

 

Pictures: Left: Mason and Travis Varcoe give each other a high-five; Right: One of Mason’s high-flying grabs in last night’s win over the Tigers.

The Procrastinator’s Manifesto

 

Never do today what could be put off until tomorrow – Anonymous

 

Here’s a somewhat amusing fact that underlined to me that this was what I had to write. The day I’d earmarked to concentrate on this writing task (yesterday) I managed to do everything else but.  I watched a couple of episodes of Gotham. I did the dishes. I spent half the day shopping with Mum, and the rest of it on Facebook, the ultimate one-stop procrastination shop.  After staying up most of the night reading a Liane Moriarty novel it occurred to me that I’d just procrastinated about writing about procrastinating.  It seemed like some kind of sign.  So here goes:

 

THE PROCRASTINATOR’S MANIFESTO

 

  • We, the undersigned (if we get around to it) remain steadfast and absolute in our determination to put off, as long as possible, those tasks which we deem to be onerous, mentally taxing or otherwise mind-numbingly boring.

 

  • That even if they are not onerous; even if we actually feel a smidgeon of joyful anticipation about those tasks (or at least about attempting to begin them), we will inexplicably faff about doing anything apart from what we’re supposed to be doing.

 

  • Netflix is the answer. The question? Not sure, I’ll get back to you on that.

 

  • We, the undersigned, shalt exhibit no shame or embarrassment about our tendency to put off that which can be done tomorrow, as it is a charming and endearing character trait, not a flaw; nor is it a subconscious fear of failure (or at least, we don’t think it is).

 

  • We, as fully-fledged card-carrying Procrastinators, own our idiosyncrasies and defy anyone to try to change our ways. Yes, even our eternally frustrated Loved Ones / Significant Others / university tutors.

 

  • In point of fact, we shall implore and encourage others to do as we do, for sitting up at night watching horror movies/binge-watching a favourite TV series and eating vast amounts of junk food instead of finishing that assignment that is due the very next day is infinitely less fun than attempting such endeavours on one’s own.

 

  • This is harder than I’d first thought. I need another jolt of caffeine. BRB.

 

  • We, the undersigned, shalt stop thinking of procrastination as our enemy. As one astute blogger put it, it’s actually our friend. And it doesn’t hamper our ability to get things done.  Don’t believe me? There are actual studies on this:

“Consider a recent study at Columbia University that found procrastinating students often experience just as much personal satisfaction, have the same amount of internal motivation, and get just as much done as students who don’t wait to finish their work. Basically the opposite of what was expected.” – Yaseen Dadabhay, The Art of Doing Nothing

 

  • If the above isn’t a good enough reason to embrace our destiny, I don’t know what is.

 

  • We, the undersigned, shalt acknowledge the fact that procrastination is an addiction for which we cannot be blamed. Yes, procrastination is an addiction – a compulsion, even.  According to Kevin Eikenberry, a leadership expert, author and motivational speaker, procrastination is a psychological blockage “caused by fear of failure, fear of success…” (yes, you read that right) “… and fear of the unknown.”                                 … And I thought I was just lazy.

 

  • Researching procrastination is just as entertaining and informative as anything else you might do in order to put off doing what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s rather like self-diagnosis via the internet. You feel a sense of kinship; you know you’re not alone.  There are even tips and meditations available to break the habit, such as those featured on the website Psychology Today.  Here’s the link: psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-integrationist/201303/kicking-the-procrastination-habit  .  Did you know hypnotism has been used, successfully, to combat debilitating cases of procrastination?  No? Well, now you do.

 

  • But I digress. We, as self-proclaimed professional procrastinators, don’t actually want to break the habit. Do we?  After all, we’re good at it! And why try to stop doing something we’re good at? Isn’t that some kind of self-sabotage? (Detractors would argue that procrastination itself is a form of self-sabotage, but we’re not listening to them, are we?).

 

  • I’ve just now realised that I’ve read and re-read this list after each entry. Go figure.

 

  • And finally, we the undersigned shalt pledge to play Candy Crush Saga (and its equally addictive spin-offs) until callouses develop on our fingertips or we run out of levels (whichever comes first). Probably the former – as the game states, there are some 2000 levels and counting.

 

*What, you thought we were actually gonna sign this thing?!

 

Published, again!

Recently received notice that the story I’d submitted to my university’s literary journal – the same one that published me last year – has been approved for both the print and ebook versions. I’m stoked, because it was the only submission I’d put in this year and they barely had to edit it.  Anyway, it’s called Water Baby and it’s been posted here much earlier, although you’ll probably have to go through the archives to find it. For the newly edited version, either Google Verandah vol 33 after the 16th September for the ebook or alternatively, visit my site as I’ll most likely re-post, but not until it’s in print. I don’t want to give them any reason to withdraw, saying that it’s already been published.

Last year’s submission won me the Deakin Literary award. It was a 2000 word story about a woman who recounts aspects of her childhood and marriage to her psychiatrist and I suspect was considered for an award because of it’s timeliness – the subject was domestic violence, and it’s a pretty prominent problem right now in Australia. This year’s story contains two relevant themes: suicide and the discrimination that transgender people go through.  Having received so much praise and positive reinforcement about my writing in recent times has made me do some serious thinking about the kind of writing I want to be known for as an author. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I admire authors like Liane Moriarty for her realistic portrayals of Australian family life and all the issues that feed into it, including parenthood, relationship problems, sibling rivalry and of course domestic violence, which was what her most well-known work, Big Little Lies was ultimately about.  I can only hope that I can have just as much success as Liane in the years to come.

 

 

Cult Movies

We all know them, or know of them. Most of us have seen them at least once (or in my case, several hundred times), and can reel off a line or three from them, without blinking an eye. I’m not talking about big budget blockbusters like the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings franchises, or even Harry Potter. I’m talking about those famous little films that usually start out small, not attracting a great deal of interest at the box office, but that wind up with a huge loyal following regardless, usually coinciding with their VHS or later, DVD release.  Call them sleeper hits, call them cult films. Call them whatever you want, you can’t argue that they haven’t nabbed a place for themselves in the annals of pop culture, either because of their repeat-watchability or quotability or both.  Here are some of my favorites, as well as some others that have achieved cult status, for whatever reason …

10. Fight Club 

You’d have to live under a rock, or in an alternate universe, to not know the first rule of Fight Club. It’s Brad Pitt’s finest hour, IMHO, and the movie Ed Norton is most well- known for. The twist at the end is diabolical, and completely unexpected, unless like me, you’ve seen it the requisite 150 times. So I won’t spoil it for you.

Fight Club

9. The Lost Boys

Infinitely cooler than Meyer’s sparkly vamps, and chock-a-block with lines suitable for just about any occasion (I’m forever quoting Grandpa – he’s a total gem. Especially the one about the TV guide. Read the TV guide, don’t need a TV). The film is made all the  more poignant these days, considering that Corey Haim, Brooke Carter and the guy who played Max (Ed Hermann) are now sadly no longer with us. My favorite line? It’s literally almost impossible to choose. That’s why I’m not going to. All I’ll say is that I totally agree with Lucy when she says “We were just like them. Except they dress better”.

The Lost Boys

8. Heathers

The movie that drew my attention to a young, totally hot, totally unhinged Christian Slater, and fulfilled my loser fantasy of knocking off the popular crowd at high school who made my life hell, this forerunner to Mean Girls was a cautionary tale about revenge – sometimes it has the exact opposite effect to what you were after.

Heathers

7. Halloween 

Despite the fact that these days, a guy getting around in a blank white mask, eerily silent  and impervious to just about every method of killing isn’t really as scary as it was back in the 1970’s, perhaps because of all the real-life horror that goes on in our neighborhoods and schoolyards, Halloween is still the bench-mark for horror movies, as it set up a number of horror movie tropes, including the fact that if you have sex, you’re doomed to die.  Plus it’s the movie that kicked off Jamie-Lee Curtis’s career as ‘Scream Queen’.

Halloween

6. Labyrinth

Yes it’s considered a kid’s movie. Yes it practically implodes with Jim Henson’s Muppet creations.  But it’s also one of those infinitely watchable movies, that stays fresh no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Most of us know all the best lines and songs, and I’ve been guilty of quoting it on a number of occasions, especially “Oh, what a lie” and “Nope, no good, can’t hear ya,” or “Where you goin’ with a head like that?” And who could forget David Bowie in those tights.  It’s still hard to know where to look.

Labyrinth

 

5. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

It’s my favorite Python movie of all time, and probably the favorite of millions of other fans of British comedy, for obvious reasons. I mean, you can’t go past the bunny attack scene, or the riotous argument about Arthur’s claim to the throne: “Strange women in ponds handing out swords is no basis for a system of government”, commonly known as the Constitutional Peasants Scene. Or the Knights who say “NI”.   Or the hilarious taunts from the French guard: “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries,” and “I fart in your general direction”. Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system ….

Holy Grail

4. Clerks 

“This job would be great if it weren’t for the customers.” Ah, the lament of many a shop assistant. The stark, black and white, low-budget movie about two convenience store clerks who actively hate the people who patronize the establishment was the first of many in the Kevin Smith stable, linking various characters across film lines (such as Rick Darris, the stud who screwed half of Jersey, and Julie Dwyer, the girl who dropped dead in a swimming pool from a blood clot in the brain, and whose funeral Randall decides he must attend around the mid-way point of the film).  Despite many unforgettable lines and conversations, including one between Dante and his girlfriend, Veronica, about how many dicks she’s sucked (“Try not to suck any dicks on the way” he shouts to her as she leaves the shop) the one that sticks in my head is Randall’s rant about worker’s rights on the new, half-built Death Star.  And I thought Eddie Izzard’s “Death Star Canteen” was taking Star Wars love to another level.

Clerks

 

3. Donnie Darko 

Executive-produced by Drew Barrymore, it’s one of those films that you have to see more than once to appreciate all its nuances, not to mention the time-traveling premise and the life-imitates-art plot device by which Barrymore’s class takes a leaf out of Graham Green’s The Destroyers and burns down the house of a local pervert and hypocrite. Not everything is immediately obvious at first glance, which is what makes this film one you can watch over and over and still not have noticed everything it has to offer. And who doesn’t love to hate Kitty Farmer?! Her line “Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion” has launched many a meme.

Donnie Darko

2. The Princess Bride

Okay so it’s on my list as one of my favorite movies of all time as well, some time further back on my blog, so I won’t wax lyrical about it here, except to say that it’s the movie Cary Elwes is almost singularly known for, despite his having a long and varied acting career, and that I love TPB so much, I bought a coffee cup bearing the image of Inigo Montoya with the caption “Hello, my name is Melissa Kay, you drank my coffee, prepare to die.”  And as far as I can tell, I’m definitely not alone.

Princess Bride

  1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Since its creation in the ’70’s by little-known playwright Richard O’Brien, the strange little stage-show about a naive, wholesome couple who stumble upon a den of iniquity and are transformed, forever-after, into kinky swingers has become a cult hit spawning the movie, of course, starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, but also numerous versions of the original play, arena spectaculars, interactive film showings where fans dress up as their favorite character and shout out lines as well as sing and dance in the aisles, to name but a few.  Frank N Furter is the role that defined Tim Curry’s career – alongside Pennywise the Clown from IT, obviously  – so much so that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the flamboyant alien fond of dressing in women’s clothing.  Although my personal favorite is the humble man-servant, Riff-Raff, played in the film by O’Brien himself.

Rocky Horror

 

Honorable Mentions:  

The Big Lebowski, Bladerunner, A Clockwork Orange, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Reservoir Dogs, The Crow, Pulp Fiction, Withnail and I, The Wizard of Oz, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Napoleon Dynamite, Mean Girls, The Goonies.

Back from the abyss…

Hi folks,

Well, abyss is probably too strong a word but when you’re dealing with the things I’ve been dealing with for the past eighteen months, or thereabouts, it certainly feels like a vast, bottomless hole that I’ve managed to drag myself out of, with the help of Zoloft and a very supportive therapist. You see, back in July of last year I was suicidal. I was having almost daily thoughts about killing myself.  About how my family and friends would perhaps grieve for a bit, but then they’d get on with things, and I’d be eventually be relegated to a fond memory, like a pet that passed away.  I really was that hard on myself.  It seems overly dramatic now, but at the time I was convinced I was of no consequence; that no one would really give a shit if I disappeared for good.  Now of course I know that’s not true, but it’s funny the way your brain tells you these things when you’re depressed and you choose to believe them, even though you know deep down it’s a steaming pile of BS.  It’s only because of cognitive behavioral therapy – which has taught me to confront my inner critic and tell it to get back in it’s box when it starts in with its highly negative crap – that I’ve been able to put an end to the pity party and get back to the business of being an effective, functional mum and aspiring writer.

I say aspiring because although I’m now officially published, and therefore apparently retain the right to call myself an author, it still doesn’t sit well with me. I am neither prolific nor inspired, and my most recent contribution to the written word has sat untouched on my computer’s hard drive for months.  You see, along with depression and low self-esteem, I’ve been dealing with that ugly chestnut writers dread – an unholy, gleefully malicious case of writer’s block. That thing where you find yourself playing endless rounds of the various editions of Candy Crush on Facebook instead of confronting the problem head-on. Procrastination being my middle name – or at least, it should be – I’ve managed to do everything but come up with a basic chapter-by-chapter plot for this idea that’s been swirling around in my brain for months now, to the point where I’m asking a god I don’t believe in to explain to me why the idea can’t just ‘pop into my head, fully-formed’ as J.K Rowling claims Harry Potter did.  Apparently I’m not one of those few rare individuals who get to experience what constitutes winning the lottery for writers – that one story that fills a niche in society, says everything you’ve been wanting to say but haven’t had the guts, predicts future events or just becomes a favorite book that you keep coming back to re-read over and over again, like Lord of the Rings or Anne of Green Gables.

But then, I guess, who is?

Being a student of literature – literally – I’ve studied quite a few ‘classics’ over the past three years of my university degree and have found myself wondering why some books become classics at all.  William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is a case in point.  I just couldn’t get into it; couldn’t make sense of the pace and structure of the story or the way Faulkner writes.  If I can’t grasp what a writer is trying to say within the first chapter, I tend to give up.  So endeavoring to read Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake or absolutely anything by Herman Melville would be a complete waste of time for me.  Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue I had to contend with.  We did, however, study Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stoker’s Dracula and Stephenson’s The Mysterious Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. While I enjoyed all three for different reasons, mostly due to the fact that I’m a horror-buff from way back (I blame Jaws, which scared the living shit out of me as a child and imbued me with a life-long phobia of sharks) and love scaring myself.  Frankenstein probably had the most profound effect on me because, having been bullied throughout high school, I saw myself as a bit of a freak and so could empathize with an ugly, unwanted creature trying to get to grips with a world that didn’t understand him, and a creator who rejected him.

But enough about classics. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, of a lot of different genres, but mostly true crime and what’s been commonly described as ‘chick-lit’ – led from the front by the best-selling Australian writer, Liane Moriarty.  The author of Big Little Lies – now a TV series on HBO – is one of my favorite authors, alongside Stephen King, Jodie Picoult and true-crime writer Ann Rule.  I’m currently reading What Alice Forgot, about a woman who can’t remember the last decade of her life, and like most of Moriarty’s other offerings, I can’t put it down.

So, largely inspired by the latest post from one of my followers, who rated his top five must-reads for young adults, here is my list of books I couldn’t put down, and, consequently, read in one night. Hence the suitcases under my eyes.

 

A Time to Kill – John Grisham

As a debut it really packs a punch, describing in the first chapter or two a vicious sexual assault on a young black girl by two rednecks, who treat her like she’s barely human.  Set in the fictional town of Canton, Mississippi, racial tensions erupt when the father of the girl takes the law into his own hands and shoots his daughter’s rapists in cold blood.  On trial for murder, Carl Lee hires the lawyer who got his brother Lester off on a murder charge. But this case is different, and it might just make or break Jake Brigance’s career – or worse.  Facing financial ruin, threats from the KKK and the fury of an angry wife, Jake won’t stop until he proves that a black man can receive a fair trial in Mississippi, no matter what it costs him.  Not on a par with Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird by any stretch of the imagination, it nonetheless stirs the emotions and makes the reader question what they would do if they were in the same situation as Carl Lee Hailey.  To what lengths would we go to protect our children?

Truly, Madly, Guilty – Liane Moriarty

Like The Slap, from fellow Aussie author Christos Tsioulkos,  TMG is about the events surrounding a shocking incident that occurs at a seemingly innocuous neighborhood BBQ.  In typical Moriarty fashion, the story unwinds piece by piece and you can only guess as to where it’s going to end up.  There’s no premature exposition that leaves you with the distinct feeling that you’ve solved the mystery halfway through – no, the reader is in suspense until the author decides otherwise. That’s the secret to great storytelling, folks, and one of the first things you learn in creative writing class. It comes down to three simple words: Show, don’t tell. And in Truly, Madly Guilty, Moriarty unravels the story like an elderly relative unwraps a Christmas present – delicately, in order to save the wrapping paper.  And unlike The Slap, you actually like the characters, despite their faults, and want them to have a happy ending.

My Sister’s Keeper – Jodie Picoult 

I’ve long been a fan of Picoult’s because of her talent for merging an ethical (often medical but not always) situation with family drama and a bit of mystery on the side. My Sister’s Keeper was made into a movie starring Cameron Diaz as an overprotective mother who makes the choice to conceive another child as ‘spare parts’ to save her beloved daughter, who’s dying of leukemia. She subjects her youngest to countless tests, surgeries and transfusions until Anna has finally had enough, and decides to sue her parents for medical emancipation.  But just when it appears Anna’s choice is about to tear her family apart, a secret is revealed.   Even if you don’t like the ethics involved, and I didn’t – no child should be brought into the world as spare parts for a sibling – you can still appreciate what a terrible choice both the girls’ parents and Anna herself were forced to make.  Both the book and the movie have me in tears every single time, despite the fact that the movie has a different (and much more poignant, IMHO) ending.

The Stand – Stephen King

The world has suffered a near extinction-level event – or at least, America has, because let’s face it, ladies and germs, America IS the world – and the survivors of a plague that wipes out half the population take a cue from strange dreams that lead them either to Hemingford Home, Nebraska, or to the desert of Nevada. Winding up in Boulder, Colorado, the ‘good guys’ begin the huge clean-up and setting things back to rights, while the villains of the piece plot the eventual takeover of the entire country.  The fate of humankind seems to rest on the frail shoulders of an old black lady who claims God talks to her, and has plans for her followers. None of which they’re going to like.                           As an atheist, I naturally approached the religious aspect of this story with a sense of irritation and impatience, but it’s the journey of the characters involved that draws you in, not necessarily the reasons for their actions.  There’s the obligatory supernatural element – I mean, it is Stephen King, after all –  but one gets the sense that The Stand is, in essence, a cautionary tale about the cruelty and capriciousness of humankind. That even if we got the chance to start again, we’d choose the same old road back to hell.

Small Sacrifices – Ann Rule

True crime author and former consultant to the Seattle, Washington Police Department, Ann Rule has written countless books about real life murder, delving deeply into not only the case itself but its effects on the families involved and the wider community. Small Sacrifices explores the reasons why a mother would decide the love of a man was more important than the lives of her children. It follows the story of Diane Downs, who initially pretended her children had been shot by a ‘bushy-haired stranger’ on a lonely road, but due to her strange behavior after the fact, became the prime suspect in an unspeakable crime.  Two of her children survived the attack; one paralyzed from the waist down, the other brought back from the brink of death to eventually testify against her mother in court. The third, little Cheryl, was killed instantly.   As a parent, I cannot fathom what could make a person act the way Downs did. Her narcissism and obsession with a married man cast her as thoroughly unlikable and actually, completely pathetic. Pregnant with her fourth child while on trial for the murder and attempted murder of it’s siblings, she was forced to give birth in prison and adopt the child out.  To my knowledge, that child wants nothing to do with her paranoid, attention-seeking mother. Can’t say I blame her.  However tragic the story was or how angry it made me though, it was a real page-turner. I wanted to know if Christie, the eldest Downs child, would regain her memory and testify against her mother.  In the end, Downs was sentenced to life plus 50 years, which is exactly what she deserves.