The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Randoms and More…

Lefties

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Being left handed in this right-handed world sure must be difficult. In the past, lefties were forced to use their right hand. There are now a range of gadgets designed to make left handed experience better, more productive and included as part of society instead of bullied and excluded.

The word ‘sinister’ is from Latin sinistra, which means left.The word ‘left’ is from lyft, which means weak. Many phrases mention left as being awkward or unacceptable; consider having “two left feet”.

There are left-handed people in the Bible, many of whom are from Benjamin’s tribe. The bible speaks about left handed people in unflattering ways. Some have construed these passages are meaning left is bad, or rather, right handedness is natural. On Judgement Day, righteous sheep will sit to God’s right, while the evil goats will be on the left. Jesus himself is exalted to the right side; many paintings feature fallen angels on God’s left. Those who fall from God’s favour are sent to the left, as described in Matthew 25: 32-33.

Left-handed people have been forced to assimilate into a right-handed world. When writing, they smudge ink and can’t start at the margin because there’s usually binding there. Scissors are rather annoying to use, so someone invented left-handed scissors. Not to mention computer mice, machinery and musical instruments.

In many cultures, the right hand is used for eating and social interactions such as shaking hands while the left is used for hygiene, i.e. wiping one’s butt.

Being left-handed isn’t a lifestyle choice. When did you decide to be right-handed? Yet many left handers wish they weren’t lefties. It’s tough to be a lefty in a right world.

Now, apply everything I just said to LGBTI people. Your arguments about why same sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to have equal rights suddenly seem rather stupid. Being straight is no more natural than being LGBTI.  It’s not a lifestyle choice. How would you feel if the government told you and your love that you weren’t allowed to be married? You’re not afforded the same rights as others based on whom you love. You don’t matter because you’re a minority.

Vote yes.

 

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , | Leave a comment

Slide: An original story by Renee

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Image: http://www.wallpapers-for-desktop.eu/desktop/knife-rose

By 10am, the rain had stopped, allowing the funeral to be held outdoors as planned, albeit on soggy ground. At least it would be easier for the gravedigger, thought Lyndall bleakly. She pulled on her black dress, a half-size too small, choosing silver hooped earrings and black shoes with a small heel. Was it wrong to think she looked good in this outfit?

Dying was a terrible inconvenience. Terence never planned to die like this. He thought he’d die dramatically; a car crash or slip in front of a train perhaps. It’d started with a cough that didn’t go away, a diagnosis of lung cancer despite Terence never having smoked, and just four short months later he died in his sleep. Lyndall was furious with him. How dare he die so suddenly? They hadn’t seen the cherry blossoms in Japan, meditated in the middle of Stonehenge or posed in front of the pyramids in Giza. No, he’d gone and left her before they could do any of those things. And now Lyndall was alone, squeezed into a tight black dress with a zipper she couldn’t quite do up on her own.

Lyndall stood steadfastly during the service, staring straight ahead as the celebrant spoke comforting words Lyndall had written. The sun had burned the remaining rain clouds away, leaving a muggy residue that clung to everyone’s skin, making them even more uncomfortable. By request, the service was short with an invitation to Lyndall’s house for sandwiches and coffee and friendly chat about Terence’s happier times. She didn’t want anyone in her house but she was expected to be hospitable. Besides, she got a great deal on the catering thanks to Terence’s niece.

Those with roses may now place them,” said the celebrant cordially. Lyndall stepped forward, placing her yellow rose on the casket.

I’m sorry for your loss.” Lyndall swung around, trying to place the voice. She found it belonged to Kathy Street, Terence’s first wife. Kathy placed her own yellow rose next to Lyndall’s.

Thankyou,” replied Lyndall succinctly. She really didn’t have any malice towards Kathy, but she wondered what Terence would have thought had he known she was at his funeral.

Lyndall! How are you doing?” Lyndall’s attention was pulled again. Frank Deely, Terence’s former boss. Frank placed a rolled up newspaper on the casket. Lyndall made a mental note to ask about that at the wake.

I’m well, thankyou.” What else was she expected to say?

Back at her house, the guests mingled in small groups. Lyndall knew most of the faces, the Who’s Who of Terence’s life. Mostly family. Terence’s three brothers stood in a corner, sipping water from iced glasses. Lyndall spied Frank Deely and wandered over to him.

Thanks for coming, Frank. It would have meant a lot to him, knowing you were there.”

He was a great bloke, Lyn.” She detested being called Lyn. “I’m so sorry we lost him so early.”

What was the newspaper for?”

Frank smiled. “The day I met Terence, he brought a newspaper to the interview and asked if I wanted to read Garfield because he knew the job was his and he didn’t want to waste any of my time answering silly questions.”

Lyndall smiled. He was right, of course. Terence had already been offered the job and the interview with Frank was just a formality.

He would’ve appreciated the gesture.”

Frank smiled wryly, unsure of what to say next. He gave her a short, awkward hug and moved towards the roast beef sandwiches. Lyndall sipped iced tea. Despite being the centre of attention, she stood alone in the room, no one quite sure what to say to her. She wondered if she could sneak a nip of vodka into the iced tea without anyone noticing.

Lyndall, it’s good to see you.” Her head swung to her left, finding no one standing where she expected. She looked around, confused. “Over here!” called the voice. She followed the sound, her eyes settling on a tall man standing a few feet away, leaning against the wall near the kitchen entrance. He was smiling, his hand wrapped around a bottle of Terence’s favourite beer. He must have found it in the bottom of the pantry where she’d hidden it a few months earlier.

Her brow furrowed with confusion. She couldn’t place him.

Thankyou for coming,” she started. “It would have meant a lot to him…”

He grinned. “You have no idea who I am,” he noted with amusement.

I’m sorry…”

He transferred his beer to the other hand, holding out his now free hand to shake hers. “Mark Delvaney.”

You obviously know me,” Lyndall replied in a tone that could be construed as bitchy.

Mark wasn’t put off, his grin getting wider with bemusement.

Yes, I know you,” replied Mark without further explanation. “I always knew someday I’d be your man.”

Lyndall’s heart skipped a beat, her fake smile frozen on her face as her eyes widened. Suddenly, the black dress was even tighter and she stumbled backwards in her hurry to escape outside. As she did, she heard Mark laughing.

The vodka-laced iced tea was a puddle on the ground but Lyndall didn’t notice or care. She was outside, gasping for air, her lungs filling but not feeling full. Too late, she recognised the panic attack. Inside, Mark was congratulating himself.

 

Mark Delvaney. I’m a property developer. I’m very rich.”

Mark Delvaney was indeed a property developer, and he was also quite wealthy. It was his ‘elevator speech’; the line he used whenever he was asked to introduce himself. Most people were instantly turned off by his introduction, but Mark had a habit of harassing people until he got what he wanted. It was the only way to do business, in his opinion. He had dropped out of school aged seventeen and bummed around for a few years in menial jobs before deciding working for The Man would never make him rich. He enrolled at university as a mature age student at 25, quickly discovering there was no degree for becoming a billionaire. He weaseled his way into Martin & Martin, a property development company with numerous portfolios worth several million dollars. By the time Mark was finished with them, they were within a whisper of becoming a billion dollar company. Mark took the knowledge from Roger Martin Sr and used it for his own profit. It didn’t take long. Mark was one of those people whom others would say inspired them, a Richard Branson of the property world, a charming version of Donald Trump with better hair.

Mark Delvaney, self-made millionaire in four years. Unmarried, childless (as far as he knew), and madly in love with Lyndall.

He’d first seen her at a cafe. She was alone, ordering an ordinary coffee on an ordinary day wearing ordinary clothes and ordinary, unbrushed hair. If he remembered correctly, it was six years, four months, three days and seven hours ago. Perhaps it was her ordinariness that captured his attention. His eyes were drawn to her left hand; she wore a plain, yellow gold wedding band. He finished his double shot espresso, licked his lips, cocked his head and determined his destiny to follow her. She walked three blocks to an apartment building, pressed the button and was immediately invited in. She didn’t even look around. In that walk, she hadn’t sipped her coffee. She hadn’t taken a single bite of the double choc chip muffin she carried but not bought at the cafe. He found himself besotted from just a glance at her, despite her desperate housewife appearance. He told himself later it was her inner beauty he’d seen. Of course, he didn’t know her name at first. He imagined her name was something glamorous, named after an old Hollywood star or Greek goddess. He felt pleased with himself when he learned Lyndall meant beautiful.

Lyndall didn’t notice Mark that day in the cafe. She’d woken late after a restless sleep, grabbed a coffee from a cafe she didn’t normally frequent, and headed to a friend’s place to watch chick flicks and bitch about their men.

Terence was having an affair. Lyndall knew about it for some time before confronting him. At first she was angry, then sad, then vengeful. In the end, when she found his secret phone tucked in the pocket of jeans she thought he never wore and confronted him, she felt defeated.

Do what you want,” she’d told him. “I knew you were never mine.” She closed the door, leaving him staring after her.

Once a cheater, always a cheater,” reminded her friend. “He cheated on Kathy with you…”

Lyndall nodded. “Yeah. I knew then he was never truly mine. He would always belong to the next pretty dame in a skirt.”

Her friend laughed. “Since when have you ever called anyone a dame?”

 

Mark made it his business to find out who this woman was. His attraction to her was fuelled by his lust for older women and his desire to control them. Maybe she appeared vulnerable that day in the cafe? Despite his immodesty when it came to his success, he had never been interested in trophy girlfriends. “Oh sure,” he would brag. “I could have models and actresses and pretty things hanging off my arm, but they’re all pretty brain dead, wouldn’t you agree?”

His first girlfriend was in high school, when Mark still wore braces and his hair hung in his eyes. She was a year older and taught Mark everything she knew, which wasn’t much. He was twenty three when he met Mari, the first real love of his life. Mari was in her mid thirties, a little pudgy around the belly and thighs, but really quite pretty when she dressed up. She worked in an accounting firm and when Mark Delvanely first walked through her door, she was smitten; she’d always gone for that bad boy persona. Their relationship was rocky from the beginning as Mark pursued his dream of becoming rich while she earned barely enough to keep them both fed. She was besotted by him, but his refusal to work in a job just to pay the bills finally crumbled their relationship. He knew he was destined for something better both personally and professionally.

He once bumped into Lyndall at a shopping centre, deliberately of course. In that one bump, he knocked her handbag and while she was busily putting things back, he apologised to distract her while he pocketed her purse and mobile phone. This act gave him all the information he wanted to know: Mrs Lyndall Browne, an address, a birthdate, a stack of loyalty cards to her favourite stores. It was too easy to buy her something from a store and send it to her on special occasions. At first, she naturally thought it was Terence trying to repair their marriage, but his credit card bills showed the purchases weren’t his. Her friends denied it. Her colleagues pleaded innocence. Terence never knew. The mobile phone also provided her phone number. He took a gamble, guessing she wouldn’t change her number when she bought a new phone.

Happy birthday, Lyndall. A scented candle from her favourite candle store.

Merry Christmas and a happy new year, Lyndall. Fourteen karat rose gold earrings, bracelet, necklace, anklet.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from your secret admirer. A dozen long-stemmed roses and a box of imported Italian chocolates.

Happy anniversary, darling. A diamond ring which she always returned and never wore.

The card and text messages were always signed, “With love, someday I’ll be your man.”

 

Now Terence was dead. His obituary was printed in the same paper announcing Mark’s intention to bulldoze three run-down houses and build a new high rise residential tower overlooking the new man-made lake he’d also developed. Expressions of interest for the pre-sale of these apartments were welcome. Terence Browne, loving husband and father, now with Jesus in His Eternal Kingdom. Lyndall didn’t write the obituary; she had told the funeral director to submit the cheapest template he had. Mark was looking through the obits from habit, noting which of the recently deceased had a spouse needing to sell their house in a hurry. Death was so expensive these days and it is so hard to look after a big house all by yourself… Terence’s notice piqued Mark’s interest. Until now, he’d admired Lyndall from afar. She was his true love, she knew he existed, she was just waiting for her husband to be out of the picture before she was able to be with him. And now, her husband was dead. It was time to make his move.

The rain cleared just in time for the 10am funeral. Mark dressed in his best suit, his lucky suit he always wore when brokering an important deal. As he adjusted his tie, his heart raced. Today was the day he would make himself known to her. It would be easy; she already knew him. She would’ve loved those scented candles. He knew floral scents would have to be her favourite, but he’d also sent summery, fruity flavours because she was a burst of sunshine in his world. He pictured her wearing his rose gold jewellery, fingering the delicate chain as she admired herself in the mirror. She’d be thinking about him, wishing she was free of her marriage shackles. He imagined her gazing wistfully at her roses, a scented candle illuminating the petals, releasing the volatile oils from the petals. The tropical air would be filled with a multitude of scents swimming around her senses. As Lyndall made love to her husband, she’d be imagining the forbidden lust of a haunted lover. His gifts got him noticed; today he would reveal himself triumphantly. Sure, she couldn’t attach herself straight away, but after an appropriate period of mourning they would come out as a couple. Yes, today was the day.

 

Lyndall gasped for breath, her lungs on fire, her brain screaming for oxygen. Her friend Sara ran out after her, holding a bottle of water and a pack of cigarettes. “Lyn! Lyn!”

He’s here,” breathed Lyndall heavily. Sara’s brow furrowed with confusion.

Honey, drink some water.”

Her brain was spinning. It wasn’t just the presents. This guy knew her. He knew her favourite stores, her favourite scents, her birthday… Was he around that corner? Was he watching her outside a window? Was that him smiling at her while she did her grocery shopping? Is that him across the road, supposedly walking his dog? Terence was always there to defend her, protect her, be with her. Not only was Terence gone and she was alone, he was inside her house right now. Was he going through her wardrobe as she struggled to breathe? The weight of his stare bore through her even though he was nowhere in sight… or was he? She looked around. Sara had one hand on her, mouthing words Lyndall wouldn’t hear, drowned by her own thoughts.

Stop!” she yelled. Sara pulled Lyndall to her feet and walked her inside. The darkness confused her eyes for a moment, but when they’d adjusted she saw him standing by the breakfast bar at the entrance to the kitchen. He was still smiling, beer still in one hand.

I’m glad you’re here,” he said simply.

Get out,” Lyndall said weakly. Even Sara, standing next to her, didn’t hear.

We should talk, Lyndall. Get to know each other. I think you’d be surprised.”

Lyndall stood to her full height, her heart pounding, her thoughts muddled. But this, this she saw clearly. She smiled at Mark, moving closer to him. He grinned seductively as she walked past him into the kitchen. She turned to face him, her hand slipping into the top drawer behind her back. She silently withdrew a knife from its sheath, hiding it behind her back

It was so nice of you to come today,” she drawled, a smile slipping from her lips. “Terence would be so pleased to know my true friends are here for me today.”

Sara only watched as Mark made small talk as he walked towards her. She saw the knife behind Lyndall’s back.

This was his moment. In his mind they were already betrothed, all he needed from her was her hand to slip on the ring and make it official. There was no better moment than this, her husband’s wake. He bent on one knee.

I have something for you,” he responded. His heart was beating faster now; this was his moment. Terence had stood aside to let destiny take its course. He slipped his hand inside his pocket, fingering the perfect diamond ring. He opened his hand to show her. “I know you’ve seen this before. I know you returned it. That’s okay, I know now that it was stupid of me, expecting you to wear this while your husband was still alive. He’d never have understood that someday, I’d be your man.” He held the ring towards her. Lyndall stopped, the smile frozen on her face. Sara nudged her forward; knowing what was about to happen but powerless to stop it. She felt sick. Lyndall took a step.

I… I hardly believed this would ever happen,” she whispered, her hand stretching to meet his.

It’s been a long time for me too,” answered Mark. “From the moment I saw you, I knew you were special,” he began. The other guests were oblivious to what was happening in the kitchen, their voices hushed in respectful conversation between themselves.

Shh,” whispered Lyndall. “Stand up.”

Mark obeyed. His eyes were locked on hers. In that second, Lyndall whipped the knife from behind her back, sliding it into his abdomen just below his ribs. Her breath was heavy, her hand steady. His mouth opened in surprise, his hand instinctively shooting to his wound to stem the blood.

What have you done?” he tried to say, but the words caught in his throat. He slipped to the floor amid an increasing pool of blood. Sara’s scream hung in the air, calling attention to the kitchen. Other guests were staring at the body and Lyndall’s bloody knife, unsure what was happening.

You’re wrong,” spat Lyndall over the dying body on her kitchen floor. “You’ll never know what it’s like to be my man.”

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Switch Bitch: A Review

This post contains mentions of rape and suicide. Please seek professional help if these trigger unwanted thoughts or feelings for you. 

Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl? Who wasn’t enthralled with fantastical stories like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda? I was stoked to find Switch Bitch, a collection of 4 short stories for adults written by the legendary storyteller.

(An aside: I found this copy at Brisbane’s Lifeline Bookfest. It was sold to me for 50 cents as they mistakenly thought it was a children’s book. They could not have been more wrong.)

The Visitor

A man arrives home to find twenty eight volumes of his (presumably deceased) uncle’s diaries. Uncle Oswald details his global quests to bed women and collect interesting arachnid specimens. The story largely follows Oswald’s exploits as a visitor to a grand castle in the Middle East when his car breaks down and his attempts to bed a mother-daughter combo.

If you’ve ever read any other Roald Dahl story, he loves a twist at the end and these short stories are no exception.

It’s quite a good tale with an amusing twist at the end.

The Great Switcheroo

Unfortunately the next three stories are appalling. All four stories were once published in Playboy magazine, which gives you an idea of the target demographic and the fantasy delights held by its readers.

Two men concoct a plan to have sex with each other’s wives, without the wives knowing. This is rape. It’s not ok. It is not consensual if one party is mislead to believe she’s with her husband.

I felt physically ill reading this story. This was not the storyteller I thought I knew.

The Last Act

Anna has just lost her husband of twenty-something years. He’s the only man she’s ever been with. She’s suicidal but throws herself into work. On a business trip interstate, she calls an old flame and, of course, they end up in bed.

She freaks out and leaves him to his own devices while she presumably considers taking her own life again in the bathroom.

Atrocious. The biggest problem with this story apart from the suicide was the description of Anna. She’s a housewife who didn’t know any better. She’s seemingly portrayed as being in control but she lives for patriarchal approval.

Bitch

Wow. Saved the worst for last.

We meet Uncle Oswald again. This time he’s investing in a perfume guaranteed to drive any man wild. Literally. Once a woman applies this magic liquid, any man within a couple of metres will be overcome by instinct and want to mate with her, whether she’s ready or not. The perfume is called Bitch, as if it is the woman’s fault she’s about to be raped.

Uncle Oswald plans to spray some on the neck of a woman who will be standing next to the President of the United States as he makes a national address, with the idea that POTUS will rape the woman on live television, be impeached and ousted as President.

Yes, this is rape. On national television. Naturally there is a twist and this idea never comes to fruition, but that is not the point. This is a vile situation and a little too close to current world affairs.

This is not the Roald Dahl I’ve loved since childhood. This is a collection of horrific stories which have no place in this world. His master storytelling is, as always, apparent. But the material is vile. Steer well away from this at all costs.

June 25, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grief

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Image by grief.org.au

Grief sucks. It’s a natural response to loss, most often triggered by death of a loved one (person or pet).

I’ve had a project in mind for quite some time. Several years ago, a friend lost her child to cancer and something she said at the time has stuck with me: I just wish people would say something. By keeping silent, she felt people were not validating her loss.

Although she has a lot of friends on and offline, she felt few of them reached out to her to offer condolences. People just don’t know what to say, especially when the loss is too horrible to comprehend.

Since then, I’ve wanted to write a book about dealing with grieving people. There’s tons of information, books, and websites about how to deal with grief, but not about what to say to grieving people. Grief is something that happens to all of us – why is it so hard to find something to say? Obviously, nothing is going to make the grief suddenly go away, but people generally find comfort in others.

To get started on this project, I’ve devised a survey. It’s a series of questions about events that trigger grief and how you felt when people did or didn’t respond. The survey takes around 20 minutes depending on the detail of your answers: I’m ever so grateful for as much detail as possible. There’s no identifying information, unless you’ve already told me the circumstances of the tragedy. Otherwise, I have no idea who wrote what. Individual answers may be included in the book.

If you’d like to participate, please follow the link: https://surveyhero.com/c/8bf2609.

Much love to you, and I am sorry for your loss.

 

 

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June 21, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

After: A Conversation

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This post contains mentions of suicide and depression. If this post triggers similar thoughts in you, please seek professional help immediately.

In October 2015, Nikki Gemmell’s mother Elayn self-euthanised.

What follows is a raw look at Elayn’s life, death and their mother-daughter relationship. Nikki and Elayn’s relationship was strained. Elayn wanted a perfect daughter: smart, pretty, popular, famous. Nikki was berated for not being those things and this formed the narrative of her life. But, ELayn was still hr mother and deeply loved. When she committed suicide, Nikki and her brother were called upon to identify the body and answer the police questions surrounding the death. Nikki couldn’t call it suicide, she preferred “self-euthanasia”.

This book forced me to examine my own relationship with my mother but also the relationship with my daughter. Although my daughter is only two, am I being the mother I want to be and the mother she needs me to be? There is no chance I’m ever going to tell her she’s ugly, or I wish her friend was my daughter instead of her, or she needs to earn my love. My own mother never told me any of those things either; in fact my mum always told me how proud she is of me.

Nikki refers to the Japanese practice of kintsugi, which is the repair of ceramics with a fine gold paste to create a new history of the object instead of disguising the repair. Kintsugi is a metaphor for their relationship, creating something different and unique rather than disguising a repair. It’s a beautiful background for something so heartbreaking.

Elayn suffered depression after foot surgery a year prior to her death. She cried out for help yet also pushed it away, believing herself to be a burden on her adult children. Nikki’s inbox was full of emails asking for help with shopping or medical appointments, with an outbox full of “Sorry mum, too busy”. It’s not a reflection of tension within the mother-daughter symbiosis, it’s a reflection of a mum’s busy life. Nikki has four kids who have a full calendar of after school and weekend activities.

I’ve written before that toddlers are quite difficult people. She does drive me crazy because I have little patience, particularly for toddlers who haven’t had a nap and draw on my bedsheets with markers or spit in my Milo. It’s these moments which draw out my cranky side and I’m only slightly less than perfect in my parenting. It’s probably not the moment she will remember, hopefully those are negated by trips to the park or library, playing trains or animals on the floor of her room, or the endless readings from her favourite books. I do hope that one day far into the future, she’s not writing painful memories in her own best-selling book about the fractured relationship with her mother.

Inspired by the book, last week I asked my mum about her plans for her death. Funeral, songs, friends. It’s a conversation people avoid yet everyone will go through. Funerals are for the living. They are a celebration of one’s life and should reflect the good parts of life. For Elayn’s funeral, Nikki and her siblings draped Elayn’s extensive collection of scarves over each pew with an invitation for guests to take them home to remember Elayn. In my mum’s case, perhaps I’d be leaving out her extensive DVD collection?

This started as a review of After, but it is impossible to critique a personal recollection of one’s grief. Nikki’s writing is deeply personal. She’s a writer’s writer so you may need a dictionary nearby. She examines her mother as her mother, as a mother herself, as a daughter and as a person. Sometimes we forget our mums are people too, with their own lives and a whole life before we were even born.

It’s a recommended read, but it is harrowing in parts. Her own story forces you to examine your own relationships for better or worse. There is so much to take away from her story and weave into your own.

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tale of Two Toddlers

It’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times…

I have a two year old. At times, she is the most adorable munchkin I could imagine. Cheeky, inquisitive, playful, sweet. Other times, she’s a monster. Screaming and kicking, throwing herself on the ground, climbing all over me to pull my hair or pinch my face, pulling the dog’s fur or spitting food on the ground with drool running down her shirt (naturally, she finds this hilarious).

She’s not a baby anymore. Her hair is long enough to plait. I had my nails painted the other day and she enquired, “Cecy nails?” Not only that but she sat still long enough for me to crudely paint them a fashionably girly pink.

Sometimes I’d be happy to give her away, other times I want a dozen just like her. She’s just like me, but I’m a huge pain in the butt.

Ah toddlers!

May 20, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hey there, Judgey McJudgerson

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Recently, I watched You Can’t Ask That‘s episode about facial difference. As a customer service person with a lifetime in retail and other face-to-face roles, I’ve come across quite a few people with facial differences. I’ve always bitten my tongue although I’m dying to ask a bunch of questions!

I admit I stare because they are different. I am fascinated by different people. I am fascinated with people who aren’t me, because I’m pretty boring. I’m interested in why and how people are the way they are. How did you get that difference? What treatments do you have? How is life different for you than it is for me?

The show fascinates me. I am someone who wants to ask inappropriate questions, because it’s a genuine fascination with extraordinary people. It’s not because I’m silently laughing at them. It’s not because I want to highlight differences. I’m not judging them on looks. I just think they are people who are more interesting than I am.

Judging people in society is a worldwide pastime. On one hand, there’s a movement about loving all shapes and sizes and perceived differences. That goes out the window on red carpets, where often the same movement pounces on celebrities to judge whether a dress is an appropriate fit for someone’s body type.

Where once upon a time, these comments would safely reside within one’s home or a casual chat with friends, social media has created an anonymous place where these comments are immediately posted for criticism and others can join the vitriolic taunts. News agencies pick up the “story” and run click-baiting headlines, encouraging others to join the “conversation” to spread the hatred.

Something that struck a chord with me about the facial differences is their attitude. One of the questions was, “Do you think you’re ugly?” Everyone said no, but they had been subject to taunts, unkind remarks and sarcastic comments because of their appearance. What is wrong with people who think saying horrible things is OK?

Years ago when I was still at school, a man came to talk to us. He was in a wheelchair. I can’t remember why, but it was an accident i.e. he wasn’t born disabled. I remember one thing he said: “If you want to know how someone ends up in a wheelchair, ask them. Don’t stare and point, just ask.”

Still, I think it’s largely inappropriate for me to ask strangers about why they are the way they are. I’m guilty of asking about seemingly minor inflictions such as broken arm, although a friend who regularly has her arm in a sling says she’s really not cool with strangers asking why.

I totally understand that. It’s akin to someone touching your pregnant belly, an invasion of your personal space even if it is just a question. I like to think I am including people in my life instead of pretending something doesn’t exist.

Please don’t be offended if I ask you an inappropriate question. It’s just that I think you’re really interesting. And awareness of differences is the first step towards an inclusive society.

May 4, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: 13 Reasons Why (novel)

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This post discusses suicide, depression and violence against women. If this post triggers any harmful thoughts or feelings for you, please seek immediate professional help.

This post also contains spoilers.

Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Hannah Baker. If you’ve recently watched the Netflix series, you know what’s coming. Or do you?

The novel isn’t new; it was released way back in 2007. Still outside the era for recording cassette tapes, may I add. It came to the attention of Selena Gomez, who produced the filmed version.

The novel is told from Clay’s viewpoint as he listens to each tape. Hannah’s words are differentiated from Clay’s in italics, with Clay’s reactions intertwined. This is where the similarities to the series end. The book offers no outside timeline- what the characters think and feel about their own tapes is never mentioned. In fact, these characters don’t exist outside of the tapes. The only time Clay comes into contact with someone other than Tony is when he’s outside Tyler’s window and runs into Marcus. There’s no plot against Clay, there’s no subplot of Clay’s mother being involved in the civil case, there’s no grieving parents and no mention of Tony being gay.

There are other differences too: Clay gives away everything in the first chapter. Jenny Kurtz is the cheerleader who fells the stop sign. Hannah’s parents run a shoe store and took Hannah’s body back to their home town to bury her. Hannah committed suicide by overdose. Clay’s tape happens at the beginning of the party, not the end.

I don’t think the narrative is a particularly good one. What I loved about the series is that each character was presented in time and left you wondering what they did for Hannah to include them on her tapes. The novel doesn’t really lead you anywhere. They’re just names on a tape. There’s no connection with anyone except Hannah and Clay. What’s more, I gave up caring.

At the end of the version I read (Kindle), there’s a Q&A with the author, Jay Asher. He explains the concept of the story, how the idea came to him and why he wrote Clay interjecting with Hannah’s story. He even reveals the original title for the novel: Baker’s Dozen: The AudioBiography of Hannah Baker.

I don’t know what Selena Gomez saw in the novel in order to make it a series, but I’m glad she did. Most times, the novel is so much better than the filmed adaptation, but in this case, the series is the much better offering. Skip this and watch it instead.

2 out of 5 bookmarks.

 

April 28, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: La La Land

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Hollywood loves films about itself, which explains why La La Land was nominated for a slew of awards. Arguably, its most famous moment was the non-winning of Best Picture at this year’s Oscars. Warren Beatty shoulda gone to SpecSavers…

Emma Stone plays Mia Dolan, an aspiring actress. Ryan Golsing plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist who pays the bills by sticking to the setlist at a club. They meet, fall in love, dance among the stars, break up… Usual film fodder.

On one hand, I loved the film. I love musicals and ‘old Hollywood’. La La Land appealed to me on those levels. On the other hand, I felt it was overrated. Emma Stone gave a good performance, but I don’t think it’s worthy of an Oscar. Ryan Gosling seemed distracted the whole way through, except for the last ten minutes when he really shone.

The technical aspects were fantastic. The difference between Mia’s bright, bold colours and Sebastian’s dulled hues along with visual clues harking back to Old Hollywood was brilliant. For a musical, it lost it completely in the middle of the film when their relationship wasn’t doing so well. Sure, I understand that singing and dancing only happens when joy is present, but this is billed as a musical yet lacks any of the painful emotions expressed in music. Let’s face it: break up songs are much more interesting than love songs.

The twist at the end was original and one of the most interesting narrative devices I have seen. It was probably the most interesting thing about the movie, to be honest.

I’m torn. The story itself was tired and cliched, buoyed by singing and dancing and a twist at the end. Because I love that kind of thing, plus production values, it scores 7.5 popcorns.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

13 Reasons Why: A Conversation

This post contains talk of suicide, violence, bullying and spoilers.

If this post triggers horrible feelings and thoughts, please seek help immediately.

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If you’ve been living in a cave for the past month or so, here’s a brief synopsis of 13 Reasons Why: Hannah Baker has killed herself, but has left behind a series of cassette tapes explaining her decision. The tapes feature people at her school.

Australia’s leading mental health organisation for young people, Headspace, has spoken about their concerns that the show, particularly the final episode, may be harmful to vulnerable persons.

I am not going to discuss the depiction of suicide. Neither am I going to comment on some reviews saying her reasons were “weak”. Mental illness shares common characteristics but is different for everyone: reasons are reasons. I am an adult and I found the final three episodes very difficult to watch.

What I am eager to talk about is the narrative and general thoughts about the series. I’ve not yet read the book, although it is a New York Times bestseller, garnering even more popularity thanks to the Netflix series.

Clay Jensen is a likeable young man who discovers Hannah’s tapes left on his doorstep. He starts listening, wondering why his friend killed herself and why he was sent these tapes. Spoiler: he’s number 11.

Hannah was the new girl at her high school. Thus begins her tragic tale of high school bullying and violence.

The viewer is led through Hannah’s final months, from her disastrous dates with popular boys to ruined friendships and rape. Her story is interwoven with that of the aftermath of her death. The two scenarios are generally easy to tell apart; Hannah’s scenes are generally brighter and warmer tones while the aftermath is colder and greyer. And, thanks to Clay’s bike accidents, he has a wound on his forehead which further helps orient the viewer.

I really liked how the narrative was presented. The subject of each tape and the circumstances were revealed in due course without the viewer needing to guess or think ahead. At one point I wondered if the finale was a school shooting, which seemed to be confirmed when Tyler packed some guns into a case. Thankfully, I was wrong. (I wonder what the media would have said about that?)

So, Hannah had some pretty shitty “friends” and people she hung out with. She wasn’t really excluded from anything, still invited to parties and the boys still thought she was hot (thanks to Alex’s list. no doubt). As Skye said. lots of people in high school deal with the same shit every day and get through it. Hannah’s ability to cope diminished with every new shit thrown at her.

High school culture sucks. I was bullied all the way through school and was sent to the school counselor who gave me the bullshit advice, “treat your bullies like trees.” What? “You know they’re there, but ignore them.” I told him to stick his job where the sun doesn’t shine, and stormed out of his office, slamming the door behind me. I got detention for that. He kept his job.

So we get to Hannah’s final tape, where she’s recorded her conversation with her own school counselor. Did he do anything wrong? Wellllllll, who can say? Hannah went home and killed herself, but could he have stopped her? By that point it seemed Hannah had made up her mind, having taken razors from her parents’ pharmacy. It’s a series of What If…? pondered by each character, with no answers. Sure, if Justin wasn’t a dick and Bryce didn’t rape her and Clay told her he loved her, things might have been different. The point is, her reasons snowballed, with each experience adding to her growing insecurities and paranoia.

Clay’s own paranoia threatens to overtake the series. He was on a mission to drag down every one of Hannah’s abusers which could have derailed the series but was brought back. I understand his need for justice, and in the end it worked well for him to have waited as well as taking the series out of a revenge hunt to bring it back to Hannah’s story.

Let’s talk about the last three episodes. These are easily the best of the series. Secrets which appear in the first page of the novel (which is as far as I allowed myself before I finished the show) are revealed here. The viewer is drawn to Clay. He’s too sweet and kind to be mentioned in the tapes yet Hannah admits it was her own mind which brought about their downfall. Clay is the antithesis to the dickheads whom Hannah has previously had a crush on/dated. What on Earth could Clay have possibly done to earn a place as a reason for her death?

He loved her and she pushed him away, frightened by her own traumas of how other boys had treated her. Could he have prevented her death? Probably not. Had he stayed at the party, she would have walked away from him. He was caught in a no-win situation. In time, they probably would have repaired their relationship. Tony was just a bit dramatic when he told Clay he was the cause of Hannah killing herself.

Tony. What was his deal? His full friendship with Hannah was never really explored in the series. He was there while the police carried her body out of the house. He was trusted with the tapes, given instructions on what to do with the tapes if they weren’t passed on. In the end, he decides to give the tapes to her parents.

Can you imagine being a parent to a suicided child and listening to those tapes? Knowing what was happening to your child and absolutely powerless to do anything? I wonder how it would have affected the outcome of the civil suit. (I assume in reality, Lainie Jensen would have been dismissed from the case once her son was deposed, if not before.)

I believe the depictions of high school culture are realistic. High school sucks, and it’s so much worse now than when I was at school. Sure, I was bullied, but when I got home it stopped. With technology and social media, someone is bullied constantly, 24/7. It doesn’t ever stop. To me, the overarching message of this series is needing to change this culture. Bullying is never OK. Violence towards women is never OK, especially if they are drunk and unconscious. Covering up for your mates is not OK. I have a toddler now, but wonder what the world will be like when she’s in school. I pray that she has a trusted friend to talk to, or an adult that she feels comfortable talking to (no teenager would ever talk to their parents!) Teenage years are really tough. If only we could treat each other respectfully.

Edit: I’ve started reading the novel. Hannah overdoses on pills, which means the TV series deliberately changed the method to a more graphic representation. Whoa. I can’t even process this right now.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections | , , , | 1 Comment