Raw

There’s a standing joke in my little household about how, if I were forced to fend for myself in the wild, I’d never survive.

Something about the cruelty of having to fight over scraps of raw meat and berries just doesn’t appeal to my slothful sensitive nature.

But now that I’ve seen The Walking Dead and freaked myself out with the likelihood of an impending apocalypse, I thought it time to put that to the test.

Across town is Yong Green Food, a vegetarian café where the vegetables are practically jumping onto the plate.

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There’s an array of raw food options, and I’m not talking salad.

Rawsagna. What’s that, you say?

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Rawsagna. Layers of RAW zucchini, mushroom, avocado, cashew cream and walnut bolognese.

For the less raw inclined, there are slightly more cooked options.

Oyster Mushroom Calamari.

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Quinoa Fritters.

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Buckwheat Crepes. Hang on a minute.

This menu is starting to sound suspiciously familiar.

Back in rural Tasmania, when vegetarianism was most definitely not on the ‘cool kids’ list, ‘Yuckwheat’, cashew cream and ‘Quin-oh-ugh’ were staple parts of the diet.

Along with many other weird and wonderful things. Like brown rice and corn bread and gluten steaks, goat’s milk and soy cheese and almond ice-cream –

Well, anyway. I should be feeling right at home by now. Except I think that I’ve regressed.

The Dragon Bowl with soy beef slices?

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I don’t know. Fake meat doesn’t have the same appeal it used to have.

And although everything looks and tastes way better than I ever knew raw food could taste…

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Tiramisu with cashews and coconut cream just can’t compare to the real thing.

Back at home, with my gardening skills being, well, what they are…

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…I’m now more convinced than ever I have no chance of surviving in a raw food, post-apocalyptic world.

Of course, I’m dreaming. If zombies really took over, we’re more likely to be eating cans of cat food than cashew cream…

Zombie fodder, here I come!

What are your chances of surviving in the wild?

Cancer is a Bitch

A silent, mysterious predator, She lies in wait.

An ever tightening coil of despair that closes in with age, and the cries of another one down.

Cries that echo all the evil things you’ve ever done and not done, as She eats the person next to you alive.

Then turns to you.

Bitch

Alien – H. R. Giger Pitch by Dan LuVisi

Cancer is a Bitch.

She makes you wish for a past you never valued, because the promise of a loved one’s future is now gone.

Then hate yourself for knowing if tomorrow came again, it would probably look the same as it did yesterday.

And there She has you, paralysed in a pool of poisonous regret.

Tracing back to the precise moment She showed up. Only to realise it was probably a moment just like the one you’re having now.

Right there with her ugly, unhatched spawn.

Where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her?

(Barely two months out from her 70th celebration, my mother’s twin was diagnosed with a massive, malignant brain tumour. The prognosis is not good. There were few signs, apart from what the doctors thought was a debilitating depression. Turns out there was a reason, after all.)

If you knew how you were going to die, would you change anything?

A Sentimental Thief

The perfect book for me is one that reads like a film. But I should preface this by saying that my tastes in music, television and books are all pretty similar. I like to be taken to dark places.

front-cover-9780778315865-copyAveril Dean’s debut book, Alice, Close Your Eyes is aptly titled, because there are things in this book that will make you want to close your eyes.

If it were a movie, it would be an erotic psychological thriller in the tradition of film noir, and Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die would be the soundtrack.

Stay with me.

Alice presents as a woman who has everything. She’s financially independent in her own right. Street smart. At ease with the night and, admittedly, nursing an odd break and enter obsession.

We’re gripped from the first page as she runs her gloved fingertips over the well placed furniture of her latest target’s house, looking for the box containing treasures “of no value to anyone but me and the guy who collected them.”

A guy, we soon find out, whom she intends to seduce.

But what would drive such a woman to seek out a liaison with someone she already knows to be a dangerous man?

The need for an answer to this question drives us, along with Jack, into a rapid spiral of darkness that has us hooked to the last page.

There’s a sense of detachment as you read, that gets ever more chilling as you realise the reasons why Alice does the things she does.

Del Rey’s lyrics haunted me all the way through this book.

“You’re not good for me, but baby I want you, I want you…”

From the James Dean figure in Blue Jeans, to the crazy Ride Alice takes with him, it’s all there. The need to self-destruct.

A ceiling high painting of the raven on its perch, the rabbity pink of the albino’s blue eyes, the strawberry red spots of blood in snow are clues along the way, to a story unfolding like a Del Rey clip.

A chic, gritty, twisted paradise.

Alice may not be the one who pulls the trigger, but she is certainly the one holding the gun.

She is far from passive. She is a woman so much in control that even she doesn’t realise how much she craves letting go. Handing it over to someone bigger and more powerful. And she has good reason to want to.

She has the kind of history you like to think doesn’t happen to real people. Though you know it does. And that in itself is disturbing.

Alice is not just a woman on a mission for revenge or scary kinky sex. She’s a woman seeking to reclaim what was lost in childhood. A sentimental thief, in more ways than one.

The things Alice does are not pretty. But they are understandable. And this book neither redeems, nor judges. It simply bids us take a ride in Alice’s shoes.

Her story taps in to the nihilism of our present day world – the one Del Rey inhabits. It’s what happens when you get the dream that you’ve been living for, only to realise – too late – it wasn’t quite what you imagined it to be.

Alice’s world is a microcosm of what ails our society – the things we like to close our eyes to, which is another reason why this book makes for a compelling read.

As Del Rey says in the opening to her clip, “it takes getting everything you ever wanted, and then losing it, to know what true freedom is.”

Alice, Close Your Eyes is a film waiting to happen. You can picture every frame of it. And you can’t stop yourself from looking, even when you know it’s going to hurt.

If you want to take a ride on the dark side, then this book is for you.

Do you read to escape, immerse or be confronted? What does it for you, as a reader?

Different kind of Buzz

Two weeks after the event, the only person left who’s interested in what I did for New Year’s Eve is my hairdresser.

Why on earth would I choose to spend a sober New Year with my nephews, niece and their father? She wants to know.

Fair question. I wondered the same thing when we got to the family fireworks only to discover there WERE NO RIDES. Followed by sulks and ungracious moans of boredom.

Unfazed, even, by the upturned hearts that kissed the sky.

“I’m going to send the little shits home after breakfast,” I complain to Ms over coffee the next morning.

She gently tells me how I CAN’T DO THAT on New Year’s Day. More sulks.

Instead, the offer is to take them to Scienceworks. As long as they eat all their breakfast. Which, luckily for them, they do.

But when it comes to getting dressed, anyone would think this is a new concept.

“I don’t want to brush my hair,” says one.

“I want to wear my onesie,” echo two.

“You can’t wear your onesie to Scienceworks, and we won’t be going anywhere without your hair brushed,” proclaims Almighty Aunt.

Long pause.

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Hey look! Is that Dad’s head on a platter?

The middle one pipes up.

“But why? Sometimes, it’s nice just to be messy,” he says, one leg aimlessly kicking the air from the length of couch he’s claimed.

No denying he’s my nephew, I think, as Ms embarks on a long explanation about how, when we’re at home with people who know and love us, it’s okay to be messy. But out there, where people don’t know us, all they have to go on is how we look. And if you’re messy and smelly, they might not like you.

They might even be mean to you.

Silence.

“I’m going to go get dressed,” he says. And they all shuffle off to find the hairbrush.

And therein lies the answer. Make the most of them while they still want to be socialised (plenty of time for drinking after that…).

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done on New Year’s Eve?

2014. Let’s Go!

So 2014 has powered on, oddly indifferent to my wish to turn back time.

I feel like I am starting off where I was last year, and 2013 was an anomaly, a jump in the track, one giant *bleep* to

‘Let’s start over, shall we?’

This is a year for coming to one’s senses. Starting with a resolution to combat a certain DVD addiction by reading one book for every program watched.

My inspiration for this comes from Nina Badzin, who reminded me that, once upon a fairytale ago, I used to be a member of the “Society of Late Night Readers”. I wanted in again.

But, as she so rightly pointed out, new year resolutions take more than a vague intention just to ‘read more books’.

In the spirit of ‘doing’ instead of ‘dreaming’, let me introduce you to a deliciously irreverent Australian writer.

Mr Harry Pants (or iPants as he’s known on the blog) promised me “a crazy, stupid love story”.

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What I got was a swift trip through the divorce induced midlife crisis of a tragically endearing Wallace.

He’s an old dog who doesn’t really want to learn new tricks, or meet bald rats, or encounter the sharp end of his gardener’s… Well anyway.

Life has a funny way of making us do things we don’t want to do, to find out what we DO.

The story is LOL funny in an Aussie, oh-so-wrong, politically incorrect way.

But if you can (ahem) swallow all of that you will find a vulnerable, honest, touching tale of humanity in a world designed for cyborgs.

Three words.

Irreverent. Uplifting. Life-changing.

When I read Midlife, in Wallace’s words, “I had that feeling I was falling behind, too slow for my life as it unfolded before me”.

That was right before we both threw back a large shot of scotch.

And decided – time to wake up and get on with it!

There’s a video nearing completion (sing hallelujah), a blog somewhere in the imaginary phase of a major design overhaul, a toy dog size series yelping at me to be freed from digital dust mites.

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You may find me a little quieter than usual while I do all that. But in the meantime, I hope you will be brave and take a little trip with Wallace.

You can find Midlife here, and word has it the price has been reduced to 99 cents just for you.

Ready. Set. Let’s Go!

What’s in store for you in 2014?

Merry Christmas from Melbourne

“Home is where one hails from…but is also the places one has camped, sojourned and lived during the course of one’s own lifetime.

Home is a relationship lived between us…a sense of ‘being at home in the world’ – even as we go our separate ways.”

~ Michael Jackson, anthropologist
At Home in the World

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Thanks to everyone who has travelled with me this year – you mean more than you know. Have a wonderful Christmas. See you in 2014!

Where will you be this Christmas?

Humble Pie

1984. Tasmania. Nelson Mandela’s fight for freedom had hit the music charts, and was likely blasting on the radio of the ‘Big Bus’ – the first of a three-bus-long journey to school.

At the age of seven, I wouldn’t have known what ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ meant. But I understood the principles of terror.

Early in the morning, we’d be trudging through a kilometre of frost to encounter the two frosty sisters from the dairy farm next door.

Possibly they were going to slice the fingers from my fingerless gloves, or drown me in the lake with the kittens. I don’t remember the specific threat, just that I was afraid. Very afraid.

And that was before Mr Sim’s coach thundered up, and I had to face the Big Kids at the back of the bus.

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“Whadda you lookin’ at?” they’d sneer, and tell me to piss off down the front, or else…

I could tell my two older siblings were also scared, or at least, they were too busy trying to fit in to come to my defence.

Until then, I’d always thought the big kids were supposed to protect the little ones.

It was a wide awakening…me, at night, trying to think of a solution to my woe.

Finally, I consulted Mum for advice. She, in turn, consulted the repository of all wisdom – Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories.

The next day I was sent to the bus stop with a brown paper bag full of blackberry pies.

As the sneering sisters turned on me, I held up my white flag.

“It’s for you…(Mum made them),” I mumbled, not daring to meet their gaze. I could feel my siblings’ mortified stupor cowering somewhere behind me.

The sisters took the offering, and inspected it for poison.

The moment their eyes grew wide, I knew it was a winner.

“But, why?” they breathed. I shrugged. “Thank you. That’s so nice…”

Pie

In my mind, they got on the bus and bragged to their friends about the pie they scored. But I’m not sure that really happened.

What I do know is we all knew that they knew they didn’t deserve it. And from that moment on, peace reigned at the bus stop.

When I think back on that memory now, it seems kind of quaint and embarrassingly naïve.  If that same thing happened today, would the bullies back down. Or would they kick you in the guts for trying to placate them?

I’m scared of the world we live in.

A world where leaders pay lip service to the greatness of a man who understood human rights as more than just a dusty document.

A world where leaders think that inventing the term ‘illegal refugee’ justifies the persecution of people fleeing from tyranny.

A world where freedom and democracy are rights of the first world to deny.

We preach the principles of ‘turn the other cheek’ – as long as it’s not ours.

But Mandela knew better. He didn’t turn the other cheek. He stood his ground. Held his enemies in a firm embrace.

Shamed them, with pure decency, and took a nation with him while he did.

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It takes a giant to do that.

My actions in 1984 were not noble, loving or even forgiving. It was self-preservation. Had they actually caused me harm, I’d have been blubbering behind a tree or quietly plotting their revenge. Not giving pie.

But the principle is the same. In both cases, peace was won because the people in the wrong had the graciousness to know when to back down.

Bob Geldof, in his tribute to Mandela, writes:

“…who could have imagined the humility, the dignity and forgiveness that Mandela displayed to his oppressors upon his final total success?

In private he pitied them. He knew precisely what he was doing. One visitor said: ‘Mr President you have given great dignity to the black people.’ Madiba replied instantly (and you can hear the inimitable cadence in his reply): ‘No, young man, you are wrong. I have given dignity to the white man. There is no dignity in the oppressor.’”

As a globe, do we have what it takes to honour his memory? Can we empathise with ‘the other’ enough to open our arms to their pain? Are we brave enough to eat the humble pie?

Zero Gravity

It’s not cheap to see a film these days. The last time I saw a movie was on Mother’s Day, when my second mum inexplicably demanded to see Star Trek.

As we sat there watching our money disappear Into Darkness, I think we were all mentally calculating how many seasons of Dexter that movie could have bought us…

Which is probably why we didn’t make it back. Until Gravity.

Being a sucker for space and (guiltily) for Sandra Bullock, I found it impossible to resist. And Wow.

Finally, a film that is NOT so wrapped up in the joys of 3D technology that it forgot to have a plot. No, this is an adult film, a universe apart from Star Trek and Miss Congeniality.

It begins with Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) and Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) free floating in space, as a nauseous Dr Stone works on some undefined space communications problem.

Kowalsky plays up to Clooney’s larrikin reputation, spending all his time distracting Dr Stone with irrelevant chatter. My favourite moment is when he asks her what she likes most about this place. Her answer?

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Much to my irritation, the moment was lost on the popcorn munching, iPhone twittering audience, but they were drowned out soon enough as we were taken on a terrifying ride through the sadly grave reality of space junk.

I won’t reveal any more secrets, except to say, if you suffer from claustrophobia, don’t see this film.

What I will say is this.

Gravity is the grown up answer to Star Trek’s endless journey of exploration far from the consequences of what we leave behind. It is the much more difficult journey home.

Earlier this year, I had a kind of inter-galactic collision that took me so far off course I almost couldn’t recognise myself. Lost hold of my tether and was doing somersaults in space.

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It’s tempting, in those situations, to switch off the oxygen, pull the plug and drift into oblivion – free to any black hole that will have us.

But we have a job to do, beings who need us and a story no one else can tell.

This film is about that gravitational pull, and the need we all have to be needed. It’s about loss and, in some sense, dealing with the excuses we make for the moments that we fail.

There’s no room in space for excuses or regrets. Just a chain reaction of events to which we inevitably have to respond.

Well, I’ve been there. Done that. And I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

But my feet are firmly back on ground. There’s a smile on my face. I’m home again. At last.

Happy Thanksgiving, astronauts! What’s making you smile today?

Reunion

It’s been a month of important dates – birthdays and anniversaries, culminating in a family reunion. With my mother and her twin turning 70, and my brother turning 40, our families got together for the first time in a decade. In ten years, we lost one and gained nine, bringing our number up to 25.

After two nights eating, sleeping, cooking, laughing, crying and reminiscing under one roof, we all dispersed back to our busy lives. Months of planning and, suddenly, there’s nothing left but a sensory impression of what was…

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There is something non-linear about reunion.

Once removed

As if all the parts, once removed, don’t reassemble how they were.

Your place

You’re home and yet, you don’t quite know your place.

Bending reality

There’s a bending of reality.

Girl pointing

A girl pointing the finger.

Start

Where do we start?

Many a slip

There’s many a slip in our perception

What once was

Of What Once Was versus What Is.

Site shift

Site shift.

Family

Family.

Memories

Memories playing tricks.

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What we thought was locked in the museum

Museum

Reappears.

Passage secret

Is there a passage secret to

Diminish and ascend

The way that we diminish and ascend?

Fetch

We fetch the ghosts of our past

Washed up

But find ourselves washed up

East of the mulberry tree

East of the mulberry tree.

Plastic world

Plastic people, in a plastic world.

Shared weight

We laugh and, under a shared weight, ask

Horizon

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