Review: Because Of Winn Dixie

Because Of Winn Dixie
Because Of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is too beautiful. One of those gorgeous reads that smells of nostalgic childhood in the loveliest way. I love India Opal. She is the kind of sweet girl you rarely experience in real life but cannot help but believe in because she feels so extraordinarily real.



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Review: In Watermelon Sugar

In Watermelon Sugar
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Definitely one of the strangest but most original books I have ever read. Strange that it is such an old story when it seems so contemporary. I can’t quite explain the absolute weirdness of it. It’s sort of a book about the writing of the book itself. Usually I find that kind of thing quite obnoxious but it just worked with this one. To the character Margaret: I loved you the most. To the unnamed narrator: you chose the wrong girl.



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Review: Starting Over

Starting Over
Starting Over by Tony Parsons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I could explain my feelings for Tony Parsons in a way that would do him true justice. Whenever I read his books I feel a sort of heartbreaking hope. I know why, but not well enough to be able to express it accurately. The way Tony writes makes you feel relieved that someone is paying attention to life in such a way that they really do just get it. I think with this book especially, the way George loves Lara makes me feel hopeful. After all that time he still loved her, and not in a daft star-crossed lovers kind of way, but in a real way. It feels a relief to know that someone wrote that, because it kind of means that he feels that way, and feeling that way in itself is kind of lovely. Tony Parsons is someone that I wish everyone would read. I often wonder while I am reading his books if other people see themselves in the characters he creates. And if they do, do they learn about themselves in the process? Do they learn a little something about relationships? Are they inspired? Or does it take too much radical honesty to be able to look at yourself in this way? Maybe that kind of honesty is too rare for it to make an impact. It’s strange, I guess. Tony Parsons’ work seems so relevant to me, and yet I cannot help but think that relevance might be lost on most. Which is a real pity.



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Motherhood

F9gMoFJ271E1OnZCNxeZTkn1PNSo I decided that for January I’d like to watch a couple of writer movies to get me into the writing spirit for 2015. I’ve since decided maybe writing movies should be a pat of my whole year instead 0 because there are WAY too many of them out there to get through in just one month. Especially since I’m being so slow about it. Anyway,  I made the mistake of trying out Motherhood first. I might have chosen my go-to favourite writing movie to start with (Stranger Than Fiction) but I didn’t actually think about how there might be consequences to choosing the wrong movie. Of course I should put my karmic superstitions aside, but this movie? Holy hell it was depressing. Blogger mom wishes she could be a real writer? Way too close to home, folks! I suppose the story and acting and all that was just fine (Minnie Driver is in it – I love Minnie!) but I didn’t enjoy watching it at all. So I’m not sure if that means the movie gets a bad review, or if I just have too many issues?

Review: The Tin Can Tree

The Tin Can Tree
The Tin Can Tree by Anne Tyler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a weird relationship with Anne Tyler. I met her when I was nineteen. I was camping in Tennessee and she kept me company, and as she did so I began to discover that I really wanted to write. I have loved her since then, always, and am quick to mention that The Accidental Tourist is one of my favourite books. She is strange though. Possibly in a way that I can’t quite express. While reading her other books (I have not gotten through all of them yet – not even all of hers that I own) I find myself wondering “why did you write this?” I cannot help but be curious about her motivations. What happened? What tiny little occurrence set you running off to tell this story? With the Tin Can Tree, you slip into the aftermath of the death of a child. It is a story filled with awkward conversations. It is strange, and yet readable. Relatable even if you cannot possibly relate. Anne Tyler baffles me. I can only imagine that she might have the true powers of an empath. She seems to understand things that she could not possibly have experienced – at least not all of them, though I imagine perhaps some. Her books seem to be just this though: a series of conversations that are so real you cannot stop yourself from hearing every word that she says. You get to the end and you think, “well not much happened in that story, everyone just sat around talking….” and then you go on to wonder how on earth her method works. Because it does work. And yet you can’t imagine ever pulling it off yourself.



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“JAFAR” ~ a short film by Nancy Spetsioti

I envy the creators of this video for being to say with words and movement what so many of us are failing to show from our hearts. Thank you, to whoever created this. It brings about the same feeling as the gas chamber scene in The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas (and yes,  I do believe the movie was better – especially when it came to expressing this particular scene).

How?

CYMERA_20150114_110700I think I’ve grown a lot as a person over the last while. I don’t know if this is inevitable growth that comes from ageing or if it is my own character that has lead to me actively seeking this growth, but it is there. I love it and I hate it. It feels progressive and stifling at the same time. But I suppose mostly it feels like relief. It feels like a settling of the self as I embrace what I feel has always been buried under a pile the socially taught nonsense that we learn without realising it.

I unfriended someone just now for sharing a joke at the expense of Muslim women. He probably didn’t mean anything real by it, he’s probably even an ok guy (I don’t know him – like I don’t personally know about 80% of the people on my timeline) but spotting his cartoon left me with a sick metallic feeling in my stomach. It seemed a tasteless thing to share at a time when the Muslim community is being so badly treated by the world. So I got rid of him. Possibly that makes me uptight. But I am so tired of this laughing at culture that we seem so happy to slip into. It feels too close to bullying. 

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How do you say thank you when someone gives you a car?

carMy parents just gave us a car. In the last 20 minutes or so. Somehow the universe conspired together to sort a few things out and just now I went outside and there was a car with a ribbon on it. For us. Which is in itself a timely miracle considering our car has died its final death and will be towed of to the scrap heap within the next week or so.

My husband seems to be in shock (I kind of am too) and he has just asked me “How are we even supposed to say thank you for this? Are we supposed to write a card?”

Well, my dear husband: I have no idea. But a great big thank you is definitely in order. Somewhere along the line. You know, like now, or when we’ve finally stopped opening and closing our mouthes like guppy fish.

Also: maybe we should take a drive?

Loving the Elephants

candyAfter seeing a post from the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force on how a whole bunch of elephant babies have been taken from their mothers and sold to zoos in China, I once again find myself thinking heavily about these giant but often gentle creatures.

When I was in Thailand in 2013 I was lucky enough to stay at a pretty swanky hotel in Laguna beach. I went along as my bother’s “plus one” on the Herbalife holiday that he had qualified for. Every day, after breakfast, the most beautiful elephant called Candy, came to visit the patrons of the hotel. She was such a gorgeous creature, and despite me having a broken knee at the time and therefore being very limited in my mobility, I played happily with this baby elephant and never felt endangered by her. ellieHer owner was a sweet man as well, and after being horrified by the sight of those bullhooks that they use on the elephants when we went elephant riding, I was exceptionally happy to see that this man did not carry one. Candy, it seemed, was quite happy to follow him around like a puppy without intimidation. At least no visible intimidation. It seems silly, but to me she seemed like a happy thing. And she was cuddly and loving and she seemed to really enjoy the attention she was getting. I was completely mesmerised by her.

Last year when I went back to Thailand with my husband we skipped the elephant riding. I had enjoyed meeting those elephants before, but I  kind of felt like I knew better. I had since learned about how elephants are broken in order to be useful as workers. As much as I can appreciate that it is simply part of how a culture different to mine does things, I still cannot help but find the thought unsettling. Those bullhooks are especially good at making me feel a bit nauseous.

Just before we left Phuket, however, we ended up doing a quick (and cheap) tour of a few last minute places. If I remember correctly there were two lookouts and a trip to a big Buddha (there are so many big ones!) and there was an orchid farm (ie: three orchids hanging fro ma wire with one flower between them) and a baby elephant petting session.

Well, this baby elephant broke my heart. She didn’t want to be there. She was anchored with a chain around her ankle which was not long enough for her to move at all. I remember wondering if the concrete she was standing on might not be burning the soles of her feet. She was nothing like Candy. She was sad. And meeting her broke my heart. I realised then that it was possible that Herbalife might have made sure that the elephant that visited us at The Outrigger was well taken care of (they do strange “little things” like that – though please note that this is an assumption on my behalf) in a non-cruel manner. I so wanted to hug this baby, but she didn’t want me to so I did not even try. Instead I placed my hand on her forehead and whispered “I am so sorry” in her ear, hoping that if nothing else her instincts might sense the deep regret I felt for her state of life.

I don’t think I am one who puts the welfare of animals before the welfare of people. I understand that one of the biggest heartbreaking truths of the world is that so many humans’ livelihoods depend on the exploitation of animals. It is how children are fed. It is heartbreaking. Take the abused little elephant chained to the ground away, and it is possible that several people will go go hungry. It sucks.

It makes all the sense in the world that people who care, in general, care more about animals than they do humans, but it seems to me that the only way to save the animals is to save the humans as well. How? Of course I have no idea.

It is easy to bemoan the idea of Zimbabwean baby elephants being shipped off to China without their mothers. It is easy because it is bloody awful. But is it possible that the exploitation itself is an act of desperation in a desperate country?

And the same can be said for Thailand. The exploitation of these animals feeds children. It’s not ok, but it is the reason. Headway is being made as far as Thai elephants are concerned and that is wonderful news(see below). But I cannot help but wonder what happens to all the people who have been using these animals to feed themselves. IS there someone helping them? Is there an organization showing them how to feed their families without selling interaction with these creatures in the streets?

 

Dear friends and all animal lovers. I would like to update you about some positive animal news here in Thailand. On December 26th, 2014, the Thai government has passed the first law to protect animals, in which the animal including elephant will now be protected. It has been a long time for the animal rights group that work and join hands together to fight for years and many governments.
For more than a decade, we have gathered groups to protest for animal law in Thailand; we have held too many demonstrations in front of the government house , and government officials over and over to voice and get the law to protect the animal. Our organisation has gathered many hundreds of thousands of signatures from people all around the world to help to voice for the animal and elephant , especially the street begging elephant.
It is now your voice that we can hear , even if the law has not yet reached what ever we want , but for the first start and first step in Thailand , it is still good news and we can see the future for the animal.
About the elephant: from now, Street begging is illegal, including who ever supports to buy or give money, you will be implicated in an infraction of animal law in Thailand.
Old elephant , pregnant , handicapped and sick elephants cannot be used to service tourists any more . If any of you see any animal get abused, you can complain to the authority of Thailand. I will update you regarding the details and address soon when the law begins to take effect within this year.
I would like to thank all friends, and animal organisations in Thailand who joined hands together to work in the last couple of years. Special thanks to the braveheart woman, Khun NuNa Silpa-archa, and her background supporters, who walk through the big wall and make the law success. With her strong heart and love to the animal she stood with us to fight for the animal. Thanks to all friends and supporters and Elephant Ambassadors from all around the world for your voices and your education to others . Your voice can make the difference and victory to the animal . Never give up !
Darrick Thomson Lek Chailert, Alan Ourworldnottheirs

Review: The Good Neighbour

The Good Neighbour
The Good Neighbour by William Kowalski

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well….that was kind of…odd… I’m kind of a Kowalkski fan, in that when I was 20 I read Eddie’s Bastard and it kind of happened while I was starting to realise that I wanted to write and it played into the becoming a writer thing really well. The follow up, Somewhere South of Here, played the game well too – in fact even better because I particularly adored that book (I should maybe read it again). And somewhere along the line I found Flash Jackson pretty fascinating. So I was really excited to read this book. From the beginning I hated it though. The main characters are pretty cliche and exceptionally loathsome. The husband is a classic douche. You read about him and immediately you feel like “hey, I know that guy”…and then you go “why the hell did this idiot of a woman marry him?” and then you just hate her because clearly she is an idiot. I don’t know. I think on the whole the writing was fine. I enjoyed the parts that covered the history of the house. Kowalski uses a few cliches, but nothing unforgivable. I just….I just didn’t buy any of it. I don’t know. For one I had no reason to believe that Francie was intelligent or wonderful, other than being told that she was. But creepiest of all. I guess I have to admit to myself that it is entirely possible that hating these two so much is simply a denial of my own recognition of the toxic dynamic between them. Oh…and just in case Mr. Kowalski himself ever reads this review: Dude, it’s rooibos….not roiboos. I promise. I am 100% correct about that. I even googled it to check to see if maybe roiboos wasn’t something that I just didn’t know about. If it is, please let me know because google doesn’t know either. But otherwise: rooibos.



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Review: Funny Girl

Funny Girl
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know how there’s that cliche question of “If you could have dinner with anyone at all, dead or alive, who would you choose?” and then your answer is supposed to establish a whole bunch of things about who you are or your compatibility with someone or something? Well, my fantasy dinner guest has been Nick Hornby for as long as I can remember. Of course, if we’re allowed to choose fictional people for this question then I might have to choose The Doctor, but it might be best not to go there… As for Mr. Hornby, I think he would be a fantastic person to just hang out with. I know t his because there is no doubt in my mind that I kind of know him. Sorry Sir, but your writing is exceptionally revealing. Or it is to me at least.

How do I even start this review? “How to Be Good” has been my soul book for such a long time. It still is, of course, because I will be psychologically attached to it for the rest of my life. I do, however, have to admit that Funny Girl might be just the tiniest bit better. I’m not sure how or why, but I think Nick Hornby has outdone himself with this latest gift to the masses. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of British comedy, or just British television in general, or maybe it’s simply that I really can’t help but understand everything this man says. Whatever it is, I once again find myself at the end of a Hornby novel feeling exceptionally happy for his existence. This book is filled with the exceptionally 3 dimensional characters that we have all come to expect from Hornby and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have started the new year with these people.

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I think my fish are warning us of the upcoming apocalypse….

DSCN4961So the last four days have been kind of weird for Nyrone (see what I did there? Does it make you want to gag as much as I do?) On Saturday Ty and I went to a petshop in town to get some bird seed for our birds. The second I walked in there I had a terrible feeling. This was not a good place (don’t ask where it was – I’m not telling) for me and I wanted to leave. As usual, I brushed off the bad feeling and walked around a bit, but it only got worse. After feeling incredibly disturbed by the state of the place and most especially by what I can only refer to as their rat factory, Ty had found the bird seed and I was trying to distract myself with the fish. Of course when he came to join me so we could leave I pointed out that they had a few female guppies and noted that we needed a few because the guppy males in our tank outnumbered the ladies. This is never a good idea because guppy males are sex crazed maniacs who spend all day shagging the other fish. I also spotted a yellow goldfish who was quite pretty. And then? THEN even though I had initially not wanted to give this place my money because it was such a creepy den of wrong, we decided to take 3 guppy ladies and the damn goldfish home.

Well…I already know that I should always listen to my instincts. I also know that I either hardly ever do, or that at the very least when I don’t, things go very wrong, which is why it feels like I never do.

Our fishtank has been stable and happy for well over a year now. But it’s a large tank and there are (were) hardly any fish in it. A few extras should have been just fine. Well I have no idea what the hell happened but all of a sudden we add these new fish and the whole ecosystem went straight to hell. Since the new additions, 5 ladies have died (we have 1 left) 2 males have died, and 4 of our 5 white clouds have died. Ty eventually drained the tank and replaced all the water in an attempt to fix it.

And today? Today my giant ass orange goldfish swallowed an entire guppy, head first, so that only the tail was sticking out of its mouth! It’s like he suddenly turned zombie. Goldfish aren’t supposed to be cannibals!! Or at least that was always my understanding. I’m used to those crazy ass guppies eating their babies and each other. But the goldfish?

What the fuck is happening?

Writer movies for writer motivation…?

20140127152551In November I thought I’d celebrate NaNoWriMo month by watching a bunch of writer movies while I laughed at everyone doing NaNo… And then I was coerced into actually doing NaNo (I failed – but still got a good amount done) and I hardly got started on the list of writer movies that I wanted to watch. Of course there aren’t that many on the list. Anyway – I may have to rewatch Stranger Than Fiction because it is the best movie of all the movies AND it is a writer movie. Otherwise I’m kind of wishing that my copy of Almost Famous hadn’t been stolen. Otherwise I get to watch Ruby Sparks  again (another best movie of all the movies) and I get to play around looking for others.

Any suggestions?

365 Skies

DSCN4838It’s the first Monday of the new year which means that some of us more lofty folk who believe in the psychological power of new beginnings are most likely playing with the idea of our plans for the year. I mentioned somewhere before that I’m keen to take more photographs this year. I have no real photographic aspirations other than to enjoy playing with my camera as a hobby so please mind your manners before you go mouthing off about how every idiot with a camera thinks they’re a photographer these days.  I started a silly new project and decided that I’m kind of proud of myself because so far I have managed to stick to it for five whole days. That’s probably five days longer than I have ever stuck to a diet – so yay me, right? It may not last forever, just like my other resolutions may crap out on me a lot sooner than they should, but for now I’m just enjoying it. It’s a little sparse now with only five pictures but I think it might actually look quite pretty as a collection once it’s a little bigger.

Check out my tumblr feed here to see the first 5 of my attempt at 365 pics of the sky. Why? Because I can. And I want to. I don’t need any other reasons.

Things I Learned in 2014: A LOT about feminism

I said before that I was thinking of sharing a few things about 2014 that I didn’t bother to blog about at the time, and because I saw that Kayley Cuoco-Sweeting (did I spell that right?) issued an apology for her views on feminism I thought I might as well start here.

You see, the thing is, I haven’t always considered myself “a feminist” either. Why? Because sometimes it is easy to live in the naive little world that you are lucky enough to find yourself in and honestly just feel like you are equal. This is the world we are striving for, is it not? And  yet we belittle those who have managed to find themselves living in that exact world? I have no ill feelings towards Ms. Cuoco-Sweeting for her somewhat naive views on feminism – they show no malice. She was simply being honest about her own experience without expanding that experience to include others who have been less fortunate. I do understand why so many would find this harmful – perhaps in a way it is – but I myself have made these kinds of limited observations and so I cannot help but feel that I should meet them with forgiveness and not an attitude of bullying. When that idiot politician was talking about legitimate rape a few years ago I wasn’t offended at all. I thought “geez dude that was a stupid as all fuck thing to say” but I assumed that he hadn’t meant it in the way that it sounded. I really thought that everyone was overreacting. Why did I assume so? Well honestly it’s because most of the men in my life are not godless assholes and because I don’t expect people to say such horrifying things on purpose. I have this possibly stupid notion that people are mostly good. I have since learned through chosen observation just how messed up the world really is and how things like sexism and racism in particular are very very very real problems everywhere – even if they are not a serious problem in my own home, but I don’t think that any sort of progressive enlightenment on my part is a licence to bully others into feeling the same way as I do.

I think feminism is at its core a movement of inclusivity and acceptance, not only for women, but for men as well. Feminism says that my son can play with dolls and not be told “that’s a girl’s toy!” and my daughter can play with firetrucks without having to worry if family members are discussing her sexual orientation. Feminism says that I can be everything I want. It says I can be a housewife. Or a scientist. And it says that if my son wants to be a house husband one day then that is just fine too.

You can’t always fault people for being a little weary of feminism, or indifferent to it. It is sold on many occasions as man hating and a little bit scary. They tell us it is wrong to enjoy “gender roles” – when really it is about simply having the choice to not conform to them should you so wish. I don’t think I’m a “bad feminist” for feeling safer in the arms of my husband than I do out of them. I don’t think I’m a “bad feminist” for choosing to minimise my career and be at home with my child. And I really enjoy cooking and playing house…there’s no way you can tell me that makes me a “bad feminist”, because, well, who the eff is going to look after my house? Personally I choose the softer, kinder, more peaceful definition of feminism. The one that says just be. We are equal. There is no status that is less than. Do not harm me, or take advantage of your strength (as a man) over me. And I will never belittle you for your soft side or make reference to how you need to be a real man.

Does that sound ok?