Heavily Salted

WA recently had a wet summer with heavy rains and floods, particularly in the south. A result of that was the salt lakes in the Wheatbelt filling up with new water. I’ve never seen this particular lake so blue before. The sun made the salt shimmer as it crunched under my shoes. It has crystallised over time and looks almost like ice. 

I’ve never seen the salt lake look so alluring however, these are not for swimming. 

My favourite is the old fence, now submerged but with the tips sticking out, each heavily encrusted with glistening salt. It reminded me of the harsh locations used to film Game of Thrones, especially with the skull thrown in. It looks like a path or entrance to a barren fortress, caught forever in time between the ice cold and blistering heat.

Pain (Part 1)

Write what you know.

Sew all your experiences into the stories.

Until I come upon a scene where I need to stretch my knowledge and rely on previous fiction to be able to explain what’s happening.

Violence and brutality is so current in books and entertainments. Game of Thrones obviously is one that springs to mind instantly, Spartacus, The Walking Dead, The Revenant. I’ve recently completed Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy which is the closest book I’ve read that emulates the zombie/vampire apocalypse movie, filled with violence. I recently saw the trailer for the new season of Daredevil – holy hell!

It’s everywhere! We are used to seeing and reading the dramatic ways characters die or become injured, we just take it for what it is. Now I know some of this violence is for entertainment purposes; think Arnie breaking henchmens’ necks in True Lies. My chiropractor does something similar to me, and it feels amazing, and I don’t die. So no judgement towards choreographed violence at all, it just makes me wonder where the research comes from in being able to explain how the characters are meant to respond to pain. Is it simply universally credible and accepted? Or do people who have happened to go through a similar experience, read/watch certain scenes and think…naahhh.

It got me thinking that if I haven’t been through it, how can I give it justice when writing about it? The following are excerpts taken from interviews I conducted with people that have gone through different experiences of physical pain. I asked them to be as descriptive as memory served to really get a thorough idea of what they were going through at the time. To protect the identities of the interviewees, I’m not including their names or the recount of the whole story; keeping in mind it’s not about the event, it’s about the pain.

Disclaimer: These experiences are individual and unique and may be different for other people. Given the full story is not being told, please do not pass judgement; it won’t be tolerated.

 

The Cane

The person explained that the severity of the cane differed depending on the transgression. Talking in class or parents not signing off on homework was a ‘whack on the palms with the long cane’.

I remember standing in a line while that teacher stood at the door hitting one student at a           time. Everyone for some reason believe warming your palms would result in less of a stinging sensation and the burning would be less pronounced.

It was like overcoming a fear such as taking a slide and going down it for the first time, you take a breath, it happens and it’s done.

I asked the person to explain the pain.

A sharp pain, followed by burning. You’d wring your hand, as if the sudden jerky motion              would expel the pain and heat. [The pain lasted] about 2 minutes, not that long.

Fighting in class or disrespecting the teacher or lying, or being rude you got the actual cane. Or a belt. The canes varied from thin long ones to thick stocky mother f*ckers that left blue marks on your back side. They’d get their body behind the whack on the ass, trust me.

[The big cane was] more pronounced, more wholesome if you like. You felt them for a lot             longer. I was terrified of them. And that bruised if he really hit you hard. Belts stung, went red and then disappeared.

We stuck together against teachers; they seldom broke us or got the truth from us. But that  was usually peer pressure accompanied by an ass whipping from mates if you told on them. You had to cop the punishment administered on a group for one person’s actions quite frequently (laughs). And even the most docile, good willing students did because better than getting their face punched in by a class bully. 

One day I decided it would be a good idea to hide the teacher’s cane to avoid it. When no one would own up to who it was he came back with a stick he found outside with thorns,   and he hit us with that. [It felt] like a cane but being punctured…but I don’t think we ever told him where his cane was.

 

Severe Back Pain

We had been moving house for approximately two weeks and had done a lot of heavy lifting  of furniture and white goods etc. which had made my back sore but not in a chronic way.

While at our new house I was carrying our new puppy when I stepped down the uneven stone  steps on the back veranda and missed my footing.  Instead of letting go of the pup I clung on to him and landed on my backside and wasn’t able to get back up. 

 I remember somehow getting into the car but could only sit on all fours in the backseat whilst    being driven to the doctors where an MRI confirmed I had damaged the L5/S1 area of my   back and the disc had bulged. 

The damage was done and I experienced unbelievable back and leg pain and numbness all  the way to my left foot, I had terrible sciatica pain on the left side and had very little feeling  in that leg and could not lay flat on my back, I had to raise my knees to relieve the pain.

 Over the next few months I tried recommended pain management plus epidurals to try to           shrink the bulging disc which unfortunately did not work.

My condition worsened to a point where I wasn’t able to walk properly, often resorting to           getting around on all fours and eventually spending 3 months in a wheelchair before having            to undergo a discectomy where they also discovered fragments had broken off and lodged in the L4 area of my spine.

Chronic back pain is something very difficult to explain until you’ve experienced that level of        pain.

 I am not a fan of taking pills but you have to somehow manage chronic pain which includes       taking very strong medications which cause what I can only describe as a ‘brain fog’ and  being an active person, this period in my life is one I never hope to repeat!!

I was fortunate to make a very good recovery and am lucky enough to lead an active life with only minimal pain. If I sit or lay down for too long this causes my back to seize u. Moving and keeping a healthy weight is definitely the best medicine.

 

Stress level: 2 Ply

  I wouldn’t say I’m OCD, fussy or pedantic, having things to be ‘just so’. I do like my clothes folded in certain ways, I still sleep with a security blanket, and I do get pleasure at seeing something organised really well, especially using colour coding, neat piles and curly handwriting. When my husband doesn’t fold the towels nicely in the linen cupboard, the corner of my eye quivers, but I simply fix it up and go on my way (maybe I casually mention it).

  
There is one thing that I see memes of all over the internet, even hear conversations about it in the lunch room; it seems everyone has a preference no matter who I speak to.

This is the issue of which way to have the toilet paper roll on the holder. Over the top or underneath?

If they see it wrong while sitting on the john, they will change it over to what they deem it ‘should’ be. I saw an article come up on Facebook the other day instructing the correct way had been proven by a viewing of the original blue prints of the toilet which showed the toilet paper hanging over the top. Probably a gag – but people care about this, people argue about this. It’s a place we go to expel all the things our body doesn’t need, and we really take the atmosphere of that prism personally.

This is something I honestly could not give a crap about. (Pun intended). (Yes I was thinking about this while changing the empty roll as I sat in solitude on the S-bend). I thought this would be something I would care about to the point I actually thought, oh god am I happy with my choice? I’m going to start thinking about it, I don’t want to start thinking about it, I don’t want a preference. It was as though I should care; the peer pressure was caving in.

But I couldn’t care, I tried to care, but I really don’t. It’s as though all the choices, stresses and thoughts ticking over in my head every minute of every day, ever swirling around come to a point of muted silence when I look at the toilet paper, as if it’s saying, ‘It’s OK, I got this. I’m one thing you don’t have to worry about.” I genuinely feel liberated at not caring about this. I got 99 problems, and this isn’t one. I’m so happy. The toilet paper is my spirit animal.  

Cause and Effect 

Lately I’ve been thinking about the psychology in how a person reacts to a given situation or occurrence in their life. I’ve felt one of my characters is lacking something and I decided to list some ‘cause and effects’ for her to see what paths she would take.

While this has been on my mind, there was a light but interesting incident which occurred a few weeks ago. I suppose the only reason it stood out to me was because the person in question was young, or of a similar age to my character.

Some weeks ago, a few friends and I decided to go for a dance in the city. Most of us weren’t drinking and only one was feeling a little merry after two or three drinks. In her tipsiness, on a whim she decided that we should pretend we were on a hens’ night. Upon entry to a particular nightclub, me being third in line behind my friends, our tipsy friend walked in first and got her stamp. It was at this time that she turned to my other friend and whispered loudly while giggling, something along the lines of ‘I think the door girl knows we’re not a hens’ party’, and began to skip off to the dance floor. As I approached to get my stamp, I was not so greeted by a small, pretty, blonde door girl; she would have been in her early twenties I suppose. As my two friends were walking into the main floor of the club, she turned to them and yelled a snappy and aggressive Yeah, I actually heard you” with a tone reminiscent of Regina George. My friends paused, turned, not sure if she was talking to them. My tipsy friend then ignored her, laughed and off they went. The girl then flicked her hair in their direction and yelled a sarcastic have a good night”. She then turned to me, stamped my hand with a sour face and I walked in.

I thought about saying something, but honestly it wasn’t worth it. However it did get me thinking about how people are becoming very quick to turn aggressive. Now my friend was acting cheeky and I assume before I was in earshot that she had been trying to stumble through a lie that we were a hens’ party, and realised she was failing which is when I heard her giggling. This was not to gain any benefits of entry, as entry was free, and my friend who is as sweet and small as a fairy was simply thinking she was funny.

I’ve worked in customer service for years, and I can guarantee that door girl has or will see far worse stumble through those doors; so why try and pick a fight? Perhaps she was having an off night, perhaps she was fed up dealing with drunk people every night, but then don’t work in a nightclub. Respect is deserved to people who work behind the door of late night venues – and a shout out to the women that do it too. You’ve got to be thick skinned, laid back, quick and all with a smile on your face. However my respect seems to waver when a characteristic labelled ‘tough’ turns into people looking for fights, or exercising this dramatic ‘oh no you didn’t’ on anyone to make themselves feel justified. It’s the classic chip on the shoulder, and it really got me wondering why there are women (and men) in opportunistic society acting like Lumpy Space Princess.

  
Are we becoming spoilt? Is it the Australian social drinking culture? Are good manners flying out the window? Has the individual had a crappy and saddening upbringing? Is it the growing bitchiness on social media and reality TV that is becoming a norm to how we deal with conflict? There are too many questions and answers which made me not bother to pursue or complain about the girl in question.

It seems quite a tangent to go on when thinking about character, but it was organically helpful none the less – especially to think about character development. If I put the door girl in a specific category of character then which way will she grow? Does she carry on before opening up about her journey to climb the career ladder and no one will stand in her way; do we find out she has a dark secret that made her bitter; will she wake up one morning tired of the weight of an unknown depression and decide to leave her boring life behind and travel the world looking for adventure and self, becoming the heroine we needed; will she never change, and become the villain – or antihero?

Cause and effect – it’s in everyone, and reflects how we carry our baggage. In fiction, seeing a character throwing it around works and makes for addictive stories. But in real life it’s a reminder to carry it as well as we can muster, and not unload it on others.

 

Always a Student

I read an interesting post on HONY which I shared on my Facebook page.
A gentleman is explaining that quality art comes from the dark and pining minds of people who feel they don’t belong in their artistic community. He expresses that being called an artist was the worst thing anyone could have said to him as it gave him a sense of accomplishment where he felt he didn’t need to try anymore. This spoke to me immensely.

Almost all the time do I feel inadequate as a writer – I’m currently at the stage where I’m looking back at my draft thinking ‘Oh lord, what am I doing with my life?’
The HONY post made me remember that despite the struggles and the deep down festering shortfall, I actually enjoy being a student. I enjoy inspiration from what seems like this intangible and unreachable quality of others.

A few nights ago my husband showed me a video on Facebook of a woman singing and playing bass with an insane level of talent that makes playing funk bass look easy (I’m so sorry, Facebook refreshed and I couldn’t find the link to post here). I watched it and thought – yep I’m done, don’t need to play music when there’s talent like that *flips table*. However that artist is probably looking up to her own idols and thinking…giphy.gif

We need to be students ALL THE TIME. I must like it; I went back to uni a second time which was like me volunteering to be dunked underwater by a perpetual motion engine. So there has to be something appealing in the suffering student.

My student self:

I completely fangirled at Supanova listening to author’s give their advice.

Listening to my sister talk about how every movement the rider makes on a horse is critical to the rider’s success – not just because she knows what she’s talking about, but how she speaks as the young woman she’s turning into.

Walking around the Musée d’Orsay and not only taking in the artists, but taking in the excitement and explanations of my cousin that has her own passions for the paintbrush.

Listening to my family talk about the past including their outfits, hair, drunken shenanigans, travel, and domestic violence.

Walking up the tight tower stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, The Vatican and the York Minster knowing others did eons ago.

Pouring a pint at the Guinness Storehouse.

When my husband plays guitar.

Listening to a pianist play to three people in Venice.

Meeting WA author Norman Jorgenson at the hotel bar while on my honeymoon and asking loads of probable dumb questions.

Standing in one of my in-laws’ paddocks in the Wheatbelt.

Watching my friend’s Snapchats about his PHD in science and having no idea what he’s on about.

Jumping off a cliff.

Watching my sister-in-law make her own mayo and serve it in a vintage jar like it’s no big deal.

I could go on and on and on. Maybe it’s not so bad to be found wanting.

Villainous as %@*&

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I’ve wanted to watch No Country for Old Men since Javier won the Oscar. So finally, a couple of weeks ago, I sat down on a Monday night and watched Josh Brolin’s character make bad decisions and Javier sport possibly the worst men’s haircut in cinema history.
I love Westerns (non-John Wayne ones, sorry) so I was keen to see the Cohen brothers’ idea for an alternative and bleak style. It’s the Cohen brothers, so obviously the movie was fantastic. Anton Chigurh was a serial nutcracker! I found myself yelling at the telly multiple times for Llewelyn to run! And the weapon of choice, a captive bolt pistol…so wonderfully grisly.
The two most frightening parts were Anton walking toward the motel room with his socks on, and the other motel room scene where Anton turns the hall light off so he can’t be seen under the door. I was panicking the cat was going to cop it; but it’s OK, the cat turned out fine; his owner not so much but let’s be honest, it’s the cat we’re worried about.
Watching this made me think the whole movie was set up just to model someone so intimidating as Anton. It’s like they had an idea for his character and built a screwed up story to fan the flames of his psycho fire. All it took was a poor, over confident war veteran to decide that stealing drug money was a good idea. Everything about the movie is harsh, matching the western theme; the land, the brutality of the corrupted drug bust, the weapons, even the mutilated, cropped ears of the dogs.
Looking online, I’ve noticed that Anton ranks in several top 10s of greatest villains, so it got me thinking to compile my own list. I’m from a younger generation so perhaps I have a slightly different perspective to offer? So my husband, my mother and I listed some names – in no particular order. A quick warning that there may be some spoilers.

Max Cady – Cape Fear – Robert De Niro
To be fair I haven’t seen the original version with Robert Mitcham so maybe others have preferences over the two. However mum watched this with me in my teens and Cady is evil on epic levels, and understands the law enough to be good at it. He honestly feels like he was the one wronged. The lengths he goes to mess with Sam Bowden’s family is twisted and menacing; raping the mistress, making out with the daughter at her school, dressing up as the housekeeper, even babbling as he drowns in the river leaves them haunted.

Photo Credit: IMDB


Scar – The Lion King – Jeremy Irons
Honestly, it’s Jeremy Iron’s voice that makes Scar a fantastic bad guy. Kills his own brother for the throne, to only be a terrible dictator, and manipulates his young nephew into growing up with major commitment issues. Murder and psychology!

 

Mick Taylor – Wolf Creek – John Jarratt
This is my mum’s and husband’s pick. Now please don’t yell at me, but I personally am yet to see Wolf Creek. I haven’t mustered up the courage to give it a go. The idea of it all makes me so infuriated given that it’s loosely based on the backpacker murders such as Ivan Milat’s doing. That someone could have no ounce of compassion or appreciation for human life as he maims and tortures, just boils my blood. Mum recommends to have a good comedy ready nearby for afterward.

 

Photo Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

The Evil Queen – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Lucille La Verne (voice)
The Evil Queen rates up in a few top villain picks, yet she and I have some personal history. Being a Disney freak, my mum and nanna took me to see Snow White at the movies when I was little. Well apparently I screamed when I saw her (and the dwarfs apparently :/) and ran out the cinema where my mum had to chase me, and my poor Nan was left watching Snow White by herself. I didn’t leave the cinema entirely; I stood behind the wall and kept peeking around the corner at the screen.

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Cersei Lannister – Game of Thrones – Lena Headey
Whore-bag bitch, I hope she dies. Moving on.

 

Photo Credit: IMDB

Cell – Dragon Ball Z – Dameon Clarke (American dubbed voice)
My husband is a massive DBZ fan, so this is his pick. I’ve watched most of the series in and out (it’s like Bold and the Beautiful, you can miss five episodes and they’re still about to fight, and Goku is still running on Snake Way) and I personally like the Frieza series, especially when Trunks ends him. When the Cell series began, I did watch the scene where he jams his tail into a human’s body and drains him dry ala Starship Troopers. My husband sees Cell as one of the most evil DBZ villains because his basic motivation is the enjoyment of killing.

 

 

Dolores Umbridge – Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix – Imelda Staunton
THE most evil Barbie’s grandma I’ve ever seen; I wanted her to die more than Voldemort. She’s frustrating, ignorantly rude, passive aggressive and sadistic. One of her worst moments was trying to cast out poor ‘ole Professor Trelawney. She is a perfect example of a manipulative, extremist thinker that believes themselves more important than others. There was something very eerie about her way to somewhat cleanse the school and turn it into a prison.

 

Colonel Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds – Christoph Waltz
This soulless weasel! I remember watching the first scene set in the dairy farmer’s house, and squeezing my husband’s hand as the scene turned from an unsettling calm to horridly despicable. Waltz’s performance was astounding as the merciless yet well-mannered Nazi Colonel, any scene he was in, I was just dreading the outcome. I went stiff when he asked Shosanna/Emmanuelle to try the strudel and orders her a glass of milk; heart in throat. Although he didn’t get my desired outcome, he got that smarmy pratty look knifed off his face.

 

Timmy York– Identity – Bret Loehr
Now, obviously this twist doesn’t come right until the end, but seriously, all this kid needed were those terrifying few minutes. We got to see the montage of how he committed each murder, ending with Amanda Peet whimpering as he whacks a gardening hoe against his palm with a murderous scowl across his chubby cheeks. ‘Whores don’t get a second chance’. AHHHHHH! BURN IT WITH FIRE!

 

Photo Credit: Villains Wikia

Esther – Orphan – Isabelle Fuhrman
Speaking of children here’s another piece of work. It’s not the best horror movie I’ve seen, but it is underrated; holy Hera did it freak me out. The Coleman family, recovering from their own demons, adopt a nine year old Russian girl to complete their family. But she ain’t quite right. In fact she’s a psychotic, homicidal 33 year old woman with proportional dwarfism who tries to seduce the father and then kills the family (ah, life in the suburbs). Of course the mother finds this out while she’s nowhere near her family and you’re yelling at the telly for the rest of the family to get the hell out the house while Esther transforms into her normal self and brandishes a knife. Fuhrman, who was twelve at the time of filming, did a very convincing job.

 

Photo Credit: IMDB

Robert Doob – Eye for an Eye – Kiefer Sutherland
I saw this movie a long time ago, and for some reason it has a very low rating. I remember it being good and Kiefer played this manipulative rapist really, really well. Perhaps it’s dated? I’m not sure, I’d have to watch it again. Regardless, my mum and I liked the movie and, perhaps from a woman’s perspective, it’s very violating. It’s every mother’s nightmare. Sally Field’s character calls her daughter at home while stuck in traffic. Her daughter chats away to her, while answering a knock on the door. Sally Field then has to listen on the phone while her daughter is attacked, raped and murdered. The rest of the movie is very much the law side of things and how Kiefer’s character cannot be convicted. He then begins to taunt Sally Field, at one point making mud pies with her kindy-aged daughter while she’s at play group, and later inferring that he could make an exception for ‘kiddy pussy’. Makes you want to string him up by his genitals.

Annie Wilkes – Misery – Kathy Bates
I’m ending on one I haven’t seen before. When I asked my parents opinion on one of their favourite villains, I could hear my dad on the phone say to my mum ‘who was that mad woman with the writer?’. Both of them were very convinced with Kathy Bates’ performance as Annie Wilkes and said she was terrifying. I went to JB Hi-Fi the other day and bought it as I know about the movie, I know how many references this movie has, I know how it ends, but I have never actually seen it – or read the book! Shameful I know. So I include Misery in hopes that maybe you’ll go out and watch the movie villain you’ve heard is ripper, but never sat down and appreciated.

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Happy watching!

Review: The Good Dinosaur

Credit: IMDB

Disney is getting better and better at making my husband cry. He tightens his hand on mine, as though trying to comfort me however I realise it’s his way of trying to hold it in. As we left the cinema, he laughed commenting ‘Dammit Disney, why?’
Since the visually stunning trailer including Of Monsters and Men’s hauntingly inspirational song Crystals, I’d been hanging out to see this film. Do I have kids? No. Do I care? Nope. Will I always love cartoons? Absolutely.

Its predecessor Inside Out hit me so hard in the feels, that I found myself at a ridiculous crossroads when my husband came home from work and said ‘get dressed, The Good Dinosaur starts at 6.45’. Did I really feel like crying tonight?

The movie starts by showing us an alternative to the cosmic event that made humans a dominant species – the asteroid went past Earth, and the dinosaurs continued to live on. Fast forward a few million years and we see our ‘prehistoric’ characters have evolved to living in a reality similar to that of frontier times. Arlo is the youngest and most timid or a corn farming family of Apatosaurus. Arlo’s family fall under difficult times, tugging Arlo further into his own fears and by accident, he falls into the river and wakes up, downstream and very far from home. Arlo must find his courage to try and survive in the wild with the help of a small wild cave-boy who decides to befriend him, staying as loyal as a guard dog. Arlo accepts his presence and names him Spot. Together they face the wilderness, meeting friend and foe in other species as they journey back to Arlo’s farm.
Yes, be prepared to cry.

I’m a Disney fan from way back – I still remember 1994, sitting in the cinema watching Simba try to wake Mufasa; Bambi I refuse to watch again; even the first act of Big Hero 6 made me want to throw the telly out the window – and don’t even speak to me about UP. I’m beginning to notice a recent progression in the heart wrenching scenes of these beloved movies – the writers and animators are portraying grief and loss non-verbally. UP had a whole montage where there was no dialogue expressing their life together; when they could portray Ellie’s infertility in one wordless scene and children could understand, a round of applause is deserved. I was doing so well in Tangled, until the scene where the King and Queen are getting ready to raise the lanterns; the Queen straightens her husband’s medallion and looks up to see him hanging his head, and wipes away his tear. He takes a deep breath, leaning his cheek on his wife’s palm as they share a moment of their grief together – 18 years since their daughter went missing. I think it was then, that I could microscopically understand what it must be like for families with missing children. Again, not one word was spoken during that scene. Toy Story 3’s incinerator scene; there was nothing left for the toys to do or say, except hold hands – god dammit!

The Good Dinosaur is no different in this pattern, portraying Arlo and Spot bonding through loss in a touching non-verbal scene, with strong symbolism, almost feeling like an ancient ritual to honour our fallen, and further on as Arlo and Spot realise what they mean to each other.

The computer generated scenery is dazzling; the mountain views and debris-lathered waterfalls are very real and the imagery has stayed true to the reds and roughness of a Wild West terrain.

The movie is getting some negative comments about how it stacks up to what Pixar/Disney has done in the past. Despite being a fanatic, I never walk into a movie and expect it to be like one I have seen before. I may enjoy some more than others however I individualise movies by their themes and the character’s particular adventure. Don’t walk in and attempt to stack it up next to your old favourites. This is a beautiful movie about a boy’s coming of age – if you can accept that, then you’ll enjoy it.

Bring tissues, and a sensitive other. Big boys cry too.