Friday, December 19, 2014

Emotionally Exhausting - The Liz Miele Experience.

Liz Miele is a Brooklyn based stand-up comic and writer who has cultivated an increasingly high profile over the past 10 years. As an orator, she is witty and whimsical with an infectious appeal. Liz has also earned a reputation as an adaptive and imaginative artist having turned her hand to several successful creative projects in recent years. Notable among these is the web series Apartment C3 and her own animated series Damaged.

As a comedian, Liz has been on the circuit since aged 16 and has amassed an impressive performance CV through extensive touring and developing her signature style. Liz been profiled in The New Yorker, New York Times and the  New Jersey Monthly. Her stand-up - which combines a cooky and high watt energy with astute and whimsical observation - has also been featured at Live at Gotham and Comedy Central.

I was excited to learn from Liz herself that a stand-up CD recording was on the horizon this year. It is one project that Liz has longed to produce and she has finally realized her goal with her audio debut "Emotionally Exhausting".

Recorded live in late 2014, "Emotionally Exhausting" is an hour long hilarious exploration of Liz's growing up with dyslexia, her love of cats (and instagramming them), mishaps with dating on the internet, sexual adventures and whimsical observations about New York City.

I never had any doubts that this CD would be great. Liz is a joy to listen to. Her delivery is pleasantly conversational with a warmth and likability that draws you in and she makes you feel that you're kind of one on one with her. Her polished delivery and comic timing is razor sharp, a testament to her diligent honing of her craft over the past decade and her punchlines are a thing of flawless, hilarious beauty. By way of example, the following clip "Feminist Sexual Positions" (featured on the CD) showcases these ingredients.

In her web series Apartment C3, Liz shined as a sunny eternal optimist, a self deprecator although there were occasions where she could unleash a Jekyll and Hyde genius slap down when it was called for. She brings those qualities to this CD and the results leave you smiling for days.

Emotionally Exhausting is available now through iTunes, Google Play, CDBaby and Amazon.

Visit Liz Miele here.

Connect with Liz Miele here.

Tweet with Liz Miele here.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Did Not Play - The DNP Podcast or A View Of Sports From A Room.

I'm an unashamed fan of the internet podcast. Have been for as long as I've had a high speed internet connection and knew how to use it. In my journey through the landscape of internet broadcasting I've come across many fine programs covering many fine topics but, there is no doubt that comedy remains my go to for entertainment, enlightenment and relaxation. 

There is a certain brilliance in comedy that is done well. Sure, it can be laugh out loud funny or razor sharp witty but the comedy that I find most appealing is the type that is thought provoking. When you come away from a comedic performance laughing your tookus off - that is a worthy investment. When you come away from a performance that stays with you long after the curtain has fallen, that is something special. 

You might wonder then, whether a comedic podcast that combines the best elements of performance and wit with an examination of American sporting culture can achieve that alchemic zenith of lingering, thought provoking observation. It can be done and it has in the form of the DNP Podcast. 

The DNP Podcast, a bi-weekly comedy talk radio show, takes its name from a well worn sporting acronym meaning "Did Not Play".

The brain child of Chicago comedians Dean Carlson and Victor Marinier, the DNP Podcast observes and documents American sports in real time. From American Pro-Football, North American Hockey, American Basketball, Baseball and MMA, Dean and Victor review the week within each sporting code, discuss the defining moments from each sporting code and they preview the upcoming rosters and offer their predictions. But it is not simply a clinical dissection of the sports that they admire or the teams they cheer for.

Dean and Victor - bro-time.

Sport can often be seen as a reflection of life. Thus, employing their considerable comedic skills, Dean and Victor extend their observations into a wider discussion about life - particularly life as a sports fan. Their astute and wickedly funny discussions about sporting achievement and sporting failure and how each of those influence us in our day to day is where the genius of this show lies. I have said elsewhere that the DNP Podcast turns the mirror back on this most human of endeavors and pulls it's pants down. 

Further though, their independence from the mainstream media allows them a freedom to explore sporting culture in far more depth than would otherwise be possible. The net result from this is a far more engaging show that is laugh out loud funny but also thought provoking. 

Dean Carlson.

Dean Carlson has been involved in the Chicago comedy scene since he was 15 years old. He has trained with Second City in Chicago (from high school into his adult years) has performed with his own sketch/improv troupe Tortilla Moustache and has been performing regular stand-up throughout Chicago and across the Midwest United States for the past decade. As an acerbic and astute observationalist, Dean brings to the DNP Podcast a keen eye for the minutiae of sporting psychology. 

Victor Marinier.

Victor Marinier has been a fixture of the Chicago Comedy scene both as a performer, writer and editor, collaborating with a number of notable performers including Dean Carlson, Brendan McGowan, Mike Stanley and Mike Bridenstine. Victor brings to the DNP Podcast an encyclopedic knowledge of sporting statistics as well as love of popular culture. 

The DNP Podcast broadcasts bi-weekly across the internet and is available for podcast download from the official site as well as iTunes. 

Connect with the DNP Podcast here.

Subscribe to the DNP Podcast on iTunes here

Connect with Dean Carlson here

Connect with Victor Marinier here


Catch the Interview - Dean Mayes one on one with Tania Elizabeth - live now.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Heart of a Dove by Abbie Williams.

Heart of a DoveHeart of a Dove by Abbie Williams

Scheduled for world wide release on December 9th, 2014 from Central Avenue Publishing.

The Civil War has ended, leaving the country with a gaping wound. Lorie Blake, a southern orphan sold into prostitution at fifteen, has carefully guarded her aching soul from the disgrace forced upon her every evening. Two years have passed, leaving her with little hope of anything more. Meanwhile, three men – longtime friends – and a young boy with a heart of gold are traveling northward, planning to rebuild their lives in the north and leave behind the horrors of their time as soldiers in the Confederate Army.

Fate, however, has plans of its own, causing their lives to collide in a river town whorehouse. Forced to flee, Lorie escapes and joins them on the journey north. But danger stalks them all in the form of a vindictive whorehouse madam and an ex-Union soldier, insane and bent on exacting revenge. At last, Lorie must come to terms with her past and devastating secrets that she cannot yet bear to reveal.

Heart of a Dove is the first book in a gripping, sweeping romantic saga of pain, unbearable choices, loss and true love set against the backdrop of a scarred, post-Civil War America.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars*

(*disclaimer - Dean was provided with an advanced copy for the purpose of this review.)

Abbie Williams is an author who excels at the romance genre. Her Shore Leave Cafe series is a show case for her ability weave a contemporary tapestry, complete with rich characters, vivid settings and seductive moods. With Heart of a Dove, Williams takes those ingredients and deposits them into an historical back drop - in this case, the American Civil War - crafting an epic story that is her most accomplished work to date.

Author Abbie Williams. 

The effects of the War are evidenced in Williams cast of characters - all of whom have been damaged in some way by the conflict. Not the least of which is Lorie Blake, a unique heroine whose young innocence is shattered by forced servitude at the hands of a callous brothel madame.

Her situation seems helpless until she is rescued by a rag tag quartet of young men, lead by an enigmatic veteran in Angus, a mysterious stranger in Sawyer, a dependable horseman in Boyd and a precocious boy in Malcolm. They are as much veterans from the war as they are orphans because of it. And because of this, each man has a distinct sense of justice and an intolerance of those who seek to abuse it. All of them have a unique experience and, for me, I became as much a student of history through their eyes as I was a reader of this sweeping romantic drama. Williams attention to history is impeccable and yet she doesn't labour the story with it. 

Her romantic elements - so much a signature of Williams writing - shine in Heart of a Dove as it moves softly in places and urgently in others. There is an erotic energy to the tome that is tastefully drawn and an emotional power that is honest and heart felt.

With Heart of a Dove, we are quickly drawn into what is a rather lovely place and time to be and I had a difficult time wanting to leave.

It is a singularly beautiful story - a fine achievement for Abbie Williams.

Heart of a Dove is scheduled for a December 9, 2014 release from Central Avenue Publishing in both print and digital formats. 

Minnesota based writer Abbie Williams says she has been addicted to love stories ever since first sneaking her mother's copy of The Flame and the Flower. "Since then, I've been jotting down stories of my own in notebook after spiral-bound notebook. Well, that is until I got a computer that was equipped with Word, one fine day."

Abbie spends her days with her own true love, their three daughters, and a very busy schedule. She says she is most happy when she can sneak in a few hours to write and indulge in visiting the characters in her stories. 

When Abbie not writing, teaching or spending time with her family, she can be found listening to her favorite music: Alison Krauss and Union Station, the Wailin' Jennys, and The Be Good Tanyas. If there's time in the evening, she might watch a few episodes of Hell on Wheels and eat a jar of crunchy peanut butter.

Visit Abbie Williams here

Connect with Abbie Williams here.

Tweet with Abbie Williams here

View all my Goodreads reviews


Monday, November 3, 2014


Running the brush through my 4 year old's pony tail this morning, separating each strand, enhancing each one, I marvel at how soothing this act is for both of us. No matter what may be happening in the world, at this moment, there is just us. 

How did her hair get so long in such a short time?


Her grasp of the world around her constantly amazes me. More-so are the questions that confound me. 

"Dad - What is metamorphosis?" 

I can't remember if I ever even pondered such questions when I was her age. Mind you, I can't remember if I had a second cup of coffee this morning. 


Accidental art while painting balloons for Halloween. She sneezed. This happened...

Sure - she was proud at first but then we freaked each other out as the face on the plate started to move. 


From 6AM on Sunday morning, my 8 year old was at the living room window. 

"It doesn't look like rain Dad." 

6AM... I am not supposed to be awake yet. 

"It doesn't look like rain." 

I have my doubts. He has his tears. Those tears break me every time.

We go. Raise the mast. Hoist the sail. And launch. By the time we're on the water, the sun shines down - almost as if he has willed it himself. 

Look at him will you...

The sail was filled - as if by his own hand. 

How could I argue with this?


This may seem disconnected but, this morning, I am reminded of a scene from the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark", when Indy and Marion are bidding farewell to Sallah on the dock in Cairo. 

In a final moment between friends, Marion draws Sallah close and kisses him on the left cheek...

"That is for fire," she whispers softly. 

She kisses him on the right cheek...

"That is for your children...and this is for you..."

Her final kiss is a long and tender one, placed upon his lips with affection and gratitude...for a passionate man. A passionate father. A passionate human...


I am nothing without my children. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breaking Bread.

Recently, I have come to the realization that I have an obsession with bread making. I pour over the mixture of a dough in the same way Walter White pours over an ice recipe in his meth lab. It's all-consuming. 

In many ways, bread making as akin to the writing process. It requires planning - sometimes detailed, other times not so much, the introduction of elements/ingredients and a balancing of those to achieve a workable structure and it requires refinement, editing and checking.

And of course, like writing, bread making conjures a whole gamut of emotions. From the exhilarating highs when I open the lid of my Panasonic SD-250 bread maker at the end of a 4 hour cycle and find the most perfectly formed dome of my lovingly concocted loaf. To the utter despair of finding a catastrophically collapsed, genetic aberration that has suffered from bad yeast or too much water.

Panasonic SD-250 Bread maker. 

Home bread making is a fraught passion - and I am hopelessly addicted to it. 

I have refined the genr... I mean a particular recipe - a german grain/white hybrid to the point now where I can put together the ingredients with my eyes shut. 1.25 table spoons yeast, 2.5 cups Laucke brand german grain flour, 1 cup Laucke plain bread flour, 390mls of filtered water - (it must be filtered water because, hey - I live in Adelaide after all). Set the machine for a four hour cycle and let the magic happen. 

And after several months of following this idiot proof recipe, I'm ready to expand my repertoire and start tackling more ambitious concoctions. Being the shameless self promoter that I am, I would like to receive praise in another endeavor and my family can only stroke my ego so much. 

The Laucke Flour Mill Company is a South Australian company - nay, an institution in this state and they are my go-to for quality flour. Their bread flours are highly regarded and used by both professional bakers and home enthusiasts. They also have a great website that has a growing repository of recipes from the company itself as well as contributors. I'm keen to try them all of course but, for the moment, one in particular, has caught my notice  - an almond and dried fig loaf. It looks divine and I think I have the confidence now to try it. 

Image Copyright © Laucke Flour Mills. Laucke's wholemeal almond and fig loaf. 

One of the issues I have encountered in my bread making journey is that of storage. Up until recently, I was storing my loaves either in a plastic shopping bag or a freezer bag on the kitchen bench so that it is always in easy reach. This however, is not the ideal storage medium for a loaf. Laucke bread flour contains no preservative agents therefore they recommend consuming baked loaves within 24 hours. My aim is to keep my loaves fresh for as much as several days - so they can be used for school lunches, breakfasts and meal accompaniments. Also, home bread making can be a costly exercise if one is constantly churning out loaves. 

What I have found though, is that after the first 24 hours, there's a significant degradation in the freshness of a loaf - even stored as air tightly as possible. As the days pass, this degradation accelerates and I have even noticed the beginnings of mold after day five or six. Laucke recommends storage in calico bag or a bread box. 

Where longer storage is required, Laucke recommends cutting the bread into slices and storing in the freezer. I've never been a fan of freezer storage for bread, even for short periods. There's just something about the artificial environment of a freezer that I can't quite accept. We're dealing with a delicate food item here. I've gotten a hold of a calico bag and I'm going to try that this week. I'm hoping that will enhance the preservation of my loaf but I'm open to suggestions if you have them.

What have your storage experiences been with home cooked bread? What kind of flour do you prefer? Have you found a fail safe method of storage and how long have you been able to maintain the freshness of your loaves? I'd love to read your comments and experiences.

I am a hopeless devotee of bread making. Like writing, bread making requires a skillful hand, some imagination, a constant tweaking of ingredients in order to achieve a cohesive structure and a little faith in yourself. 

The ultimate story is yet to be told...


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

What Is The Value Of Literature?

Earlier this week, I found myself participating briefly in a discussion about reading preferences between ebooks and physical books. 

In the course of the discussion, it became clear to me that there is an expectation on the part of a certain section of consumers and readers that a literary title presented to them in digital form should be priced dramatically lower than its print counterpart or, in many cases, it should be free.

Now, while I can accept that ebook pricing by and large should be set on a different tier to its print counterpart, their was a part of the consensus view point that made me angry.

It seemed to me, in the course of the discussion, that readers have very little concept of the work an author puts into creating,  writing, editing and producing a story. 

When an author commits to a project, it can consume anywhere up to a couple of years of your life. The amount of research, the character development, story development, editing, proof reading that is required of a writer is significant. It can be quite a daunting prospect to will a story from a few scattered ideas. 

And this, of course, is all before the manuscript is handed over to an editor and publisher.

At the end of that writing journey, when you have done everything to ensure that your story is the best possible story it can be, to be confronted with the kind of mentality that says - "oh I would never pay more than X amount of dollars for an ebook" or "I only read free titles" or I don't believe ebooks are real books..."

It actually angers me.

The one side effect of the explosion in digital reading I've observed is the degradation in the value of writing as a craft by consumers and the degradation of the value of literature as a whole. Additionally, the reaction of some authors to that side effect, is to further devalue their own work by chasing consumers, almost begging them to take on their work.

It is something that, I believe, should be addressed and challenged.


Monday, September 8, 2014


Some days, I'll sit before the keyboard and nothing will come. Nothing will happen. 

I'll look at what I have before me, so far and I'll think to myself - "what on earth is this bullshit I have written?"

I'm sitting here now, trapped in this dilemma. 

I hate it. 

I hate feeling like I can't move forward. I've done everything to avoid it recently. Filled my life with the demands of family, health - or lack thereof.

Today the house is empty and I have all the space I need to create. But I can't do it.

I've ironed the clothes. I've washed the dishes. I've made all the beds. I go back to the keyboard and sit there and look at it and just think - 


I am a fraud. 

I am empty. 


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Like Is The Hardest Addiction.

Last week, I began an experiment with Facebook after reading this article, by Elan Morgan about Facebook 'Likes'.

I have increasingly found myself becoming dissatisfied with Facebook and what I've seen as the lack of engagement among my social network. 

The basic premise of the article was that Facebook 'Likes' are actually manipulated by Facebook to push certain content into your news feed based on your activity. The article also suggests that simply 'Liking' content on Facebook is detrimental to the notion of social networking and engagement and I gotta say, it resonated with me. 

For too long, I was quite happy to go along with 'Liking' people's updates or photos or links without actually engaging with their message. I made what I felt to be the erroneous assumption that 'Liking' something was enough. 

But it isn't.

Like logo is Copyright © Facebook Ltd.

Liking stuff simply clogged up my feed with an ever growing stream of disengaging content (those fucking memes being the worst).

In a subsequent discussion I kicked off on Facebook, I made the point that, to me, Liking is akin to slacktivism. You can blindly scroll through your feed and click 'Like' on friends updates as if it were of no consequence but it doesn't equate to engagement.

So, I made the decision to quit Liking content on Facebook. Instead, I actively made an effort to interact with content that I personally found engaging. If I had an opinion about something someone posted, I commented. I made an active effort to comment my appreciation for what my friends were sharing and I also made the effort to re-share content with an updated status of my own that told my friends what I thought about the content I was sharing. 

I also made an effort to hide content I don't want to see anymore - aka - those fucking memes! There is a really handy function within the mobile app in particular that allows you to hide content that is shared by your friends without hiding their streams entirely. For example - I got so sick of seeing posts from "I Fucking Love Science". Sure - I do actually (fucking) love science, but seeing those posts every single day eroded my enjoyment of Facebook. 

The results, while not absolute, are encouraging. 

By not 'Liking' everything that vaguely impresses me, I've found myself having some really great discussions about different topics. I've also seen a large decrease in the amount of memes and superfluous content in my feed and in their place, I am seeing much more organic visual content - personal photos from friends which vary in their interest but I much prefer. I am also seeing content from friends I actually forgot I had. This goes to my suspicions that Facebook has been manipulating the content I see in my feed based on my past behavior.

Actively sharing content from friends has also become much more satisfying. I made the comment recently that if I share something of yours, it is because I care about you. The positivity of that 'paying it forward' has been borne out in both comments and increased interaction between myself and my friends. 

So it's been a week. And I can honestly say that I have enjoyed a greater satisfaction with Facebook overall. My interaction with it has been lesser - simply because I have a busy life - but the quality of that interaction has increased markedly. 

In conclusion, I recommend you try it out. Make the leap and really question what you want your feed to look like. By not Liking content straight up, actually interacting with the sharer of that content and actively hiding content that doesn't engage you, I'll bet you'll find your user experience greatly improved. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Too.

The past 24 hours - give or take - have seen an outpouring of grief at the sudden death of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Celebrated, much loved, kinetic, hilarious, legendary - all are terms that have been associated with countless tributes that have poured in from around the world. He was an actor of a generation, a pop culture icon (?), a figure of inspiration. 

These are all fair assessments of a man who has entertained for nearly 40 years or more. His accolades are deserved - his legacy cemented. But there has emerged, for me at least, another picture of Robin Williams that, while not detracting from my view of him overall, serves to humanize him to a level that is worth exploring.

Last night, I downloaded a podcast from comedian Marc Maron. It was an interview that Maron recorded with Williams back in 2010, book ended with some up to the minute thoughts from Maron about the actor's death. In the roughly hour long interview, Maron and Williams discussed the latter's early career, his comedic beginnings, his successes on stage and on screen and the material rewards that stemmed from that. 

They also canvassed the excesses of Hollywood in the 1980's, the vices that flowed to people like Williams as a result of success - the cocaine addiction and alcoholism and the mental illness. A fact that I certainly wasn't aware of before now was Williams was present the night John Belushi died. It was an enlightening and, admittedly, a sometimes disturbing insight into the perilous nature of success and excess that is not often talked about - though Williams has, in more recent interviews, been willing to discuss these in more detail. He didn't shy away from talking about the destructive nature of it all and how it shaped him.

The other alternate view of Williams came to me this morning via the comedy talk show Keith & The Girl. In it, host Keith Malley was quite forthcoming in criticizing the overwhelming expressions of grief on social media which he believed had gone way over the top in terms of a collective outpouring of emotion. He also broached - actually, he launched head on into - the subject of charges against Robin Williams that he was a joke thief. This, too was something that I was aware of in the past, though I wasn't prepared to give much credence to it. You always wish to see those you admire in the best possible light. 

Without pointing towards specific charges or allegations - you can Google this for yourself - the internet does throw up a number of articles that tackle Williams' apparent joke thievery which cast the actor in a different light. 

Malley's passionate argument around the faux grief and emotion poured into social media extended into his anger at certain comedians, whom he knows personally, who have pointedly criticized Williams in the past for joke thievery - yet they were in their on Twitter, on Facebook or wherever they could find a soap box, mourning, lamenting and telling the world how much of an inspiration Robin Williams was to them. 

There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that Williams did in fact engage in a level of joke thievery. It's disappointing and saddening. But, in any posthumous examination of a person, particularly a figure as revered as Robin Williams, I think it's a necessary component of that examination. 

I'll continue to watch his movies and admire him as a performance artist of incredible energy and talent. But, I will add these alternative view points to my own impression of the man that Robin Williams was...

Because, at the end of his day, Robin Williams was human...


Monday, August 11, 2014


I was chatting to a dear friend of mine this morning and we were lamenting that Robin Williams was perhaps one of the most influential actors - nay people - of our generation. 

Sure, there have been celebs who have come and gone, but Robin Williams was something else. He was a pop culture icon before we even knew what they were. 

I watched "Mork & Mindy" on the black and white TV when Channel 8 was the only channel we could get in our house. 

The movie "Popeye" was one of the first films I ever saw on VHS. 

A comedy album he recorded in the early to mid 80's was one of the first "rude" records I ever heard - the kind you listen to in your bedroom with the volume turned way down because you're afraid your Mum might hear it.

"Good Morning Vietnam" was the movie that introduced me to the music my parents grew up with. It was also the film that really brought home to me the futility of war. 

"Dead Poets Society" was the movie that inspired me to read more, to treasure words and to never accept mediocrity. 

Boys, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." Don't be resigned to that. Break out! break out now is the time!

Robin was there when I was a kid. Robin was there when I was a teen. Robin was there when I was a young man, tortured by my own darkness. 

He is no longer here. 

I weep for him.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Where Memories Reside.

The indomitable movie franchise, Star Wars, redefined the notion of movie merchandising when it was released in 1977. And yet, legend tells that expectations were so low for the movie when it originally launched that potential merchandising partners either took a wait and see approach or they passed on the opportunity to participate in marketing the movie entirely 

Of course, unless you were living under a rock, Star Wars took the world by storm and toy manufacturers were caught completely off guard. They could not foresee the movie going public's hunger for their own piece of the Star Wars universe and they were scrambling, in the aftermath, to get something - anything - onto the shelves in order to cash in. 

Fast forward 37 years and Star Wars merchandise still ranks among the highest selling movie merchandise in history. Fans, young and old, hunger for their own little piece of that galaxy far, far away. Countless Christmases and Birthdays all across the world have witnessed the opening of a Star Wars toy or book or lunch box or play set or any one of a hundred different permutations of something Star Wars. 

And with these have been the spawning of a thousand different memories of that very simple occasion; memories which have become almost as treasured as the item itself. 

A recent discussion on the Star Wars pod-cast "Full of Sith" touched on that idea - the memories touched off by a piece of Star Wars memorabilia - and it got me thinking about my own, favourite piece of Star Wars merchandise. Of course, my collection is considerable, but the discussion had me going through it, trying to decide which of the many pieces I own are the most treasured. 

I've narrowed it down to three.

First and foremost is my copy of Deborah Fine's and Aeon Inc's "Star Wars Chronicles" from the late 90's. It comes in a beautiful and sturdy dust cover folio which you open to slide the book out. It probably has some of the most comprehensive and gorgeous still images and photos from the movies and the sets, melding fiction with fact to tell the story of the films and the making of them side by side. 

It features a series of exquisite gate folds, comparing characters, ships and the scale of those ships side by side. 

My family all chipped in to buy it for me on my 27th or 28th birthday, as it was quite a pricey investment,  and it is such a lush piece. Every time I open it to have a read, the pages have this kind of powdery feel to them and a smell that is not unpleasant. I always feel as though I should be wearing a pair of those cotton gloves whenever I take it out for a read. 

The second piece is my Lego AT-AT which I saved up for, when I got my first full time job. I was putting money aside for what seemed like ages before I got it. When I finally got it home, I armed myself with enough beers to keep myself going and I think I spent around 6 hours putting it together on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon. 

I've never been so satisfied putting something together as I was when I stood back and marvelled at the completed model. As with many of those higher end Lego pieces, the AT-AT offers such a tactile experience, with doors that open and close and accessories that you can take out and play with. Of course, my children and I love playing with it and when it's not sitting proudly in my office here at home, it can often be found in the thick of some sort of battle between my Star Wars Lego, their Lego Chima or Lego City. 

The last one - and perhaps the most poignant - is an original Kenner Biker Scout figurine along with the original Speeder Bike. 

Now, when I was in my teens I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of spinal cord tumour. After spending a long time in hospital where I underwent extensive surgery, I was allowed home but I had to spend some time with my grandparents because my parents worked. 

On one of these days I was feeling pretty low and my Pa had to run some errands for my Nana. While he was out, he stopped by the local toy store and managed to pick up both the Biker Scout and the Speeder Bike at the same time. He knew how much I loved Star Wars and, although he didn't, he made sure to ask the girl at the store what to get. You can imagine how it lifted my spirits when he came back from the store with them. That Biker Scout and Speeder Bike sits proudly in my display here at home, complete as it was the day he bought it for me. It has outlived him, sadly, but the memory of him coming through the door with it won't soon be forgotten.

That's the awesome thing about Star Wars. Beyond the sheer fun of the movies themselves, Star Wars has been responsible for some of the best memories of childhood and growing up. I can look at many of the pieces in my collection and they'll touch off something in my life that will make me smile.


Sunday, July 27, 2014


Interior, House, Morning.

The couple are vibrant. Early 30’s, professional. The Wife is dressed in a smart,  sexy business suit. A cup of coffee is in her hand as she rushes about, getting a few scraps of breakfast in before she goes off to work. The Infant sits in a high chair, spoon in hand fumbling with a bowl of cereal. Most of the cereal is on his face. The Man – his day off - still in his pyjama bottoms and navy Tee, quietly putting together a salad for his wife into a smart container.

The Wife gathers her handbag, cell phone, checks her lipstick. She kisses The Man on the cheek and hands him a piece of paper, a list of things to do. She kisses her infant son. Then she is off and out the door. 

It is The Man and The Infant now - together.

Interior, House, Morning.

The Man washes and dries the dishes, makes the bed and The Infant's cot, vacuums, puts a load of washing on. The Man and The Infant shower - splash, splash. Giggling and laughter, cuddles and kisses. The Man dresses - jeans, light shirt, a trendy jacket. The Infant -  a cute outfit. Bright, long sleeved tee, jeans, smart shoes and hat. The Man prepares the nappy bag, a lunch for The Infant, the stroller. Packs it all in the car - a smart European sedan. He straps the baby in, gathers the list and puts it in his pocket. Then they are off, The Man and son ready to embrace the day.

Interior/Exterior, The Car, Morning.

The Man, driving along, feels light and happy, singing along to the car stereo. The Infant is giggling with glee in his seat in back waving his arms about trying to imitate The Man.

Exterior, Shopping Precinct Car-Park, Mid Morning.

The Man pulls into the child friendly parking bay. He is impressed. Lots of space here. Man gets out and opens the rear door. His son smiles broadly.


The voice comes from behind. The Man lurches up, hitting his head on the inside of the car door opening. He sees stars. Then he sees a angry woman. A mother and child - a daughter clutching a doll. The woman is waving her arms, pointing at him accusingly, then at the sign denoting the child friendly space. She swears, she spits.

“Who do you think you are?! This is not for you! You don’t belong here!”

The Man stares at her, shocked. His head throbs. The woman continues to berate him. The Man stands to one side revealing his son, sitting in the baby seat looking at her with a wide eyed smile. The woman falls silent. She hesitates, then abruptly marches off, her daughter trailing behind her.

The Man, shakes his head as he watches her go. He rubs the spot where he hit his head, then turns to The Infant with a pained smile.

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Interior, Grocery Store, Day.

The Man negotiates the grocery aisle pushing the stroller with one hand, holding a basket in the other. He checks the items off the list. He feels better - feels good that this task is almost done. He scans the shelves for a particular item. He thinks of his wife. He loves her. His next culinary masterpiece lies in the ingredients he purchases here. He doesn’t want to let her down.


The Man turns abruptly, straining his neck. An obese couple is right behind him. The Husband - wearing a grubby woollen sweater, his hairy stomach bulging out from underneath his pants. The Wife – a sour face, too much make-up, sweating under arms. Both of them glare at The Man with contempt.

“What are you doing? Day dreaming?! You wanna move out of the bloody way?!”

The Husband butts his trolley into the backs of The Man’s ankles, grunting as if trying to push The Man aside. The Man quickly tries to move the stroller into the middle of the aisle, fumbling with the basket. The obese couple barge their way through. The Man up-ends the basket, it’s contents spilling everywhere, glass jars smashing on the tiled floor The couple don’t even stop but snicker as they glance back.

“He doesn’t belong here.”

The Man tries to manoeuvre out of the way as more trolleys approach from either end of the aisle. A shop assistant approaches, an angry look on her face, armed with a mop and bucket.

“Oi!! You’ll have to pay for those!”

Suddenly from beside The Man, the son plucks a jar of gherkins from the shelf, knocking two accompanying jars which smash to the floor. The shop assistant glares at The Man.

“...And those.”

The son giggles with delight.

Interior, Shopping Centre, Day.

The son is crying, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. A smell rises. The Man screws up his nose but he smiles at his son. His neck still hurts, as does the lump on his head. The Man sees the sign for the bathroom.

Relieved, he angles the stroller towards the Men’s toilets.


The Man jumps and swings his head around, straining the other side of his neck. A curmudgeonly old janitor is there. He shakes his head. The Man hesitates, looks at the janitor quizzically. The janitor raises his hand and points a gnarled finger towards another door with a sign denoting the baby change room. The door opens and a woman emerges with a baby hanging from a harness. She regards The Man with disinterest. The Man angles the stroller towards the closing door as the woman brushes past him.

Inside, The Man is confronted by a group of women. Some sitting, breast feeding, some standing at the change tables, removing soiled nappies, replacing them with fresh, clean ones. They are chatting, laughing. They fall silent as The Man enters, struggling with the stroller and the fat shopping bags hanging from it. He offers a polite smile. The women turn away, whispering to each other.

“He doesn’t belong here.”

Strangely, that affects him more than the fat couple from the grocery store or the mother in the car park. He finds a corner away from the others. He changes his sons nappy in silence. The women continue whispering. He can hear them. As he lifts his refreshed son from the change table and deposits him back into the stroller, The Man glances at the women. Their whispers stop and they look away.

The Man feels that twinge of embarrassment again and he hastily exits.

Interior, Shopping Centre, Day.

His son babbles cheerily as The Man pushes the stroller. Son looks up at his father with a loving smile. The Man looks down upon his son, managing only a wan smile in return.

Interior, Food Hall, Day.

Balancing a tray with a coffee and a sandwich, The Man searches for a place to sit down. The son is crying, hungry. There is a parents area with wide spaces between the tables. The Man heads towards there. He spies an empty table and he moves towards it. A trio of women armed with strollers of their own cut in front of him, disregarding him and secure the table for themselves. The Man just stares. One of the women stare back at him.


The Man turns away and finds another table on the edge of the parents area. Again he struggles. He sets the tray down, spilling some of his coffee onto the sandwich. The baby is screaming now. Mothers across from him glare. Some are breast feeding their babies. The Man looks at them blankly, sees their breasts. His eyes widen. They turn away in disgust. The Man turns back to his child. He feeds his son, settles him down. His son drops off to sleep. The Man turns to his coffee. He raises it to his lips. It is cold. He sets it down and turns to the sodden sandwich. There is a fly on it. The Man’s heart sinks.

Interior, Shopping Centre, Afternoon.

The Man walks slowly. His son sleeps. The items on the list are checked off now - thankfully. He looks through the window of a toy store. Sees Lego sets on display. He remembers his childhood. He sees an electronic games shop. He played a lot of games before he was married. He is drawn into the store. The games have become more advanced. The Man examines the system requirements on the spine of one of the PC games. Way too advanced for me now, he thinks wistfully.


The Man spins around. Feels something pop in his left knee. A young, arrogant looking store assistant is coming towards him, pointing an accusing finger.

“Your kid is pissing on the merchandise!!”

The Man looks down. His son is awake and has, somehow, removed his jeans and his nappy. A thin stream of urine arcs perfectly across the space between the stroller and the display shelf splashing across a game title.

“You’re gonna have to pay for that!”

The store assistant rips the contaminated title off the shelf and shoves it into The Man's chest.

“What are you doing bringing a kid in here anyway?!? You don’t belong here!!”

The Man stares blankly at the young store assistant. His head drops. A lump rises in his throat.

The store assistant, suddenly appears uncomfortable. He backs away from The Man. 

This guy is gonna cry, he thinks regretfully.

“’s no big deal. We’ a special on that game right now anyway.”

The Man fishes his wallet from out of his jeans, opens it up and takes out a hundred dollar note. He shoves it into the chest of the store assistant. The Man leaves the store in silence, his son chewing on the corner of the game’s cover.

Exterior, Shopping Precinct Car-Park, Afternoon.

The Man secures his son into the baby seat, packs the stroller away. The group of mothers from the baby change room are coming towards him, chatting and gossiping. They fall silent as they pass. He turns away, prepares to open the door of the car. He looks up and sees the mother who confronted him earlier. She is still dragging her daughter along like a rag doll, swearing at her to hurry up. She looks up at The Man and scowls. As The Man secures his seat belt and starts the car he looks through the windshield he spies the elderly janitor standing on the pavement nearby. He looks at the old timer, their eyes meet. The elderly man smiles - a smile of empathy, of understanding. He raises a gnarled, old hand, flips a jaunty salute and winks. The Man nods respectfully.

Exterior/Interior, Car, Late Afternoon.

The Man drives home in silence. The car stereo is silent. The son babbles quietly to himself.

Interior, Kitchen, Late Afternoon.

The Man unpacks the grocery items onto the kitchen bench. His wife arrives home. The son, who is sitting in his high chair, squeals with delight. She races to him, arms outstretched, wraps her baby in a enthusiastic embrace, smothering him in kisses. She turns to her husband, her Man and plants a loving kiss on his cheek. He smiles faintly, bows his head.

“I am so happy to see you both again,” she says.

The Man gazes wearily at his wife.

“You belong here,” she says to him. “You belong with me and our baby.”

She embraces her husband with a more passionate kiss then draws back.

“You look tired. Why don’t you go have a shower? I’ll take over for a while, I’ll pour us a glass of wine.”

The Man nods silently, then turns away slowly. She watches him go, a look of concern in her eyes.

Interior, Bedroom, Evening.

He sits on the edge of the bed. He cups his hands together and rests them in his lap. The lump on his head throbs. His neck is sore. His knee clicks each time he moves it. He gazes through the window, through the street light beyond. A single tear forms at the edge of his right eye, it swells in size...

...Then trickles down his cheek.


Copyright © 2014, Hambledown Road Imprints & Dean Mayes. Not to be reproduced without the prior permission of the copyright holder.