Monday, December 21, 2009

On Contemplating Another Year

As the end of 2009 rolls around, I am curled up on the couch next to my Christmas tree. It is glistening red and gold and green and I think back on the year that just passed with a glass of red and my laptop balanced on my knees. My cats curl up at my feet, ginger Morghann, the little Morghanna le Fay with her mischievous golden eyes and the queenly Krystal with her imperious stare.
The day is hot, a drop of sweat trickles down the nape of my neck, down between my shoulder blades. You can taste the heat in the air, but it's okay. The airconditioner will kick in soon and the night, at least inside, will be cooller.

I'm filled with emotions, a delightful, delectable smorgasboard of feelings from the bitter taste of hurt to the spicy tang of anger to the warm, sweetness of love that sits like a lemon drop on the tip of my tongue.

It's been a hard year. A good year. A long year. It's been a year of firsts, a year of breaking boundaries, of discovery. It's been a year of learning humility, rediscovering old passions.

Above all, it has been a year of Change.

Somewhere between admission to the Supreme Court and building my first house, I lost a friend that was like a sister to me - but I discovered other friends who were strong and true.

I travelled to Europe and saw it with different eyes this time around because I was on my own. Strolling through London in the faint blush of summer with the City a seductive, pulsing maze drawing me in.

Beautiful Ireland draped in a misty vale, tantalising and mysterious. Trekking from the dark walls of Belfast to the vibrant Dublin.

Then sailing Greece with its ocean bubbling on the wind and landing on my tongue in droplets that sizzled and popped, swimming in the middle of the Aegean Sea on a day that was so still you couldn't tell where the water ended and the sky began.


I fell in love for the first time too. Me, the self-confessed Ice Empress, the attachment-avoidant, committmentphobe. Me! The seductress, the temptress, the guiless vixen, the Lillith and the Eve who laughed with twinkling eyes and a crooked smile and said to herself, "you can touch my body but you can never touch me" found herself on the other side of the equation. Found that losing the game was bitter indeed.

Outmanouvered, check-mate.

Hearts can break into a million pieces. They may take a long time to heal, the scars remain. A lesson well learned.

I was a Maid of Honour for the first time at my cousin's wedding. I became a godmother and discovered a deeper love than I thought I was capable of, a love greater than myself. Unselfish, undemanding.

I began to write again.

I found my voice.

I found myself.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ringling on Trial - Baby Elephants Tortured

Circuses are supposed to be fun, magical places where the weird and wacky come to life. Where women grow beards and clowns fall over their over-large feet and men can charm snakes with a song and you can find out your fortune.

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus jumped from the carnivale atmosphere most children associate with the Circus, to the all out nightmare version with electrods, bullhooks and prolonged chaining.

Not of people, of course not. No, they've been doing this to baby elephants, in the guise of 'training' them to perform tricks.

Despite a history of animal abuse, they have still been able to tour around the beautiful land of the free (ie. USA, for those not in the know) and make money out of the animal abuse. Now I'm not one of those completely anti-circus people that hang around yelling in picket lines.

I'm not a fan of circuses (Clowns, really? Ever seen IT?) but so long as the animals are being treated properly, I keep my mouth shut and protest only insofar as I won't attend if the Circus is in town.

But this...this sort of treatment needs to be displayed on billboards, needs to be voiced and spoke and discussed and ended. A protest needs to be screamed out from the top of buildings with the same kind of enthusiam Twilight fans display when glimpsing Robert Pattison - only of course, it should be against the kind of treatment these animals are being subjected to.

Could you imagine killing an 8 month old for breaking a leg when it falls off a pedastal during a grueling training? Or chaining a baby inside a dirty, badly ventilated boxcar for on average 40hours at a time whilst driving across country? Well, that's exactly what has been happening to the baby elephants being trained by Ringling.

These are just some of the violations picked up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 2000 (as displayed on the Ringling whistle-blower site):
  • Improper handling of dangerous animals;
  • Failure to provide adequate veterinary care to animals, including an elephant with a large swelling on her leg, a camel with bloody wounds, and a camel injured on train tracks ;
  • Causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to two elephants who sustained injuries when they ran amok during a performance;
  • Endangering tigers who were nearly baked alive in a boxcar because of poor maintenance of their enclosures;
  • Failure to test elephants for tuberculosis; and
  • Unsanitary feeding practices
Reports are that 4 baby elephants and approximately 22 (at the very least) adult elephants have died in the past 17 years due to poor treatment.

If this isn't enough to make to want to scream (or like I did, sign a petition) then look at this.

Take action. It will only take 3 minutes of your time.

Hey, 'tis the season of giving!

On a further note, thanks to Anon for bringing this post to my attention.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Things You Learn Along the Way

These are some observations and things I've learned in life. Feel free to add some of yours!

* When an acquaintance gushes about a hot new actor and you have no idea who she's talking about, pretend that you do – it saves you from spending the next thirteen minutes trying to explain that you've been working thirteen to fourteen hour days and haven't had time to watch television (which apparently now come in flat screens! – yeah, that's sarcasm)

* Beauty is only skin deep, so if you date a guy because he's hot, don't be surprised if you find him in bed with two other girls – good looks don't always equate with a good heart (sometimes however there is a rare gem that has both :) )
* Learn to let go of the things that tie you down. By cleaning out your proverbial closet, you're making room for newer and better things in your life (this can be both materialistic and experiential).

* Stand up for yourself. Respect starts with you and then moves to other people. Don't expect people to treat you any better than you treat yourself.

* Not all your friends are there because they like you, but that doesn't mean you have to be a bitch about it. If they want to talk about you behind your back, move on, they really aren't worth your time anyway.

*On that note, gossip is unflattering, being a gossiper, even more so. The golden rule is if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.

* Family is important, no matter how bad they seem sometimes (interfering in every aspect of your life or not), these are the people who love you no matter what – even when you do act like a complete bitch – and they just want you to be happy.

* Stepping out on a limb is hard, but dealing with the regret of not doing it is harder still. Every experience teaches you something, so go out there and live.

* If you really want something, work your ass off to get it because no body will give it to you on a silver platter, heck, most people will be hoping you are going to trip up along the way (again, I learnt this the hard way).

* Be kind. Kindness and politeness never killed anyone.

* Learn to say 'thank you' and be grateful for what you have.

* Prayers have been known to be answered.

* Forgive. Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

* Life isn't that bad, when you let go, it can actually be quite fun.

* When they say make love not war – don't forget to use a condom (seriously).

* Eat gummy bears and dark chocolate, they release endorphins and encourage you to exercise which means you release even more endorphins – endorphins make you happy! (on that note, sex also releases endorphins *grin*)

* Travel to different countries if you can, even if it means sleeping in hostels with mildew on the wall and beds with odd lumps in it and showerheads that are no more than taps on the wall – the experience lasts a lifetime and you meet so many wonderful people along the way.

* Laugh at yourself once in awhile, you'll realize you're actually pretty funny when you're in on the joke.

*Love is a rare and precious thing, cherish it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Surrendering the Fight - Are We Giving Up Too Soon?

I was at conference recently where the guest speaker started his speech with a rather unsurprising statistic. Almost 60% of today's marriages end in divorce. Well, there's news. But it did get me thinking.

Do we quit more easily today than we did, say, fifty years ago? Thirty years ago? Ten? Not just in our careers, but in our personal lives? When a friendship seems to be getting sour, do we just turn out backs, cut our losses? Are we really at the stage of humanity when a friend in need is a friend on their own? When the going gets tough, do we all get out?

Sadly, statistics like that do seem to indicate that this is the case.

More and more, we're giving up without a fight. Maybe things don't mean that much. In a world where a nice enough meal with all five food groups is the distance to your freezer, where everything is on the go, and where the latest Dolce & Gabbana dress is at the touch of your computer button (praise online shopping) we are encouraged to be lazy.

Do we really expect everything in life to be that easy? To click your fingers and say, hey I want a degree in Law, doesn't mean your gonna get it. Typing a few thousand words (172,151 to be precise) doesn't mean your gonna get published.

Quitting when you really don't have talent is one thing. Quitting when you just can't be bothered is another. If you hate what you do, there isn't a point in doing it. Life's too short, move on, don't hang on to what's dragging you down. But if you love it, but can't stand the rejections that come with it, the heartache, the trials, the disappointments - you need to sit back and question yourself. Is the end result truly worth the darkness?

You need to weigh up the costs versus the benefits to use my old fashioned legalese. And if it is, then do what you do for your own pleasure not for the end result, do it for the sake of what it brings to you. Don't quit. It's too easy to throw your hands up and surrender.

I recently experienced my own form of divorce - the end of an eleven year friendship. It was startling. I had just returned from an overseas trip, to find out that the person I had thought was my bestest best friend in the entire world had gotten back together with her ex - and hadn't so much as dropped me a line. This doesn't seem like such a big deal - except that this was her first love, the guy we had all thought she was going to marry and were shocked when she dumped. They guy we all knew she was still in love with despite her one year hiatus.

And it wasn't just that she hadn't told me that, she hadn't written to me once on my travels, despite the few emails I managed to shoot off. I took it with a pinch of salt, despite the bitter aftertaste. When I got a phone call from her late one night, I jokingly said in reference to the romance: "I can't believe you didn't tell me, and you call yourself my best friend" - I was told rather flatly that she didn't call herself my best friend anymore.

Huh? What? Where did that come from? This was the person I had spent every day with for over a decade, the person who knew all my secrets, the one I went crying to when I faced heartbreak, the one I laughed with over the most trivial random things. This was supposed to be the godmother of my future-unborn-children.

I listened mutely as she listed every fault of mine on the phone, every error or slight she had preceived. I was shocked. I remember saying in a daze that all relationship take a lot of work and with out hectic schedules, sure, we hadn't spent as much quality time together as we did pre-high-school, pre-university, pre-boyfriends, pre-full-time-work.

"We're better off just hanging out in groups now anyway," was the answer I got in return.

But now we're faced with the awkward situation of a silent custody battle over our friends. Who gets who? Hanging out with the same group of high school friends who all knew that you were going to be each other's maid-of-honours and now are so not, is more than a little awkward. "What, you two were joined at the hip? What happened?"

I, having already been more than a little over the couple-club group before I left on my holiday, I acquised the floor to her and retreated a little. Just until my pride gets a firm leg to stand on again.

Did I quit? Yes. I did. I surrendered. Was it a good move? I think so. In relationships, I realise now, that people don't always grow together. Some relationships can withstand the test of time. Some people, like vines, grow together, remain a part of each others life until they are ripe old crones.

Take for instance my grandmother. She has been in hospital since August suffering a brain-related ailment. Her best-friend drives to visit her every day in the icy cold snowy winter, an hour drive, paying approximately $3000.00 so far in fuel and parking alone. Some people grow together. Others grow apart. And that's all right too.

I used to have very strong views about divorce, having been a child of a pretty bad divorce myself, but now those views have changed a little. I still say: Try, try hard, try until your bones ache and you know you've done your best.

But sometimes, in some cases you need to let go. Give up. Surrender. Sometimes growing apart is better, because it means you're growing up. You're becoming somebody else, hopefully someone better, stronger, and if the person your with can't accept that, isn't it better, for both of you, to let go?

The question is, when? When do you fight and when do you surrender?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dolphin Killing Festival - The Most Horrific Practice of a "So-Called" Civilised Society

The dolphin alone, beyond all other, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage. (Plutarch)

It was Saturday morning, I was lazying around, enjoying the last few minutes of free time before I had to start my day. I opened my email...and found myself short of breath, sick to my stomach and unable to pull my gaze away from the words and images that were shattering my vision of the world all over again.

I'll be the first to admit that my opinion of human beings is pretty low on most days, but this...this was the most inhuman, abhorrent, horrifying display of our baseness that I had ever witnessed.

Staring me straight in the face were some of the most disgusting images I had ever seen, and working in what I do, I've seen some pretty terrible things in my time. These images were beyond words.

In Denmark, there is an annual practice in the Faroe Islands where dolphins are slaughtered in an environment of festivity and amusement. This tradition began in 1584 and has continued up to the present day. It is considered to be a rite of passage for young boys entering manhood, and children are given a day off school to witness this "fun event".

Of a morning, the fishing vessels will head out, herd in the animals who are bound and dragged into the bay, where the boys enter proceed to stab the animals repeatedly, turning the sea a bright red. Between 2500 and 3000 cetaceans as well as porpoise (whales and different types of dolphins) are slaughtered in the proceedings, their entrails removed from their bodies - all in the name of tradition and fun.

Members of the cetacean family, dolphins and whales are highly intelligent mammals, with complex social behaviour patterns. Their brain is equal in size to the human brain, reaches the upper average size of approximately 1700grams. Compare this to the chimpanzee, who is said to be closest to human beings in evolutionary terms who reaches an average brain size of approximately 350grams at adulthood. Although brain size itself does not determine intelligence (take a look at what is going on in the Faroe Islands), there have been countless experiments with dolphins that have ranked them highest in the levels of intelligence - comparable to that of human beings.

Dolphins have been observed carrying out any number of altruistic behavior patterns that suggest a sentient intelligence unparallelled in other animals, going so far as to protect swimmers from sharks and remaining with injured members of their group, even helping them to breathe by helping them surface when needed.

The most horrifying part of this hunt is that it is not only a part of the Faroe Island culture, but since 1932 it has been part of their legislature too.

This is what is being done to them:

This is barbarianism, humanity at it's lowest. It's hard to take a stand in the face of such tradition and brutality, but if we don't start here and now, whose voice will be speaking up for us?

Please follow the link below and sign the PETA petition.

It might not be much, but it's a start.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Transient Beauty

This week has been one hell of a week - good, but busy. I finally finished my article last night and sent it off to my editor. Now I'm waiting on the red-penned mark up to return so I can start re-drafting.

My short film, something I worked on a year ago, has been picked up and is in pre-production right now! I'm working slowly but surely on the next short, unable to devote enough time to a feature because I'm working on a full length manuscript instead.

Between that I've been caught up in the pre-Christmas functions pretty much every day this week and for the next three weeks until Christmas.

It's been a whirlwind.

But it's important to step out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take the time to appreciate the simpler things. I've uploaded two pics I took whilst travelling through Europe last year.

This one I took in Ireland at the Cliff of Moher. Looking at it, I can feel the soft sea mist on my face, the constant drizzle of water heavy in the Irish air.

It reminds me that there is a greater power in our world, something majectic, something amazing that will stand long after we fade. Something that has witnessed many eons and will continue to stand unchanged when our bones have turned to dust. No matter our small triumphs, when I stood on those cliffs, I remembered that there was a power in the world greater than ourselves. You just have to stop and look for it.

This sepia-toned picture was taken in Temple Gardens in London. When I look at it, it reminds me that, for all that we are transient beings, we too can leave a legacy.

Our actions, however small or however big, impact the world around us, so even if we fade and our bones turn to dust and we no longer breath this air, we can leave our footprint on the sands of time.

Let us all make sure that the mark we leave is a good one.

One that people will enjoy in years to come.