Archive | December 2016

Everything’s coming up zombies

You know how everything has zombies nowadays? Even if they don’t say they’re zombies or they give them other names, like hungries. 

Well, without a spoiler alert, this is one of those. 

I read a review on Goodreads that got slammed by some people for not giving a spoiler alert that the children were zombies. Honestly, if you’re that dumb a reader that you don’t get it pretty quickly, there’s no help. 

It’s not that there’s zombies that gives this a twist, it’s how the narrative unfolds and, as always, the interactions between the non-zombies that sustains the reader’s interest.  

I’m not a zombie fan. Zombies , blah blah blah. I didn’t get into Walking Dead, even though I love Andrew Lincoln. I know everyone says, “But it’s not about zombies, it’s about the characters.” Well, yeah but no. There’s zombies. The whole reason everyone is thrown together is because of zombies. I was really rooting for the sergeant. 

Despite not being a zombie fan and past the dystopian novel thing, I quite got into this novel. It is suspenseful. And nerdy.  

A movie has been released. I watched a short. But won’t watch the movie. Not because I don’t like how they swapped the racial background of the two main characters nor that they simplified the story. No, it’s just too scary for me to see visually. I can cope with words in a way I can’t cope with pictures. I already had nightmares, which I knew I would, from the book. Bugger novels getting into the sub-conscious mind! No say could I sit through a film. 

So if you want a scary suspenseful sci-fi read based on possible fact (there’s a fungi that turns ants into zombies and takes control of their bodies/brains – I love that the novel got me to find out about these ants) this is well-written. 

A couple of things that annoy me:

  • They walk through the countryside where everything is growing lush and wild. Yet it is described as “a landscape of decay”. Now just because the road is crumbling and the crops have been taken over by wild plants, surely it isn’t one of decay? Rather it is one of rebirth without human control over the wild plants, (when is a plant a weed?)
  • The chapter that says the landscape is one of decay is from Melanie’s perspective. How would she know this was meant to be one of decay? She’d earlier been impressed with all the wild flowers! She wouldn’t know the countryside had not previously been all flowers and weeds but neatly mown grass and crops. 
  • Sometimes the characters are so dumb. Like walking into a house without turning on the lights in a horror movie dumb. Eg they find a large tank-like motorhome which has no food in it. One character says they can hole up in it, even though she knows here’s no food and the previous incumbents probably left as they ran out of food. 
  • They make noise for various reasons, eg to let a character know where they are, yet they know there’s zombies about and bikie/Mad Max style humans after them. 
  • The zombies have super human strength and speed yet they use leather straps to contain one.
  • Why bikies? Why aren’t the survivors who don’t want to join a totalitarian regime, greenies or kind people? Why do writers of post-apocalyptic novels always use the trope of extreme patriarchal violent psychos?
  • Why do some humans only get bitten and this turn into zombies and others get fully eaten? If the fungus wants to reproduce it wouldn’t allow the zombies to totally consume the humans. But if they ate one another, there’d slowly be no one within whom the fungus could grown. 
  • Why don’t humans partake in arty things? Why is it all violence and science? Humans have always done this, even Stone Age man. Singing and dancing and drawing have diverted us, entertained us, sustained us. 

OK, more than a couple of things. I also think the novel could have been edited by at least 70 pages. 

And I don’t like the science that has all the earth the same. No mention of how the fungus survived during winter. Wouldn’t the zombies freeze sitting outside? And thus the fungus? Is there one fungus that can live in tropical and freezing conditions? So if the fungus is like Australian flora that needs fire to reproduce, it’d get that in Australia and other parts of the world that have natural bushfires. 

This will be my last ever zombie book. If I am ever tricked into reading one because someone doesn’t want to give a spoiler, I will be beyond cranky and will wipe that person from my “will talk to” list or at least refuse all offers of other books. 

I’m a teetotaller

Well, for the past 27 days. And for the next 3.  I’m not going to be a teetotaller forever. But it was a catchier heading than I’ve been dry for 27 days. 

I’ve been doing some guided thinking, courtesy of the library book I borrowed, The 30 Day Sobriety Solution; reflecting on my consumption of alcohol and the role it has in our society. 

I don’t have some deep dark secret, some self-loathing, some trauma that drives me to drink. I don’t have to forgive myself for anything. And I quite like myself. (The book has many chapters on theses themes – finding the trauma that made you start drinking, with stories of people remembering when they were three and hearing their parents talk of not being able to afford the kids or a sibling saying happiness is in the bottle. Variations on child abuse or wanting to find happiness or love or belonging. I’m not saying it may not be so for some, and looking to release something from the past may work, it’s just not me.)

 I have, since my early twenties, had episodes of binge drinking, always at social gatherings. I remember the first time I drank to excess and had a blank out of the night. I’ve also had too numerous to count episodes of vomiting as a result of drinking too much. 

Basically when I’m having fun and have had two or four, I don’t stop.  And then, opps, too much. Too much varies on the night. Alcohol is a funny drug. You can have four and feel fine, or two and be as tipsy as. Some nights you sit on a glass and sip it slowly; others a glass goes down before you’ve had time to put the glass back on the table.

So that’s the binge drinking in me. 

Then there’s the “too frequent” drinking. It came around from the confluence of several factors. 

Taking on a promotion that came with lots of stressors and needing to relax and chill of an evening. 

My children no longer needing me to drive them around of an evening as we moved to a place they could get everywhere by foot, bike and public transport and they were old enough to do so. 

Boredom and habit. Being at a loose end of an afternoon, a drink before dinner, especially on sunny days, became a nice way to fill the time. And one glass became two. Two became three, and “then I’ll serve dinner.”

So I broke my own previous “rule” of never drinking alone. And drinking became more frequent. It became a habit, not an addiction. Habits are hard to break but not impossible. 

I used to have a habit of having several bikkies every time I had a cup of tea. The association was so strong that every time I had a cuppa, I had to have bikkies or I didn’t feel right, I had an automatic physical response. It took repeated perseverance but I broke the nexus and now happily have tea without sweet bikkies to dunk in my cup. 

I read that drinking among 50-something women is increasing exactly for the reasons my drinking increased. Time, being at aloose end and grown children. 

I’ve had many comments about picking a strange time to quit – what with all the Christmas celebrations. Except for me a challenge is not a challenge if it isn’t challenging. I need to know I can do it when all around me are drinking. 

Anyway, starting wasn’t thought out. I didn’t plan to stop drinking. I saw the book and knew that it was right. And turns out it was. 

It’s been interesting seeing and hearing the responses. Rolled eyes. What the? I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t, I mean why would you. But it’s Christmas!

I don’t lecture. I’m not a reformed smoker. I just say, I was drinking too much, too quickly, too often. 

Alcohol has such a strangle hold on our society. Is it the advertising that promotes it as a way to freedom, happiness, social acceptance, fun? Is it the role its had in Australian history? (Right from the start it was used to get the convicts to work and as a way to forget they were in a god-forsaken hell hole. God, who wouldn’t drink!?!) Binge drinking seems an issue in all English-speaking countries. So maybe the historical reasons go back further?

Alcohol is so central to our concept of fun and celebration!?! The book raised an interesting question: could you think of a tropical holiday as being fun without alcohol? Whoa! Now that’s challenging! A cruise, a resort, a tropical island holiday. They all feature alcohol. Cocktails. Bubbles. Beer. Wine. Pretty much integral part of them. Would it be fun without the alcoholic beverages? Would I resent it by challenging myself to not drink if I went on one of these holidays? Would I come home and ask what the fuck was I thinking denying myself cocktails. Is it adult to just have a couple every night on a holiday? Or is it a sign we are all so addicted that are perspective is warped?

All the memes that surface on FB (some of which I have used here) try to make light of excessive consumption of alcohol. If you’re in the right mood, they’re funny. But at other times they just seem sad and point to people hiding their inability to stop drinking to excess. 

I don’t know what my self-imposed rules will be. I will drink alcohol. I quite like the loose feeling from a couple of drink. And red wine really helps when my muscles are tight. On a sunny day a beer or a glass of bubbles goes down a treat. I don’t want to set rules that I will break and then feel a guilty failure. 

Maybe I will have no rules. But randomise my consumption so I don’t get into any habit?

Maybe I’ll start exercising again to fill the time?

Three Cups of Tea

Not talking about my favourite drink here. Talking about the alleged autobiographical work of non-fiction by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. 

I struggled to finish it. Why, when life is short and books are plentiful did I finish it?

I kinda felt I had to. Greg Mortenson, the person this book is about (he is down as the author but most is written in the third person – which is quite strange), has built schools in remote regions Pakistan and Afganistan. If even a quarter of what the book says he has done is true, it is so noble and involved facing such dangers and challenges that I couldn’t allow such horrible writing to stop me learning of his work. 

And then there’s the fact that a friend lent me the book and neighbours had waxed lyrical about it. So there was the pressure of pleasing neighbours and needing to be able to hold my own in future conversations. 

You need to know how much I struggled to finish this. Purple prose with run in sentences abound. Here’s one example:

“the inspiring view that greets these students from every classroom – the roof of the world, represented by Masherbrum’s soaring summit ridge-has already helped convince many of Hushe’s children to aim high.”

Maybe it is the result of having two authors but there is no real voice here.  It reminds me of the kind of writing that used to fill those little Readers Digest magazines. Except it doesn’t run to half a dozen small pages. It’s over 300 pages. 

The behind-the-scenes story is quite interesting. Apparently there may be discrepancies in Morentson’s tale. Why he felt the need to lie or unduely embellish his tale, I don’t know. There’s also fraudulent use of donations. Sadly, the co-author committed suicide. 

By the end, actually not the end – even a quarter through – I was shouting: I get it, he’s a hero, Pakistanis love him, he’s braver than any other American, he understands the culture and language more than any other westerner. Maybe it is a cultural thing, as in Australian vs American sense of the role of the individual in changing society. We tend to look to askance at people who big note themselves.  Even if they do good. Whose need are they meeting? 

In Brugge

I put this movie on my want to watch list after reading about Brugge as part of my planning for our trip next year. 

After a little bit I realised I had watched it before. But it is worth watching twice. 

The humour. The gratuitous violence. The  naivety of Colin Farrell’s character. The sadness. The beauty of Brugge. 

The second afternoon of my holidays well spent.  

Oh and I’m still alcohol free. More on that soon. 

An alcohol free week

I have been alcohol free for the past week. 

Why, you ask?

Well, I have got into a habit of drinking. Like any habit, it became something I did without much thought. And repetition made it more frequent and increased the number of drinks. The glass or two of bubbles would go down very quickly. 

So although my blood pressure and blood tests are all good, I thought it might be good to give my body a rest. Not to mention saving money by not buying any sparkling wine. 

So why now? I mean who stops drinking on Sunday 26 November? The first of the month is a more normal date. And to go dry over Christmas and summer holidays, are you sane?

Indeed, when I told Mr S I was going 30 days of not drinking, his first comment was, “but what about Christmas Day?” My response: I’ve had plenty of Christmas Days with alcohol, I can have one without. 

But that doesn’t explain why I started last Sunday. 

I visited my local library and on the new books shelf was this book:

So I thought what the heck, let’s do it Lucinda. I do love a book that plots out your actions and tells you what to do each day. 

It hasn’t been hard at all. Although I bought several boxes of bubbles the week before, I just decided I wouldn’t drink. And although work is stressful, I just decided I wouldn’t drink. And although I’ve been out to dinner and to a comedy show (Bill Bailey, he of Black Books), I just didn’t drink. 

Now giving up tea. That’d be hard, if not impossible. 

Tomorrow, lessons from my first week.