Wings of lace – short story

A writing exercise I like to do is to button mash on my computer and get a string of random letters. I just start writing whatever comes to me, using each letter as the start of a new sentence. Every piece ends up so random and fun, and I never know where it’s going to go, or how I’ll use the letters.
Here is the string of letters for the following story: uirthnioeurghveiourgnvhauirganrgcaveirbuuahilrghmcarinfbj.


Until yesterday, I always thought the only way I could possibly fly was if I crafted my own wings out of lace and feathers. I don’t know how I many combinations I had tried in the past, but it, so far, was the only thing that worked.

Really, it can be a combination of any lace like fabric and something light, like feathers or wool.

The thing is this – I love to fly. Having the ability to fly is possibly the best feeling in the world. Nothing and nobody could stop me flying.

I had my lace and feather wings in the washing machine on a gentle cycle, when my mum burst into the laundry.

“Oh, you didn’t put anything in there,” she paused as she pointed at the machine, “because I was about to put the whites in with the bleach.”

Everything started to fall down around me, realising my beautiful wings were being tossed gently around in bleach.

Unfortunately, not even frantic pressing of buttons and slamming open of the door could stop the bleach from pooling in the water at the bottom of the machine, my wings a dead bird ball.

Reaching in, I pulled out the lace, feathers falling down in wet limps.

“Great.”h

“Honey, I’m so sorry,” mum frowned at the feather slush. “Very sorry.”

Even though I knew it probably wouldn’t help with anything, tears started to cascade down my face. I couldn’t look at the chaos anymore, and I closed my eyes as I turned away.

Only flying could help fix my mood, and the only known contraption I had was ruined. Unless I could find something to replace it straight away, I knew I was going to be in a slump forever.

Right then, my mum put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You know, you don’t need to make wings, right?”

Grinning at me, mum took my hand and pulled me to my room. No-one can help me to calm down the way my mum does. Virtually nothing could calm me down except wings, so I wasn’t sure what could possibly work, given the mess.

“How about this?” mum asked, pulling a makeshift set of wings from the back of my wardrobe.

“Actually, they’re just a prototype and can’t fly.”

“Unless these are specifically made not to fly, then I’m certain these will work.”

I looked at the poorly constructed lace and the bits of wool haphazardly tied on. Reflecting on it, these wings hadn’t seen the light of day in several years, and I wasn’t sure they could handle the sky.

Grasping the loose ends, I sighed.

“Alright.”

Nothing could cheer me up, except for wings. Right now, I was accepting of the fact I’d have to give these makeshifts a try. Granted, these were the first attempts at making wings, and there was a slim chance of these working, but they were my best bet.

Cuddling under the lace, I felt the tough “soft” wool pressing against my bare shoulders. And I wasn’t scared. Various pairs of wings had made me worried about trying them. None had worked, but my lace and feathers were the only ones that felt right, and it worked. Even though they were ruined, and all I had left was this shamble of an attempt, I wasn’t scared.

I stood at the edge of the roof, looking down at the landing spots of my failed attempt, and then up at my target – the biggest cloud in the sky.

“Ready?” mum called from the ground.

Bracing myself, I took a few steps back, and readied myself. Usually, it was a run up, throwing myself out to the wind and hope for the best. Until my last wings, I had ended down on the ground, not feeling the greatest. And I felt comfortable, like the last pair, ready to propel my across the sky, not anticipating a fall.

Holding onto the little edges, I held out my arms, feeling the wingspans.

I started to run those few steps to the edge, closed my eyes, and leapt.

Leaping into the air, there was a moment where my stomach dropped, feeling like there was a chance of falling. Regardless, I pushed that small feeling aside and threw my arms open.

Getting into the air was never the problem, it was staying there, and for a minute, I was pretty sure I was actually falling. However, I opened my eyes and found myself dipping into a soar.

Mum started to cheer, and I beamed, looking up at the trees in front of me.

Could it be that these initial wings were just as good as my favourite?

As I flew higher and higher, the house grew smaller, mum became a dot in the green, and the clouds grew closer. Reaching into the clouds, I thought about how sad I had been not long ago, worried I’d never get into the air again, to feel the clouds, and scare the birds.

I felt so free, my wings feeling so comfortable against my skin. Never had I flown without the ends of feathers pricking me.

Falling was always scary, but the nose-dive to the backyard was always tough. Bringing my wings around my body, I let gravity throw me back.

Just as I started to gracefully descend, a bird flew into me, throwing off my concentration, and propelling me in an un-ladylike fashion toward the ground.

MasterChef Aus S13 – The Recap Plan

Hello! It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me, especially as MasterChef season 13 approaches, with ads promising an incredible showcase of talent from cooks around Australia. I’d normally be frothing with excitement!

Season 13 is due to premier on Monday the 19th of April at 7:30pm.

Now, excited may I be, this year, unfortunately, I won’t be able to do any recaps. Lately, I have been working a lot more, and it feels like I’m barely at home. I’m also working evenings a few days a week, so there are times when I’ll be leaving home when MasterChef starts, or on my way home during an episode. With early mornings and late finishes, I won’t have time to sneeze, let alone write a recap each day. I was disappointed to miss out on pretty much all of MAFS this year, so missing out on MasterChef is a huge blow, given the last two years.

It’s really disappointing for me, because I love doing the recaps, and sitting down while I watch an episode, putting everything together and getting feedback. Financially, though, I just can’t justify it at the moment.

I have never made any money from recaps. At all. I know I pepper in ads, but as it stands, I’ve made maybe $5.00, and WordPress can’t cash out a small amount. I pay for the domain and a premium account so I can get more out of what I’m doing so I can bring better content. While I wish I could afford to take time off work to write this year, it’s a bit financially irresponsible at this stage, especially while trying to save for a wedding.

Hopefully things next year will be a lot more calmer and I can get back to writing recaps. And, who knows, maybe a smaller show will pop up later in the year, like The Super Switch from 2019, and I can write recaps for that.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been keeping safe and well through COVID, and I look forward to writing more recaps soon!

Why I won’t be watching ‘The Prom’ (2020)

I logged onto Netflix.

New: ‘The Prom’ (2020), directed by Ryan Murphy.

Prom is written in rainbow lights – an LGBTQIA+ film?

A prom is cancelled at a high school because one of the students wants to bring her girlfriend along.

Ah, a straight person’s LGBTIQA+ film, like a lot of the “LGBTQIA+ films”, focusing on homophobia.


When I was growing up, there wasn’t a lot of queer content for me to consume.

I was an avid reader – the kid that stayed up late reading under the covers with a torch, reading in the car, and always a book in hand. Most of the media I consumed came from books. I grew up with heterosexual themes, and even though I did mental gymnastics to justify small things, like glancing (or not) at the bra shop when we were at the mall, I thought I was straight, and these were my stories.

Mentions of homosexuality came up in derogatory ways. In Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (Louise Rennison, 1999), the only mention of homosexuality was the PE teacher being a lesbian, because she walks into the locker room when the girls were changing after class.

To be gay was a bad thing.

I was dealing with internalised homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality, feeling like I had to be straight, I had to have the same relationships as my peers, as the characters in books, tv shows, and movies.

Finally, we’re at a stage where queer young people are existing in media. Finally, a closeted kid can watch a movie or show directed at them and see representation. We don’t have to be looking to adult oriented content – YA media is presenting queer characters.

But at what cost?

So much LGBTQIA+ content features queerphobia as a main theme – whether transphobia or homophobia (because the bi’s are ignored). The protagonist has to try and justify their existence as a queer person in their community, forge their own identity, while still dealing with rampant homosexuality.

When we present representation to young people in media with it focusing on how normal it is to experience homophobia, we’re telling the young person that this is something they have to deal with – everyone experiences homophobia.

But that’s not the case, nor should it be.

Having a story with LGBTQIA+ characters and actors isn’t revolutionary when the story focuses on homophobia.

As a society, as people who consume or create media, we need to move away from the idea that any representation, no matter how small, how insignificant, or how problematic, is good. We need to be demanding, to consuming, and to creating content where homophobia isn’t present, and isn’t a key theme.


I don’t want to watch a movie about kids who bully a gay. I don’t want to watch a movie about a young queer person who is, statistically speaking, significantly more likely to commit suicide because of their sexuality. I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that representation of young people must revolve around the idea that being bullied for your sexuality is acceptable in any way shape or form.

Why would I want to watch a movie about adults bullying a girl, banning an entire prom so one (1) LGBTQIA+ young person can’t attend, and causing her to be a social pariah from the straight student body?

“Oh, but it’s presented as a bad thing, Felicity!” It shouldn’t even be presented at all.

Homophobia doesn’t add character. Media for young adults needs to move significantly far away from having homophobia as a theme.

It increases the risk of young people dying, of young people being afraid to come out, of young people being ashamed of who they are.

No, I won’t be watching ‘The Prom’, and neither should you.

MasterChef Aus Recaps – Update

Good evening,

So, it’s been a little while since I last did a recap, for which I apologies. With the COVID situation, I’m still working, and my hours have gone up significantly, which has made it harder to do my recaps. I’ve finished work a few times after MasterChef has started, so I miss the episode, and I just really want to go to bed.

I’ve written notes on about eight episodes that I missed, and have Monday to Thursday of this week to watch. My aim is to get all the recaps written and posted tomorrow, so if you follow me via emails, I’m so sorry, but you’re going to get a little spam of emails.

However, I think with how many I have to do, I might just do one big post for each week, recapping each individual episode. Same content as usual, but just longer, and a page break between each. I don’t know, but I’ll have a play around so it’s quicker (and spams less), and now that I’m looking over my notes, it’s not as comprehensive as I had thought when I wrote them.

Anyway, my impromptu hiatus is about to come to an end, and then it’ll be regular posting.

Thanks for hanging in there, and see you soon!

Australian Bushfires and Living in Canberra

I wasn’t worried.

The Australian bushfires didn’t worry me when it first started going in northern New South Wales and in Queensland in September. It was far away from me and looked like it was mostly rural areas — away from homes. Early as it may have been into bushfire season, it wasn’t going to affect me at all, and maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.

My friend wasn’t worried either, and we occasionally watched the news, watching where the fires were in the red, ‘Emergency Warning’ (lives are in danger and people need to leave without delay). There were seven up north, and I scrolled through Facebook, occasionally glancing at the news, watching as another yellow fire, ‘Watch and Act’ (start taking action), turned red.

“Have you downloaded the ‘Fires Near Me’ app?” she asked me.

“Nah.”

“Why not?”

I shrugged. “They’re nowhere near us. I don’t need to.”

She nodded. “Have you got your survival plan ready? We’re going to get the animals together and let any other animals nearby out so they can escape.”

“We’re just winging it. We’re far enough in town that by the time it gets to us, suburbs will be gone.”

Even though she didn’t look convinced by my plan, she didn’t probe anymore on the matter.

Earlier this year, two major fires had the world attention, one in the Amazon, people outraged that it contributed for so much of the worlds oxygen, yet nothing seemingly happening bar letting the trees burn, and the other in California, with the world worried for the celebrities there, watching as their houses were burnt, and thinking how huge the damage had been for both of these events.

It’s not unusual for Australia to have bushfires during the summer months, December through February, with temperatures from 30 degrees upward (86+ F) on a normal day. But this year, the bushfires started early and strong. Temperatures have been consistently in the late 30s, regularly hitting the early 40s (95F — 110F) day after day.

It doesn’t help that we’ve been in a drought for years, and the once emerald farmlands around Canberra have turned dusty straw brown. Our farmers are struggling, and Australia is dry, which means the bush is perfect fire fodder.

Then, the fires started to come south, around the beaches. A fire between Bungendore and Braidwood meant road closures, and Canberran’s annoyed that we’d have to find another way to the coast this summer, hopeful that those residents won’t be affected, and concerned for the businesses that will be affected.

Watching the news again, my friend was upset by the coverage. She was getting a bit antsy, knowing she had friends in Bungendore, and didn’t like watching the news anymore.

“They’ll be ok,” I told her, looking at the ‘Fires Near Me’ app on my phone, something I felt I had to get when the fire near Bungendore started up. “It’s still a while away from the town.”

Everything was getting worse, and the fires were getting closer.

Another fire started in the bush between Bungendore and Queanbeyan. It was only blue, ‘Advice’ (no immediate threat but stay up to date), and not close to anything at this stage.

Over the next few days, my friend got more and more worried about the fire, seeing how it was growing, and flitting between blue and yellow.

From Belconnen, in north Canberra, driving towards the airport, you could see in the distance a huge flume of smoke.

I remember the sky was blue that day, and only a few clouds in the sky. The smoke looked almost like a big cloud on the horizon, wispy and round. It would have been so beautiful if I didn’t know it was smoke.

Again, that fire progressed, turning into a red. People in the area around Captains Flat and Hoskinstown evacuated, photos on Facebook of empty houses, animals being transported away, and people thinking this would be the last time they saw their homes. Eventually, it dropped back down to yellow, flitting between red and yellow a few times, before it started to get under control and settle in yellow for a while. This was late November or early December.

The smoke started to roll into the capital city, but it wasn’t too bad.

My partner and I went to the Cherry Festival in Young this year and found the sky blue there, a few clouds in the sky, and a bit of smoke further away — just a haze at this stage, although the second day was a bit smoky.

On the drive back to Canberra, I realised how bad the smoke had gotten. We had passed Yass and Murrumbateman, where the sky had been bright blue, when I saw almost a line in the sky. On the other side of the regular sky was grey-brown smoke. Slowly, the line shifted over the car, and the blue section became smaller and smaller before finally, I could only see it out of my rear window. Eventually, it was gone completely.

We had, of course, heard about how bad it was in Sydney, Tik Toks and memes about the poor quality. We knew there were practically fires surrounding the city, but at least it wasn’t that bad here.

It got worse.

I remember before Christmas, we drove to Belconnen and the smoke was getting thicker and thicker. It was around five in the afternoon, and the sun was visible through my window — a dark orange ball sitting in the sky.

Aircon blasting, it was around 35 degrees out, with the air circulating in the car, the smell of smoke was in my car, and my partner coughed a few times.

This was the first time I’d realised how bad the smoke was.

Every day since then, it has gotten worse.

I drove to work the other day, just before New Years, and at ten in the morning, I put my lights on. It was too dark — too much smoke — to see very far in front of me. I couldn’t see the usual sights, and it was quite confronting.

That evening, we went to see some family who had lived in Canberra during the bushfires in 2003. I hadn’t lived here and didn’t really understand the vague recollections I’d heard over the years.

“Was it this bad last time, or worse?” my partner asked.

“Oh,” he started, “so much worse. I was at work, and a firestorm had started. These chunks of trees — ya know those bits at the end of the branches? — were falling right next to us, so we had to stop what we were doing, and I drove home. As I’m driving, it suddenly became so dark, like black, from all the smoke.”

He talked a bit about the air quality before we started talking about the types of masks one would have to wear for the fine particles, and then about the new Star Wars movie.

The next day, after my partner finished at work, she told me about how a man had been complaining about the smoke, and another said we should be grateful that we’re not caught in the fires, and to imagine how bad it must be for the firefighters. I try to be grateful; I really do, when I see on the news people stuck in their hometowns, scared that they’ll lose everything.

But I’m scared, too. Scared that having the highest level of toxic air in the world will affect my lungs, the lungs of the elderly, and the lungs of the babies. My friend has a three-week-old girl. How will this affect her in ten years? Twenty years?

One of my greatest fears at the moment is being told down the track that being exposed to this air day in and day out has fucked me up so badly that there’s nothing doctors could do for me — to not lose anything this year in the fires, but lose my life down the track from the effects of the disaster.

I’m glad that the fires are still a distant threat to us — Canberra doesn’t have to enact our bush fire survival plans yet — but that might change.

Last night on the news, they were talking about today, Saturday the 4th, how it’s supposed to be a terror of a day. Temperatures in Canberra will be high, around 42+ degrees (107+ F). NSW is in a state of emergency for the next seven days, and Canberra may follow suit, currently in a state of alert, with fears that winds will change and fires in the surrounding areas will come straight at us.

I looked at my partner, who normally hates the news, as she was glued on every word.

“If a fire comes, when are we leaving?”

“When it’s north side.”

“Where will we go?”

“In the opposite direction,” she told me.

I started to think about which path we’ll take, where we’ll go, if the fire threatens us, and depending on where the fire is. Roads will be closed, and we know we need to leave early to get out in time. If we don’t leave early enough, we’ll have to stay no matter what.

That’s what’s happening in places like Batemans Bay, or Narooma. People are stuck, roads closed, waiting and hoping for something to reopen and for a way to escape. In one place, only one petrol station is open. The news is saying people have to pay with cash because too many people had driven away without paying. Police told the manager to close, but he said he can’t — not when it’s life or death for people.

My Facebook is mostly images of the fires, people talking about how to get prepared to leave, and friends worried as they are unable to reach family and friends in affected areas, asking if anyone has heard from any of them or people in the area. One asked people not to post the good times of New Years on Facebook as they haven’t heard from their family on the coast. Another said they have nothing to celebrate while they stay in another town, waiting to hear if their town — their home — has made it or not.

We went out to the movies at Belconnen Mall. The fire alarm went off a week or two ago, because there was so much smoke getting in. Thankfully, it wasn’t smoky in the cinema. On the way home, I saw the moon. She was orange as well, a crescent, sitting in the sky. I realised I can’t remember the last time I’d seen the stars, and it felt like the first time I’d seen the moon in ages.

Yesterday, P2 masks were being handed out, with no end in sight for the terrible air quality.

I’m terrified.


These events are of course to the best of my memory, and any inconsistencies within the timeline of the bushfires are unintentional.

Also published on Medium.

The Super Switch – Review – spoilers

In this age of reality tv, the ones focusing on relationships tend to be sensationalised, focused on single people, and primarily exist for drama. It aims to make fun of people, and this is achieved by pumping people looking for their 15 minutes full of booze (see MAFS, Bachelor/ette, Bachelor in Paradise, etc).

The Super Switch was something different, looking at real relationships that are really struggling, and can’t be exploited for fifteen minutes. To look at the significance of The Super Switch, I’ll be comparing it to 2019’s Married At First Sight, which aired only a few months apart on two different channels in Australia.


The first time I watched Married at First Sight (MAFS), I didn’t really know what to expect. I had held off until marriage equality had passed in Australia, because as a young LGBTQIA person, having people say that ‘the gays are ruining the sanctity of marriage’, but then allowing people to get “married” for thirty days, was just wrong to me. With same sex marriage legalised in 2017 for all Australians, I was no longer bound by my own moral code and watched an episode, which then turned into the whole season.

There were a few instances throughout the show that I thought were important, and showed elements of relationships that should be reflected and analysed.

In saying that, there were many times through MAFS where Heidi would have an issue with Mike, and the next day he would act confused and frustrated with her emotions. Fans watching this (my friends and me) were horrified by Mike’s continuous behaviour, and the phrase “gas lighting” was thrown around a few times. Whenever this was brought up to the “relationship experts”, it was always a non-issue, something that Heidi was weaving in her head, because she has trust issues. And then that was that, next couple, time to make fun of someone new.

Throughout the series, it’s clear to see the experts are there to stir drama, encourage bad behaviour, and assist only those issues they find fit. While it wasn’t clear if they knew what was going on with Innes/Jess/Martha/Sam throughout the series, it was never brought up, except towards the end of each issue as a way to spark further drama within the participants and pick up the ratings.

There was only one relationship that the experts took an actual care to, a relationship that was pushed further on the back burner of the shows line up, as they never had any dramas like Innes’ cheating, Jess hitting on Nick, Martha causing dramas with Cyrell,

While I’m not here to analyse and critique MAFS, it’s important to remember these things for the context of The Super Switch (TSS).

There wasn’t a lot to expect from TSS, there was minimal advertising, bar from generic videos of a man pulling a switch and his girlfriend transforming into another woman. It looked to be another MAFS style show, however the relationship experts, Jacqui Manning and Guy Vicars, were always quick to shut that down, saying it’s not the same at all.

The show follows six couples, each with their own problems. They were split, paired up, and each pair went to one of two houses, the beach mansion and the city mansion. They had to decide how to share a room and a bed, things previously decided with their real partners.

There were two aims of the experiment: is their relationship fulfilling enough or do they need someone more like minded? and Are they able to grow through the experiment to return to a stronger, healthier relationship with their real partner?

To achieve these questions, Jacqui and Guy ran group therapy, and one on one, with the couples in the mansions. They arranged activities to grow the switch partners together, such as dates they wouldn’t normally go on, camping/spa week, and dates with purpose such as intimacy or bonding. The couples were also given money to buy their real partner something.

Ultimately, all the couples returned to their original pair and were happy to be better people.

Whenever there was a big issue, they experts took the time to look at it.

It was continuously an issue that Miranda didn’t want to talk about Lachlan. She said there wasn’t anything wrong, he was a bit jealous, but that was about it. Everyone picked up that this was an issue, and Guy said he was worried about her and the relationship. Watching Lachlan’s behaviour, to me and the other participants, this was a worry and a half, like veering towards domestic violence…

Lachlan ended up receiving some therapy specifically for how he gets possessive and aggressive when men talk to Miranda in public. Jacqui taught him about tap therapy and he started to use that as a way to calm himself down throughout the experiment.

It was clear that Jacqui and Guy cared about treating the participants and giving them ways to look after themselves. They weren’t there for show, or exist once a week to discuss what’s going on, they were constant presence to guide. They didn’t talk for five minutes about each relationship, trying to reassure participants to continue their experiment. They cared about each person, each couple, and each problem. While the viewer only saw segments of the therapy and only bits and pieces of the therapy, it was clear through people like Marcus and Ben that this was bigger sessions that focused on what was going on.

Marcus said it was though the experiment that he realised he was a negative influence on his relationship with Aimee, and before entering, thought he didn’t have any of the problems. Ben greatly accepted the assistance provided for him, even then things got tough, there was no motivation to leave. Unlike MAFS which has almost a guilt system that kept them there – for example, Heidi wanted to see if this could be something new, something good, even when Mike was constantly a problematic force in her life. MAFS have a rule where they couldn’t leave if their partner wanted to stay, which is completely opposite to TSS.

Ben was ultimately kicked out of the TSS experiment in the last few episodes after he had an altercation with Tyler. Christie was asked if she wanted to leave as well, however it was her choice if she did, and she would be able to stay, but she decided it was best to leave as well.
After Ben and Christie left, Tyler and Olga were still participating even without a partner.

There was no time for drama. In MAFS, if you kiss someone who isn’t your partner, it’ll be milked for all it’s worth for ratings. In TSS, it wouldn’t be tolerated full stop. Tyler and Christie couldn’t share a bed without being chastised by Neesha and Lachlan for “cheating”. Tyler tickled Christie over the pillow wall, and that was met with discomfort from all the participants, and led to the altercation between Ben and Tyler. It was impossible for them to not be there for the right reasons, because they had all these eyes on them, and they had the expectation that they would be ‘good’ for their real partners.

In The Bachelor and related spin-offs (Bacherlorette, Bachelor in Paradise), the participants are often seen drinking, and we hear about how regularly they drink. This show is all about the drama, and as such, having regular access to alcohol does the job.

This is the same as MAFS, in which the participants would arrive for dinner and straight away there’s drinking. Only one participant didn’t drink, and that was made a big note of by everyone else. As the season progressed, it was clear to see that alcohol was a regular thing with everyone else around. They drank before dinner, they drank during dinner, they sat at the table and continued to drink. With big personalities, like Martha, Ines, Jess, and Cyrell, having alcohol flowing provides the same drama as the Bachelor.

Alcohol wise, the contrast between MAFS/Bach and TSS is clear as day. The participants are only seen drinking a couple of times, out with the girls, out with the boys, and one night the beach mansion got wrecked. That particular night caused dramas between Justin and Miranda. She went to bed early, and had earlier agreed slept on the couch. He continued to drink and when he came back to the room, he majorly disrupted her sleep.
This was brought up in therapy for a while, and was never framed as a funny thing or positive in anyway. The viewer felt annoyed on Miranda’s behalf.

While watching MAFS, I would judge what was happening and how tacky everything was, whereas TSS had me judging the way people were treating their partners, and empathising more.


MAFS is a mindless show to watch with a bag of popcorn and judge the personalities of people aiming for 15 minutes of fame. TSS, although having a shallow sounding premise behind it, is less mindless, more documentary, and focuses on positives and being a better person, challenging the viewers own opinion of their relationships and what’s good.

It would be interesting to see what the participants are actually like, and if the portrayal was skewed (something all reality shows are notorious for, but see lawsuit). Having seen some episodes of the latest season of Seven’s ‘Bride and Prejudice‘, a show where engaged couples spend time connecting with disgruntled and disapproving family members to get them to attend their weddings, I’m looking forward to seeing if wholesome reality shows will become the norm in the future.

The Beast – Short Story

It’s gaining on me, and fast. From behind, I hear the click of my predator get closer and closer.

In a flustered frenzy, trying to get away as fast as possible, I stumble around names. They’re letters discarded from the threat of the ever creeping monster.

I swipe a look at my friend – sweating, just like me, staring ahead, trying to go as fast as possible.

We’re fuelled mostly by coffee at this stage, and the remnants of the bitter bean lingers on my tongue.

This isn’t my first encounter with the beast, and it certainly won’t be my last, as it tries to get its grubby claws sunk into me day after day.

My hands wipe away sweat, as I try and power on, knowing escape is a fleeting opportunity, and provides momentary rest.

“I don’t think I can do it anymore,” I say to my friends.

One has earphones in, a way to distract from the beast, and listens to music, rather than its toxic clicks.

The other friend shakes her head. “We’ve got to go on. There’s no choice.”

I feel a sob rising in my throat, and my friend reaches a hand out to me. For a second, everything slows. We glance at each other, sharing a look of understanding.

*’We can get through this,’* I think, and give her a nod.

After returning it, we break from the distraction and return to the task of evasion.

My fingers glide, feeling the motivation replace caffeine as my main fuel.

I glanced at the clock in the corner of my laptop. It was quarter to five, and I had fifteen minutes to finish this assignment and leave the library. My fingers were a flurry, as they tapped the keys, and banged out the final paragraph.

The beast continued to creep, as I saved the document and raced to upload it in time.

While I could hear time clicking away, waiting for a false move, the document uploaded, and I had finally escaped unharmed yet again.

I would live to see another day.

My Brother’s Name is Jessica – Book Review – Spoilers

(Cover photo curtesy of Penguin.com.au)

I originally wrote this review a few days ago. At the time of writing, I hadn’t read anything online, I had just picked up a book in a bookstore and thought it would be interesting to read.

After I initially posted it, I went on twitter to search for maybe an official page or something. What I found instead was sufficiently worse.

Here are two threads by Jay Hulme who talks about the book. I highly recommend looking through the two of them, as they are relatively short, but provide a lot of information, and shed a lot of light into how problematic the foundation of the story is.

Here’s another little something I found:

I found a lot of trans people on twitter were talking about why this book is bad, including normalising transphobia through the protagonist, the parents, and the general community.

As a cisgender person, while I do my best to be an ally to my trans siblings, I am aware that my experiences mean I have a bias, and like many cispeople (such as the publishers/editors of this book), I missed a lot of transphobia in the book.

In the afterword, John says:

“…I became interested in exploring how a child would deal with complicated issues of gender and sexuality, not when it’s a struggle that they’re facing, but when the srtuggle belongs to someone they love… I don’t know what it’s like to be transgender…  Talking to young transgender people while writing this novel, I was struck by their bravery but, more than that, by their honesty.”

There was a certain section, although now I can’t see it at all, but I thought, ‘Oh, great, he actually talked to trans people and consulted people who are in the community about how to properly represent them.’ Seeing as he Inclusive Minds haven’t heard much at all from him ever, it’s a bit difficult to take what he says seriously.

Of course, we can analyse everything with the perspective of death of the author, in which the author is removed from book. That’s my general go to, as I don’t have the time or effort to research and look at what every author has done in the past. However when it comes to representation, and the author even admitting to not consulting trans people, you have to take this things into consideration when looking at the book.

That said, here is the original review, where death of the author was a heavy factor.


Yesterday I bought and read My Brother’s Name is Jessica by John Boyne (2019), who wrote The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006).

As I write for LGBTQIA+ young adults, seeing this book at my local bookshop, with its beautiful rainbow pattern, was pretty exciting. I haven’t seen a lot of young adult literature that is so open with having a transgender character, and I was looking forward to seeing how the character was represented.

I had concerns, prompted by the title, as it seemed to be misgendering. How this would translate in the rest of the book was a bit of a mystery. I was worried about the protagonist deadnaming his sibling and how this would be done.

In Australia as of late, there has been an increase in articles against trans youth. I was both excited and a bit scared to see how this book would go. It’s so important to have great representation for minorities, and with the growing acceptance of transgender people, but also the vocal transphobia, it’s certainly important for young people to see positive representation.

The blurb didn’t give away a lot, and my bookstore is a bit disorganised (YA, middle school fiction, children’s fiction all in one area. This was in the same bookshelf as Twilight), so I had initially come into it expecting YA, around 15/16+. I was pleasantly surprised to find the protagonist 13 years old, and his sibling only four years older.

The protagonist, Sam, is a 13 year old boy whose parents both work high up in the British government. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and is teased for being dyslexic. His brother, Jason, has adored him since day dot, is the captain of the football/soccer team, is very popular, and the reason why Sam is only teased and not bullied.

Lately, Jason has been growing his hair out a bit, and it’s staring to look quite feminine. He’s been a bit distant lately, and Sam misses how close they were.

One day, Jason comes out to his family and tells them he’s a girl. This is a disaster and a half for them, as they haven’t dealt with this before. Their mum is hoping to become Prime Minister, and this is just not something she or their dad want to deal with right now.

As I discuss the book, I will alternate between Jason and Jessica, and changing pronouns. I do this to maintain coherency with the book. Sam tells the story as though it is happening as it happens. Jason/Jessica’s gender changes depending on what is happening, so with their aunt they’re Jessica (she/her), but with the rest of the family, they’re Jason (he/him) until the final scenes of the book.

The book follows the family’s journey from denial to acceptance, the heartache they all endure, and finally the positive’s that come from it all, bringing them closer together.

I found the book very well done. Not only was the writing excellent, as to be expected, but the choice of protagonist, point of view, and characters were well executed. The story felt strong, and the message, and effectiveness could have been defeated if not for these choices.

Honestly, I feel like I can rave about all of these points forever if I have the chance.

There were a few moments of transphobia that made me cry. The first and main one was when Sam snuck into Jason’s room in the middle of the night and cut off his ponytail. Sam saw this as a good thing, something that would help Jason to realise he’s actually a boy, but it further alienated Jason from the family, and ultimately resulted in him leaving him and staying with his aunt.

Aunt Rose is a blessing and one of my favourite characters, along with the coach. She accepts Jason into her home, and creates a safe environment where she can use her pronouns freely, and call herself Jessica. While it takes a while for Sam and their parents to start calling Jason ‘Jessica’, and for pronouns to start, it was heartwarming to see the love from Rose toward Jessica, especially compared to what some trans youth face.

I mean, trans people in general have the highest suicide, murder, and rape statistics. It’s horrifying, and throughout the book I was worried for her.

This is addressed slightly by Sam towards he end. He says, “If her own family will cut off her ponytail, think of what a stranger would do.”

Fortunately, the worst that happens is alienation from her family, rumours and alienation at school, and in one of the final scenes, she returns home with stubble, dressed in men’s clothes, and with a buzz cut, ready to pretend for the sake of her mothers career that she is a boy. This is quickly shut down by Sam who announces, “This is my brother and his name is Jessica.”

One of the positive moments that made me tear up was when the coach came around to the house. At this stage, it’s early in the book, and Sam hadn’t cut off Jason’s hair.

Unannounced, the soccer coach arrives to discuss rumours regarding Jason to his parents. Everyone is on edge to hear what the coach will say.

He’s worried that Jason will quit the team. But what about the other rumours? He doesn’t care about his gender, because Jason is so good, that she – he – whatever, must keep playing. Genders dumb, football is where it’s at – it’s what’s important.

The interaction is set up to be awkward, uncomfortable, a scary experience. Of all people to come forward with transphobia and deny Jason the opportunity to participate in sport, it would make sense that it be the coach. But he doesn’t care about letters from parents, he accepts Jason as he is.

Again, having such a positive person is amazing to see. We’ve witnessed recently an American athlete being banned from competing as a woman because of the hormones she takes.

Another hot topic at the moment is what bathroom trans people use. This was also addressed by Jason saying he uses the disabled bathroom because he can’t use the girls and he doesn’t feel comfortable going to the men’s. He brings up his first memory – being forced to use the boys toilets and denied entrance to the girls.

This book was excellent as a way to speak to people of all ages. The topic of gender was broached well for young people, young adults, and adults. It talked about the complex issues surrounding it, acceptance, and difficulties, while also being an easy, upbeat read.

I would recommend this book for anyone, literally anyone. It provides a unique perspective and story, while being informative to people of all ages and genders. I can easily see this book being stocked in all libraries, being recommended to students facing similar situations, and ultimately being a book talked about for years to come.


Before I knew what had been going on behind the scenes, I would say absolutely read this book. Now, I would say consider it, but be aware of the transphobia. Don’t use this as a source of what it’s like to be transgender, and take what you read with a grain of salt.

This is a novel to be analytical about.

‘After’ – Movie Review – Spoilers

I saw After (2019) at the request of a friend. I’m not normally into romance movies, as I feel they’re often quite trope-y and very heterosexual. Nonetheless, I entered the movie with little to no information about it and with no expectations of what the film was about.

Directed by Jenny Gage, this movie is based off a book of the same name by Anna Todd. The book was initially released on the writing site Wattpad, before being picked up by a publisher. It was also originally written as a One Direction fan fiction, not unlike Fifty Shades of Grey. Source.

The film follows Tessa Young, an 18 year old starting college in America. She’s portrayed as a conservative, shy young woman, who has big plans to study and pursue her education.
As she moves onto campus with the assistance of her mum and boyfriend Noah, Tessa meets Steph, her roommate, and her girlfriend Tristan. They’re both seniors, party, and have decorated the room with a dark, edge aesthetic.
Tessa’s mum is upset at the situation, thinking Steph and Tristan will be bad influences, but Tessa assures her that nothing will distract her from studying.
Through Steph and Tristan, she meets Molly, Jace, Zed, and “bad boy” Hardin Scott. At her first class, Tessa meets Landon, and they become friends, however he’s often rarely on screen.
Tessa meets Hardin when she comes back to the room after bathing and finds him sitting there alone. He is a traditionally attractive white man with a British accent, his dad the only other character with a non-American accent. They vaguely talk about books, before he leaves.
After inviting her to a few parties, Steph finally manages to convince Tessa to join them at one. A small group play truth or dare, and Tessa is dared to kiss Hardin. She refuses because she has a boyfriend and leaves.

From there, the plot follows Tessa’s relationship with Hardin, involving his fathers wedding, them moving into an apartment, and Tessa losing her relationship with her boyfriend and mother.
It comes to a head when it’s revealed by Molly that Hardin initiated a relationship with Tessa because of a dare from the party, in which he would make her fall in love with him and then break up with her. However, she is very quick to forgive him, and then the story ends.

Even from the start, the storyline felt like something from “Episodes”, an interactive story app, often with cliche story lines, or a Wattpad novel written by a high schooler. Many aspects of the story line felt unrealistic, ridiculous, and at stages very dangerous.

The film does its best to pose as a romance story, however its one of tragedy. While Hardin is portrayed as a “bad boy”, he’s just a rich privileged white boy who acts like a dick, and throws up major red flags.

TV Tropes defines the “bad boy” trope as, “… a mystery waiting to be solved; the Troubled, but Cute youth with a tragic past is a woobie needing comfort; he’s tough enough to be a girl’s protector, but vulnerable enough to need her as well.”
When I hear “bad boy”, I tend to think of Sean Cameron from Degrassi: The Next Generation, a bad boy from a low socioeconomic background and hard upbringing, who is kind to the people close to him, but tough to the world.
In my opinion, Hardin doesn’t fit into the idea of a bad boy. At one point, his “tragic past” is brought up, where his father used to be a drunk and his shenanigans ended up with an enemy killing his wife, and Hardin’s mother. Eventually, although not really explained, his father ended up moving to America, brought Hardin with him, met a woman, Landon’s mum, and is the head of the university, or chancellor, or something.
This is brought up after Hardin trashed the house because his dad got engaged, which brings us to the next point.

There were so many red flags coming up, and for someone who seemed to have her head screwed on tight, Tessa should never have dated him, let alone spend time with him. There were many instances where Hardin did or said things that made me concerned for Tessa’s wellbeing. One of them was when Landon called Tessa to come over because of an emergency. She arrives at the house to find it trashed, and Landon picking up the pieces. Hardin had gotten into a rage and thrown vases, chairs, etc around, leaving a mess, before going outside and drinking from a bottle right next to the pool.
Tessa goes outside to speak to Hardin, and he talks to her in a very aggressive manner. He holds out the bottle towards her and drops it, glass and alcohol going all around. Tessa reaches down and starts to clean up the glass, but cuts herself. Hardin stops her, and takes her away to clean her wound.
From his destructive aggressive outburst, and how non-apologetic Hardin is towards it, it’s clear that this is part of who he is, and should be a concern for Tessa. However, she doesn’t seem to think anything on it.

The timeline of the whole story is very vague. There is little to no indication of how much time passes throughout the entire film.
At one stage, Tessa’s mum comes to visit and walks in on her getting frisky with Hardin. Infuriated, Tessa is given an ultimatum – break up with him, or be cut off financially. Tessa calls her mum out for planning out her life, although little to no evidence is given in the film, and decides to stay with Hardin. Shortly after, he produces a key for an apartment he’s house sitting for the year, and tells her they can both live there, so they move in together.

While the beginning of the film is Tessa starting university, the end is her receiving marks back for an essay. It’s not clear if this is second semester, or she’s still in first. The timeline is very hazy. The existing concern for Tessa is added by this haziness, as it feels like it could fit into a week, a month, or a semester.

Tessa continues to be isolated from her family and friends. Her only regular friend, who is rarely shown, is Landon, who is related to Hardin by marriage. At the end, Steph says Tessa hasn’t seen her since she moved out, and god knows how long that’s been. Her only family is her mother, who she ends up not speaking to for most of the film, and she cheats on her boyfriend.

At the end of the film, Tessa and Hardin aren’t talking, since it’s revealed the relationship was part of a dare. One of Tessa’s teachers gives her Hardin’s essay, because while it was for the class, it was for Tessa? And she reads it, it’s basically an apology, she forgives him, and finds him to get together.

My friend said she enjoyed it, but for me, I sat in the theatre in horror for most of the time, wondering how Tessa could allow herself to keep going with this toxic relationship.

If I had the choice of retaining my memory of the movie, or have it removed from my brain forever, I would opt for the latter. I felt completely unsatisfied from the movie, and won’t be talking to my friend anymore.

For plot, out of 5, I would give it a one. It was consistent, at least, and there was a vague grasp of what the characters are like.

Would I recommend? NO!

MasterChef Aus S11 – Rant

While I’ve enjoyed a lot of MasterChef Australia this season, there are a few things that have really irked me. This is going to be long.

These are all things that have stood out to me. I’m open to discussion on this, and welcome comments.

Here are some of the things.

Obvious favouritism and subsequent exclusions

Tim

In the first episode, Tim was the first contestant to be tasted by the trio of judges and was first to receive an apron.

When Tim first walked in, George said he looked familiar, and then realised it’s because he “looks like Prince Harry”. Gaz didn’t see it, Matt just gave George a small nod.

Since then, NO-ONE has let it go! There have been so many ads with the one photoshop they did of Tim as Prince Harry.

The only thing Tim and Prince Harry have in common is they’re both ginger men.

The image they continue to use, and a video from the first episode.

There are a few contestants who continuously have long monologues, and Tim is one of them.

On the episode where Walleed was eliminated (addressed later), Tim was quite prominent and received the most airtime.

There was a lot of complaints from fans on Twitter about Tim getting back in. Here are some of the examples.

Of course, not everyone was mad, there were a few excited fans.

Since coming back, Tim hasn’t done anything remarkable or of note.

Abbey

Another MasterChef favourite was Abbey. I was interested in her from the beginning as I thought her history in cooking could be interesting. She provided nonstop monologuing, and it got to the point where I was no longer interested in hearing from her at all. I wasn’t the only one who felt like that.

13 likes, 4 replies – each saying a variant of ‘Yes!!’

Someone said to me they wouldn’t be surprised if MasterChef managed to get her back in the contest, just like they did with Tim…

Exclusions

By giving Tim and Abbey a lot of air time and large monologues, the other contestants continue to have less air time. Twitter widely notices Ben’s lack of airtime, while I have noticed those of diverse backgrounds receive significantly less air time.

For me, Walleed is one of the contestants who received very little air time. Contestants have said that Walleed is a wonderful person, yet we rarely got the chance to learn more about him.

Tati is another contestant who is often without airtime. She continues to have a smile on her face and cooks well enough to be in the top ten, and yet, she’s also rarely gets to monologue.

Another person is Anushka. If she, Tati, Walleed, Ben, and several other contestants were characters on a non-reality TV show, they’d be the minor/supporting characters. It’s for this reason, among others, that I tend to focus more on them in my recaps. The specific section on Anushka’s glasses isn’t just because it’s fun to focus on something that isn’t food.

Walleed’s elimination

The way Walleed’s elimination was handled made me really upset.

Here’s the standard elimination format for this season:

  1. Judges reveal who is safe.
  2. Loser is told why they’re leaving.
  3. Judges thank them for being in the contest, and talk about their highlights
  4. Montage of their food journey.
  5. Loser shakes the judges hands and hugs the other contestants
  6. Loser leaves the kitchen and gives a final wave to everyone before they go.
  7. Loser gets their Where Are They Now?
  8. Judges leave the contestants with one last thing.
  9. End.

Here’s Walleed’s elimination:

  1. Judges reveal who is safe.
  2. Walleed is told why he’s leaving.
  3. Judges tell him that he can win his spot back.
  4. Other losers come into the kitchen.
  5. Redemption challenge commences.
  6. Tim is told he’s back in.
  7. Walleed is told he’s permanently out.
  8. Judges say they’ll see everyone tomorrow.
  9. Current contestants hug the former contestants and hug Tim.
  10. Walleed gets hugs.
  11. Walleed is one of the first contestants to walk out the door, gives a wave back as he does.
  12. Walleed’s Where Are They Now?
  13. Judges leave the contestants with one last thing.
  14. End.

The main distinction between the two is the lack of Walleed time. He didn’t get the chance (on camera, at least) to have a moment with the judges. Walleed didn’t get a montage of his time, and the judges didn’t say anything about his food while he’s been there. Walleed didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to the contestants as the only one walking out of the kitchen that day.

Regardless of the contestant who would have been eliminated that night, I would have been annoyed that they didn’t get their chance. I’m especially salty about Walleed, as he had such limited air time, and it was an excuse to push him out without acknowledging his achievements, and get back their favourite.

The picnic at Hanging Rock challenge

Simon

During this challenge, Anushka was appointed captain. This is the first time that Anushka had a leadership position in the contest.

For a lot of these contestants, if not all, they’ve all done what is expected. Many of the contestants have put off following their passion of cooking, whether by having a career in a path that isn’t creative and/or has nothing to do with cooking, or by raising children.
Without this to sound like shade, they’re generally not very assertive people or show a lot of leadership qualities. When the contestants are put in the leadership position, they’ll often have some difficulties.
Walleed struggled in the Queensland team challenge, and Matt Sinclair gave him a lot of advice and assistance. By the end, he was going really well, and the trio of judges commended him for the result.

Anushka wasn’t given any assistance, as far as we saw, in being a leader. At one point, Simon decided it was his job to take over as the leader.
At the time, I hadn’t really seen what was going on, I often fade out a bit during the montages, but Gaz threw some shade at Anushka, saying something along the lines of, “Finally – a leader.”
The judges started to treat him as though he as the captain, and didn’t offer Anushka any assistance whatsoever in running a team.

At one stage, Tati asks where the bread is.

“The bread is there, in the open your eyes section,” Simon said, pointing at the shelves of pots and pans.

Right at the top, higher than Tati, was the bread. There was no way she would have been able to reach that, and at that height, it’s hard to expect her to have seen it.

Gaz was in the vicinity and laughed and praised the comment.

Something I love about MasterChef is how friendly the contestants are with one another. They form friendships and there’s not drama or backstabbing. They’re just here to pursue their passion.

Hearing this from Simon is disappointing, and hearing Gaz almost encourage it makes it worse. It’s not in the spirit of the other contestants, and doesn’t fit in the feel of the series.

It’s almost as though he as trying to challenge a form of Gordon Ramsey – the one dealing with incompetent “professionals”. But none of these contestants are professionals. Anushka and Tati are 49 year old women who are finally taking a risk and following their food passion.
Simon’s not a professional, and he’s often middle of the pack, so…

The Judges

Picnic at Hanging Rock Challenge

When the judges were walking around and giving advice, they advise the red team to make sure their frittata’s aren’t bland and is flavourful.

Tati was cooking this one, and she really took this on board, making sure it had a lot of flavours.
The criticism the judges had on the frittata was the amount of flavour. They said there was too much. It would be interesting to hear what they would have said about the frittata if they hadn’t given Tati and Anushka this advice.

Misogyny?

During the Sweet Week elimination challenge, in which almost every contestant bar 3 competed, Derek was one of the first to be tasted.

He was asked if he was nervous about the challenge, and he confirmed that he is. Gaz went on to tell him that he doesn’t need to be worried, that he’s a great cook and he deserves the spot he has.

The editing of the pre-tastings conversation between the judges and Anushka and Tati made Gaz out to seem a bit misogynistic. They were asked if they were nervous and they responded similar to Derek. Instead of encouraging them or giving them words of advice, Gaz basically said, “Well, we’ll see how you do.”

Whether or not further discussion took place, the audience was only given this small sample in which they can be seen as incompetent and less deserving of their place in the contest than other contestants.

Coupled with what happened in the Picnic at Hanging Rock challenge, it’s easy to view some of Gaz’ comments as misogynistic.

Of course, I am not calling Gaz misogynistic. I believe it’s a matter of who the favourites are coupled with editing that makes the producer/judge favourites the most palatable for viewers.

Regardless, the show has a certain lack of inequality going on that’s not immediately obvious in most cases.

Indigenous ingredient challenge

This challenge sparked controversy on Twitter, and was something I discussed with family who watch the show.

In a wild choice, MasterChef featured a challenge where Indigenous ingredients were the hero of the dish. The guest chef for this challenge was an expert in the ingredients, however no Indigenous people were involved in the challenge, as far as the viewer is aware. I say this in that the chef was Scottish, and was the only person talking to the contestants about the flavours.

It was hard to speculate on valid reasons why an Indigenous person wasn’t involved, not even to stand with the guest chef and discuss the ingredients with the contestants.

Really, they wouldn’t need to be a chef, even an elder of the local people, or just a local Indigenous person. With the cooking shows on NITV, it’s not as though it would be hard to find an Indigenous Australian chef. A quick google search shows several Indigenous chefs right off the bat.

It was a poor choice to not have an Indigenous voice on a cooking show using Indigenous ingredients. MasterChef is one of the biggest cooking competitions in Australia, and it feels impossible that they were unable to find a single Indigenous person who could have talked about the ingredients.

Sandeep

The major thing regarding Sandeep that irked me was the way he was treated when he had his back injury, and the subsequent treatment before he was eliminated.

Missed the Sandeep rant? Read it here.

Kyle

The backstory for Kyle was that his partner was at home looking after their toddler son while being pregnant with twins.

This really gave me the shits.

Majority of the women, including those who were at the first episode, had put their passion of cooking on hold so as to raise their kids and look after their families.

For the most part, Kyle is already working in hospitality, working as a “brewery sales manager”. He wants to open a microbrewery where people can get food with their beer.
This just feels like one of those career ventures that doesn’t necessarily require MasterChef, more that requires him going to cooking classes or doing some work experience, or opening his own microbrewery and just doing it anyway, maybe hiring a chef.

What really shit me was leaving his heavily pregnant partner. He decided NOW was the time to apply to MasterChef. He continuously said that he was risking not being there for his twins being born, and acknowledged he could be missing a lot.

If that was my partner, I would be so mad. This is a goal that could be put off a year or two, once the kids are born, and there’s a support network set up in a way that it’s feasible to go away for however long to pursue this passion.

Let’s cast our mind back to the first episode. Gina, a 61 year old woman, said being a mother and grandmother is her greatest achievement. She had put off cooking because her husband wasn’t supportive at all. She’d filled in the paperwork to be a chef, but never submitted it because he didn’t want her to.

It’s funny to see such a stark difference in contestant morals. Gina did what was best for her family. Kyle did whatever he wanted, and left his pregnant partner at home with he chance he wouldn’t be back in time for the birth.

But don’t worry. When he was eliminated, his Where Are They Now? revealed he managed to get home in time for his twin daughter’s birth.


To catch up on any MasterChef eps you’ve missed, head over to southhemitv.com. If you want to watch The Super Switch, southhemitv.com also has you covered, and I’ve got the recaps here.