Why This Australian Enjoys Halloween

As an Australian, I get very mixed responses when I tell people I enjoy Halloween. 

Some see it as an opportunity for the community to share in something fun. In my town, the local Scout group organises the trick or treating so that the kids are supervised. Anyone wanting the kids to visit them for treats must be registered and checked out first. One of the local cafes sets up a House of Horror for everyone to enjoy, free of charge, and various other businesses run promotions. 

Most Aussies, however, respond with something like “Ugh, It’s so American!” or “It’s just more commercialism!” 

While it’s true that Halloween hasn’t historically been a big part of our culture in Australia, most are surprised to discover it’s not an American thing at all. It actually originated as a Celtic celebration of Samhain in Ireland, and from there spread to Scotland, Wales, England and France. In a strange coincidence, the British who landed in Australia in 1788 thinking they owned the place also originated in those places, so there’s that. 

My first real experience of celebrating and embracing Halloween was in Canada, where it was all about community and celebrating the season, rather than commercial opportunism. It was wonderful. People decorated their homes and yards as a sign to kids that they were welcome to visit on their trick or treating routes. People in the streets wished each other a happy Halloween. We visited an apple orchard that offered hayrides and a corn maze, in addition to picking your own apples and enjoying the fare of the kitchen. October was a time of festivity and community amidst the changing of the season and the anticipation of winter’s arrival, made all the more cheerful by the brightness of pumpkins decorating shops, streets, gateposts, homes, and anywhere else people chose to put them. 

Sure, the shops sold more chocolates and toys designed to give to kids who came knocking. But why can’t that be seen as a boost to the economy, rather than soulless exploitation of shoppers? If people don’t want to join in the celebration, they are not obligated to do or buy anything at all. 

It is fair to say, though, that the growing popularity of Halloween in Australia is the result of the predominance of American TV and movies on Australian screens. People can complain about Halloween all they like, but until they’re willing to stop watching all the American shows and films they tune into religiously each week, or binge watch on weekends, it’s quite a hypocritical objection to raise. You can’t complain about your neighbour’s kids dressing up to go trick or treating if you can’t pause the latest episode of ’The Haunting of Hill House’ or ‘Riverdale’ to answer the door. 

Ultimately, people can make their own choices. There’s no obligation to join in, but there’s also no need to be supercilious about it. 

I’ll be celebrating Spooky Season all month, and joining in the Halloween festivities in my town again this year.  And I’ll be loving every moment of it. 

Do I Owe My Love of the Gothic and Macabre to My Childhood TV Habits?

I have always credited The Addams Family and The Munsters with feeding, if not inspiring, my early love of the Gothic and the macabre, but I never really thought about how much Scooby Doo fit that same genre in so many ways until I read this great article on CrimeReads.

I was certainly watching those things on TV before I was reading anything Gothic. I think my first Gothic read was Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ when I was maybe 9 or 10.  

Scooby Doo was always one of the cartoons I enjoyed, and I still say “Rut Roh!” in my Scooby voice when I have a feeling things are about to go badly. 

I guess it’s fair to say that some of the TV I watched definitely did normalise the Gothic for me during my childhood, and opened me up to the darker side of storytelling. 

I hope you find this article as interesting and enlightening as I did. 

How Scooby Doo Revived Gothic Storytelling for Generations of Kids

International Talk Like A Pirate Day

I love International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

It’s just fun.

It can also be quite cathartic.
Let’s be honest, what day can’t be improved by a good “Arrrrrgh!” or two?
If people annoy you, you can threaten to make them walk the plank, or call them lily livered landlubbers, and nobody takes offence.

I grew up enjoying books like Treasure Island and Kidnapped!, and still enjoy a good, old-fashioned pirate story, so I thought I would share Book Squirrel’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day Book Recommendations.

Book Squirrel

In honour of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, here are three great pirate tales for your reading pleasure.

Fallen Into Bad CompaNy’ by Kayla Jindrich

Matthew wants nothing more than to escape from his past, but that hardly seems possible with his new apprentice. While William might be Matthew’s chance at redemption, an opportunity to pay for his mistakes, William also has a reckless streak that could ruin the new life that Matthew has built for himself. Either Matthew will pull William from piracy, or William will drag Matthew back into the dangerous world that they both come from.

Read my book review of ‘Fallen Into Bad Company’ here.

Ghosts of the Sea Moon’ by A.F. Stewart

In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World…

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Dear Internet: That Quote You Love? It’s Not By Shakespeare.

I wrote a few weeks back about the things I enjoy , and the things I don’t enjoy so much, about Pinterest

Since then, I’ve noticed one really annoying thing when I’ve been scrolling through my feed. It’s not actually the fault of Pinterest, but it is there that I am continually reminded of a matter that really needs to be corrected.

There’s a super popular quote that keeps coming up on my feed because Pinterest knows I love Shakespeare. It’s all over the internet, and it seems every second person on Pinterest is sharing it. 

This quote is the darling of the Internet. But it’s not by Shakespeare.

The problem is, while it sounds like something Shakespeare might have written, those lines do not appear anywhere in the plays or poetry of the Bard… not even close, actually.

The quote is a translation from an Italian opera by Arrigo Boito titled ‘Falstaff’, based on one of Shakespeare’s plays, and which uses a number of lines from several other plays, too. Given that Boito borrowed from the Bard quite freely, it’s not really surprising that other lines from the libretto have been wrongly attributed back to Shakespeare. Some might suggest it’s karma, but it’s really just careless.

I’m more than happy for people to continue posting pretty images of the quote, but it would be great to see them attributed to the right person.  

Too much to hope for?
Yeah… it probably is. 

‘The Lion King’ and ‘Hamlet’: A Question of Life or Death

‘The Lion King’ is on TV tonight and, of course, I’m watching it. I’m singing the songs. I’m totally loving it. If anything is able to make me turn the TV on, it’s going to be a musical. 

And Facebook is alive with people proclaiming that it’s basically ‘Hamlet’. 

Well, no. It’s basically not. 
And I’m not even sorry for any disappointment that may cause. 

Anyone who believes the two stories are the same either pays too much attention to social media and the popular clickbait theories that abound there, or they have not paid sufficient attention to ‘Hamlet’ at all. 

Scar is certainly as evil as Claudius. He’s certainly interested in getting rid of his brother and his nephew and taking over the kingdom, and takes full advantage when Mufasa dies in a situation that he has engineered. 

That’s really where the similarities end. 

In fact, it’s really only a very tenuous connection. Scar is by no means the only brother of a king ever to aspire to the throne through nefarious means, so that’s hardly a convincing argument for a direct correlation between the two texts.  You could use the same argument to suggest that ‘The Lion King’ is based on ‘Richard III’, which it clearly is not.

Furthermore, Sarabi – Simba’s mother – does not enter into a relationship with Scar. The fact that his mother married Claudius, his father’s brother and murderer, is the root cause of much of Hamlet’s angst and misery.  Given that this is one of the crucial elements of  the play, and there is zero correlation in ‘The Lion King’, that’s fairly conclusive evidence that the two are not the same story. 

Sure, the ghosts of the dead fathers both appear and speak to their sons. However, they hardly communicate the same thing, and it’s at a very different stage of the plot. Mufasa tells Simba to grow up and retake his kingdom while Hamlet’s father urges him to get revenge on his brother for murdering him and taking not only his kingdom, but also his wife. “Remember who you are” is a very different message from “Revenge!”

Simba is nothing like Hamlet in character, other than being the son of the dead king. Simba is naturally optimistic, fun-loving and adventurous. Simba runs away thinking he’s responsible for his father’s death. Morose and pessimistic, Hamlet hangs around the castle, feigning madness and overthinking everything to the point where his agonising over what to do actually prevents him from doing anything much at all. 

The correlations among the minor characters are, similarly, only superficial. 

While both Simba and Hamlet have two friends, Timon and Pumbaa are not anything like Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.  Timon and Pumbaa rescue Simba and remain his friends throughout the story. Hamlet’s friends are quite willing to sell him out at Claudius’ bidding, and there is nothing loyal or supportive about them. 

Both Simba and Hamlet have girlfriends, but Nala doesn’t go mad and drown herself in a river. 

Zasu and Polonius both talk way too much, but that’s about the only similarity between them. 

In fact, that’s the difference between the two in a nutshell: ’The Lion King’ is life-affirming and positive.    In direct contrast to ‘hakuna matata’, there is no ‘problem free philosophy” in Hamlet, a play that philosophises about death and suicide and which finishes with the main characters and many of the minor ones dead. 

So, there you have it. The difference between ’The Lion King’ and ‘Hamlet’ is a matter of life or death.  The basic premises are polar opposites, so the two cannot possibly be the same story.

Why a Heart is Better than a Thumbs Up

In the ever-evolving state of affairs that is the Facebook algorithm, there is one recent change that is actually quite easy to work with. Facebook now places more value on the other reactions than it does on the standard  “thumbs up” or “like”. 

I can understand why.
It takes just a little more effort, so it is easy to see why it might be interpreted as a more thoughtful and deliberate response to a post than simply hitting the default. 

It’s all part of their reported change of focus from content to engagement. It may be that this is a way to still be able to increase the reach of our posts, and boost our audience engagement at the same time. 

So, I’m trying to respond accordingly: 

  • I’m using the heart and surprised “wow” face more. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but for something so simple, it’s worth a try. 
  • I’m responding to the posts I make via my pages and groups with those “power responses” using my personal account in the interests of pushing my posts to gain more reach and engagement. 
  • I’m trying to respond with more comments, even if it’s just an emoji or a gif, in addition to using one of the response buttons. Obviously, I can’t do this for every post because I don’t want to spend my entire life on Facebook. I may have to be choosy, but there are posts out there that deserve a little extra love, so I’ll try to give it to them. 
  • I will still use the “thumbs up” to acknowledge posts. I don’t want to stop using it altogether, because then the others will become the default, and everything will undergo another adjustment. 


It’s all positive interaction and engagement, so it can’t hurt. 

Hopefully, it will be contagious. If people see more hearts and wow faces, and additional comments, they might start using them too! 

My Least Favourite Shakespeare Play

The reference to Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in the title of ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ is blatantly obvious. 

The irony is that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably my least favourite play from among Shakespeare’s works. As I often explain to my students who think it’s romantic and all about love, it’s really not. It’s a tragedy that demonstrates what happens when people do stupid things on impulse and don’t stop to think about the consequences of their actions.

They’re teenagers. They met on Sunday, and by Thursday, they’re dead.

And, as Shakespeare points out in the epilogue, they end up that way because their families both prioritise their stupid feud over the happiness and the future of their children.  How much more like a badly plotted teenage soap opera could it be?

It’s more of an anti-Romance, if you ask me. They’re not in love, they’re infatuated. Romeo really is quite an idiot, and as for fickle… how quickly did he forget his passion for Rosaline the moment he met Juliet? If you ask me, Rosaline dodged a bullet – or a dagger, or a vial of poison, there. 

To be fair, the fault isn’t Shakespeare’s. He based his play on an old story that was very popular back in the day, which was a brilliant marketing move. The other factor that made his play such a hit was the beauty of the language with which it is written. There’s nothing at all wrong with the writing: it’s magnificent. Nothing can convince me otherwise.  If anyone could give a story about two silly teenagers from equally silly families another 600 years plus in terms of longevity, he was the man for the job.

So, is it odd that I’ve used ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as one of the starting points of my story? Not really, because I wanted my story to be something of an anti-Romance, too. 

‘A Rose By Any Other Name’ draws on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’ as starting points, then twists and tangles them together to create a mashup of the two stories with a very different ending. Romeo is still an idiot, it still ends in tragedy… but it’s a completely new story. It’s medieval fantasy, laced with faint traces of my subversive sense of humour. 

I like to think of it as the story that Shakespeare and the Brothers Grimm never told. 
But I bet if they’d thought of it, they would have. 

***

A Rose By Any Other Name is available for preorder.

Happy Easter!

However you celebrate, whatever you believe, I wish each of you a happy and blessed Easter Sunday, safety on the roads, and the very best in chocolate eggs and bunnies.

I’m away this weekend, enjoying time with my family and getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

We’ve taken off to Port Macdonnell, a little spot on the South Australian coast, for the long weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be making the most of some beautiful mild Autumn weather and seeing some new places and scenery.

As it is Easter Sunday, I thought I would share with you one of my favourite Easter songs. I grew up listening to the music of Keith Green, an enormously popular Christian singer and songwriter of the 1970s and 80s.

For your enjoyment, this is his Easter Song.

Bob Dylan and Poetry

Bob Dylan knows a thing or thirteen about poetry: that’s why he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.

Listening to his lyrics, there is no doubt of the poetic qualities of his writing. And in his own words, he considers himself a poet first and foremost.

Source: BrainyQuotes.com

Dylan’s songs became anthems of the 1960s before attaining legendary status in later decades. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Dylan’s words carry great meaning and importance.

Of all the protest songs of the 60s, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ is still one of my favourites. Enjoy.

Daniel Radcliffe and Poetry

Daniel Radcliffe is a man who obviously loves good poetry. This is an indication to me that he has good taste. In fact, in my mind it’s a genre recommending a person, instead of the other way around. 

Quote by Daniel Radcliffe: Good poetry has an amazing ability to be communicative before it's even understood. I get emotional just from the beauty of words.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=Daniel+Radcliffe+poetry
Source: BrainyQuotes.com Image by WordyNerdBird

He’s mentioned his love for poetry more than once. 

Quote: "As an actor, there is room for a certain amount of creativity, but you're always ultimately going to be saying somebody else's words. I don't think I'd have the stamina, skill or ability to write a novel, but I'd love to write short stories and poetry, because those are my two passions."
Source: BrainyQuotes.com Image by WordyNerdBird

While I’m thrilled to see that short stories and poetry are his two literary passions- they are, after all, my favourite forms of writing- I do dispute that writing a novel takes more stamina, skill or ability.  In fact, it’s a different set of skills and abilities, and using them requires as much stamina as writing a novel.

He is right, though, about the ability to use one’s own words to create and communicate meaning. It’s incredibly liberating and empowering.