Movie Review: ‘Wonder’ (2017)

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Today I accompanied my school’s Middle Year students on a trip to the cinema to see ‘Wonder’, a new film based on the bestselling book by the same name about a boy who has facial differences.Jacob Tremblay plays August Pullman, alongside Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson who play his parents. The stage is set when the Pullmans decide that Auggie should start 5th Grade in a mainstream school, having been homeschooled by his mother until then. Mandy Patinkin plays a very wise and empathetic school Principal, Mr Tushman.

What a sad world we live in when a kid gets less attention walking through the city or a park wearing a space helmet than he does when wearing his own face. It’s human nature, I know, but that doesn’t make it okay. This film challenges that “default setting” in a very compelling way.

Auggie’s teacher, Mr Brown, challenges the kids to ask themselves: What sort of person am I?
This movie challenges every audience member to ask themselves the same question. How do I deal with difference? What does my face tell them? What kind of friend am I? What monuments do my deeds leave?

The audience feels sympathetic to Auggie long before they see his face. When he says, “I know I’ll never be an ordinary kid ordinary kids don’t make others run away from playgrounds” it’s like a punch in the stomach that leaves you winded.

As the movie rolls on, we also see that the “regular” kids like Auggie’s sister, Via, have their own challenges with acceptance and friendship, even without the extra challenges that some kids face. Over and over, this film reminds me again just how cruel kids— and people in general— can be, in so many ways.

The journey of discovering who is real and who is not is often painful and traumatic. Together, Auggie and Via realise that they are each other’s best friends, and lean to rely on each other for the support and love that they need to get through each day.

The development of genuine friendship reminds us that looking past the surface to really see someone is what makes a crucial difference to anyone, but especially those who are so aware of that surface. There is also a painful reminder that even the nice kids can make mistakes when they focus on appearances instead of who someone really is.

This movie delivers so many powerful lessons about accepting others and even more about accepting ourselves. In both cases, we need to learn to live according to the precept established by Mr Brown in Auggie’s first lesson in 5th Grade: “When you have.a choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

It sounds simple— perhaps too simple. But is it?

The hardest part may be in finding the willingness to step out of our comfort zones and open our own minds to each other and the possibilities that our differences bring.

Everyone old enough to understand the difference between kindness and judgement should see this film.

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RIP George Michael et al 2016

“RIP George Michael,
Another favourite gone…”

RIP George Michael,
Another favourite gone.
First Bowie, then Prince and Rickman
And then it was Leonard Cohen.
But Donald Trump is alive and well –
What drug has this year been on?

2016 – Turning Over a New Leaf

There’s no denying that in many, many ways, 2016 has been a rough year.

People around the world mourn leaders and entertainers, and there seem to be plenty of those that have left us this year. David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Leonard Cohen…just to name a few. And I’m not even going to start talking about politics – nope, I’m leaving that one right alone.

I also know a lot of people personally who are struggling with illness, pain, grief, money problems, relationship issues. I know those things happen every year, to everyone at some point.

Personally, my year has had very few highlights.

One of those highlights was the launch of my book, ‘Leaf’, in June. That was the one positive event in a very dark patch of grief and sorrow like I have never experienced before.  Thankfully, my launch of ‘New Horizons’ ten days ago was plagued only by end-of-year teacher fatigue, so it was a much more enjoyable event.

Imagine my surprise when this little poetry book made it onto a number of selected reading lists on Goodreads! I’m so excited that people are reading and enjoying my work, and that it’s starting to get some attention.

If you’re on Goodreads, check out ‘Leaf’ on these lists:

Favourite Books That Released in 2016
Best Indie Books 2016/2017
Beautifully Written
Poetry

Wow!  I’m humbled that ‘Leaf’ is in very fine company, and not even last. ‘New Horizons’ is also on those first two lists, which is even better!

If you love reading, and you’re not on Goodreads… let me recommend it.
It’s a great place to find new books, network with other readers, and connect with writers whose work you enjoy.

 

 

Not a bad night’s work!

Tonight I launched my new book of short stories, ‘New Horizons’ into the largely unsuspecting literary world and, at the same time, won first prize  in a poetry contest at AllPoetry for my poem ‘Fusion’, based on Emily Bronte’s classic novel, ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Multitasking at its finest, perhaps!

‘New Horizons’ has also received some rather lovely reviews today.
It is rather nice to feel so affirmed as a writer. I think I’ll keep going.

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Shiva XIV – The Riddle of the Gods by Lyra Shanti

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Shiva XIV  Synopsis

The war for Deius begins, but first, the battle for Sirin must be fought.

In this third and action-packed installment of Shiva XIV, Ayn yearns for freedom while Srah and Axis find their true home. All the while, Yol Notama brings The Tah to the edge of madness!

Fates will be decided and old Gods will awaken as the most ancient of riddles is finally answered.

About Lyra Shanti
Lyra is a novelist, singer-songwriter, poet,
and playwright.  Havilyrang grown up in Bellingham, Washington, Lyra is a nature and animal lover with a ferocious love of epic stories of every genre, but especially sci-fi and fantasy. 
 
At first, Lyra was drawn to writing songs, even at the tender age of 7 years old. Then, it was poetry, play-writing, and eventually, musicals. It wasn’t until much later that Lyra began writing novels, but between Lyra’s
Shiva XIV series and the many stories yet to
come, Lyra’s dedication to story telling has
only just begun.


Where To Buy Shiva XIV The Riddle of The Gods
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Lyra’s book Giveaway

For the latest news and possible giveaways please visit the Facebook launch event page for the book     https://www.facebook.com/events/1251196588275748/

 
My Shiva XIV The Riddle of The Gods Giveaway

Lyra has very kindly given me an ebook copy of the Shiva XIV The Riddle of The Gods to give away to one of my readers.  All you need to do to enter the giveaway is leave a comment on this blog post. The giveaway will close at midnight, November 14 EST, when the winner will be chosen at random.
 
Congratulations Lyra

I’m honoured to be part of the launch team for Shiva XIV The Riddle of The Gods and wish both you and the book every success.

An Armchair Spectator’s Perspective.

I love watching the Olympics on TV. The achievements of the competitors are amazing, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be part of the atmosphere there with the cheering, whistling, and excitement of each event.

I am getting increasingly frustrated with the TV and radio commentators, though. I don’t know what it’s like in other nations, but the Australian media seem to be frequently making remarks about our competitors not winning medals when they were “expected to”, with the implication that they’re letting us down somehow.

Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.
Whose expectations and assumptions are we working on?
Most certainly, not mine.

I don’t think the competitors have those expectations, either. I have no doubt they have hopes and aspirations as they pursue their dreams of victory and success. They put everything into it that they can. Nobody goes in half-arsed and decides while competing that it doesn’t matter so much.

It’s important to remember that every single one of them is a champion for just getting there. They’ve beaten a bunch of other competitors who wanted to be there too. They’ve achieved personal bests and performed feats that are pretty much impossible for most of us ordinary folk.

Our commentators aren’t doing anyone any favours by adding more pressure with the weight of comments that imply that someone was expected to win, and didn’t. Going into the Olympics, there were reports of Australia hoping for a certain number of medals, particularly in certain events. It wasn’t the athletes or swimmers who expressed those goals, it was the media. And how the people “back home” interpret the results is strongly influenced by the ways in which the events and results are reported on and discussed in the media.

It’s easy to want to win everything. It’s easy to consider our own nation a “favourite” among others. We need to keep an open mind, though, and remember that everyone in other countries has the same hopes as we do for our competitors. Just because someone holds a world record doesn’t give them any entitlement to win that event again.  As Australian swimmer Bronte Barratt said on Thursday before the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, “As we’ve proven many times before, if you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance, so we’ve got a great chance.”  She’s absolutely right. Everyone has an equal chance once they make the final.

As for the competitors, they want to do their best. Of course they’d love to win, and they’ll be disappointed when they don’t. But to be there is a victory in itself, and we shouldn’t let any commentator diminish that. And when the race is over, we should be praising and encouraging, not criticising.

 

That’s New. 

So, today I’ve walked into my classroom to be greeted  by a student with “Happy B-dizzle!”

“Sorrypardonwhat?” I asked.

“Happy B-dizzle!” She repeated.

“Is that even a thing?” I wondered aloud. 

“It is now!” asserted another student. 
You know, it’s a very caring student that gives her English teacher a brand-newish word for her birthday. 

So… Happy B-dizzle to me, I guess.

It’s here!

My book has arrived! It’s real! It’s no longer a dream!

My book, ‘Leaf’, has arrived.

It’s real. It’s no longer a dream.

If you’d like to order a copy, you can get it via Amazon or Xlibris online stores, or you can get it as an e-book.

If you live in Australia, you can also order one directly from me – I’ll even sign it for you – for $20AU +9 postage.

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You bet!

Am I tired of seeing ads for betting on sporting events every time I turn the TV on to watch the tennis, football, or any other kind of sporting event?  You bet.
Does it make me angry? You bet.

It’s not just that I am completely, totally, and irrevocably uninterested in gambling. Frankly, I fear for a society that cannot enjoy sporting competitions without feeling the need to place a bet on the outcome.
I fear for a society which is so willing to both promote and engage in an activity which brings so much grief to so many of its people.

I’m angry at the way in which gambling is promoted when people are losing homes, families, jobs, and relationships because of their gambling addictions.
Sure, it’s not compulsory. Nobody makes them gamble. But they do, and it causes incredible pain and destruction in their lives.
The ads on TV that offer help for gambling addicts are vastly outnumbered by the ads for gambling opportunities.

I’m angry at the way gambling is normalised in the minds of our children and young people.  I can’t watch a game of football or tennis, or any prime time TV show, without seeing ads for online betting, mobile phone apps for betting, or some kind of lottery. This presents a very clear and dangerous message to our youth: gambling is fun, gambling is fine, and it will solve all your money problems.  Obviously, that isn’t true, but it’s hard to demonstrate that to a 13 year old.

I’m angry at the greed of the companies that promote gambling, and are more than happy to take money from those who can’t afford it to further line their already luxuriously-lined pockets.
And I’m angry at the government for allowing this to happen, simply because they make good revenue on the taxes and fees that are paid.

So, no. I won’t be putting a bet on my favourite player or team. I won’t be playing the pokies when I go to a pub or club for dinner. And I will explain the dangers of gambling, and the lies of the advertising that promotes it, to my 13 year old and my students in the hope of keeping them from getting sucked into the vortex of the gambling world.

You can bet on that.