Justin Cawthorne dot com

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November 10: Life

Tonight, for Friday Horror, we watched Life. Not the David Attenborough documentary series; rather, the Alien inspired sci-fi horror movie that came out earlier this year. It was a film I went to see at the cinema mere days after the collapse of my marriage, so I was interested to revisit it with a clear mind, as it were.

The story is fairly standard for the genre, and concerns a group of people who get completely fucked over by a parasite they allow into their midst.

Given my state of mind at the time, I was surprised how much of it I remembered. Then again, it’s got some pretty memorable scenes–a certain character’s death scene among them. It’s a film that doesn’t set out to do anything more than it says on the box, and I generally appreciate that in a film. Life knows that it’s basically doing a slightly fresh spin on Alien and doesn’t have any pretensions beyond that. It’s got a group of characters who need to die in creative ways; it’s got a sci-fi creature that needs to be at least be something a little bit different; and it needs to do something fun with the ending. It ticks all of those boxes with flying colours.

Yeah, that’s a mixed metaphor. What are you gonna do about it?

November 9: More dreams …

More dreams last night, and not good ones.

I dreamt that I went to see the new Han Solo movie (which isn’t even out yet). For some reason it looked very much like The Empire Strikes Back, and they’d gone with a digitally de-aged Harrison Ford as the star. These sort of choices are why I’m not a famous Hollywood director. Or, a Hollywood director at all …

Anyway, the film ends and it’s a MUCH longer film than I had anticipated because it’s already the evening and I’m late collecting my youngest son from school. I rush to my car, except my car isn’t anywhere to be found. I finally reason that it must have been towed away. I try to find a number to call, but I can’t find a number anywhere. And it doesn’t even matter because the phone app has completely vanished from my phone!

Not a cool dream!

November 8: Dreams (hopefully won’t come true)

I had a bunch of weirdass dreams last night that I blame partly on the heat and partly on watching Stranger Things right before bedtime. Apart from that, neither of them really made sense. All I know is that I woke up dead tired today with my head full of fuzz.

In the first dream, which I barely remember, I was in some sort of warehouse. Except this warehouse was in my actual house (so it was a house warehouse). I chanced upon some intruders so I called the police, who conveniently appeared instantly. However, the police decided to simply start shooting the intruders and it all went Reservoir Dogs very, very quickly.

In the second dream I was being kept prisoner in someone else’s house (no, I don’t know if they had a personal warehouse too). After many months I finally twigged that my captor left for work every day and it would be safe for me to climb out of the window and escape. I then wondered the streets in a state of shock until I chanced upon a convenient police station, into which I headed in order to report my lengthy ordeal. However, as soon as I started speaking, the officer on duty, apparently very moved by my plight, burst instantly into tears. The rest of the dream was taken up by me trying to plot the location of my former prison on Google Maps. Not with very much success …

November 7: Fries

Today the Elderbeast decided we should make french fries for dinner.

(Actually, he decided this yesterday, but I already had dinner sorted for yesterday, so we deferred his inspiration to today…)

So I found a basic recipe–for oven-baked ‘fries’, since I don’t do the deep fryer thing–I sliced the potatoes (which was much quicker and easier than I anticipated). Then the Elderbeast mixed them with the oil and seasoning, and painstakingly arranged them on the baking try. We put them in the oven, let the cooking science do its thing, and ended up with a tray of pretty awesome looking fries!

It’s not the most riveting story, but I’m sharing it because it’s a rare case of everything just going right. And going damn tasty, too …

November 6: Hey Google …

I bought a Google Home Mini last week. I’d been vaguely considering one, thinking that the kids would have a blast with it, which was of course the perfect excuse for me to buy one so I could fiddle around with it. A 20% off deal on eBay sealed the deal and in a matter of hours I had one in my clammy little hands.

It’s turned out to be a lot more useful than I thought. Not life-changing, and it certainly doesn’t do anything I couldn’t already do: it simply makes things easier.

For example, I watch a lot of stuff through my Chromecast. It’s awesome, but the one area it falls down (at least on iOS) is when you have to pause something. The process goes a little like this:

  • Unlock your phone
  • Find/open the Google Home app
  • Click the little icon to get to the screen that shows you what’s playing
  • Wait for the Google Home app to register that the Chromecast is playing something
  • Hit the pause button

It’s hardly laborious, but it takes a second or two. But now all I have to do is say this:

  • “Hey, Google – pause”

It’s a similar process for getting stuff playing through the Chromecast – which wasn’t especially hard to begin with. Whereas I’d previously open, say, the Netflix app, click the cast button, wait for it to connect, then start playing my chosen programme; now I can just say:

  • “Hey Google, play Star Trek Discovery [on Netflix] on Chromecast”

You can skip the “on Netflix” bit, since the Google Home will typically default to finding your programme on Netflix anyway. Another useful feature is that, although the Google Assistant can’t select specific episodes of TV shows (yet), Netflix will default to the latest unwatched episode. And if it gets it wrong a quick “Hey Google – next episode” will usually fix things.

I don’t have many other smart devices (yet), but I do have a Yeelight lightstrip that works through the wifi network, and has an ‘action’ available in the Google Home app. Once I’d set that up (which was easy), I was able to do things like:

  • “Hey Google, turn Yeelight lightstrip on”
  • Hey Google, change Yeelight lightstrip to green”

Even better was the realisation that, because I only have the one lighting device, I could just say things like:

  • “Hey Google, turn lights on”

Another area where the Google Home makes life a little easier is, perhaps not surprisingly, helping you search for things. For example, instead of going into the Youtube app and typing ‘Guardians Inferno’, then selecting the Guardians Inferno video and hitting play, I can just say:

  • “Hey Google, play Guardians Inferno on Youtube [on Chromecast]”

So, yeah, it doesn’t do anything I can’t do already, but it’s one of those things that just makes your life a few percent nicer. Plus, it’s pretty cool being able to turn lights on with your voice!

November 5: Dear Malcolm …

I’ve been appalled by Australia’s policy towards asylum seekers for many years now, alongside a good many other people. It was pretty bad before the “stop the boats” mantra took over politics. It’s been positively poisonous since Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton began managing the state-sanctioned torture of asylum seekers: people who, we need to remember, are already victims, and who are guilty of nothing more than fleeing persecution.

In recent weeks, as our Prime Minster Malcom Turnbull actively sought to deny food and medical aid to the people he has consciously and deliberately detained on Manus Island, my disgust has reached new depths. I know that there are many people out there contacting their representatives to express their own disgust, and I know that sometimes when enough people speak out it can make a difference. So I’ve decided to speak out. It’s not much, but I’m happy to add my voice to that chorus. I’ve also literally put my money where my mouth and donated some cash to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who are out there actively trying to find food for people who are being starved by the Australian government, and who are busy trying to find urgent medical aid for those people towards whom the government has forgotten it has a duty of care.

Below is a letter I’ve written to Malcolm Turnbull, and copied to the Minister for Immigration and his deputy. Lower down is a another letter I’ve written to ‘opposition’ leader Bill Shorten (opposition in quotes, since I haven’t heard much opposing going on) and have also copied to the Shadow Immigration Minister and my local Labor representative.

Dear Malcolm

I immigrated to Australia a little over ten years ago. I viewed it as a place where I could raise my children and provide them a good, happy and healthy life. I saw the stated value of having “boundless plains to share” as one of compassion and generosity that I could instill in my children. I believed the spirit of having a “fair-go” offered my family, as well as anyone else who cared to come here, a fine chance for having the future we all wanted.

Instead I find myself living in a country where my eleven year old son has a stronger grasp on the concept of equal rights than our “leader”. I find that my son, even with his natural spirit of stubbornness and obstinacy, walks with a more open mind than our “leader”. I find that my son has developed a healthy disgust for your policies and your lack of regard for basic human rights.

What does this mean, when an eleven year old, who is still learning about his place in the world, is a better human being than our Prime Minister. Incidentally, I placed the word leader in quotes above because we don’t have one. A leader takes his people forward. A leader sets the example for those who follow. You do neither.

I also have a five year old son, who will have questions of his own before too long. Perhaps you can help answer some of them for me:

  • How do I explain to my son that leaving people to die on Manus–not just abandoning them, but actively denying them food, water and medical treatment—is anything but murder?
  • How do I explain to my son that leaving these people to die is justified because we’re saving lives at sea? (I know that one’s a lie, by the way, so I’ll let this one go)
  • How do explain to my son that all people deserve equal rights, when we’ve recently put that very question to a national debate with your expensive survey?
  • How do I explain to my son that history is valuable, when your government ignores all the lessons that the past has taught us?
  • How do I explain to my son the dilemma of being told to respect his elders, when you deserve none?

I was appalled when Tony Abbott was voted Prime Minister. But I’ve been absolutely astounded that his successor has been so much worse. You will, inevitably, be remembered as Australia’s worst Prime Minister: as the man who allowed innocent families to die on Manus; as the man who failed every LGBTQ person in the country; as the man who wrecked our internet.

The list goes on, but I’ll leave it there in favour of one last question. Please, tell me: how do you sleep?

I really wonder about that.

Kind regards

And to the Opposition:

Dear Mr Shorten

I attach a letter that I have today sent to Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia. I trust its content makes my feelings regarding his actions as Prime Minister abundantly clear. The failings, however, are not on his side alone.

It should be clear that I am unlikely to ever vote Liberal, and neither, I hope, will my children. At this point in time it is almost as unlikely that I would vote Labor, but that has potential to change.

So, I write to you today to ask just one question: what are you going to do?

The silence—the absence of both outrage and action—from your party, while refugees have been actively persecuted by our Government is simply shocking. This is no longer a justifiable policy (not that it ever was). This is no longer a deterrent (not that it was ever that, either). This is innocent people suffering and dying as a direct result of our government’s actions. And this is happening because our government has been allowed to do it. We have an Opposition Party that is not opposing it.

So: what are you going to do?

What are you going to do to convince both myself and my children that you not only value human rights, but that will protect them and fight against those who deny them? What are you going to do to persuade us that you value equal rights, and that you will stand up for all people of Australia equally? What are you going to do to convince my children that you will leave them a clean, healthy environment for their generation and the generations after?

And again: what are you going to do to stop innocent refugees being tortured by our government, in all of our names?

Simply put: what are you going to do to convince us to vote for you?

Yours faithfully


November 4: Remember, remember …

In an instance of truly terrible timing, the Elderbeast and I watched V For Vendetta today—only realising when when we were already engrossed that we were watching it a day early.

It was viewed at the Elderbeast’s request, but it’s a film I like and so I was happy to comply. I’m not sure what had piqued his interest, but I suspect it’s something to do with the recent cultural impact of the Gay Fawkes mask, particularly since he wants his own mask now.

I missed seeing V For Vendetta when it first came out, and it was some years before I finally caught up with it on bluray. It’s one of those movies that I didn’t give too much thought to at first, but that I find I increasingly admire the more I that watch it. I gather that the message has been somewhat altered from the original comic book (much to Alan Moore’s typical chagrin), but I’d argue that the movie is instead dealing with a political landscape that is far more relevant to us–even now–than the politics of 1980s England.

I was worried that the Elderbeast might find the movie a bit heavy-going in parts, and warned him going in that it probably wasn’t the action movie he was expecting. I needn’t have worried. At the end he proclaimed: “That was a really good movie!” A simple critique, for sure, but a sign that something in there really struck home.

November 3: Trick’r’Treat

Tonight, in a slightly belated Friday Horror choice, we watched Trick’r’Treat—the excellent Halloween anthology film that not nearly enough people talk about. I’d only seen it once before, and that was right after I bought it (it was, in fact, one of the earliest blurays I bought; purchased entirely on the recommendation of a few trusted friends).

I thought I’d remembered it pretty well, but it turns out I’d remembered the broad strokes of the movie, but almost none of the details. I remembered images, but not where those images fitted into the story. I remembered the non-linear timeline it plays with, but not how delightfully baffling it ends up being. I remembered some characters, totally forgot others (I’d completely forgotten Anna Paquin was in it, for instance). Either way, it was fun to revisit Trick’r’Treat.

Afterwards I looked up action figures of Sam (the pumpkin-headed creature who is, ultimately, just one of the monsters that we are presented with). I thought some figures had been made at one point, but of course they’re not being made any more and, inevitably, prices have shot up into the hundreds of dollars. No way am I paying that sort of money for a sculpted hunk of plastic, but some people would.

Price jumps like this always fascinate me, and make me wonder what the formula for ‘value’ might be. Perhaps something like (time * desire / availability) …?

November 2: Thor

Some brief thoughts about Thor: Ragnarok, which I went to see tonight.

Firstly, I really like the character Thor (the movie version, at least) but I’ve not really loved either of the two Thor movies to date. The first one was perfectly fun and well made, but it’s not a movie I’ve felt compelled to go back to. The second one has the feel of something that could have been great, but got messed up somewhere along the line. Consequently, even despite the overwhelmingly positive word of mouth, I didn’t have high expectations of the latest one. I went in expecting to have a good time and some laughs, and that’s exactly what I got.

I suspect there might have been a better, darker movie with Hela at the centre. I enjoyed all of her scenes, as well as the sense of unstoppable threat that she presented, but she was forced into second place against the rest of the story (which is fairly standard for Marvel movies and villains). That said. I certainly don’t think Cate Blanchett was wasted—and it might even be a case where she was so good that you think you want more, when actually you’ve had exactly the right amount.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay between Thor and Bruce Banner, and all of the new characters for that matter—in fact, I would happily watch another movie featuring them all right away. At this point, I’m reasonably certain my favourite Marvel movie to date is Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2, which explains why the tone of Thor: Ragnarok worked well for me. It’s intriguing, however, that …

… and, yep, that’s all I got. This is an object lesson in why it’s sometimes not helpful to stop a writing session in mid-sentence. I’m guessing it wasn’t all that intriguing after all …

November 1: Unreal

Had a weird surreal day today. I woke up convinced that my grandmother (in-law) had died in her sleep, mainly because I completely forgot she was in the house when I got up (which was unusual because I’m usually very aware of the presence of other people in my house). She was fine, of course, but the rest of the day continued to have a sheen of fakery to it. I kept thinking I was about to wake up, and it would all turn out to be a very vivid dream of a very typical Wednesday.

The feeling didn’t pass, but I didn’t wake up either. Not sure what it was all about, but it was very unusual.

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