Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Story - retiring heroes

My sporting hero retired last weekend with a Grand Final win as a fitting farewell (as well as a professional foul and 10 minutes in the sin bin, but we'll forget about that for now).

His rugby league achievements are phenomenal in terms of statistics, wins, and trophies. For me, it's other things that have made him my hero. I think the Australian coach summed up what I've always noticed - that's he's the greatest team player. And many said the same after the Grand Final - how he made them a better player, how he made the team a better team.

And so, he's left the playing field a little emptier but as a person, I'm much changed by having watched him play the sport he loves.

The lasting 'gifts' my two greatest sporting heroes have brought to my life are:

Mindfulness. I'll always associate that with him.

My previous hero gave me the gift of knowing that it was okay for my car to have a good, sheepskin car seat only on the driver's seat. LOL! This is not something Mr E is real thrilled about - but then he only gets in my ute occasionally!

Have your heroes left lasting impressions on your life?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Phallic Friday - Erotic After Dark Workshop

Erotic After Dark is a workshop, hosted by the South Coast Writers Centre and Wollongong Library that's beginning next week, find out more here. If you'd like to book, the link is here.

This is a series of four gatherings to work on and discuss erotic writing. Too often this sort of writing is shunned and not talked about, but I don't think it's so bad. Erotic writing has always occurred. It's not something new.

Many times 'erotic' has been a catch-cry to shock or garner attention, but in my mind erotic writing is something that fills the mind, touches the senses, and engages.

What is erotic writing?

To me, it's writing that is primarily centred around sex. So much so, that if you remove the sex from the story, there is no story.

It doesn't have a specific genre or literary component to fit. It can stand alone.

It can also slip in with any genre, e.g. erotic thriller, erotic horror, erotic romance, erotic suspense, erotic crime. But whatever genre it works in, sex is still the focus of the story. If the sex was removed, the story still does not exist.

Let me illustrate with an example. After the huge success of Fifty Shades of Grey, quite a few books came out claiming to be erotic (in many genres), or claiming to be the next thing to read if you liked Fifty Shades. Most claims were false, in my mind. I bought an erotic thriller. It wasn't. It was a thriller, suspenseful, dark, crime novel, certainly, and it had sex in it for sure. But the sex was added to the story - loads of sex, sometimes only a couple of sentences to indicate that there had been sex. This isn't erotic by my definition. I could have taken all that sex out and there was still a story - less provocative but still there. The sex didn't add to the character development, it just happened. It wasn't described to engage the reader, it was there as words to show it had sex, as a marketing ploy. Sometimes I had to re-read sections to see why/if she'd had sex, but then I still wasn't clear as to the motivation or reason. It was just an event, like smoking a cigarette or walking down the street.

If you look back in time at erotic writing, it's been used for many purposes, but whatever the purpose, the central theme was sex.

The writings of Sappho, who lived between 620 and 570 BCE, are some of the early erotic poetry still read today. It's poetry of love and lust, to delight the senses. The Song of Songs in the Old Testament of The Bible is again a love story of a couple coming together in marriage and then being apart before coming together again. The Kama Sutra is probably one of the most well-known pieces of erotic writing. Vatsyayana is thought to have lived somewhere between the 1st and 6th century CE. It's many lessons on how to live and love.

The Carnal Prayer Mat bu Li Yu was written in the 1650s in China and is an erotic comedy which also gives social commentary. In 1748, John Cleland's erotic novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, Fanny Hill, was first published. A story of a young woman's debauchery after being orphaned. The work of the Marquis de Sade came later, after the 1760s and were dark erotic stories also with social commentary (although there is some dispute about this). Most had themes of sexual awakening /education /debauchery.

Erotic writing changes through time, as all literature does, but the central theme of sex does not change. It's the hallmark of the term.

Sex is a fascinating way of looking at humanity and making comments on society. If you're interested at all, come along and join in the discussion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday: Jellyfish and periwinkles

I was roaming along the river the other morning and found this jellyfish covered in periwinkles. I've never seen anything like it before but there were a few periwinkles on jellyfish but not as many as this specimen!

The river is starting to silt up again after being flushed open a few times in recent years. It's also been rather dry, so not a lot of fresh inflows into the river system. The water is getting murky, and there's quite a lot of brown algal growth and dying seagrass weed.

We had an influx of jellyfish in the river the last time it opened to the sea near me (it opens further around usually, but in flood it also breaks open here). There were hundreds of the round jellyfish with tentacles, and quite a few reports of people being stung by them, however, I hadn't been.

Jellyfish with tentacles
So, I googled and found out about these tentacled jellyfish. They're jelly blubbers (Catostylus mosaicus) and there is more information from Australian Geographic, here.

There has always been a few of the crescent shaped jellyfish, but there have been quite a lot more of these lately too.

OMG! I googled again. These crescent-shaped things aren't jelly fish but egg masses laid by moon snails. Holy cow! All my life I've had that wrong - imagine that! LOL!

This article is from SA, but relevant here in NSW, I hope! Read about egg masses here. And here's one from Victoria, here.

I started wondering if the shells on the egg mass were moon snails and not periwinkles...but I haven't been able to find that yet.

My mind is blown. I'll have to look later after I recover from the shock of that not being a jellyfish!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday - Australian Raven or Crow

Single crow nest in tree - just to the lower left of centre.
I have an Australian Raven pair nesting in a tree above my house, and they have a pair of chicks. I can't tell you how excited I've been watching these birds. I'm a nature nut, so it's not unusual for me to be excited by what I see around me, but this has been next level - even for me!

Noticing crows around is fairly normal. I've watched Noisy Minors harass them. Their call is distinctive and I often hear them. A few months ago, I watched as they build a nest of twigs and sticks high up in the gum tree. I've watched them come and go from that nest, scare other birds away, protect their nest fiercely.

About 3 weeks ago, my relationship with the crows changed.

We have Plovers (Masked Lapwing) nesting on our roof out the back. They've done this for the last few years and it amused me listening to their antics and hearing their protective screams as other birds or possums get too close.

We also have sulphur-crested cockatoos who land on the roof and walk across to the edge before screeching at me for some reason when I'm outside. I usually stick my head up and have a chat to them.

Sometimes pigeons also land on the roof and make a fumbling waddle to the side. I can tell this is a different bird to the cockatoos. The cockatoos are rather heavy in their landing, but walk quite cleanly. A pigeon is quite light in the landing and then scrambles around as if it can't pick its feet up and is skidding across the roof.

Two nests - with a crow
Back to a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday and I was watching the football with Mr E, when I thought a cockatoo landed on our front verandah roof. It walked across the roof to the driveway, but it's footsteps were loud and incredibly deliberate. I wanted to know who the cockatoo was with the big loud footsteps (Yes, Mr E thinks I'm nuts).

I went outside, to the edge of the verandah and I peered up just as a Noisy Minor was scurrying away after harassing... a crow! Standing at the edge of my verandah roof right above my head was the most magnificent crow, blue-black feathers gleaming. I don't think I've ever seen one so close. The eye was the most brilliant white in all that dark lushness of feathers. In the few seconds I had to admire, I lost my heart to the magnificence of the bird. And then the crow looked down, saw me, squawked, I yipped, it took off. It was all over - except for my heart racing so fast!

Since then, the chicks have hatched in the nest - 2 of them. The parents have been busy feeding and protecting them, and lately the young have been standing on the edge of the nest, stretching their wings. Then over the last couple of weeks, the adults have been busy making a second nest quite close to the first one. I've been privileged enough to watch the parents selecting sticks to make that nest. I assumed they picked sticks up off the ground but I'm wrong. The selection of sticks for nest building is quite an intricate process. They don't just pick any old stick. Each is selected by running their beak along them, while they're still attached to a tree! I assume they're looking for a particular size and maybe flexibility judging from the way they tested each stick. Then there was quite a site selection occurring before they broke the twig from the branch. Instead of just flying up to the nest, they seem to make quite a lot of hops up the tree, and short flights from branch to branch, before taking flight to weave the twig into place. When the crows fly with a stick, you can hear the wing beats quite loudly, much more so than with a normal flight, so I imagine that it takes some effort to lift and carry each twig that makes up the nest.

This isn't zoomed. Nests are way up, just to the right of centre.
I suppose it took about 8-10 days to build the second nest. Over the past weekend, the chick that was flapping its wings the most and hopping on twigs above the nest, moved house. We now have a chick in each nest. On Sunday, as I pegged out the washing, the chick in the new nest took a series of hops across to visit the old nest. I was incredibly trilled to see this journey. Today, I spied an adult and this fledgling returning from a short flight (I think).

It's been an incredible experience. And right above my house. I've been honoured to witness this  family - and I've spent an awful lot of time with binoculars lately!

The Australian Museum website has some information about Australian Ravens, also called Crows. You can find it here.