Aspergirls

July 1, 2022 at 10:14 am (Uncategorized)

My daughter Lizzie was diagnosed with Autism earlier this year. They classified her as Level 2 which is largely meaningless (every autistic person is wildly different from every other autistic person) except it means she can mostly deal with mainstream school but also gets funding for therapy.

Sometimes ‘mild’ (again, a problematic term) autism is called Asperges. Lizzie and I quite like the term “Aspergirl” because it sounds like a superhero. It’s very likely that Tim and I are also autistic, although our lives are clearly much easier than hers.

Autism comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It’s much harder to diagnose in girls as they present differently. I saw this on FaceBook (with the original link long since broken) and was fascinated. I took screenshots, and have commented on the screenshots.

Uh yes, I don’t even wear long sleeves (unless it’s under about 5 degrees Celsius, and sometimes not even then) because they bother me.

I often don’t brush my hair and I almost never wear makeup.

Eccentric personality. Well, yes.

No, I wouldn’t say I’m youthful for my age (immature in some respects, sure), or more/less expressive than the mainstream, or androgynous at all. Lizzie and I are both hyper-feminine in style (I wear skirts and dresses all the time; she wears pink; we both maintain long hair despite finding it a hassle). I’ve read elsewhere that being really really into gender roles OR really not into them are both autistic traits.

I test as INFP/INFJ on Myers-Briggs tests (and yes I know they’re not scientific). INFPs in particular are famous for being a different person in different situations, and not being able to turn it off. I had a boyfriend that I broke up with because he expected me to be depressed and needy… so I was.

I think this blog and my entire life support the film/books addiction.

Ah yes, being hyper controlling in order to cope with stuff. Ask anyone who has ever tried to do anything with me, including the recent ZamZam Foundation launch. I can delegate, and I can handle having stuff delegated to me, but I have to be able to say no to stuff.

Home is my safe place—which is difficult when I don’t live alone.

Classic gifted kid.

I’m a writer with a double degree.

I’m not super great at being employed but I’m fantastic at being self-employed.

I’m intelligent but verbal instructions have always been a big weakness for me. People often accuse me of pretending to be stupid when I genuinely don’t ‘get’ what’s going on.

My obsessive writing is more or less socially acceptable.

Yes I’m emotionally sensitive. And I have an anxiety disorder and clinical depression, so… yes.

My computer deleted a draft of this blog entry and I don’t feel like re-writing, but I’ll leave the rest of the article here for you. And a pic of my cats.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 6

June 18, 2022 at 4:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

LOTR Trilogy Part 1 Part 2

Bonus links: A LOTR marathon I blogged back in 2010. (Focusing on getting through it in one day, rather than actually writing about the films.)

And, Signs you like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy a little too much. (2012)

And finally, featuring much of the cast, Stephen Colbert’s unique and delightful “The #1 Trilly“.

Every moment of this film is gasp-worthy. That opening scene, even without all the context of the other two (or the other five) films, is incredible: An idyllic scene of two brothers who stumble across the one ring and then attempt to murder one another. One of them succeeds, and we see him degenerate from a hobbit-like creature to the monster that is Gollum.

And then, pipeweed (extended version only).

I won’t list every brilliant scene, because I want to actually watch some.

Ooh, but Saruman accurately hits Gandalf right where it hurts the whole group most: Gandalf does sacrifice those he professes to love.

Grima’s final act of not-entirely-convenient mid-interrogation courage is worthy of a thousand essays on the topics of morality and ethics.

And Pippin, of course, falls for the shiny palantir ball.

Drinking game with Legolas and Gimli. Super dumb, super fun. Merry and Pippin singing and dancing again, ditto.

Super awkward Eowyn crush.

There are loads of really important things I should definitely be doing. But I’ll have an early lunch and then go to bed.

Aragorn and Eowyn are definitely sort of dating. Aragorn, you are nice, but you are a tease. I suppose you think you’ve broken up with Arwen, but in any case it’s too soon to move on.

Oh, poor dumb Pippin and delightfully terrifying Gandalf. Billy Boyd does a good job of being utterly terrified and clearly violated by the Palantir.

And THERE’s Figwit (Frodo Is Great, Who Is That?) Or more accurately, there are the lines he was given after fans become obsessed with him in the first LOTR film (he’s at the Council of Elrond).

Hi Denethor. I dunno how you came to power, but you’ve proved that even non-hereditary rulers can totally suck. Well done you.

Nice moment between Faramir and Pippin.

1:30pm

I didn’t quite make it through disc 1 but I’m awake and have a few minutes before another ZamZam person comes over for yet another delivery of stuff from the launch.

Arg! The friend showed up on time. Still, I have half an hour before I need to fetch the kids.

Time for Frodo to make Sam cry. Frodo, no!

Time for Denethor to send his men to die. Denethor, no!

Gandalf to Faramir: “Do not throw away your life so rashly!”

Faramir: “Where does my allegiance lie if not here?”

And Pippin sings, and breaks all our hearts.

And now we’re at the war camp with King Theodren, Aragorn, and Legolas. Gimli is, presumably, around somewhere. There is SO MUCH movie still to go.

Is this dream of Aragorn’s a premonition… or is it Eowyn getting back together with him by psychic text message?

Even better that either of those options, Daddy Elrond has been sent to play matchmaker. A well deserved opportunity for the vegan elf to eat crow.

Somewhere, unfilmed and unwritten, is a conversation in which Arwen says, “Daddy, you broke us up, and you are going to fix it.”

Aragorn, realising his hot new thing deserves a proper break-up, says, “It is but a shadow of a thought that you love. I cannot give you what you seek…. I wished you joy since first I saw you.”

Excellent break-up speech: Vague enough to let her keep her dignity, kind enough to show she meant something to you, and clear enough that there can be no doubt it’s over.

Little wonder she fell for Aragorn, when every other man she knows treats her like a puppy that just widdled on the floor.

Wait, I forgot to mention the beacons! World’s worst job combined with world’s prettiest office. The sheer unshaking faithfulness of the beacon keepers inspires me so very much.

Okay, five more minutes and I need to get going.

Aragorn and the ghosties. Someone is no longer in any doubt of his role as king.

Hello, comatose Faramir! Still alive!

Aand now it’s 7:30pm and I still haven’t finished the first disc! Although my kids are currently playing with “Sting” which is almost as fun as watching the films (at least until Chris catches them/me and we all get in trouble.


2:00pm the next day. Even with a nap I was too tired to stay awake and watch the rest. Luckily Chris takes the kids to his parents’ house every Saturday arvo. I had breakfast and then went back to bed.

Juuust in time for Gandalf to knock out a hysterical Denethor. I think we’ve all faced people that made the world worse by being awake. *sigh*

I’m glad I don’t have to face orcs or any kind of monster in my regular life. Or battle of any kind. But sometimes I wish life was less morally complex. On the up side, the worst people I know also have redeeming qualities, so that’s something good.

And the disc is done! Finally! At 2:06pm!

Hello, pirate Peter Jackson.

Oh no. Frodo and Gollum are still on that awful black cliff, about to meet Shelob. This is so stressful!

Last night I ate a freshly-roasted chicken salad with avocado, grated carrot, pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onion.

The chicken came from the food pantry, as did the pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onions. It was delicious, although it doesn’t look like much.

I wish I could hallucinate Cate Blanchett whenever I fell over.

FRODO!!!! BEHIND YOU!!!!

And they say Tolkien didn’t write complex female characters. Hi, Shelob!

Thank you Pippin, for screaming, “He’s not dead!” over and over…. just like everyone else who watches Denethor deciding to burn Faramir’s “body”.

Thank you Denethor, for the line, “Go now and die in what way seems best to you.”

Thank you Eowyn, for the line, “Courage, Merry. Courage for our friends.”

Bye-bye, Denethor. A appropriate death for a flaming asshole. Now all of you is flaming.

Oh no, another army? What is this, The Hobbit?!

They do a really good good of highlighting small moments and big: confusion and one-on-one moments, and the times when the battle-tide turns, and turns again.

Legolas versus an ollyphaunt (I still don’t know how to spell that) is a most excellent moment.

Goodbye, King Theoden. I don’t know what poor decisions you made to end up possessed by Saruman, and not every decision you made was right even when you were yourself, but you deserve to feel pride in your actions at the end.

I like the romance that blooms between Eowyn and Faramir in the Halls of Healing. The two people with the most tragic backstories, united. All the best relationships, platonic or otherwise, have an element of healing to them.

The scars around Frodo’s neck, and on his very young chest, are heartbreaking.

Faramir: “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

An extraordinary claim (by a man who has recently lost his entire family, and who has been in indirect contact with the ring), and a beautiful one.

Meanwhile Sam, who brought a box of herbs through the black lands in case they happened upon a chicken, now knows that he and Frodo will not be coming back. Even his optimism fails, eventually.

The Mouth of Sauron character is perfectly done (from memory, he’s only in the extended version). *shudder*

Aragorn finally wears the livery of Gondor…. and his first act is to lead his people and others on a suicide mission.

Sam: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Aragorn: “For Frodo.”

Oh no! Gollum attack!

And we’re finally inside the volcano…. and Frodo fails to give up the ring.

And Gollum attacks again, and finally gets his precious back, and dies happy.

Bye bye, ring.

Bye bye, flaming eyeball.

Bye bye, despair.

And Frodo is himself again, even as lava surrounds him. #WorthIt

And Sam, the ultimate friend, says, “Yes Frodo, that’s very nice that you remember the taste of food again now” rather than making a fuss about the burning death they’ve both about to have.

And the screen fades to black in a fake-out ending that foreshadows the many endings yet to come.

Eagles, and Rivendell, and Frodo is okay! More or less!

Gandalf is okay! (Not surprising to us, but surprising to Frodo.)

Merry and Pippin are okay!

Gimli is okay (other than his severe allergy to his own prosthetic face)!

Legolas is okay!

Legolas’s hair is okay!

Aragorn is okay!

Sam is okay!

Aragorn is king!

Aragorn’s finally washed his hair!

Faramir and Eowyn are definitely together, and okay!

Eomer is okay! (And also his sister shall be queen of the Rohan, which might teach him a much-needed lesson about not being a patronising dick.)

Elrond is finally okay with Aragorn and Arwen officially getting it on!

Aragorn and Arwen officially get it on!

Frodo writes a book!

The Shire is okay!

The local pub is okay!

A large local pumpkin is okay!

The local ale is okay!

Rosie Cotton is a-okay!

Frodo’s psyche is not entirely okay!

Dementia Bilbo is “quite ready for another adventure”!

Galadriel’s delighted smile as she leaves is an absolute treat.

Gandalf is okay… with crying, fortunately. Because there’s a lot of it.

Bye bye Frodo—with another perfect smile, and the tiniest of manly nods.

The other hobbits are not okay.

Sam and Rosie’s kids are okay!

My blood sugar is okay!

I mean, that’s not actually part of the movie but it’s been two hours since I started lunch so it was time to test it.

My cats are also okay, you’ll be pleased to hear. Zipper prefers to glower from above and Zoom prefers to hide under things.

Cats are, of course, essential to all the best movie marathons.

And the full HoLOTR marathon of 2022 is done.

Yes, that’s our official Sting replica.

How do I feel?

I’m very surprised it took me a whole seven days. I underestimated my exhaustion and overestimated my supposed free time. But I still feel I’ve achieved something, which is all the more valuable for a disabled person. And the amount of work that went into these films always inspires me—along with the obvious inspiration of courage, hope, love, and faith despite incredible darkness and impossible odds.

There is always hope.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 5

June 16, 2022 at 11:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Lord of the Rings Part 1

An epic opening: the knife-edge of glacier-clad mountains, and then Gandalf and the balrog fighting, with just a teensy bit of flashback for context.

Ahhhhh… that’s the stuff.

And in just a few moments, we get to know Sam and Frodo very well.

It’s 10:30am and I’ve already been impressive today. (Feel free to cheer. I can take it.) It’s Thursday, which means shopping—but not just any shopping; food pantry shopping. On Thursdays I buy cheap (and often delightfully eccentric) food from the St Paul’s food pantry in Melba, then bring it home and unpack it into the West Belco Food Pantry that I run from my front porch. (Taking all the best stuff for myself, OF COURSE.) That’s why I was moving fridges yesterday—the fridge I had in the pantry is very small and it was hurting my back quite badly to try and put the fruit and vegetables in any kind of order, and someone was giving away a medium-sized fridge on Buy Nothing that means more room in the freezer (frozen meat makes all the difference to struggling families) and it’s easier to unpack things into it too.

Some food pantry items I’ve eaten during this marathon: sweet potato and pumpkin hamburger patties; beetroot and hummus dip (which I took partly because it amuses me to see Chris hiss and back away from anything beetrooty like a vampire from sunlight), Maple-Mustard-Apple Cider marinate;

So I’m hoping to watch the first disc during the day, then sleep. I’m getting “aura”—weird visual stuff that is the precursor to a migraine, but if I’m careful I can still fend it off. A nap will help. Then I’ll wake up, fetch kids, and do my arvo work (which, mercifully, has been halved today).

And in a few moments we understand uruk-hai, orcs, Merry, and Pippin—and the relationships between them.

And in a few moments we see Aragorn being skillful, Legolas’s pristine hair and skin even while running for days, and the news that Gimli is only here for comic relief (sorry again, dwarves).

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe tried to balance a cast with six main characters, Fellowship of the Ring did it with nine.

Although The Hobbit didn’t quite succeed in managing to truly differentiate all those dwarves, it did manage to distinguish a few of them: the king (Thorin), the pretty one (Kili), his brother (Fili; no personality otherwise), the old & wise one (Dwalin I think, or Balin his brother), the dumb but kind one (Bofur, who of course has an Irish accent instead of the traditional Scottish), the fat one (Bombur). Then there’s… the one with the ear trumpet. The one with an axe in his head. Uh… there’s one more. Even after watching this SO many times, I can’t name them all.

I thought I’d forgotten one, but I’d forgotten two (googles for a photo of them): The super young dumb one, and his much older brother. No idea what their names are. Oh wait, and Gimli’s dad Gloin. That’s thirteen I think. So I forgot three.

Googles a photo WITH names:

Okay, so the super dumb young one is Ori, and his brother is Dori. Also their brother Nori, who I’d utterly forgotten. Gloin’s brother Oin is the one with the ear trumpet maybe? And Bifur has the axe in his head. Is that everyone? It is, right? ……right??

Hello Eomyr, and the lands of Rohan. Hello Eowyn. Hi Wormtongue and King Theodren. Not sure I spelled those names correctly.

Hello, grumbly forest! The ents are famously based on CS Lewis, one of Tolkien’s best friends (incredibly boring, oblivious to the world around them, slow-moving, and have forgotten what women look like).

“Oh you’re a writer?” people say to me. “Would you ever base a character on me?”

You’d better hope not.

Bog! Bad bog! Bad battle bog with grabby ghosties! This also scared me half to death the first several times. I’m a sensitive soul.

Hello new, shinier, gently fuddled Gandalf.

“I cast down my enemy, and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.” Yeah! Go shiny Gandalf!

PRETTY HORSIE!!!

Thank you, extended version, for the gentle torture of ent poetry. Where’s some pipeweed when you need it? (Did you ent lads recite a lot of poetry at the ladies, pray tell? Sort of immediately before they left forever?)

Ah, everything is so beautiful about this movie. The landscapes, the costumes, the set design, the music.

Another extended scene, with Merry and Pippin and a peckish tree that’s sick of being teased about being vegan.

And one of my absolute favourite film scenes of all time: The freeing of King Theodren.

If one didn’t already have a crush on Aragorn, seeing him soothe a grieving horse will get you on board. It certainly worked for Aowyn, and can you blame her? And he’s multilingual, too!

I had a friend make me a dress based on the dress Eowyn wears in the scene when Aragon chats to her as she’s practising her swordplay. Still got it, although it most definitely doesn’t fit any more.

It sucks leaving your home, but at least it won’t be as windy inside Helm’s Deep. Legolas and Eowyn must both be quietly pleased that their hair won’t frizz up so much. (Aragorn hasn’t washed his hair since he was 50 so it’s too oily to misbehave; Gimli’s hair became independently sentient years ago.)

Arg, it’s almost 1pm. I should be asleep! I kept having to pause to take calls or deal with other life and/or ZamZam stuff. I’m determined to get to the end of this disc, though.

Smeagol versus Gollum. An echo of the freeing of King Theodren: a person casting off clinging awfulness despite incredible odds stacked against them.

Hello Oliphaunt (ollyfant?) Not that one:

And finally, hello Faramir.


Disc two: Dwarf women. Another moment that is made better by the Hobbit trilogy.

Suuper awkward to find out that the guy you like is definitely still obsessed with his immortal elf princess of an ex. Sorry Eowyn. Don’t worry, you’ll get together with a fully-human male soon enough.

The Rohirrim + Gimli/Aragorn/Legolas face another great, hilly battle with mountain views and a handy (or not-so-handy) cliff or two. Not so great for Gimli, who gets pinned under a warg for most of it and is repeatedly rescued. The movies did you wrong, Gimli.

Speaking of dwarves and problematic choices, I wonder how Scots feel about dwarves being Scottish? Because they’re ugly and violent and drunk? I suspect Scots feel the same swell of pride as Aussies feel at the line “peopled entirely by criminals” when our very nice nation is described in The Princess Bride. All the same, someone should object. Even if it’s hilarious. (And orcs of course are cockney, because they’re dirty, violent, and perpetually hungry? Ouch.)

And here we are at the cold, crowded block of rock that is Helm’s Deep.

But the two little kids on the pony do get to see their mother again, and that is a much-needed bit of brightness.

Hello Arwen and thanks for the magic kiss. Ditto that highly affectionate and open-minded horse.

Ooh, are we nearly at the FIGWOT scene?

Arwen: “There is still hope.” Yes indeedy. Even if Daddy gives the best “You’ll regret it when the relationship ends” speech of all time. Somewhat weightier when you know he sees the future.

Frodo: “And this is Samwise Gamgee.”

Faramir: “Your bodyguard?”

Sam: “His gardener.”—said with such delicious contempt.

A flashback to Boromir and Faramir in Osgiliath, happy. At least until Daddy Denethor comes along to be a total a-hole. Like Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, he’s not the most murderous evil, but he’s definitely the one the audience most wants to punch in the face.

Thank you ent council. Now I can get a snack. It’s 10:30pm and I don’t have a migraine but I gotta eat something to stay awake.

Aragorn: “There is always hope.”

Almost word for word was Arwen said, and I only just noticed the parallel on this watch.

Thank you for showing up, elf army. Did you bring a wagon of food again, or was that just for the Hobbit movies? Never mind, it was all salad anyway.

No matter what you say about dwarves, you’d far rather hang out with them than the elves. Better food, better drink, more fun. Although it’s clear both dwarves and elves love a good bit of violence.

Helm’s Deep, as the armies draw up facing one another in the rain.

Denethor is a great villain (although, again, clearly insane—it seems everyone turns insane at the drop of a hat, as far as Tolkien is concerned) but mostly we have a lot of orc and uruk-hai, who are clearly inhuman and inhumane. Not a bit of sympathy for the enemy there, which is usually a sign of poor writing. But if you’ve been in a real war with real humans I doubt you could ever stomach writing human-versus-human battle scenes ever again. Because otherwise the lovely mightiness of manly menfolk defending their home is just a waste of lives and an ugly thing. Like the “war to end all wars”, which… didn’t.

Sadly, way too many men (not all men…. but too many of them) walk away from films and fancy themselves the mighty weapon-toting warrior, rather than seeing the self-sacrifice and mutual affection between these heroes as the thing that truly matters.

Ents: so boring they fall asleep halfway through their own sentences.

But when they get moving, they’re great. Especially the one who bends over into the broken dam-water to put out the fire in his upper branches.

Oh, Frodo. When you nearly give the ring away to a wraith, and then nearly kill Sam.

Sam: “Even darkness must pass.”

And there’s one last flash of Smeagol, listening to Sam and desperately hoping Sam’s optimism isn’t as foolish as it sounds.

Sam: “There’s still some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Meanwhile, the uruk-hair retreat into the trees… and are never seen again. Om nom nom.

*switch to Merry and Pippin finding Saruman’s excellent larder, pipe weed and all*

Faramir: “The Shire must surely be a great realm, Mr Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honour.”

Yes, Faramir. It is.

And a bit of posturing to advertise the third film, and we’re done!

Not quite. We have Sam fantasizing about other people one day telling a story about the two hobbits and their big adventure, and once again we end the film overwhelmed with love for Frodo and Sam.

And then there’s the scene in which Smeagol is shoved deep, deep down into Gollum’s psyche. The tragedy is that, for a little while, Smeagol was dominant. If circumstances has been just a teensy bit different, Smeagol could have stayed redeemed. Or perhaps he could have re-recovered later, if he hadn’t taken a lava bath.

With that thought, I shall go to bed.

Not really. There’s a new episode of Ms Marvel that’s calling my name. No full reviews for y’all, but it’s really good. Joyful and fun and it’s so good to see a nuanced portrayal of various Muslim characters (and yes, the parents are super strict and basically the opening villain… but that’s how all teens see their parents, plus lots of immigrants have a similarly “unfair” upbringing compared to their peers).

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 4

June 15, 2022 at 9:51 pm (Uncategorized)

The Hobbit trilogy: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Opening voiceover by Galadriel, with epic battles.

It’s 9:30am on Wednesday, and I’m finally watching the Lord of the Rings.

Also, moving furniture today: a table, a couch, a big chair, and two fridges. Another task not entirely suited to someone with a disability, but it’s not like disabled people can afford to pay others to do stuff like this.

Huh. It’s amazing to see Ian Holm as young Bilbo, with a tiny section of the cave scene with Gollum, after seeing the full scene with Martin Freeman so recently.

And then Bilbo’s home, which is oh so familiar, and feels just the same even though the whole set had to be rebuilt for the Hobbit films.

Such a contrast from the ‘true’ opening, with Bilbo’s narration which is fantastic. It’s incredibly warm and lovely and funny.

The battle scene opening is grand, and gives much-needed perspective. But it’s the hobbits that win your heart.

These movies do fit together beautifully. “The incident with the dragon” indeed! That line is even better than it was before, which is a mighty feat. And Bilbo telling the story of the trolls—not quite accurate, but Bilbo’s obviously told this story so many times he knows exactly how it works best. And we care so deeply for Bilbo after the Hobbit trilogies that everything he does and says has a deeper impact.

Oh my goodness, little Elijah Wood and his giant blue eyes. He really is a bush baby. He was 17 for a good chunk of these movies, so I won’t talk about the crush I had on him any more (he’s a year older than me in real life so naturally as a teen I was obsessed with him, and I maintain an ongoing crush for the actor since he remains both incredibly pretty and incredibly talented). I expect Lizzie will fall for bush baby Frodo once she’s old enough to actually see these films.

So glad the extended version includes the hobbits getting drunk and singing on tables.

Gandalf definitely sent Sam with Frodo to be Frodo’s Bilbo—to be the antidote to the corruption of the ring. And a good thing too.

Oh, that scenery. Worth the price of admission all on its own.

Saruman’s part is also deeper because of the Hobbit trilogy. To see this great good turned evil hurts much more than meeting him pre-evilled. Speaking of pain, the wizard vs wizard fight really hurts to watch. The squeak of bare skin scraped along a polished floor…. *shudder*

Those ring-wraiths scared me so much the first few times I saw this.

Hello, Peter Jackson cameo. And a buuurp to you too.

Nice to see the (presumably) descendant of the same black bar-cat as in the Hobbit.

Hello, Aragorn. My teenage self will fall for your stubbly, unwashed, stinking-of-horse self soon enough. And with every rewatch my affection for you will grow. Including this one. Another actor with extraordinary subtleties of facial expression that I most definitely did not pick up at nineteen.

Love the inclusion of the bog/bugs/Aragorn hunting and singing scene.

I love that Saruman has to wrap up warmly after speaking to his eyeball friend.

This scene of the ring-wraiths attacking the hobbits on the tower is exquisite. And Aragorn takes an already-brilliant scene up a notch.

And I’m genuinely stressed out about Frodo’s safety right now. And so is Aragorn.

Aw, uruk-hai being born! Sweet little murder-babies.

Hello again stone trolls!

Elf flirting is highly dangerous. (But totally worth it. Just ask Aragorn.)

FINALLY a romantic couple in a movie who don’t waste time chatting each other up in the middle of an action scene—but we can still see their affection easily enough.

Oh my goodness. The horse chase scene is excellent too.

Hello, excellent moment at the river. Or three excellent moments, if you count them like so:

-“IF YOU WANT HIM, COME AND CLAIM HIM.”

-Ta-ta for now, ring-wraiths!

-“What grace I have, let it pass to him.”

Oh, I just realised I know exactly where this disc ends: with the freshly-formed fellowship.

Hello again Bilbo. I too would quite like a writers’ retreat in Rivendell, although I imagine with all the water features I’d have to go to the bathroom every three seconds. Worth it.

Elrond: “Nine companions… you shall be the fellowship of the ring.”

Pippin: “Where are we going?”

*end disc 1*

Hello again, Sting. Chris owns a replica. I’ll post a photo sometime in this marathon.

SCARY BILBO! After watching the Hobbit trilogy, this moment of terror breaks your heart.

As the fellowship departs Rivendell, Arwen looks pissed and sulky. I’d be pissed too if I’d FINALLY managed to get my 80 year-old boy toy to get together with me and then he ran off to go and probably get himself killed.

Men! Amirite?!

Hello, Fellowship of the Ring musical theme. You will never fail to make my heart leap.

Good to see Boromir teaching the Hobbits to sword-fight.

Hello, tentacle monster.

Oh, that subtle moment when the monster shoves aside the other hobbits and takes Frodo—because we don’t attack Frodo just because he’s the main character of this film; we attack him because he has the ring. Clever writing.

“It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.” Yes, the exact moment when invisible, armed Bilbo chose not to kill Gollum was played out in the Hobbit films. Another moment that makes the world better because of its existence.

Other than the many one-liners, this advice by Gandalf to choose what one does with the time given to them is the most-quoted part of the whole film series. It shows up on facebook a lot.

But it’s not the most inspiring part, to me. The most inspiring part of both trilogies is that, over and over again, when there is no hope of either success or survival, the heroes of these films keep going.

As a clinically depressed person (and unlikely to ever recover fully) that means a great deal. Hope, even false or fatalistic hope, is extremely valuable. Or the afterglow of watching these films, which typically lasts a few days.

And hello, dead Balin. We grieve for you now along with Gimli, because we know you.

From grief and horror to Pippin’s accidental dumping of a body down a well oh so noisily, to a fantastic action scene, to the bridge of Khazad-Dûm, to the balrog and then a fresher, deeper grief. Every moment is perfection:

Gandalf: “Fool of a Took!”

Boromir: “They have a cave troll.”

Gimli: “Let them come! There is one dwarf in Moria who still draws breath.”

Hello again, mithril shirt.

And finally: “Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!”


I’m really not getting much of anything done today. This film is so good. Hopefully later, between moving fridges *sigh*.

Ah, somewhat creepy Galadriel. I fell in love with Cate Blanchett because of this film, even though I think she is much better in other films (not her fault! Just the nature of the part. Never speak against Cate Blanchett).

And here in her magic water we get the only glimpse we ever see of the scouring of the Shire. I do like the film ending better, with the strange sensation of heroes returning to a place that barely notices they left at all. Sorry Tolkien. Both endings are powerful in their own way.

Gifts from Galadriel and the elves; thank you extended version.

Hello, giant Argonath statues. You are cool.

Boromir’s madness is done well, I think. And Frodo’s full bush baby look is gone forever.

From this moment on, everything is perfect. Aragorn’s faithfulness; Aragorn’s fight; Pippin and Merry’s courage; Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn fighting; Boromir saving Pippin and Merry—nearly; Boromir fighting on when he should be dead; the ancient statue behind him; the hobbits’ faces…..

Aaaand I need to go pick up the kids from school.


It’s 9:30pm, and I finally get to watch the last little bit.

Boromir is dying. I do love the man-on-man, often very physical, affection shown throughout all these films. It is a beautiful thing.

Frodo, at the water’s edge.

Sam, running to catch up to him.

That moment that drags on just a little too long for hope to endure, as Frodo lets Sam drown—and then reaches down for him, and drags him coughing and choking into the boat.


I only just realised that it’s Boromir’s love for his city and his people that finally gets Aragorn to face becoming king. And he is immediately changed for the better.

“Let’s go hunt some orc.”

Indeed.


And the final line of the movie:

“I’m glad you’re with me Sam.”

You guys, this film is SO GOOD.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 3

June 14, 2022 at 2:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1

Part 2

That opening scene. . . wow.

“A little to your left.”

That is the mightiest line in all films, of all time.

Incidentally Luke Evans is gay. Always makes me happy to add another famous LGBTIQA+ person to the ever-increasing list.

The scene against the dead ringbearers is excellent too. Christopher Lee was 93 or so, too ill to travel, and still managed (along with several wigs and a stunt double) to convincingly beat up a bunch of potent enemies with panache to spare. And the affection between Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellan is real.

I genuinely forgot for a second I was watching the Hobbit. I thought it was LOTR. If that’s not the highest possible compliment, I don’t know what is.

The greatest tragedies come sooo close to ending happily, and when Bilbo hides the arkenstone the whole audience can’t help hoping that somehow, despite everything, this time it will end happily.

Oh, this moment between King Thorin and Bilbo, and Bilbo talks about gardening… and the king is sweet and good for a moment… but Bilbo has already betrayed him. For all the best reasons, but also in the worst possible way.

Today I’ll watch things in half-hour chunks, and write grant applications in between.

—1 grant application done, and it’s lunch time. In my defense, I had a big meeting as I continue to sort out the takings from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch.—

When King Thorin betrays Laketown, it still breaks my heart.

Ooh, hello BIlly Connolly! You and the worms are a much-needed bit of fun as the rest of the film has somewhere between 4 and 73 armies pummelling one another for stupid reasons. The next two hours of my life, with breaks for stupid deaths and a bit of painfully dumb love triangle dialogue here and there.

It’s all done very well, really, with great moments—like that troll as a battering ram, charging his head into the wall and then immediately passing out as the army that hired him runs through the hole.

After going through all the grants I wrote for the Afghan-Australian Community and Settlement Support Grants, I’ve decided to stop at two (specifically, tutoring work and free copies of my “Welcome to Australia” book for refugees & immigrants). So that’s that job done.

I can write a bazillion ZamZam Foundation invoices while I continue to watch. I may have to actually work a full day tomorrow (ugh—only if a friend can’t find anyone else to replace her usual babysitter) but I guess I’ll see.

Battle stag for the win!

Uh oh. When pretty music plays in a battle, you know some elves are going to die.

Lee Pace is great in this. And in “Pushing Daisies” (although be warned that “Pushing Daisies” ends badly due to poorly timed cancellation).

On to the second disc!

The thrill of being within sight of the end will carry me through the misery of the gold-floor-crazy-king scene.

When he comes to his senses and throws his crown away against the golden floor—that is good. Keep that bit.

*sigh* Physics, guys. PHYSICS. You can’t gain purchase on bricks as they’re falling through the air. Ain’t nothing to brace against.

The final fight between King Thorin and the pale orc is cool, with a bleached colour palette and ice cracking. Sadly I don’t care for Thorin any more.

Eagles and Bears and stuff, oh my!

Thanks again, eagles, for flying RIGHT over the king and choosing to go fight a bunch of minions instead of preserving the one remaining member of the line of Durin.

Pipeweed makes everything better. At least a little bit.

Oh no what now? Just more funerals, I hope.

Yup. Just more funerals.

The arkenstone: inspiring ambitious grave-diggers for the rest of time.

Bilbo at home is a perfect thing. As good an ending as a tragedy could hope for.

I do like that Tolkien recognises that a person who goes far from home and sees (and deals out) death is forever changed, and their soul will never recover. Having fought in World War 1 just before he began writing the books, he knows all too well.

Oh, that’s Billy Boyd singing! A voice that will always break the hearts of any Middle Earth film fans.

And that’s The Hobbit done until my next HoLOTR marathon! Because you know there’ll be more in future.

I DON’T have to work a full day tomorrow, fortunately, so things should progress at either the same pace or a little faster.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 2

June 14, 2022 at 9:39 am (Uncategorized)

Part 1

I should probably mentioning I’m assuming that anyone reading this has watched all of the movies at least three times. It’s possible that some people haven’t, but they ain’t no friends of mine*.

There’s quite a bit of exposition throughout these films, but as a rule it’s done well—for example, given by someone who might just attack you partway through the discussion.

Hello, spiders.

Hello, first sign of the ring’s corrupting influence on Bilbo.

Hello Legolas. Still so pretty, still so boring. My teenage self adored you.

Heh. In a million years, when my kids are old enough to watch this, they’re going to wonder what The Wasp is doing in this film.

Okay, I’ll be honest. Some elements of the romance are actually kind of cool. Especially overcoming cultural barriers (can you tell I like working with refugees?)

Barrel run! Dumb as anything, but/and fun.

Oh no! Something in my dodgy secondhand DVD player-only TV is not working!

Huh. A bunch of the barrel run got skipped. Odd.

Oh well…

Okay, so I was watching it on our super unreliable “TV” that can only play DVDs because today is a public holiday and the kids are home. Given that they consider “Mary Poppins” excessively violent, these movies are really not for them—yet.

The “TV” is on a pile of my clothing, on my desk, wedged into an old fridge drawer, with an extension cord plugging it into the bathroom.

Then Lizzie went to the bathroom, and I lost my place due to unplugging it so she could close the door. The “TV” can’t select scenes, so I threw the kids out of the living room and put it back on—starting from the barrel scene.

Which is super dumb in places, but also a GREAT scene. You clearly see their different fighting styles as well as their teamwork (chopping through a branch one by one as they pass by until it splits and the orcs can’t use it any more). And Legolas, just as freakishly coordinated as the dwarves, instead of fighting with them, uses them as props while he focuses on the orcs (literally standing on their heads).

So glad I didn’t miss this. And yeah, I don’t mind Legolas being inserted into the film. The woodland elves were legitimately important.

This marathon is going much slower than expected—it’s been almost 24 hours and I’m not even halfway through the first trilogy yet—but Chris and I both got migraines last night so it was clearly unwise to stay awake. Then I spent most of today doing the maths to figure out the profits from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch and Fundraiser—roughly $8000, after paying assorted costs (printing art, paying artists, registration of ZamZam Foundation as an association in the ACT, etc).

Given that, as the ZamZam Foundation Australia web site points out,

  • AU$35 feeds a family in Afghanistan for a week.
  • AU$150 feeds a family in Afghanistan for a month.
  • AU$280 pays for a semester of university fees.

that $8000 will dramatically change the lives of literally hundreds of families in Afghanistan.


Stephen Fry and his slimy offsider remind one of the film-makers’ love of gross-out humour.

Hello, Colbert.

Surely Bard and his son are super famous for other stuff? The opening scene of the third movie is possibly the greatest scene in this trilogy. They’re really really good.

Bard the Bowman is Luke Evans. He’s certainly still around, in several high-profile films. Here‘s his wiki page. His son Bain is played by the Scottish John Bell (not to be confused with the Australian actor of the same name), and his career is also doing just fine.

I need to write approximately ten grant applications by tomorrow. More “cut and paste and then edit” than truly writing, but still… a lot.

But right now I’m cooking dinner, so the grants will have to wait a bit longer. At least I’m in the second half of this movie now.

Oh, Thrain! I don’t remember your subplot at all. Perhaps you were only ever in the extended version, and I wasn’t super fascinated by dwarf genealogies at the time. But you matter too.

Richard Armitage does a great job of playing the exiled king, showing both the weight of his position and the seeds of the madness to come. Any billionaire goes through the same process, and calling it madness is cheap. Sorry Tolkien, but you could have done better.

Bilbo’s ability to defy the king, and to keep believing when the others give up, is certainly valuable, and the films do a good job of keeping him as the main character even in his position as the odd man out.

I’m eating dinner at present. When I make a roast (which I usually make with lamb chops) I eat it in stages. First I boil potatoes in their skins, and give them a good shake and some slashes with the side of a spoon so they have plenty of texture. Then I cover the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrot in a mix of oil, salt, and herbs (usually basil, often garlic) and start cooking. After 20 minutes I take out any small pieces or potato skins that are perfectly crispy and would burn if left longer, and eat them. Plus some of the carrot and sweet potato. So although I did roast some zucchini today, it’s not in this photo since it’s already been eaten. Ditto the sweet potato.

Today the lamb was marinated in a maple-mustard-apple cider thingy. VERY nice.

This is not a healthy meal, as such, but it’s delicious, full of iron, and has pretty much all the vegetables I can tolerate without getting sick (low-FODMAP and low-salicylate diet, which covers most human food). I have it with sour cream and soy sauce rather than gravy, since I’m somewhat intolerant of gravy and only a bit intolerant of sour cream (dairy) and presumably soy sauce (beans? anything fermented? I’m sure there’s something). It tastes amazing, I assure you. (The potatoes are boiled at the start so they don’t dry out, and the skins splitting off and cooking in their own gloriousness is a pleasant side effect).

But now Bilbo is creeping into the dragon’s lair! Oh nose!

Oh, this is a GOOD scene. The clink and clatter of coins. . .

HELLO Bossy-boots Crankypants! Always nice to see you and Martin Freeman working together.

Here are my cats, who don’t usually pose so nicely.

Hello, gratuitous Legolas scene.

Using the dragon to light your furnace is cool, but fighting a dragon with heat is… not smart.

A mighty ending.

Whatever else they did, the team nailed Smaug. Which was vital.

And that song in the credits is seriously amazing. It holds up perfectly. Well done, Ed Sheeran. This is genuinely one of your best songs.

*I tolerate SOME non-nerds among my crew due to their other sterling qualities.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 1

June 13, 2022 at 3:04 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s 5:40pm on Sunday 12 June, and I have decided it is time to finally do the full extended Hobbit + extended Lord of The Ring marathon that all true Middle Earth movie nerds dream of.

Choosing the right food and snacks is of course vital for any major quest.

I have made a sandwich with fresh avo, freshly-squeezed lemon, freshly-grated carrot, a sweet potato & pumpkin patty, beetroot hommus, and Asian mayo.

And so it begins.

Naturally, I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing (and probably debriefing from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch & Fundraiser at the same time).

Here goes…

An opening voiceover. Very out of fashion these days, but the best path for true epics like LOTR (or Star Wars). And there are cozy visuals of Bilbo’s home quickly followed by the epic wealth of Erebor, showing off very respectable special effects.

Everyone hates the Hobbit series, and the extended commentary has been described as being Peter Jackson’s 9-hour apology…. but this is NOT a bad film. Many many pieces of genius are sprinkled through it.

And yes, it doesn’t compare to LOTR. But it is worth extending the famous 9-hour movie marathon to 18 hours. And I mean that as someone who literally gets injured from sitting in a chair too long (for a while it would take me days to recover from watching a single movie—I’m a million times better now, but will still need to be careful and do stretches and walk around. Stop laughing).

I’m very much looking forward to Martin Freeman’s perfect Bilbo, and the singing.

Not looking forward to the Goblin King. Ew.

Or the romance. Double ew.

Or that drama-class improv scene of the king going mad.

Aww! Itty bity baby Bilbo! I’d forgotten that beautiful few seconds. Love it.

And it seems I STILL have a crush on Elijah Wood. (To be fair, he seems a decent sort, and the first season of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, while unrelated to the books, was truly fantastic. Among other works.)

The Britishness of the “Good Morning” scene, and the later callback from uh… Dwalin I think it is… amazing writing.

The look on Bilbo’s face as he’s juuuust settled down to a perfect meal and there’s a ring at the doorbell… yes, that is absolutely how I feel right now. Better not ask me to face humanity just yet, if you know what’s good for you.

And here we are in the “meet all the dwarves and remember what you can” scene, that famously traumatised Sir Ian McKellan, who was in a different set very careful dancing around a tennis ball. And yet his every moment is brilliant.

Is… Gandalf evil for pushing Bilbo into this? Bilbo very much is, as the dwarves put it “gentle folk”, and somewhat likely to be killed.

I suppose it’s Gandalf’s gift to see the warrior in the grown-up child.

Ah, that moment when Bilbo realises he didn’t pack a pocket handkerchief! That brings home that Bilbo is extraordinarily unprepared for all of this.

New Zealand is gorgeous, isn’t it!

Ah poop. We’ve had a fat joke and a gay joke, and we’re still on disc 1.

On the other hand, I love seeing the dwarves and elves together. Culture clash stuff fascinates me (you can see Gandalf actually respects the elves and they respect him, but the elves and dwarves will take some more work). I love seeing enemies working through their misunderstandings.

I am not convinced that having an open-air library behind a waterfall is a good idea. Or is this just the ‘unwelcome guests waiting room’? Super impressive, super uncomfortable.

End of disc 1!

Galadriel asks, “Why the halfling?”, as she well should. Gandalf says that he felt Bilbo was important because he has the strength of kindness and goodness, that is so often considered unimportant next to warrior-type skills.

“And… because I am afraid.”

I wonder if it’s the fear of corruption that makes him bring Bilbo.

The cats are watching “Goblin Town”. Girls, you picked the absolute worst part of the trilogy. I’m actually glad it’s happening now, because I wasn’t sure which movie this segment was in. Now I can get it over relatively quickly instead of dreading it for many hours.

Gollum, Bilbo, and riddles. A perfect scene.

The battle in Goblin Town is… really really good. I typically get bored in action scenes, and I’m so grossed out I can hardly bear to look at the goblin king… but this 3-D fight/chase scene is brilliant, kinetic, and loaded with clever Macgyver-ing.

There are lots of very immature jokes in here (another fat joke at Rivendell), reminding me that it was a kids’ story. I don’t know HOW, with such a bummer ending. But in the book the ending is a paragraph or two so it doesn’t feel nearly as bad.

I love that Gandalf is constantly losing track of all the dwarves, just like the rest of us.

Bye-bye eagles, thanks for the lift and for passive-aggressively leaving us on a ridiculously steep crag surrounded by impenetrable forest! We won’t ask YOU for another favour in a hurry (like, for example, carrying a wee gold ring to a volcano).

For a trilogy, this movie ends VERY well. The contempt for Bilbo is sorted (both from inside him and from outside), the company is working well together and has survived several battles—and we get that first glorious look at the dragon.

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Auction Booklet

June 10, 2022 at 9:57 am (Uncategorized)

The ZamZam Foundation is launching in Australia TOMORROW with a fabulous event that of course is also a fundraiser.

I organised the silent auction including loads of amazing art, handicrafts, books, antiques, collectables, and miscellaneous items. There are plenty of Afghan treasures in the mix.

Here’s the entire booklet, for your viewing pleasure!

If you aren’t coming to the launch but you desperately want to bid on one of these items, I will try to accommodate you. Email ZamZamSecretary@gmail.com.

You can buy postcards at any time (until they’re sold out).

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Oh FUDGE cake

May 28, 2022 at 2:35 pm (Uncategorized)

This week, I have been winning at last-minute parenting.

The kids’ school had a Crazy Hair Day, which the kids were both very ambivalent about (autistic kids just don’t experience peer pressure—or community-building events—the same way as other kids). I encouraged them to ask their close friends about their plans for Crazy Hair day, which inspired Lizzie to do ‘something’.

I suggested I do 3 plaits in her hair, which I thought would pass muster both in terms of being ‘crazy’ and in terms of being so close to something familiar that it wouldn’t bother her. She accepted.

I felt vaguely guilty about not buying hair wax or colour stuff or something, but when some other parent posted frantically about their last-minute search for product I decided it was too late to do anything about it anyway.

So, Crazy Hair morning arrived, and I pulled open the plastic drawers where I dump all Lizzie’s unused hair stuff (she has basically sworn off all of it lately, including clips) and noticed the three hand-made ‘Wonder Woman’ bows that she bought off a friend’s stall last year mostly because she loves me and I like Wonder Woman. She’s literally never worn them.

I’d also been vaguely attempting to tidy recently (in preparation for maybe moving house) and found a ‘Wonder Woman’ Christmas decoration which I had shoved on a ‘deal with it later’ shelf. And I remembered the Wonder Woman necklace she bought me years ago, that I violently hate.

So: three plaits, three Wonder Woman bows. And the Christmas decoration hung off the biggest bow. And I put the necklace on her. And I found a pair of red clips, a pair of blue clips, and two pairs of sparkly blue clips. I put them all in and sent her off to school looking like we’d made an effort.

And she won ‘Best Crazy Hair’ in her year.

Crazy Hair: Yeah yeah!

I completely forgot to take any photos, so here’s a screenshot taken from a whole-class photo that is worse than useless.

Oh, and Lizzie wears glasses now. They look so good on her it’s incredible.

Moving on.

Today is Tim’s birthday party. Weeks ago I received his cake order (chocolate) and design (“Something to do with Minecraft or Pokemon”—”How about a poke ball?”—”Yeah!”)

The pokeball design was a stroke of genius on my part. I was pretty sure we had a round cake tin (we do) and I definitely knew that I could buy a pack of round, rolled-out fondant in white. Thus, all I had to do was slice the fondant circle in half, colour one half red, and roll that half back out into a semicircle. More or less.

I know fondant is actually disgusting (basically sugary plastic), so I bought a chocolate cake mix with plans to put chocolate icing on the cake, then the fondant on top.

And I remembered that cake takes ages to cook, so I set my alarm in order to make sure I got up in a timely manner.

I was smart, and double-greased the tin. The first layer makes the baking paper stick to the tin and the second makes the baking paper not stick to the cake. So when I had ten minutes to decorate the cake, I thanked my earlier-in the-day self because it popped out without the slightest hesitation or warping.

I warmed the icing a little as I mixed it, so it poured really easily too. The fondant was extremely easy to slice into a perfect semicircle, and although I may have sworn a little when I realised we had no red food colouring (only yellow or blue… or green if combined) I quickly pulled up a graphic with lots of different styles of poke balls and immediately spotted a yellow and white design.

Boom!

My hands are yellow from hand-mixing the lump of fondant with the yellow food colouring, and when I tried to roll it on a chopping board I soon discovered that fondant sticks to everything… except the plastic sheet that it comes in… so I re-rolled it on the sheet, sliced it into a perfect semicircle, and laid it on the cake.

I’d forgotten that there is some black in the classic poke ball design, but solved that problem by simply leaving a line of chocolate icing between the two semicircles of fondant (voila! Black line).

Then I sliced out a quick mini circle from the remaining white fondant, and sliced away a smaller circle out of the middle of that… and boom! The cake was done and looked pretty good!

Those lasagna dishes that come with a lid are great for transporting a cake (with dire warnings not to put the lid on during the drive as it was still hot from the oven) and I happened to have bought some assorted chocolate buttons with the party in mind, so I added them to the dish to make the rectangular shape a feature rather than a bug, and voila!

A 10-minute job that is definitely a Gold Poke Ball (Tim recognised the design with great excitement)!

Imagine what a moderately competent person could do with half an hour.

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Hustling

May 5, 2022 at 1:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Not long ago, I wrote about my two main hustles (my family, and my writing) and my ten side hustles.

Things are changing quickly, so here’s what’s currently going on (in the same order as last entry):

  1. Shooting Through escape rooms.

I found a staff person! She’s smart, funny, and capable. Her kitchen floor has a hole in it so she’s not storing the game there at the moment, but we went to Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival last weekend and we’ve made a plan for the future which involves me doing… basically nothing… and getting a little bit of money every so often. Isn’t that the dream?

If that goes well, we’ll activate the second room (the first is MADAM ALCHEMIST and the second is THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING ROOM which is in an array of suitcases shoves into odd places around my house at present, and would need a bit of effort to set up properly. Like 5 hours.)

2. Murder in the Mail/Magic in the Mail.

I recently gave away the last 26 copies of the postal version of “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” (keeping one) which at least freed up some space so I can package up the “Magic in the Mail” stories.

So… improvement, at least.

I’ve been failing to log into my main online store site for several weeks now. I can’t even figure out my username, which really shouldn’t be this hard. I… don’t know what to do. Hopefully I’ll get onto that real soon.

3. Aspergirl Adventures.

I haven’t done all the videos I planned to do about Queensland… and my computer is still so loaded up with videos that it’s misbehaving due to lack of memory. It keeps shutting down and at some point it will probably just explode, and I’ll lose my eyebrows, my novels, and priceless hundreds of family photos and videos.

So that’s not ideal.

But… it’s not like anyone is paying me, or depending on the videos. So I’m fairly chill about only doing those videos when I feel like it.

4. Babysitting.

I actually have a small bit of regular babysitting now, which is within my capabilities (ie I don’t have to get out of the car). 2-4 days a fortnight I fetch my sister’s kids from school and deliver them home. She pays me 12.50 each time.

5. Recumbent Bike Hire?

I have not done anything about this, and don’t plan to. Good choice, me.

6. Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group.

This is my main charity focus, and staying that way. It’s incredibly challenging and time-consuming and seems to involve at least one public breakdown (on my part) per mentee family. Worth it.

This is, in many ways, what I do.

7. Art by Qusay Fadheel.

This is fairly easy. I just take some of Qusay’s prints with me whenever I’m running a stall. And I use him whenever I need an artist (and pay him). There’s very little money in it, but the balance of the business account is slowly rising rather than falling. That’s the goal, really, isn’t it?

8. West Belco Food Pantry.

This is costly in terms of both money and energy but I don’t feel able to just quit because I know that kids have avoided going hungry because their parent had my pantry to lean on in an emergency.

Early this year I began partnering with the Indigenous Justice Health officer to make ‘Homeward Hampers’ for Indigenous detainees who are re-joining the community. I am THRILLED to be able to do something useful for Indigenous people, especially those who are directly effected by the innate and ongoing racism of the police and justice system.

A lot of people immediately came on board to help, and I got carried away and made HUGE hampers worth about $250 each. I thought I’d work real hard in January and then not do anything the rest of the year. Lolz… It’s May now, and I’m ALMOST finished. And ended up putting way too much of my own money into it too.

BUT I have just found a sponsor for the pantry who is going to make a monthly donation. I don’t yet know how much it will be but I am so, so glad to have that help.

9. Platypus Playgroup.

It took a lot of hours of work, but I have now successfully implemented the exit plan I had in mind from the start. The Platypus Playgroup is now doing great and I don’t have to show up—ever. Every so often I get an email from someone who wants to join the group, and I tell them how. That’s it. So technically I’m still involved, but only a teeny tiny bit.

10. The Castle.

Here’s what I wrote last time:

Before I was able to form the Castle of Kindness, I dreamed a large and complicated dream.

I want to help design an enormous house that looks like a castle (basically a square, with towers and crenelations and a flat roof) that has one giant room on the bottom floor (for events and for emergency accommodation for disabled/autistic people), and adjustable living quarters on the other two floors (so various combinations of people can live there, eg 2 singles and a 3-kid family; 5 singles; etc). It would be accessible for wheelchair users as well as people who are Hard of Hearing or have Low Vision or temperature sensitivity or smoke sensitivity. It would have Aboriginal art inside and out, and facilities for cooking lessons or big movie nights, and maybe even an inside pool and/or spa (gentle exercise and/or pain relief). It would have solar power including a battery (so it was insured against power outages), and be as bushfire and storm safe as a house can be.

I reckon it would cost about 2 million to build, plus about a million just for the land. Because ideally it would be near my house—a great location for disabled people, as the Kippax shopping (and medical) centres are close by, and there are several great local community organisations here too.

This hustle has a building designer on board, and that’s about as far as I’ve gotten (not nothing). But it’s something Canberra needs, and whoever manages to build it will make a massive profit from renting both the living spaces and the conference spaces (the lower room and the roof—and presumably the yard too). It would be a great place for disabled refugees to live—within a mini community that could hopefully help one another (and they could also be hired as event organisers, cleaners, or gardeners—or they could run cooking classes, art exhibitions, etc).

Brace yourself, because this is going to sound literally insane (and believe me, I hear it too): I think God has told me that my family is going to move to a specific big, beautiful house near us (not as owners, but as renters—which we definitely couldn’t afford at the moment).

It is zoned for two dwellings, so the owners could potentially build a two-story granny flat with a pool on the lower floor and disability-friendly housing on the top—including at least one tower. It is suitable for emergency accommodation and for moderately-sized community stuff as the living room is giant (60 square metres), so I could host events of 100 people inside or 300ish with combined inside/outside spaces (the yard is big enough to fit another house).

There’s a partially-roofed deck which would be great for a spa and even has an external door to the bathroom. It even has a large outside caged space that would make a great cat run.

It would need some work to be fully accessible, but not as much as most houses. And you can see the mountains from the balcony. It recently sold for 1.2 million, and I was at the auction telling people I wanted to rent it. That was over a month ago. No-one has contacted me about it, and I have only a teensy bit more money now than I did then (specifically, $25/fortnight, plus an unknown amount for the food pantry). I could arguably ‘rent’ a room to the food pantry, as the house is also a great set-up for both a food pantry and an escape room (I would use a single large room for both). There is a gated front courtyard which can’t be seen from the road (so it’s unlikely to attract drunk people smashing stuff) and three of the five bedrooms have doors that open directly to the courtyard, so the food pantry room could be accessed from outside while still having a locked door between it and the rest of the house. (The other two direct-access doors would be great for emergency evacuees, because they could have privacy from us—we would move into the family room during the emergency.)

It’s in a high fire risk area… but a swimming pool full of water might be VERY handy for exactly that reason.

I call it “The Shiny House”.

11. “Welcome to Australia” book

I forgot this particular hustle last time. It’s something that grew out of the Castle of Kindness Refugee Sponsorship Group, and I started work on it four years ago. It’s a picture book designed for refugee and immigrant kids to read with their parents, and has loads of information (from “Cockatoos are huge and loud but they won’t hurt you” to “‘Bring a plate’ is not about crockery”). I always wanted to make it bilingual in several languages, and our current refugee mentees have translated it into Dari Persian. So… I now owe them $700 which I don’t have (I am working on a short-term loan because failing to pay a refugee on time is supervillain level dodgy) BUT the book is very close to having a real, bilingual, completed version.

12. The ZamZam Foundation.

You may have noticed that the most recent blog entry here is about an Afghan-led charity called the ZamZam Foundation which is launching in Canberra next month. I’m currently the secretary. It’s been a wild ride and way too much for me to handle. About a month ago my imminent collapse was obvious enough that several more people came on board, so I THINK the worst is over. We’ll see. I really love the work but I need to find a co-secretary or something along those lines. I am working on it.

13. And…

Because of the ZamZam Foundation, I became aware of some government grants specifically designed to help Afghan refugees (and vulnerable migrants) settle into Australia. I got excited and started looking at houses (that’s how I first saw the Shiny House) before reading in more detail that the grants can’t be used for housing or land. Then I came up with these thirteen ideas:

a) English lessons (including a member of the current refugee family, and including me—which would be about $250/week for me and at least that much for her).

b) Driving lessons (including at least 2 members of the current refugee family).

c) Wages and computers for the president and secretary of the ZamZam Foundation (which would give me another $100 or so per week, plus $150 to pay a co-secretary, plus a non-dying computer).

d) Swimming lessons in a private backyard pool (which, if I lived at the Shiny House and got permission, would give me a backyard pool… and I also quoted for a waterslide and Indigenous art installation which would be AWESOME and ultimately a source of income so the free swimming lessons for refugees could continue to be free).

This is by the artist I’d most likely hire (who likes the idea):

e) West Belco Food Pantry—expanding the pantry, and hiring a refugee to do the shopping and unloading and cleaning. I’d continue to monitor the pantry, and charge maybe $20 or $50 a week for my services. If I was at the Shiny House, I’d charge $100/week for the use of the room.

f) Funding to make and print “Welcome to Australia” in its Persian bilingual form, including 500 free copies sent around Australia (to other refugee mentorship groups, the Red Cross, etc), and some cash for me.

g) Stress-related pain relief (since refugees have trouble coming to terms with mental illness, but definitely know they’re stressed and in pain)—a spa pool, and free massages. (And then I’d have a spa in my yard, plus $20-$50 for coordinating people’s visits.)

h) Cooking groups (made up of two recent arrivals and two not, to help integrate people into the wider community—and to help new arrivals show off their skills rather than having to be the recipient of aid all the time).

i) Monthly Open House dinners—I’d love to host that, especially if I was in a house with enough room (…like the Shiny House).

j) Monthly excursions—I love showing off Canberra, and would get paid about $200/month for that.

k) Art classes (originally by my mum, then one of her students would do it for money).

A friend just told me about another government grant thing due next month, with similar goals (except not restricted to Afghans, which is all the better for me) so I’ll apply for most/all of these in those grants too.

So, is my life about to change in a big way (for at least the next two years)? We’ll see.

If I won most/all of those grants, I’d have enough money to rent the Shiny House. So it’s possible.

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