Game of Thrones – Song of Ice and Fire Adaptation

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Characters and how they are conveyed on the screen. 

I’ve been making my way through the various books in the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series recently. It would have been remiss of me to not take a look at the ‘Game of Thrones’ series while I was at it, so I downloaded seasons 1, 2 and 3 on iTunes.

One thing that typically intrigues me about adaptations is the way characters are conveyed on the screen. They don’t need to be 100% authentic for an adaptation to be effective, but the adaptation must at least capture the essential qualities of each character it portrays.

So, as I have been watching and reading, I have been mentally compiling a list of which characters have been effectively conveyed in the television series, which have been less so, and which characters have failed dismally to meet the depth of characterisation in George ‘R R’ Martin’s epic fantasy work.

Well, here it is.

Firstly Peter Baelish. I think in the novel he was a minor character with some quirks and interesting motivations. He was largely a secondary character who became more important as the other main characters kept getting killed off. I feel he was one of Martin’s less effective characters and his story arc seems to go nowhere, despite the author’s obvious intent to keep promoting a man characterised by his quick wit and machiavellian scheming. The actor who plays Lord Baelish is actually quite good, but the character is nothing like he is in the novels. He lacks the sarcasm and the wit, and comes across as dour and intense. So the depiction of Baelish is one of the many weak points where the TV adaptation fails to live up to the excellent characterisation of the novels.

Another one in the category of underwhelming page to screen transformation is the so-called Lord of Flowers, Loras Tyrell. No disrespect to the actor, but the character is described as impossibly handsome (an Edward Cullen type) and an epic sword fighter. He should be oozing with charm and ruggedly handsome, more like Heath Ledger from A Knight’s Tale. The actor in this role looks to be barely a teenager, effeminate and lacking in any sort of screen presence. His role in the TV series is marginalised and he wafts in and out of a few scenes here and there. Then again, he was another character in the novel who hardly lived up to the hype and expectations of Martin’s exposition. Not sure if that was a deliberate ploy, but many of the interesting characters were hyped up in ‘Game of Thrones’ (the novel), then virtually discarded, or killed off, for the remainder of the novels.

I’ll come back to some of the other very poorly adapted characters shortly, but I wouldn’t want readers to think that I hate the series. It’s like chocolate: it may not have any nutritional value, but it sure is addictive.

In the average category, those characters which don’t quite live up to their namesakes in the book we, first of all, have Joffrey. The scriptwriters in the series must have time to fill in order to generate hour-long episodes. Joffrey is hardly quoted in the novels; he is a simpering, half-crazed, sadistic twerp. He is well and truly under the thumb of his mother, uncle and Grandfather. Whilst some of this is conveyed in the show, he has far too much dialogue, is too domineering and has actually strategic and military knowledge. This flies in the face of his character, an incompetent boy, plagued by insecurities. The actor does a passable job, but this screen Joffrey does not do justice to the original character.

The next one on the list is Robb, the so-called king of the North, though he is never an official king and his reign is so brief to hardly warrant the title. The actor in this role is a perfect casting choice, one of the best in the series. He perfectly embodies the character, who in many respects, due to the unusual point of view utilised in the novels, is essentially a minor player. His role is well fleshed out in the show and the actor brings this to life.

Jaime Lannister is a masterwork of characterisation. Martin has repeatedly avowed his love of shades of grey in characters, and Jaime is his best character in the novel (Tyrion is a close second, though becomes something of a bore by the fifth book). The actor (Costa- Waldo?) is another perfect choice, and the adaptation faithfully renders this character, despite several plot omissions from the original.

His lover and sister Cersei falls a bit flat in the TV series. She is pure evil in the novels, a scheming, merciless woman in the same vein as Lady Macbeth. I would place her in the average category: not too bad, not too good. She lacks the same fire in the show, losing too many exchanges with her son, Joffrey,  and lacking the hint of madness and cruelty she displays in the books. The actress does a passable job, but much more could have been brought out of this role.

Catelyn Stark was a major surprise. She is hands down the worst, most annoying character in the novels. Nothing she does makes any sense; she is impulsive, irrational and makes blunder after blunder, leading to the war and senseless loss of life. Somehow, the directors of ‘Game of Thrones’ have managed to make her one of the most interesting, well-rounded and pivotal characters in the whole series. The actress is perfectly cast and does a sterling job. She brings such emotional depth to a simpering, weak character. Well done!

Daenerys Targaryen. What can one say? So many other blogs have put it better than I could. Irritating, annoying character in both the film and the novels. There is almost no redeeming feature about this character and the actress brings little depth to the role – Emilia Clarke seems fretful and indecisive most of the time she is on screen. At other times she conveys arrogance, but brings no real emotional depth to the role. I have a feeling that Martin went out on a limb in creating this character and the dragons and, once he had created them, he battled for thousands of pages to make them relevant. Perhaps he will succeed by the last novel.  They just don’t fit into a supposedly medieval fantasy novel.

Tyrion was another masterful creation from Martin. His wit is legendary and he is filled with both nobility and craftiness, despite his reputation as a lecherous imp. I guess Peter Dinklage was the logical choice for this role, so there is no benchmark to compare him to. That being said, he does a sterling job and almost lives up to the status the character achieves in print. Much of his dialogue is cut and at times the transitions are messed up, leaving him awkwardly staring into space, but he does a fine job as does the director with this one.

I might as well cover Shae, Tyrion’s lover. This is where they go way off track. They have taken far too much licence with this role, and the results are disastrous. She plays too strong a role, is too influential and nowhere near as lascivious and playful as she should be. The accent and the backstory are ridiculous and the intimacy between the two is all wrong and never seems credible.

Another one in the disastrous category is the prostitute from Winterfell, a character invented by the directors and thrown into all these influential scenes. They keep trying to make this irrelevant pointless role valid and one squirms in each scene she is in. I realise that they condense characters in adaptations, but sometimes it is better to omit them, rather than create characters that don’t link to the original story. Ultimately Joffrey kills her off, probably because the director had no idea what to do with her next.

Ygritte, Jon Snow’s lover is in the average category, neither good nor bad. And what’s with all these British accents by the way? Harry Potter used English stars because the story was set in England.  This story is set in Westeros, a fictional place, so why are they trying to make it seem like medieval England?

Jon Snow is another masterful choice, the ruggedly handsome Kit Harrington. Look, he’s not as great as they are all saying; after all he just stares around in this kind of sullen way for most of the time. But he has a lot of screen presence and his story arc is faithfully rendered, despite cuts to dialogue, scenes etc.

For sake of brevity, I will summarise the rest:

Ned Stark: utterly brilliant. Well acted, almost too well.

Sansa Stark: Adequate without being compelling.

Arya Stark: This is another character Martin perhaps should have killed off; her story arc becomes less and less plausible as the events progress; the actress plays the role convincingly.

Theon Greyjoy: Very good.

Tywin Lannister: very good portrayal by Charles Dance, though the storyline is a little ridiculous. Surely a man as sagacious as that can discover the identity of Arya Stark. I guess they had to add bits for him, given he is a known actor, and must command a certain amount of screen time.

The dragons: brilliant CGI, or whatever was used to create them.

Those are probably the main ones, if I have left out anyone, please let me know.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Very thought provoking. Makes you wonder will we ever get there as teaching professionals.

Granted, and...

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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Eating your way through literature

I don’t know if this ever happens to you guys, but reading always makes me hungry. Whenever an author mentions a person eating something that sounds like it would taste good, immediately I crave that sort of food. Then when they mention someone drinking something, say for example a beer, I start to feel like drinking beer.

For example, I am reading East of Eden at the moment and there is a character called Lee, who, other than dispensing sage advice to the hapless family for whom he is a servant, he seems to be perpetually brewing coffee. I can’t tell you how many superfluous cups of coffee this character has prompted me to drink! In fact this character trait of offering other characters coffee is almost a cliche as the narrative is riddled with this humble service.

If you are reading Hemingway things get even worse because, as he wrote in his autobiographical work, A Moveable Feast (the title of which gives away the point I am going to make), he talks about why he inserted so many eating and drinking scenes in his novels. Just about every scene has someone drinking some unimpeachably delectable alcoholic beverage or eating copious amounts of food. This was all because Hemingway was starving at the time and could barely afford to buy lunch, so when he wrote, his thoughts drifted to the food he dreamed of eating.

So it’s interesting the way we as modern readers can be influenced by the cravings that motivated the authors initially, even though these cravings were unfulfilledbruce-lee-suit-sunglasses by the authors at the time.

 

 

 

“Would you like some coffee?”

Wrecking ball and the McDonald’s builders

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This is the house that Burbank built. Amazingly it is still standing.

 

The Werribee Manor, the site of the great Australian novel I am supposed to be working on.
The Werribee Manor, the site of the great Australian novel I am supposed to be working on.
Pretending to be an author at Werribee.
Pretending to be an author at Werribee.
The game I have been playing obsessively for 2 years.
The game I have been playing obsessively for 2 years.

I’ve been living in this Burbank house for I don’t know give or take six months now. The first few weeks were a fun adventure, with no blinds, no TV and no internet. So we headed over to Perth for a holiday away from our brand new home. Otherwise I would have used up thousands of dollars on my iPhone which I used as an internet source for feeding my addition to the online multiplayer game League of Legends. I wonder if there is a deliberate irony in the naming of the game as though they had to come up with the most obvious title imaginable – it’s like calling a novel, A novel story or a film, Cinematic Masterpiece. The name alone should have been warning enough for me!   At first I was very excited by the idea of a new home. Our previous home was a bit too large, with a backyard we rarely used, and I liked the idea of living in a townhouse,  rather than a typical brick veneer or large estate. The small backyard appealed to me and the place seemed spacious and cosy at the same time. The main design flaw I felt was the small size of the lounge room, which disappointed me because, even though I don’t use that room very often, I like the thought that I could accommodate more people there if ever the need arose, or at least stretch out a little more if so desired. As I say, when I first moved in and during the first months of occupation, despite the battle to get an internet service provider (I guess I should not be surprised that the Labor government’s NBN behemoth is not only  billions of wasteddollars, but is also a bureaucratic,  inefficient operation) and the heat wave during summer that we suffered through with a broken air conditioner and the greenhouse effect of living in a house without blinds,  I fell in love with the place, and each new day of our residence, I was filled with a youthful excitement, the childlike feeling akin to receiving a new toy.   But just like the suffusing glow of new toy ownership evaporates for the child, so too did the new house feeling disappear, replaced by more complacent feelings and at times outright frustration and anger at the quality of the Burbank construction. Little things started to go wrong, bits falling off here and there, and then I started to get frustrated with the quality of the fixtures and fittings, the design of the bathroom the inadequate heating and cooling and the aftersales service.  Many were the times I felt like I wanted to vent my frustration of Facebook about how lousy a builder Burbank was, to complain about all the things that have been unsatisfactory about the house. But then I thought, what good will it do? Firstly, my ten or so Facebook friends are unlikely to stir up a revolution over one whingeing, disgruntled homeowner. Secondly, I have no benchmark by which to compare my concerns. As I’ve never owned a new house before, it may be that, perhaps, the things that have gone wrong here go wrong in many houses. Also, it occurs to me that others may be aware of a fact to which I was oblivious – that Burbank is the McDonald’s of builders anyway and that it would be foolish for me to expect a five course gourmet meal when I enter MacDonald’s to order a burger with fries. (Those who know me may wish to stretch the analogy further, given my penchant for ordering McDonald’s foods, but I would protest by saying that I don’t expect much when I order there, and hence am rarely disappointed.)

The setup in my home office was supposed to enhance my productivity.
The setup in my home office was supposed to enhance my productivity.

For instance, how soon should the concrete in the garage star cracking? I don’t know whether these cracks mean a shoddy job done, as I suspect, or a natural part of the building process. I am assured by others that the cracks appearing in the walls are a typical part of the building process and these happened to all new buildings as they ‘settle’. However Burbank’s after sales service was horribly inadequate compared to the service offered by other builders such as Metricon. The chubby man who came into my home to evaluate it – after three months! – looked like he would have preferred to be anywhere else but where he was. His cursory look over the property was as thorough as a child’s bath, and relied on the checklist I had made of the cracks and problems with the property. He was no doubt in a hurry to get to lunch as the breakfast he had just come from was already fading into obscurity. So this company relies on the homeowner to point out faults rather than checking these with an expert eye. Sure I was able to pick out some of the more obvious cracks but I do work for a living, as the bible instructs me to, and hadn’t had a chance to go thought the whole house looking for cracks, something that I would imagine the rigorous follow up inspection of a trustworthy building company would do.   The actual handyman they sent out to fix the problems was in even more of a hurry than the previous guy.  Just like the aforementioned, officious, chubby guy inspector, the latter representative refused to take responsibility for the most obvious chips and cracks in the paintwork, which he claimed were as a result of the  damage left by the furniture removalists, which I don’t believe is the case, given I only noticed these marks much later. So I am beginning to see that despite outlaying what, for me, was a small fortune for this property, I really have bought a cheeseburger rather than a filet mignon; I have coke to drink rather than Chardonnay. As I reflection on my dissatisfaction with the house, it reminds me of the process of decay all flesh is heir to. Now not only have there been cracks in the wall, some of which the maintenance guy patched up within the two or so minutes he was in our house, but the paint is peeling and chipping in places. The carpet is starting to rise in the corners of the rooms and as I mentioned earlier, there is a series of small cracks in the garage. So life is replete with incompetence and decay. A state of decay is man’s natural state: even the best items constructed by man will contain the seeds of their destruction. Perhaps even amidst the finest workmanship there are elements of man’s incompetence. Who amongst us can say they have done everything brilliantly or excellently? You may note the picture of my ‘office’. When I set this up in the new house I took a picture of the desks to remind myself that there were no excuses for poor productivity. Yet most evenings I have used the office for playing League of Legends, the online multiplayer video game. I justified my gaming on the grounds that each night when I came home to do my work I was too tired to do anything and the gaming would recharge my batteries. Since ditching my Creative Writing Maters course due to the exorbitant cost of the units and my unwillingness to meet this cost, instead of working on my grand narrative, I have been playing League of Legends most nights. The following photos show the Werribee Mansion, one of the settings of the novel I have done so little work on over the past year. To add to the chagrin I feel at my minuscule output as a writer, I read yesterday of a novelist who started out as a casual blogger and who was asked by a leading publisher to write a novel. More heartbreak for me as I read stories like that, especially when I consider the attempts I have made to get published, sending of manuscripts that are returned with a polite but firm refusal. So anyway the point I wanted to make was that this week I uninstalled the game League of Legends. I wasn’t the first time I had uninstalled but I hope to really quit this time. Otherwise I will get nothing done at all. It is my goal to finish this book by the end of the year. I am kind of stuck with it at the moment as I have all the key story elements included but I am well shy of the content required for a full story and the bits are still not that well integrated. Speaking of building, renovating and decay, I was on Twitter this week. I guess with League of Legends uninstalled I had to be doing something. Presumably, Given I am a video gamer, I was sent a link to a Minecraft parody of the song Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. I tell, you if you love Minecraft or Miley Cyrus, or if you just want to see something creative, you should look at that video. It was exceptionally creative – the music and the animation were first class. Like most males on the planet I was aware that Miley Cyrus created a video clip featuring herself swinging naked from a wrecking ball for this song. Interestingly enough I had actually never heard the song before, despite the obvious enticement of Miley Cyrus swinging naked from a wrecking ball (I can show some restraint), so I went on to iTunes to listen to the actual song for a bit, having heard  the parody. What I found interesting was that it’s actually a good song. I even thought of buying it for a moment but the idea of spending $3 on a Miley Cyrus song seemed just plain wrong. I’m not against paying for music but three bucks, seriously! Maybe I’ll download it as a ringtone. I love using ironic ring tones that people don’t expect me to use, featuring songs antithetical to my whole worldview. Anyway, the interesting element about the song – aside from the lingering elements of country music phrasing that have almost faded from her ‘style’, but which made her first hits so appealing – is the content of the lyrics (Sure the melody is catchy too, which doesn’t hurt). The irony is that her film clip has garnered all the attention because of the blatant sexuality and the debate about the morality of the young woman removing her clothes for the sake of selling records. When you listen to the lyrics though it is about getting thought to a man emotionally, something most women could appreciate and understand, and at times, I’m sure they feel they need a wrecking ball to knock down the emotional barrier that men put up to protect their egos. Its chorus also relates the dangers of woman trying too hard to knock down these barriers or ‘walls’ and in the process destroying he relationship  that drew them to this man in the first place. So, in trying to improve the emotional connectively with their mate, the woman pictured by this song has made the situation worse than it has been previously. So it is a shame the song has received attention for the video clip alone, rather than the messages it conveys, a message typifying real life relationship problems. Even the symbolism of the wrecking ball, whilst dismissed as a crass stunt, is actually an apt metaphor. Let’s be honest, men only really notice the sexual side of a woman. The overt symbolism of a naked woman swinging in to break down walls is a critique of male sexuality, which is a crude blunt instrument. Sure men notice a woman’s virtue, modesty and charm, but this is often long after they have been won over by her beauty.

 

This is me playing video games; my customary face each evening  for the past 2 years.
This is me playing video games; my customary face each evening for the past 2 years.

Bogan Class

I’m waiting for the film to start. There is a delay and they haven’t ushered us into the so-called ‘Gold Class’ cinema yet. To think that Fountain Gate, the bogan hotspot of Victoria, boasts a Gold Class cinema. Though I guess it is not surprising as Gold Class cinema outings are what bogans or the egocentric blue collar workers of Australia consider to be a culturally enriching experience. It’s incredible to watch them in their natural state. They were lampooned ferociously in TV shows throughout the eighties – and currently though that Australian Bogan TV show – yet they still maintain their lower class speech patterns, frivolous interests and total lack of irony. The hair is bleached blonde on the women and while they may not dress as they did in the eighties they dress in a decidedly casual fashion and their form of elegance is tacky and cheap.

The woman next to me for example had and explosive plume of blonde hair, was dressed entirely in black and used phrases such as ‘he goes’ and ‘she goes’ instead of ‘he said’ (or related or intimated or replied). The conversation was ceaseless and vapid and mercifully we moved to another part of this saloon. It’s so hilarious the lack of irony and the pretentiousness of this insipid facility. Whilst it is called Gold Class it is nothing of the sort. People sit around waiting for the same movies that all the plebs see, despite paying at least twice the price. The foyer is tacky with gaudy carpet, uncomfortable chairs and inflated prices for food items such as nachos, which should have been buried with the 90s. Then, if yours is more of a gourmet palate, there are hamburgers. So hamburgers are now what constitutes quality food, food worthy of a gold class standard? Well, as I say, it gets back to the lack of irony in the pretentiousness about this place. Nothing is ‘gold’ class and the management, and bogan clientelle, seem to think it is. This is before you get into the cinema itself to watch as I indicated the ordinary films that anyone else can watch for more reasonable prices.

Now we are inside the and the bogans are on their smart phones sending text messages or positing statuses about their empty purposeless lives. You can just imagine the calibre of these messages: ‘I’m in the cinema’ or ‘film about to start’. ‘About to watch movie’. And to think I was just reading the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire on the same device. Don’t get me wrong, Iove iPhones and think they were one of the best inventions of all time but it sickens me to the heart to see people so attached to them and using them for such trivial pointless interchanges. I remember recently I was at a function organized by the honourable Mark Dreyfus, a sickening left wing propaganda exercise and I was caught without my iPad but wanted to do some literary writing. So there I was contributing to the pantheon of quality literature and a woman came and presumptuously scolded me for texting while she was trying to film the event.

As you can imagine I was flabbergasted A that someone was going to film such a pointless event and B That she thought my elegant prose was simply “texting”. Staggering.

Clothes shopping

I just read another reference to the ‘consumerism’ which is running ‘rampant’ in our society. It’s grating that this term ‘consumerism’ has been so readily integrated into the public consciousness, primarily no doubt through hypocritical left-wing writers, who want us to feel bad about our ability to buy nice things. Today, I saw the term in an opinion piece in today’s Herald Sun by Alice Clarke, which is a comic piece about the many bizarre ways people might die. She glibly lists consumerism as one thing that might kill us, as we might be ‘crushed’ by the weight of our ‘possessions’. Sure it’s humourous, but it is also a thoughtless use of a term which hasn’t been properly explored before it has been thrust on the public consciousness.

The word ‘consumerism’ first came to prominence in the book ‘Affluenza’, where the authors, whose names not surprisingly escape me, suggested that the ability for citizens in modern western nations to purchase an abundant supply of consumer goods was akin to a disease. On the one hand, if you look at the use of the terms, ‘consumerism’ or ‘materialism’ you could be sickened by the bleeding heart writers who are so desperate to point out that our society is evil that they would turn that which is ‘good’ or beneficial into something we should all feel guilty about. However, you might then fall into the same puerile trap of simplistic reasoning, which these writers have used to avoid any kind of intellectual thought on the issue. It would be good if we could at least move away from such terms and really explore what it means to buy or to own an item or as economists so coldly call them, ‘commoditities’.

But, suffice it to say, there is something troubling about our modern society when we invent a hypothetical ‘disease’ for something that all third world nations of the world would gladly contract.

I went shopping for clothes yesterday and it caused me to reflect on the process of purchasing, which presumably was simpler in former times but now seems to be bogged down in a myriad of psychological elements that give it a sort of transcendence beyond its true significance. Now when I enter a shop, I not only have to check the size and colour of a garment, to consider whether it will match the other items I have at home or whether it will be suitable for work or family gatherings, I also have to overcome the massive guilt foisted upon me by the dogooders who see buying clothes as not essential but consumerism, a sign that I am unhealthy, depressed and in need of retail therapy to attempt to fill a void in my life. The idiots who coined the term ‘retail therapy’ are little better, as this is a simplistic, glib attempt to show that we human beings can be afforded happiness by walking into a retail store, buying some clothes we don’t need and may not even wear.

I think the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes.

Clothes buying is a transaction, an interaction between people, which creates psychological stress, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of victory to the successful shopper. So when I walk into the store, I am thinking of how much money I can afford to spend. I am thinking whether or not this purchase is ‘essential’ or whether I am wasting money or buying simply to satisfy a temporary urge. There is also a myriad of brands, sizes and styles to choose from, which becomes bewildering. At the end of the day human beings must wear clothes in a civilised society and despite the trend to pay more and more to wear less and less, a certain degree of propriety is required in purchasing clothes for work or for all social situations other than lounging around at a beach resort. So when you find a garment that fits you well, for a reasonable price you justifiably feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s not that easy to do, particularly when there are so many poor quality, ill-fitting garments on display. When you purchase an item of quality you are not only incorporating that quality into your life, you are reflecting the excellence in the workmanship and the excellence used in producing the garment, something that according to our free-market economic system is called creating value.

The other element that complicates matters is the salesperson. In many stores, sales people are just so bad, and make the purchase of clothes much more difficult than it need be. Because we as consumers are very wary of ‘being sold’ an overly pushy salesperson can actually talk us out of things that we really want to buy. Having trained in sales myself, I can see the telltale signs immediately, the wrong questions, the officious tone, that impression you get as a customer that the sale is more important to them than your interests. So many times I have walked out of a store I would be happy to browse in or buy from due to the approach of the salesperson. You have to speak very clearly and state exactly what you want, avoiding the ‘games’ that buyers and sellers often get into. There is nothing worse than the feeling we have been trapped into buying something, so we avoid this strenuously when shopping, often missing out on items we genuinely want to buy.

Buying clothes (or other consumer items) is not always essential. We might have a full wardrobe but want something else, a new colour a different style. Clothes do wear out, so it is stingy and miserly to continue with the same clothes year in year out unless you are spending well beyond your budget and means. Buying clothes and items is pleasureable. You do feel good about owning new items (not necessarily paying for them, which is downright painful!) and this is why these left wing clowns are calling affluence a disease. They don’t want us to have fun with anything and they want the rest of the world to live in Stalinesque poverty while they live in their inner-city apartments sipping lattes with their mates from Greenpeace. But it is both pleasurable and essential. You cannot survive long in the workforce without quality clothes, quality computers or quality communication tools such as smart phones. At the very least, you will likely be overlooked for promotion.

Buying clothes is not an antidote to a disease, nor is it a symptom. Yet it can provide pleasure and it does, like all aspirations, result in less happiness than it promises. When I bought me suit, I was happy. It was a good fit, and I purchased it for a reasonable price. It will not be a lasting happiness, which can only be accomplished by living according to one’s innermost values, but to deny it is a pleasure and to say it only has a utilitarian purpose is to belie what the experience of shopping really is.

excerpt from Winter Blues

‘I want my painting back, the one that Richard made of me,’ she said defiantly. Richard was a ‘friend’ of ours, who painted Samantha, yet he seemed to be too eager to make her pose au natural and he required an awful amount of time with my wife in his private studio. She had rarely shown interest in the paintings themselves, even calling them somewhat ‘bereft’ of style, yet the time spent with Richard was cherished enough. Anyway, I had stored them in the garage and was planning to throw them out but hadn’t got around to it. God knows what she wanted with them – perhaps she thought they would be valuable one day or she wished to drape her new dwellings, the house I did not even get to live in myself, with pictures of herself in the buff.

I realised it was more likely she was terrified by the thought I might post them on the internet or Facebook or something, but I was beyond the stage of petty revenge. Then again…

A fragment from ‘Winter Blues’

I pressed the bell but it didn’t ring so I knocked fairly hard on the doorframe.
‘Who’s there!’ an annoyed voice called out.
‘William it’s me!’
His tone of voice changed immediately. He came to the door and greeted me warmly though I could see that his enthusiasm was manufactured. His eyes looked tired and his face drawn and gaunt. He was very thin and one could tell from his features that he had been under a lot of strain.
I made my way into the house following William who was wearing a tatty looking tracksuit and smelt vaguely of baked beans. We made our way to the lounge room which was strewn with old newspapers, a broken laptop computer and a variety of clothes of various descriptions.
‘So mate, how are you?’ he asked.
‘How are you?’ I asked, ‘I’ve got to say, you really look terrible.’
‘Me, no, don’t worry about me, I’ve got it all in hand.’
But what have you been doing?’ is everything all right?’
‘Everything is completely shot to bits,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘I have no wife, as you know she left me shortly before yours did. My car has been repossessed. Not that they will be able to drive it away. You saw it out the front.’