Spontaneous Tweeting

Piers Morgan doesn’t like vegans, and that’s fine, because nobody likes Piers Morgan. Did you know that the President of the United States follows him on Twitter? Did you know that it’s not okay to hack somebody’s phone. Some things should be kept private, like the inside of Piers Morgan’s head. Most of the time, when I check Twitter I leave it bitter, and I think it’s partly down to following the wrong people and partly down to following anyone. There’s so much empty space just waiting to be filled. Pour bullshit over bullshit. I watched a policeman kill a kid because he couldn’t crawl properly. I watched it over breakfast, blood on the floor of a hotel corridor. Piers Morgan didn’t say anything about it, but did you know the President of the United States follows him? The same President that tweeted videos of people being pushed off buildings? Did you know the President is the only person responsible for the lack of deaths on planes in 2017? Did you know that nothing means nothing anymore? Or does everything mean everything? It becomes hard to tell when everything is digested in megabytes and is still hard to swallow. Explains this communal bad taste. Explains too much, and I’ll refresh the page in search of answers, find cat memes and death. Did you know that cat memes cure depression? Did you know that Piers Morgan doesn’t understand male depression? Did you know that that’s nonsense? It’s nothing but nonsense. My depression is conspiring with the internet against me. I’m writing this in red wine and it’s not helping. Refresh, regret, global warming is your grandmother’s myth, or your president’s, it’s “no cause for concern” and it’s John Cusack’s questionable career choices. It’s the end of the world in less than one-hundred-forty characters and it’s a trending topic.

Advertisements

Burden

All you’d wanted was a normal conversation,
which was steered south by my choice of navigation,,
sending us away from ‘catching up’ to ‘giving up,;
casting us into troubled seas where we had to talk in a storm,
and our voices raises as the signal started to fade in the bad weather and the rain,
across counties as your voice broke down the line just before mine.

The poor reception cemented our severed connection,
the static becoming the soundtrack to the distance growing between us,
noise between North and South, drawing the lines in bold at separate poles
as I lost control of our love and our boat rent in two between me and you.
ending up dashed against the reef and the feel of his tongue against your teeth,
or his hands on your hips the night you’d jumped ship,
when you became siren instead of sailor, my curse instead of my saviour.

I leapt too, later, and swam to shore,
where I pitched a one-man tent and ended up alone, without you and without myself,
without the happier self I’d found in you as a home,
which I’d built from a single endeavour, from the floor up with your help
and now watched you pull apart stone by stone,
As I retreated into my own head and lived there more than in the present,
where I missed the smell of your cigarette smoke in my clothes,
while you sparked up on a distant shore with another man,
staining his Levi denim with the scent in an effort to forget about me,
and about what the two of you had done when you weren’t playing Swiss Family Robinson,
in the dress I’d watch you slide from your shoulders in the summer before.

And now in spring, when every time I feel like I might want more
I see an image of your dress on his floor, not mine,
that same dress you wore, or was wearing as you now lie in his bed
and I’m thrown off track and lose myself in a painful nostalgia where nobody else compares,
and that’s pathetic, but I was never much of a man, and you knew it.

It’s the same reason I feel claustrophobic in near empty rooms,
because how can I move onto something new when I can’t move past you?
Always blocking my way, the wave I can’t break as I steer my empty vessel
from one failed interaction to the next,
during which I say something charming and then think of my ex,
the ghost still haunting my halls and set to stay,
unsure of how I can learn to trust again after watching everything I gave to you given away,
you were a careless auctioneer handed gold which they sold for the price of soil.

Passing out after a joint or two with you…

…is better than shaking Niagara spittle from a borrowed poncho, better than getting lucky on a two dollar scratch card and being able to feed myself for a week in Florida, better than daily Georgia accents and better than watching live football (soccer) at seven in the morning, better than a front porch cigarette smoked slowly in the zenith of a west coast thunderstorm, better because having you here with your Rooney Mara nose twitch means that you are real and that it is you and you are not pixelated through a computer screen beamed in from five hours away, better than playing a perfect pool game on a Friday night with the guys, better than catching a home run hitter at Fenway Park to the applause of thirty-thousand people, better than the first margarita savoured at El Nachos and better than the blurred remainder of the night that followed, better than the guitar solo Prince plays in While My Guitar Gently Weeps (but only barely), better than filling lungs with fresh air after a five hour Greyhound ride and better than finding out the seat booked for a cross-country flight is an aisle seat with extra legroom, better than poutine and coke after a rock concert, better because when it hits 11:59 you count the seconds until September for some reason and kiss me at midnight so damn sweetly I feel like dying right there in your arms.

Passing out after a joint or two with you is better than passing out after a joint alone, better than all other pastimes, better than an entire semester spent away and exploring, but not
better than waking up to you the next morning after jetlag and from said semester away.

Honestly Vegan – Part Three (My Perfectly Imperfect Diet)

The main area that required adjustment when going animal-product free was my dietary arrangements – no surprise there. I went from a guy who ate meat daily to a guy who consumed dairy daily and then to a guy who managed to survive without either. The transition to a plant-based diet was a smooth one, made a lot easier by the fact that I’d be vegetarian for a few years beforehand. I think to have gone from carnivore to herbivore in the space of a day would have taken a toll on my system, and I’m glad I did it the way I did – more so now than I know people who had a hard time because of the extremity of their dietary alteration. I’d recommend doing it the same way as myself, gradually giving up certain things until the entire palette is plant based. It’s a lot more manageable for some than it is for others, although often it’s a change that isn’t permanent.

I’ll admit that I can understand why people either trial veganism or don’t take to the lifestyle. For a while before I suspected that I might not see it through. Without doing anybody a disservice, it depends on the person, their reasoning, and their commitment to the change. An awareness of what the change entails, as well as having a firm stance regarding the basis for breaking away from meat certainly helps. Sometimes it depends on health as well, but I’ve never really been sold on these reasons. It depends less so on things like money and time, but they also have to be considered factors, even if only small ones. When I made the change I committed to it, determined not to go back and, as such, I haven’t. The mentality is the primary factor, and a vegan diet is more than doable if approached the right way.

Vegan PictureFunnily enough, my diet hasn’t changed as much as I would have expected beforehand, and that’s in part because of the wealth of meat and dairy alternatives flooding the modern market. It’s now easier than ever to walk down to the supermarket and buy a completely vegan meal – blissfully easy even if those stores are available. Throughout my years at university I worked in two such supermarkets, so did all of my shopping in either a Tesco’s or a Sainsbury’s. It meant that a vegan meal-plan was easy to structure and adhere to, and if I was short on protein I could pick up a meat substitute after my shift and cycle home with it in my bag. For many, it isn’t that easy, and I have a great deal of respect for those who live a ‘raw’ diet, or those who don’t have the access to health stores or supermarkets that I do. My change involved consideration less so of how I prepare my meals and more to do with what I used to prepare them.

On a normal day, I have cereal and soya milk for breakfast. For lunch, I’ll have soup and a salad. In the evenings I alter things daily for my main meal but tend to return to staple dishes. I’m keen on stir-fry’s and curries, but can always rely on sausage and mash to fill the void which will have expanded throughout the afternoon. Linda McCartney remains a blessing, and I exchange the meat I used to eat for Quorn and the ‘cheatin’ range available at Holland and Barrett’s. I’m a pretty boring cook in that regard, and won’t be starting a fancy vegan meal Instagram page anytime soon. It’s a basic diet, but I try to keep things somewhat interesting. I don’t take milk in my coffee, and I don’t butter my toast. I drink herbal teas daily and snack on rice-cakes and cereal bars when I’m hungry or down on energy. On my bedside table are seven containers, and I take a vitamin from each before my morning shower. The B12 I no longer get from red meat I now get in the form of a patch placed behind my ear, or in a vitamin. It’s easy enough to maintain my diet, and I stick with it.

Cost-wise, the pricier items are the meat-substitutes, but my ‘fresh’ shop is likely the same cost as any meat-eaters. I buy in bulk and make the vegetables last, always keeping a stock of tinned goods in my cupboards – chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans etc as secondary options. If I’m low on funds I eat very basic meals (rice and pasta), and if I’ve just been paid I’ll spend a little bit extra on protein-rich vegan alternatives. I work out daily and swim pretty often, so it’s important I keep my energy levels up. I take cold showers and drink fresh juice in the mornings; I eat high-energy meals and prepare lunches for workdays that’ll keep me going. It’s all very standard stuff, and you’d probably be surprised by how unremarkable my diet actually is.

That’s not to say that my diet has been 100% vegan since I made the lifestyle change. It hasn’t, and I’m not a model to follow in this regard. There’s been a lot of temptation to diverge from my diet over time, and a couple of times I have. It’s not something I beat myself up about like some vegans would. Sometimes there are reasons (not excuses) for the occasional ‘slip,’ and it’s important to note that these slips do happen. They tend to happen when I’m on holiday or have been drinking, and they tend to involve cheese. I look back fondly on the margarita pizza I devoured in Munich after an afternoon at the cities yearly Oktoberfest, and I don’t feel bad about the patatas bravas (cheesy chips) I had when staying with good friends in Santiago over the summer. I do have mixed feelings, though, about an incident in New Orleans during which I found myself in an isolated part of town and ordered a local dish called ‘red beans and rice’, thinking it was just mashed kidney beans and rice. It arrived with bits of pork in it, however, and I worried that if I pointed it out to the waiter/chef they’d be offended, so I ate it. I didn’t enjoy it, sure, but I ate it. It felt more like a matter of manners than anything else. I was a tourist who’d fucked up, and so decided to just live with the mistake. My stomach wasn’t best-pleased afterward.

These occasional slips though only reaffirmed my current choice, and I do better now when it comes to my temptations and mistakes. Again, the wealth of vegan alternatives on the market also helps. Norwich (my current place of residence) is a city well suited for the modern vegan, and I’ve yet to have any slip-ups here. I read labels, cook my own food, and check menus when eating out. I shop cheap at Aldi and grab meat-alternatives when I’m in town. It’s a good system, and I believe it’s fully feasible to consume a diet which is fully vegan with minimal stress and low costs.

Vegan Food

IT (an Honest Movie Review from a Fan of the Novel)

Stephen-Kings-IT-Movie-PosterThis is going to be a casual movie review from somebody who loved the source material. I’ve read Stephen King’s IT twice in its lengthy entirety, and have since regularly re-read certain chapters that I liked above others. I first encountered King’s novel when I was fifteen, and the second when I was 20. When I was 19 I watched Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 miniseries and was mostly disappointed. I recently saw Andy Muschietti’s adaptation at the age of 22, however, and liked it a great deal.

Despite being plucked from a prolific and consistently strong literary career, King’s on-screen adaptations have a tendency to be hit or miss, either matching their source material (Misery, Stand By Me) or falling short (The Dark Tower, Cell). Thankfully, 2017’s It is very much a hit. If I was to see it as 15, the same age I’d read the book, it would have terrified me (as the book did). Seeing it now, it still scared me, though I’ll admit that those scares were lessened by my familiarity with the novel. This is a scary movie, no doubt, and it goes out of its way to scare. There’s gore aplenty, lots of blood (a whole bathroom full) and enough tension to burst a balloon in the absence of helium. It gets a lot of things right in this regard but, for myself, there was also more to IT (novel and adaptation) than the fear factor. IT was a novel above all else about friendship and comradery, and thankfully Muschietti’s spin on the story puts this sense of friendship at its core also. There are scares aplenty, for sure, but the characters interact and play off each other brilliantly and, in many ways, they make the movie as memorable as it is.

Some context. IT takes place in the American town of Derry, a place routinely plagued over the centuries by an evil entity which lurks beneath the sidewalks. This entity emerges for a blood-soaked period every twenty-seven years to terrorize the residents of the town in a number of guises – each with the same intent to provoke and feed on the year of those it selects as victims. This entity, which goes by the moniker of “Pennywise the Dancing Clown,” is discovered by a group of children known as “the losers club” – the nerdy but lovely bunch of misfits who’ve banded together in light of their social exclusion. Think along the lines of The Goonies and the more-recent Netflix hit series Stranger Things. King’s novel features these children as both children, and as adults. whereas Muschietti’s adaptation (the first chapter anyhow) concerns them only as children, keeping the narrative streamlined and easy to follow. The time period has also been shifted from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, though this change doesn’t really make any difference.

The Losers Club
The Losers Club

 

Regardless of setting, this is a film about kids fighting their fears, and you come to route for these kids as they do. What really makes IT the success that I found it to be, was in the casting of these child-actors. Although its many other areas (cinematography, sound design, effects etc) are all great, it’s the young cast that really allows the movie to excel. The casting department understood the novel and, as such, they got the kids absolutely right. For a movie that hinges on the capabilities of its younger members, each misfit ensemble that comprises”the loser club” are impeccably cast. In King’s novel, each had their own backstory, their own conflicts, their own fears, and their own personality – and these elements are captured perfectly by those who portray them. Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things fame), who plays Richie “trashmouth” Tozier does a killer job, and his many one-liners brought frequent laughs from a crowded theatre. Likewise, as leader of the pack, Jaeden Lieberher is thoroughly convincing as the tortured but brave Bill Denborough, and his performance is surprisingly nuanced. I found myself empathizing with him a great deal, just as I did with scene-stealer Sophia Lillis, who plays Beverley Marsh. One of the main areas perhaps avoided in the nineties mini-series of the same name was Marsh’s problematic home life, and we see much more of that on-screen this time around. Her character grows and matures in light of these domestic affairs, and Lillis shines in the role.

In retrospect I find myself wishing that the home-lives / back stories of Mike Scanlon (played by Chosen Jacobs) and Henry Bowers (played by Nicholas Hamilton) were a little more fleshed out than they actually were though. Bowers, in particular, comes across as the typical high-school bully, but has his own issues and motivations regarding the way he acts; these are glossed over for the most part.

Pennywise
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise

Special praise must also be directed to Bill Skarsgård, who takes on the iconic role of primary antagonist Pennywise. When people think of IT, they think of clowns. Those who’ve read the book think of King’s demonic clown, while those who’ve seen the mini-series think of Tim Curry’s career-high turn as the malevolent monster in makeup. Curry does a great job, no doubt, but his Pennywise is very “human,” with a lot of dialogue and some great jokes. He’s scary but somewhat see-through. Watching him you’re freaked out, but you know he’s an actor. Skarsgård‘s portrayal is very much not “human” from his speech to his mannerisms, and to his on-screen antics. It’s a role he seems born to play, and you get the sense he’s having fun with it. In this instance, the “It” of the title clearly comes from another dimension, primal and bizarre, and Skarsgård makes the role his own (something not easily done considering he’s following an actor of Curry’s caliber). Pennywise is disturbing and chilling; his motivations are murderous and the way in which he toys with “the losers club” is grotesque. The special effects department do well to render him as beastly and otherworldly, the technology not available to make Curry likewise, and here we have one of the great movie monsters – twisted, benevolent, and entirely convincing in portrayal. Pennywise is genuinely scary, and the way in which the other characters respond to him suggests they genuinely find him that way also. It’s a scary movie because of Skarsgård, the scariest moment coming during a blood curdling scene involving a slide-projector. Something not taken from the books, this scene was a highlight.

When considering the regular scares, some of them are what we’ve come to expect from the horror genre by this point, and won’t necessarily surprise an audience. Lights turning on by themselves, the sound of a walkie-talkie in a dark room – you’ve seen their kind before. That’s not to say they aren’t effective, they are, but the scares which don’t involve Pennywise simply aren’t as good as those that do. The camera work when Pennywise does feature lends to the creepiness especially well, often shaking as he moves with predatory speed, some of the madness of the moment seeping out in the shot itself. There were plenty of good jump scares, and Muschietti did well when it came to approaching these, letting the tension build up just long enough before making the danger visible. Like the kids in the movie, you sense the rising dread and feel it stir in the pit of your stomach long before anything has actually happened to merit the sensation.

It NovelIn terms of the source material, IT is wise in what it leaves out and what it includes, keeping enough of the important plot points and adding where needs be. Fans of the novel will notice changes, some for better and some for worse, whereas those unfamiliar with the novel will have no prior bias regarding their expectations. Personally, I was pleasantly surprised by how faithful the movie was, though obviously there were things I wish had been included. The chapter with the flying leeches, for example, which always creeped me out in the book, doesn’t feature – though I can understand why. What really matters is included, and I can appreciate the cuts that have to be made when dealing with source material so long (King’s novel surpasses one-thousand pages). One chapter I was glad to see cut was one of the later ones, one which brought the kids together in a very different way, and I’d say it remains a sensible decision to exclude (those who’ve read the book will know the episode I refer to). All in all, Muschietti does a great job – with the cast, with the material, and with the scares.

It’s a shame that I left the cinema disappointed, not with the film, but with the knowledge that its follow-up likely won’t be as good. The strength of the novel and both adaptations was the kids, and their chapter is over. Even if the casting for Chapter Two is as exceptional as it is here, I fail to see a better movie being made. I don’t mind too much though because what we have with IT is a great horror movie true to its roots. It gets the characters (almost) perfect, and changes the source material in a way that merits the change. IT might well be the scariest film of the year, though I’ll admit I haven’t seen many others. I saw it because I liked the novel, and I was happy with how the movie adaptation came out. That was what I wanted, and that was what I got.

Rating – 8.5/10

Honestly Vegan – Part Two (Regarding Relationships)

In many ways, my shift to veganism has affected my relationships with other people and shaped some of the conversations and discussions we’ve participated in over the years. I find that different people view the topic in different ways, in that some are curious, and some are dismissive. I find that the latter forms the majority, and that tends to suit me as a somewhat introverted character. When I do get engaged in the topic I like for it to be with friends I’ve known for some time, as I have a tendency to feel like newer acquaintances may have a tendency to judge. I’ve learned that firm friends also have the capacity to be judgmental, but I find this exceptionally easy to forgive.

I think that before considering the way others react to me now I should consider the way I used to react to vegetarians and vegans before I made the switch. I realise that I did so with curiosity above all else. I was often too shy or self-aware to question the venture and preferred to let others ask the questions I wanted to but didn’t. When I bumped into vegans in day-to-day life I felt like I was meeting somebody who knew what they were doing, and whose karma was in better check than mine. When I talk about karma I refer to the Buddhist ideology, in which one has a firmer understanding of their place in the world, a keen eye for how they shape the reality they live in. The people I met had compassion in a way that I didn’t. Their intentions were ‘right,’ and my intentions as a meat-eater seemed contradictory to ‘right living.’ I guess that my curiosity went hand in hand with my respect, and I tended to think that I should try living the same way. There was nothing particularly saintly about these individuals, they were friends and colleagues who often did very unsaintly things, but they were differentiated from my peers regarding my regard for them. I saw them as ‘do-gooders,’ and when others mocked their decisions I found myself commending them. I know now, being vegan myself, that I’m not a ‘do-gooder,’ nor am I any more compassionate than my non-vegan friends. I was probably naive in elevating the vegans I met before the dietary change. I believe in karma, and have a firm interest in Buddhism, and recognise that my change is a small one, one that serves myself primarily, and sends out small ripples towards others.

My relationship now with fellow vegans is much stronger than it was beforehand, because of the common ground we’ve established between us. I enjoy speaking to them in a way I wasn’t once able, be it when discussing meals or our lifestyle reasons. I like to engage in vegan-to-vegan discourse, and always have room to take on board things they have to tell me. The bonds I have with these vegan friends are different to the bond I have with housemates, course mates, or drinking buddies. It’s a bond in terms of ideology, like finding someone else who has a passion for the same band you’ve been jamming on the walk to work every day. It’s a kind of connection I wouldn’t have been able to form previously, and I value it now in retrospect. In many ways, the most positive thing about going vegan was unknowingly making myself available to this community of like-minded people. It’s strange to get excited about falafel cafes and vegan buffets, but I find myself excited anyhow – as if recommended an excellent band I’d previously let slip under the radar.

The few negative relationship implications of my lifestyle change have been fairly minimal, and I understand they came about because of the way people perceive me now. I know that to some my switch to a diet free of animal products is an attempt to jump on the vegan bandwagon, while to others it’s an attempt to elevate myself both morally and socially. To many, it seems fairly pointless, my decision a small drop in a gargantuan ocean. Some respect it, and some don’t. Most just don’t care, and I don’t much care how people feel about it. I’ve been lucky over the years to be surrounded by open-minded, positive people, in both my familial and social circles. I’ve received unanimous support from all of the people that matter to me, even if the support went unspoken. It remains a good feeling, even though the change is only a small part of my overall character.

Vegetarian_DatingThe area of my relationships it did affect was the world of dating, which I’d definitely anticipated, but which still left me a little surprised when my veganism formed a small speed-bump to be overcome during those dating escapades. It was always a little tricky to go out for a nice meal, and I know it became frustrating for myself when having to scout around town for somewhere we could both have a decent meal. I felt a little like a burden on these occasions, as if I was unnecessarily making things difficult. That was the way I saw it anyway, though I suspect it wasn’t actually an issue. Cooking different meals wasn’t always ideal, but it was something that was accepted, and I didn’t care if one of us was eating steak and one of us was on tofu. It wasn’t something I thought about. I did very briefly see a girl who mentioned that she thought veganism was a bit “feminine,” which I remember finding quite funny at the time. Funny partly because I don’t agree with the terms “masculine” or “feminine,” nor do I consider their connotations legitimate. I guess I found it funny that I could be thought of in that way, as if caring about the environment and the living creatures that populate the planet could be considered a trait favoring the feminine. I laughed it off and didn’t press the terminology. She dabbled in vegan meals every now and then but it wasn’t something that interested her, and that was fine. She liked her meat, and it wasn’t my place to form any kind of opinion of it.

I think that my family understand why I eat what I do; even if they don’t understand the real-world circumstances that encourage me to live life this way. I expect that it perplexes my father, a frequent meat-eater, while intriguing my mother, and both ask questions every now and then about it. They sort of view it the way they view my tattoos and my love of heavy music – as just part of who I am and how I choose to live my life. I respect the way they leave it alone and the fact that they always offer to cut me some potato slivers if they’re preparing fish and chips. If we go out to eat they look at the menu beforehand and check that I’m fine with it, and if they enjoy a vegan meal they make sure they tell me about it. My mother points out recipes and pays an interest in what I’m eating. My dad leaves it alone, and I understand why. It likely doesn’t interest him; perhaps he’s more “masculine” than I am.

The Drumming of Hooves (Flash Fiction)

We watched the yellow horses’ stream down the hillside in a landslide, while the kettle boiled downstairs at half-speed. Your sister waited for it to cool, crying blue tears onto the tablecloth adorned with bearded Vikings. They were holding hacksaws and wearing black. The horses stopped in single file at the first step of your front porch and the first hit ‘play’ on an orange jukebox with its right hoof, raising the speaker above its head and towards your roof. It had seen Say Anything fourteen times through your glass kitchen doors, memorising lines for later use. The sound of Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes filled the landscape until the trees began to hum the harmonies. You clapped an avalanche into the windowpane until your chalk palms blistered, the walls absorbing the pain until they bled in rivulets, pooling on the floor at our feet.

“I dreamt that we were once lions,” you spoke in braille – tongue clicking against your ivory teeth.

I beat a response in Morse code into my skull, and the lions of yesteryear applauded my calcium wit, while your sister’s tears rose up through the floorboards and dampened our socks. The humming trees caught fire in crescendo, so we watched them burn, grapevine fires blazing into the early evening.

– It was my turn to clap.

After an hour of static, the flames caught in your throat until you choked on their embers, vomiting ash onto the carpet. Sobering up to the stains on the walls we dusted cobwebs from our clothes, listening to the sirens and the silence they then left behind as they followed horses retreating to the motherland. There were dead batteries in their stereos. Your sister down below finished her fifteenth cup of cold coffee and watched the radio play backwards.

– The song skipped.

– She only noticed beforehand, following the rhythm with burnt fingertips. Always listening; deaf to the drumming of hooves.

– David Bowie turning in his space grave.