A smile for a child

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Jedis, Wookiees, Vulcans, Tribbles, Hobbits, Orcs, Spartans, Cogs, Mutants, Freaks, and the like… In an attempt to express my admiration for all the things we’ve come to know and love, and subsequently take over the world, I bring you thenerdmachine.com … So, let’s start assembling the machine, rallying the troops, and marching toward our ultimate goal of proving once and for all that the geek shall inherit the earth. Love, Blessings, and Viva la Nerdolution.” Zachary Levi, The Nerd Machine

Zach Levi

On my travels this year I went to San Diego Comic Con, which is the biggest pop culture event in the world. It is geek heaven and I’ll be writing more about that experience over the coming weeks. But the thing that has stayed with me, months after the event, is The Nerd Machine’s NERD HQ, a wonderful event that is held in San Diego but outside Comic Con proper.

There – in a beautiful welcoming space – a smile for us geeks results in smiles for numerous children who were born with facial deformities. The money raised at NERD HQ’s ‘Conversations for a Cause’ panels goes directly to the aptly named organisation, Operation Smile.

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Life… it’s a changin’

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps…” Helen Macdonald

Once again, I’ve taken a big absence from my blog. During the last six months, I’ve resigned from a job with a toxic environment, one that had zapped a significant amount of energy from me, and I’ve travelled overseas for two months. I spent time in San Diego for Comic Con; Vancouver for my family and friends; and the Canadian Rockies for a 50th birthday present to myself. Continue reading

Get lost in the colours of White Night

“White Night Melbourne is the city as you know it, turned on its head in a dusk ’til dawn celebration of culture and creativity. A night where the surreal seems real, White Night Melbourne is a rare opportunity to experience the city in a different light.”

Four years since the inaugural White Night Melbourne, I’m still very much in love with this festival. For one night, the buildings are a kaleidoscope of illuminated colour. There are buskers on every corner and a myriad of artworks/projections on display. The crowd throngs; sauntering and oft-times dancing down Swanston Street. There is so much laughter and singing; even on the train ride home. For me, it’s almost the perfect time to get lost in the vibrant streets and laneways of Melbourne.

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Age of reason

“There is something indecent about the idea that in order to prevent people from drowning in their attempt to reach safety you punish the ones who don’t drown. That is precisely what this country is doing right now.” Julian Burnside

For some time now I have been ashamed of Australia. I love this country, but I utterly despise what is happening to the refugees who have been left to rot on offshore detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru. I will never agree with a government policy that imprisons a person who is fleeing for their life; from persecution or a war-zone or any other dangerous situation. And I hope, beyond hope, that one day the politicians responsible for these policies will be brought to task (even prosecuted) for their complicity in human rights abuses.

This is not the first time I’ve felt ashamed of Australia. Back in the early 90s, I travelled to South Africa. I can vividly remember a late-night conversation about politics with a group of university students. This was about a year before Nelson Mandela was elected as President and they were understandably anxious about the political climate of their own country. But the conversation turned and I was horrified to hear Australia being compared to South Africa in terms of civil rights. I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. I’m so ashamed that, until that moment, I knew nothing about the Stolen Generations – or the underlying current of racism that has always existed in this country. I have written more about this in My journey with The Black Arm Band; including the fact that the government policy of the day was kept secret from generations of Australians.

Does that sound familiar? Because it should! Now journalists are not allowed to visit detention camps; doctors are not allowed to talk about the appalling conditions; the government doesn’t have to tell us if more refugee boats have arrived.

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An unexpected visit to the set of Supernatural

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” Henry David Thoreau

2015 has been a memorable and exciting year. I spent quality time with my friends and family. I met fantastic people through my new Airbnb business and on my travels overseas. But, without a doubt, the highlight of my 2015 was finding the Supernatural set in Vancouver.

As readers of my blog would know, I’m a frequent visitor to Vancouver. I have family there, I adore the city and, in the last three years, I’ve also attended an annual Supernatural convention (see my blog Supernatural: it’s more than a television show).

I fell in love with this little show 11 years ago, but I really only became immersed in its fandom after I happened upon filming in 2011 (Supernatural, Twitter and the reluctant groupie). Back then, I had no idea about fan conventions, or the incredible online community, or the way the stars of the show interacted with fans. But now, I can honestly say that Supernatural has changed my life. It has given me new friendships that I cherish; experiences outside my comfort zone; travel to new and interesting destinations; and, most importantly, so much joy and laughter – bucket loads of it.

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A week in the West End

“To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred arena of the imagination.”
Simon Callow, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World

Busker at Covent Garden

This is an article I wrote some time ago for Your Life Choices magazine. It’s about my love of theatre – something which hasn’t changed – and I really wanted to share it here. But, please note, some of the shows mentioned may no longer be appearing on in the West End.

I’m something of a theatre tragic. I love extravagant big-band musicals, Shakespeare and all the classics. I admire shows that challenge the audience, or introduce new and inventive ideas. Quite frankly, I’ll watch anything that calls itself theatre. For several years I worked as an usher at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, humming along to famous show tunes. So it’s hardly surprising that on my last visit to London I decided to immerse myself in a week in the West End.

Bordered by The Strand, Kingsway, Oxford and Regent Streets, the West End is the largest theatre district in the world. It’s a hive of activity. Every second shop offers theatre tickets, all claiming the cheapest and best seats in town. A prominent billboard advertises Spamalot, while just around the corner, I discover St Martin’s Theatre, home to the world’s longest running show, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which opened in 1952.

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Keep Austin Weird

“There is a freedom you begin to feel the closer you get to Austin, Texas.” Willie Nelson

Keep Austin Weird and Chuy's t-shirts

As soon as I heard that Austin’s slogan was ‘Keep Austin Weird’, I knew I’d love the place. I wonder what that says about me 😉

Apparently, the phrase was coined by Austin Community College librarian Red Wassenich and was intended to promote local businesses – and it quickly caught on. I saw the slogan referenced in and around the city – and on plenty of souvenirs and t-shirts (I guess, like everything good, it quickly becomes commercialised).

But I still loved it – and, of course, I now own a ‘Keep Austin Weird’ coffee mug and t-shirt, lol.

My t-shirt also says ‘Support Local Music’ and I think that is what I loved most about Austin. They do support local businesses and encourage creativity. I saw lots of quirky bars and restaurants. I saw artwork adorning walls and buildings. I heard local musicians performing; the music spilling out onto Sixth Street. I tasted plenty of delicious southern food; including Tex Mex at the historic Chuy’s, and slow-cooked meats at Franklin Barbeque.

I also sweltered in the HOT weather (38-degrees Celsius/100-degrees Fahrenheit) for the five days I was there. But it didn’t matter. I was so happy. I’d fallen in love with Austin.

Here are some of my favourite photographs… and some descriptions of the places I most enjoyed spending my time 🙂

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