Animal Cruelty

This story was originally read at Confession Booth, which was an absolutely hilarious and wonderful night and you should go. ALSO, I read it again at Story Club with a host of talented, talented people. Thanks for having me!

The cars were packed with case after case of cheap beer, rolled up mattresses, cans of beans and a lonely, holy coffee plunger. But before our caravan of courage could even disembark, the word arrived via text message that actually, our host didn’t want a horde of undergrads descending on her parents beach house, in a decision that can only be described as poorly timed and eminently understandable.

It was in this moment that the classic ‘Sliding Doors’ scenario was established. On the one hand, we could simply unpack the cars, go to our respective homes and listen to Bright Eyes albums, or whatever it was we did in 2004. Or we could, as our friend Mike generously suggested, go and stay in his parent’s vacant house in the middle of suburbia for a week, an option which took the concept of beach house holiday, and subtracted the words beach and holiday. Imagine the scene – Gwyneth Paltrow standing on the platform, deciding whether or not to enter the sliding doors of the train. That song by Aqua comes on – if you can’t remember it, just substitute ‘Barbie Girl’ in your head, because that’s a song that deserves remembering. But instead of taking either option, Gwyneth repeatedly bludgeons her weird flat face against the trains ‘sliding doors’, blood splattering in large starbursts. Imagine that, and you’re halfway to understanding how bad the decision was when we said yes to Mike’s modest proposal.

Mike is like a beautiful hothouse flower, grown in a greenhouse made of cheese. That’s a weird way of saying that Mike is one of the loveliest, stand-up guys I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and that also his family is fucking batshit insane and their house a manifestation of all that is wrong with them. Imagine former US President George Bush Senior riding a giant bald eagle and instead of arms he has flags bearing the star spangled banner, and instead of legs he has guns and also the eagle is carrying a collection of teapots shaped like Rosie O’Donnell’s skull, and you’ll just have discovered the inspiration for their interior decoration.

MIKES HOUSE

The other thing to remember about this house, is that nothing opens from any direction without the use of the master key. So you couldn’t open the door of the house from the inside, if you didn’t have the key. You couldn’t open any of the windows. You couldn’t open the sliding door to the balcony. There’s no way out. Drums, drums in the deep.

Somewhere over the next four nights, the terrible event to which I am confessing occurs. On its own, the deed seems inexplicable and unforgivable. But before I am tried by my jury of fashionable peers, I need to weave the story of other shitty things that happened, to maybe promote an understanding of why I did this thing. This terrible, terrible thing.

The first inkling that our thrilling urban getaway was less holiday and more horror-day (that’s a difficult pun to enunciate) was on the first night when we decided we should do a booze run. My mate Bob, not able to fit into the car, but still wanting to go along on the expedition, decides that he’ll just walk the two blocks or so to the local shops. Around four hours later, people start to realise that nobody has see Bob since that fateful moment. We call him, and through an inexplicable static, as if we are on walky-talkies, we hear him yelling that he is ‘lost in a swamp’. We are in Oatley, a suburb bordered by yet more suburbs. There are no swamps in the suburbs. It is known. Then, using logic usually reserved for horror films, we fan out in a drunken search party, separately exploring the side streets and mysterious cul-de-sacs of Oatley and greater Mortdale. The rest of the night was literally spent finding missing people, like the worlds stupidest game of Marco-Polo. At around 3am, I found a tennis court, and sitting under the bright lights was Bob, looking extremely relieved and also covered in a strange amount of mud.

It was during the days where the absence of beach or any activities besides drinking became noticeable. We played Pictionary and drank Bloody Marys, and also succumbed to a group panic attack when Mike went to buy lunch, and took the key with him, effectively locking us in the house. The cloud of cigarette smoke was so dense by that point, you could actually effectively duck underneath it and hold conversations with it. And that night, when we went to sleep, the house next door burnt down. We were woken by the sirens and the crackle of flames, but had to rouse Mike’s brother before we could open the door and check it all out. It was about 3am by this point, and when he opened the door, sitting on the stoop, illuminated by the burning building was our friend Anna, smoking a cigarette. To this day nobody knows how she got out of the house, or more importantly, how the house next door burnt down… But this is not my confession. I did not burn down that house. Anna may have. A fun fact: on the same night as the house fire, Mike drunkenly chose to come out of the closet to his older brother, meaning that it wasn’t only the next door neighbour’s earthly belongings that were going up in flames, it was perhaps also Mike’s parent’s expectations of an all-American, gridiron loving, vagina-frequenting son.

My confession, unfortunately, involves animal cruelty. I need to establish that I really like animals. I like dogs more than people. I like cats more than civil liberties. I like big cows more than big-faced titties. The other day I spent two hours diverting a stream of ants out of my house, using blu-tac and lumps of sugar. I would never knowingly hurt an animal. Unfortunately there are two allegations of animal cruelty made against me on the last night of our Oatley adventure.

Sensing that our enthusiasm was waning, and also we kind of all hated each other, on the last night instead of beer and other lay-varieties of alcohol, Mike broke out some bottles of tequila and also some genuine Czech absinthe. We drank the absinthe in the traditional style – dripped over sugar, passed over with a flame, and then shotted like frat boys. After the first shot, Bob immediately vomited. The rest of us pushed on. I have no real memory of anything else that happened that night, but two things definitely did occur. Like a sick cat, I took myself into the backyard, picked a palm tree and then spent the next hour hurling on it. After I was finished, I went inside and like a sick cat passed out on Mike’s cat’s bed. The crime scene is now set – for after we left the next morning, two shocking things were discovered by Mike’s parents, recently returned from the US.

The first was that their cat was now violently opposed to its bed. With great concern, Mike’s mum repeatedly threw the cat onto the bed, where it would proceed to freak out. After discovering from Mike that I had drunkenly slept on that very bed, Mike’s mum made the following accusation. That I had sexually molested her cat. Just like an episode of Law and Order: Wild Accusations Unit, she calmly reviewed all the evidence, and then jumped to the most disturbing and weird conclusion she could think of. This was not a joke suggestion – Mike’s mum was seriously convinced that I had done this. Ladies and gentlemen, I am so very happy to tell you that I really, really didn’t.

Then, and I say this with multiple levels of shame, when they went outside to check on the pet tortoise, all they found underneath its favourite palm tree was a disgusting pile of vomit with a tortoise underneath it. I had vomited on Stanley the Turtle, a sentence which can only be followed by a thorough hanging of the head. The only defence I can muster here is that I was not aware of the fact that I was vomiting on a tortoise. I am sure there are people in this world who seek to carry out the very action I am describing with a degree of foresight and intent, and those people are monsters – but I am not one of them. It was dark, and tortoises have chameleonic properties. But apart from the fact that I yakked in someone’s backyard and didn’t even clean up after myself – the story gets a lot grimmer. You see, apparently tortoises have a layer of natural varnish on their shell, which keeps it waterproof. A varnish that is incredibly susceptible to things like stomach acid, which it had spent the night marinating under. A series of events that meant that if that tortoise ever wanted to swim, it would actually die, having lost its waterproof layering. Which is the grim knowledge I’ve lived with for years – the fact that I’d doomed Stanley to an existence without swimming, which is probably like flying for tortoises. Or I’d killed him. That is,  until I decided to run this confession by Mike at a Game of Thrones themed dinner party, where he was dressed as a ravishing Catelyn Stark. I wanted to make sure he was fine with me bad mouthing his family, and by the light of roaring sconces, around a mouthful of honeyed goose, Mike told me that in fact Stanley was alive and well, which is exactly the most unexpected twist you could think of at a soirée devoted to Game of Thrones.

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Stark Raving Mad? Some thoughts on Sansa Stark.

An article where I point out that Sansa Stark might just be the hero we don’t want, but the hero we need. Or something. Spoilers if you haven’t read the books/caught up with the show.

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A while ago, I posted this silly article on Junkee. In it, I refer to Sansa Stark dying from a never ending menstrual cycle, because my referential comedy is of the highest standard. There was one comment which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about as I (finally) got enough time to watch the new season. It was this:

“Funny but i gotta say, the hatred and dismissal of sansa stark is really grating. Out of all the awful humans in GOT people hate sansa, because shes a teenage girl with *ew* periods and stuff.”

To begin with, at no point did I mean for that to be an attack on Sansa – if I had to look for some kind of source for my lame jokes, I’d say I was particularly tickled by Cersei’s constant need to remind Sansa she was bleeding from the crotch, particularly in that battle scene. I mean, c’mon, it’s the girls first period, do you really need the Queen bringing it up in public situations constantly? And personally I find Sansa one of the more fascinating characters – in the books there is this very much the tension of discovering if she really has renounced her Stark background. She’s lost her wolf – has she lost her honour too?

In the show however, things are a bit more cut and dry. Yes, she was a brat at the beginning of the show, but you know, also preteen. Did people on the internet really still carry the hate for her? Turns out that yes, Sansa is widely hated, and another comment on the article pointed out, it’s because she’s ‘so insipid’. What got me is that a lot of the people keeping the Sansa hatred flame alive aren’t your run of the mill sexist wankmaesters, but actually some intelligent, well informed types. I mean, there’s a bunch of that too. You don’t see nearly as much venom towards Samwell Tarly, who is actually a character who does insipid things. He is cowardly. But he’ll find his courage and save the day, blah blah blah, classic trope. People expect that, and wait for it to happen. Why don’t they let Sansa have that chance too?

Where does this supposed insipidity in Sansa Stark come from? Because from my point of view, it simply doesn’t exist. Let’s have a look at some of the POV characters which Sansa has to measure up against: Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Brienne of Tarth and Daenerys Stormborn. One of the things I love about this show is that there are these kickass female characters. That scene where Brienne roundly thumps Jamie Lannister? Actually had me pumping the air. Daenerys begins the show sold as a sweetener for her brothers imperial ambitions – but is so kickass she ends up leading an army and melting said brothers face off. But we have to remember that in this world, this is not the norm. Women do not hold the same power as men.  Cersei is perhaps the most stunning treatise on this – she constantly questions the fact that her power must be authenticated by her attachment to powerful men. She may not be a particularly likable person, but in reality she deserves the throne just as much as those other rich psychopaths, who had the luck of being born as penis wielders. Instead she can only hold the throne  for her husband or her son.

Sansa is barely more than a child, held hostage in the camp of the people who murdered her father. Ostensibly, in this show she has the least power of all. Even Jamie Lannister, in manacles, is in less constant danger than her. Every day that she manages to stay alive and not raped and murdered by the tiny evil king on the throne or any of the hundreds of powerful men around her is a victory for her. So is she insipid?

In my opinion, I think we hate seeing her in this position. I think it is seat-squirmingly uncomfortable to see an intelligent woman being as powerless as she is, not even having the liberty to speak her mind, let alone go where she wants to. I hope we find it abhorrent the amount she is beaten up by Joffrey and his knights. I think on some level we don’t want to have a powerless woman character. Do we wish she could draw a sword like Arya or Brienne? Yes. But she’s not a warrior. Or plot her way out? Perhaps. Or give birth to some dragons. But that  isn’t her. She has no skills or bargaining tools. She’s powerless, but not insipid. She’s naive. She may not even be particularly brave yet – but maybe that’s what’s in store for her. I know some of the things that lie in wait for her from the books, but even those aren’t finished. Sansa is a character nowhere near finished.

So while ethically I’d love for Sansa to stand up to Joffrey, maybe in a knife fight on a bridge, I also respect the internal realism of the show. She doesn’t have that opportunity. She didn’t get the chance to escape like Arya. She has to stay in the castle of sociopaths and be brave in different ways. So hate her situation, but don’t hate her.

10 Potential Spinoff Shows from ‘Game of Thrones’

 

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I’ve decided that since Game of Thrones is the best show ever, HBO has to capitalise on its success and create a spree of spinoffs from the same world. Here is my pitch to them. Now I just have to wait for the money to come rolling in.

 1. How I met your Mother of Dragons

Fun and sassy sitcom about Daenerys Stormborn, living in New York and falling in and out of love. Jorah Mormont played by Neil Patrick Harris.

 2. Jon Snow’s Feelings for Snow

Jon Snow solves murders in the cold wastes beyond The Wall.

3. Melisandre’s Puppy Rescue

Because the night is dark and full of terriers.

 4.  Seventh Devan

Davos Seaworth’s second youngest son struggles to raise a respectably R’hllor fearing family. “I don’t care if it’s senior prom, you’ll join your mother and I in burning the icons of false faiths!”

5. Suddenly Cersei

Life’s tough for a gal in the big city – especially when her hunky twin brother is in town!

 6. Stark House

A more Dickensian Winterfell, with bleak servants and starving orphans. Hodor is just sad, instead of comic relief.

7. Ramsay Bolton’s Kitchen Nightmares

Roose Bolton’s legitimised bastard son helps failing restaurants survive via methods which mostly include flaying.

8. Seaworth Change

Davos Seaworth leaves behind the cut-throat world of monarchist politics and becomes Sigrid Thornton in a small town. Will he discover love with the hunky and mysterious Diver Dan?

9. Lysa Arryn’s Aerie Tales

Settle down for a night of spooky tales in the eeriest aerie in Westeros,  told by a crazy woman breast-feeding her preteen son.

 10.  Two and Halfman

Tyrion Lannister, Charlie Sheen and a pack of barbarians would actually be a fairly amazing show.