Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Monthly Round up



Well, Ladies and Gentleman,

as you may know if you are a regular reader, this blog site was started on the 24th of May, and there has already been a lot of changes! May saw this site's birth, and June saw a few scattered posts, and a heartening increasing  interest in my website.

In July I tried to add more content more frequently which saw a big spike in my readership. So for those interested, I have decided to do a huge "Round Up" post, featuring the top 10 of our loyal readers favourite webposts 


#10 Angry Birds Writing Exercise

Written on the 25th of June, this exercise was an attempt at what could have turned into a much larger piece of work (had I have wanted it to). It's a bit of harmless fun, and uses one of my favourite exercise writing techniques (of having to use specific words in a story) You can read this post right here:



#9 What's on locally

Written on 25th May, and centering around the Launceston Creative Arts Community, I spoke of the Society of Women's Writers Short Story competition, which has now closed, but the society itself is a great resource (and although it is a 'women's writers' group, it is open to men too, and a great resource for all). You can find a link for these ladies here



#8 What inspires you?

Also written on the 25th of May, I talk about Blood, Sweat and Tears- whom I regard as the greatest band in the Universe- (You can find the link here) and I ask the question: 
What Inspires You?


#7 Guest Post Number One: Zainab Abbass

Once in a while you find an exceptional writer. In this instance an exceptional young writer that made me consider starting a "Guest Post" section allowing guests time to discuss their work and in this instance what inspires them (I'm starting to see a pattern!). Zainab's post is here.

and her portfolio of free work is here

Do yourself a solid favour and read her work!


#6 Free Poetry E-book

I have written a book of Spiritual / Inspirational Poetry,  called Old Treasures and New for those who subscribe to my blog! The link is here 


#5 Welcome to my Blog 

This was obviously an Introduction, where friends and interested visitors came alike. A bit self explanatory, so you probably won't need the link.


#4 No Free Lunches

My first full free short story offered on this website about a tradesman buying a computer was received incredibly well! I had a larger than average readership taking the time to read it, and it is a story I am particularly proud of, and one that I am putting in my book "Nice Shorts" If I ever get the thing finished! I also get on a soapbox rant about the value of free things. The link to the page is here 
What my book will eventually look like


# 3 Coffee Break Writing Exercises 

Using the same methods as I have previously used (the discipline of using set words to create a story) I created a short story using some words that are a little unusual in sequence. In this instance I used the words Cappuccino, spoil, fat, pipe, exploit, fluffy, burial and aid. For a post based on a writing exercise, it received a surprising amount of attention. Hopefully you will like it too! The link is here

Maybe it's because people all over the Googleverse were searching for Coffee that day?


# 2 Guest Post 2: Mishka Gora 

My Second guest post was the incredible Mishka, who I know personally, has written a book called "Fragments of War" and is a lady has been through a lot of interesting and harrowing experiences in eastern Europe. Her guest post, where she was asked about the importance of writing about things that matter recieved a big spike in readers, and thankfully too, as there is much that can be gleaned from it. You can enjoy her post here

Mishka Gora's Blog
Mishka Gora's book



...and of course my Number One Post was, suprisingly...
#1 Marcella's story!
Written on the 9th of July, Marcella's story has been the most post story on my blog so far. It is a writing piece I am very proud of too. Marcella is my now 15 month old baby and the latest addition to the Mathewson family. She is a beautiful, vibrant little character who paints a lot of joy into our lives! The birth of "chellie", as we like to call her, was not without some life threatening trials for her mum, and serious implications for her dad, too, and something I felt the need to write a short story about. You can 

Marcella's story received by far the greatest number of readers, and this is partly to do with friends of Joy of The Home, my wife's website, which can be found here


well, Ladies and Gentlemen, That's it! at least for July! Look forward to more writing exercises, guest posts, tips on writing and creativity, reviews and loads more great writing resources in the pipeline for August. I am going to hopefully continue these Round Ups at the end of each month. Have a great day and...

Keep on Writing! 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Writing Exercise: '5 Seconds of Summer'


Hey readers, it's me again.

Perhaps to make up for all of the posts I haven't written in the last week I have decided to start another writing exercise. The theme was to write something including the idea of 5 seconds of summer. Being someone who loves the beach, this particular exercise was not that hard for me. I hope you like it!


5 Seconds of Summer 
(Or "One Last Summer). 

When you are young like I am, you don’t think of dying much. Despite the frustrations and the obstacles- the crying babies, the job that is a hassle; even the occasional marriage argument propel you in the direction of pursuing through life. The days of youth are a passing summer- containing a heat and warmth, even through the struggles. Children along the way bring with them the capacity to lighten and enlighten, enlivening each day with a new vigour and remind us that life is temporal, and the summer is not eternal.

Some years seem terrible though- serving more to remind young people about death. The remembrance of that exact time you heard of your relative, in the final throes of a degenerative disease, found dead next to a bottle of prescription pills, the crusty grandfather you misunderstood that you were asked in awkwardness to pray for before he was sent on his way, or watching the men solemnly push his coffin into the hearse and drive off to the gravesite. “He was old” the mourners thought “He’s had a good innings”. Perhaps you thought that to yourself too, yet it made no difference to what was lost. Maybe it reminded you to enjoy every minute with someone else you know? Maybe it's not so bad to think about death if it reminds you about life...

When you are young, you are told to enjoy every minute. “How am I supposed to do that?” You, and so many other people say ...“I’m stuck at school”, and you are right, too. School may teach you some of the things you need to know, and fill your mind with knowledge, but your soul remains empty. Explain again do I enjoy every minute? As I get older I see the children I taught- they are adolescents now. Navigating an adulthood that frightens them as much as it frightens their parents. Soon my children will be going through the same things. My own parents are graying, and speak in worried tones, occasionally venturing towards safe adventures, imparting the seeming-wisdom of caution, causing me to ask “How am I to live, continually looking behind my back? How is that enjoying every minute?”

Even though you might be young, you can still feel like you are riddled with regrets- Things you never said, things you ought to have done- The silences that should have been filled with kind words, or the words you said that you wish you could take back. The choices you made that have defined you- or even the inability to live again in those moments of rare and true victory- where your soul swelled in feelings of exhileration. Being an adult can be frustrating, but even those hardships propel you forward- ever seeking to fill your life and your children’s life with victorious moments like the ones you keenly remember. No, when you are young you don’t think about death and why should you? Although they provided you with no solutions of their own, your teachers were right. You should be enjoying every minute. Right?

I don’t know much about death. I’ve never died before, but I have heard that sometimes- especially in emergency situations that your whole life flashes before your eyes. I imagine, hopefully when I am old and ready, that this will be true for me. I imagine that as I lay on my deathbed, my tired wrinkled face staring into the darkness of the starry sky, that I will reflect on the summers long past- the warm sheaths of sunlight that warmed my body as I splashed in the shimmering ocean. I will remember the feeling my through my toes as I walked on the radiant beachside, making squelching noises on the white sand. I will remember my brother, who hated getting splashed almost as much as I delighted in splashing him- his skinny body bearing the brunt of a friendly wave- a smile hidden beneath the customary sulk.I suppose if I must think of death, and if I am forced to think on my mortality, even now as I consider the obstacles I have yet to face, I would ask you but one thing God, as I close my eyes on the temporal veil I exist on and my life flashes before my eyes...

Give me my 5 seconds of summer back, and this time, could you make it for eternity?

I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Ben.
​​

Monday, 28 July 2014

'Maybe', a Reflection on Illness

Sorry loyal readers! I would have posted before, but I have not been well.

In fact, I have what you might call an 'undefined' illness. I've recently written a short, stream-of-consciousness style piece on my struggle so far. Hopefully you enjoy it! Again, my profoundest apologies for not posting lately, and hopefully there will be some big guest posts coming up soon! 



'Maybe', a Reflection on Illness

Imagine a pain starting innocently,
The small-feeling awkward adolescent going to the sick room at school.
Yes. Imagine a normal kid, with maybe some slightly-more-than-average anxieties,
And add a bit of stomach pain.
Now imagine how a pain could grow.
Maybe he stayed up too late worrying too much?
Did he sometimes eat the wrong things?
Maybe.

Could the pain have started with his mother- That overbearing and manipulative shadow, stalking him with a type of love so genuine- yet not; or was it perhaps his father- that cold, emotionally unavailable one; The one he could not please no matter how he would contort himself emotionally into something that would be pleasing to him. Or maybe the boy didn’t bend at all- Maybe he carried some gnawing resentment towards the fact his own personality was never enough. Inwardly, maybe he shunned his gifts- obscenely pleased to feel different, yet a walking volcano, spewing out shame and self hatred, exerting damage to the rocks and precipice, right down to its foundations, yet leaving other structures intact- this lonely volcano far away from the city. Maybe it was the inward self loathing that was his problem. 

Maybe?

Maybe as he grew he noticed more and more the enormous power of being different. This sensitivity to pain could be wordsmithed- cobbled into profound stories- imprinted into powerful memories- helping others to laugh and heal and to feel inside their own existences; yet continually with that struggle, an incredible weakness in running, or sport, or even sometimes normal thinking. Maybe it was depressing always feeling the odd one out, the black sheep, or the square peg in a round hole. Maybe just like the prevailing headaches and mental fog that he wandered through most of his adolescence, he struggled to find a place of love for himself, or others. 

Maybe?

Maybe he got married and had a bunch of kids like people do- Maybe, feeling like a child- alone and unprepared for the world, his power and vulnerabilities became worse- A penchant for words that could strip darkness of its power, with the everyday vulnerability of struggling to find a job or a lack of drivers licence.Maybe there were some times when the bags under his eyes seemed etched into the back of his skull that merely existing with civility became a difficult- This tired meandering and achieving what must be achieved through the day would carry a great toll on him over time, yet maybe some days he coped, finding a rhythm that surprised even himself? Maybe. Maybe this resentment- a continual background simmering in his life, raged into a boiling froth spewing over when he saw others 

thinking clearly, 
loving more, 
unimpeded and unhampered 
by the phantom of some vague indefinable illness that he carried. 
Maybe those things were factors to the pain too.

Maybe.

Maybe the sheer power of ‘otherness’ powered his existence. Knowing pain, and the bloody hard fought battles that brought joy over time fueled him. Maybe not growing up, or not feeling able to grow up helped him with his children- To teach them to cherish their childlikeness, to stand in wonder at the world around them- and perhaps to occasionally count their blessings. Maybe the power he had was a paradox. Those who freely sailed life’s incredible ocean could be struck down at any moment by the whims of the storms- at least he knew what it was to be struck. Maybe he knew what is was like to drown a bit? or a lot, at several points in his life? Maybe some of his anxieties were heightened by judgement by the people that ‘in their own way’ loved him? Perhaps they asked the same questions of him he asked so frequently of himself 

and why is this young man not working, 
or not working harder, 
or failing miserably to find his place? 
Why is he so awkward? 
Why hasn't he changed? 

Perhaps they never spoke a word of their thoughts to him. Maybe he just sensed that’s what they were thinking?

Maybe. 

Maybe the food he ate still hurt him, and things small and great conspired to keep him sick and tired- The teething baby after midnight, or just the selfish restlessness of a stomach that refuses to rest- or even his own foolishness at staying up too late? Maybe. Maybe he went to so many doctors and specialists that had no concrete answers that he eventually turned around and threw his hands up in the air in a final resignation, like some strange acceptance stage of grief that still contains the anger. Maybe. Who knows? 

Maybe there is hope yet for this young man to live a normal life, whatever that is. That much is uncertain, but there is one thing I know for a fact- 

I need a damned good sleep . 
  
Enjoy your day, 
Ben

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Creativity Prompts

Only a short post today for potential writers and lovers of creativity

Buzzfeed is a popular site which seems to be mainly marketed to Gen Y and Gen X readers and viewers. The more you look into the site, the more you realise there is a lot to offer though. There are some serious articles and videos and discussion of politics, religion and philosophy. Because it is a surprisingly broad website, it's little wonder that they have some videos and articles on creativity.

The following is one such video. Despite not having a huge amount of depth and breadth it offers a few good, practical solutions to get your creative juices flowing again! Hopefully you enjoy this video and learn something new, or it might remind you of some tips you might have forgotten!


Thanks again for Reading,

Ben.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Scribophile!

Often it is difficult to get an honest feedback from your work, and even when you do get feedback, it is perhaps not gained from the person you want the feedback from. (Your 10 year old cousin likes your story, but it needs more trucks in it, for example). If you are a writer, you may want a feedback from another writer- hopefully with the same amount, or, preferably more talent than you have yourself. Thinking about this conundrum, I recently decided to join the site Scribophile.

Scribophile is an online community where writers of all different levels can gather. Whilst accepting anyone who can use email and a computer keyboard, the calibre of the writing on this site is of a very high standard. Writers of all genres will find something of interest to them.


The way the site works is similar to a few other popular writers groups, inasmuch as the writers are given credits (Karma points) for each detailed review. Writers that love to write, yet have never written a review before, are catered for too, with a tutorial-style template that allows them to review the major themes of the poetry or prose, helping writers to create excellent reviews for other writers. After approximately 2- 3 reviews that are of or over 300 words, there is usually enough Karma points for the reviewer's work to be posted for critique. Each word is assigned an amount of Karma points and bigger reviews get more points.

New work is usually assessed, and within a few hours is put into the spotlight, which simply means reviewers can review your work for full points - After some time, and a few reviews the piece will disappear out of the spotlight and can be reviewed for less points (presumably so that each writer has a chance to be fairly reviewed, without one singular writer gaining all of the attention. 

I would say that the cons side of this site is that it is very 'busy', with lots of features, each with its own link, and that after joining up, there is a learning curve to climb, as with any other website in an unfamiliar theme. Knowing where to start was a little difficult, but as with most things, was quite easy once understood. The other potential downside is that the writers may not give the detailed, specific information you need. This makes it a bit of a grab- bag of sorts for writers. Once you are familiar with the site there are a great deal of interesting features: You can join separate writers groups for people of the same genre, interests, or even country or vicinity, You can 'favourite' your favourite authors, write on their public profile (Called a Scratchpad on Scribophile) or send them a private message. If you are interested in improving your craft, there are forums you can write in and articles written on many helpful aspects of writing for any and every genre. To put it succinctly, the good on this site far outweighs the bad. Users who love Scribophile can subscribe for a year for $65 (U.S.), and have access to more options around posting multiple works, access to reviewer details, statistics, further Inbox options, social media profiles and much more, an option which would be very helpful, dependant on how much work you wanted to review and how much you loved the site.

I chose the free account through Scribophile and had one of my own short stories reviewed and I found the advice to be predominantly very helpful. Other websites that I have tried have not been specific enough. This one, however, is set aside entirely for the purpose of writing and reviewing. Well worth a look if you want to improve your craft as a writer. 

Ben. 

P.S. subscribe or comment!


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

FREE Poetry E-Book!



Hey loyal readers,

As an incentive for more readers to get involved in my blog, I am offering my e-book for free for brand new subscribers! 

While this is a bit of a sacrifice for me, as I was at one stage selling this online, I think its important to reward loyal readers. So, If you like this site and If you sign up by email, I will send you my e-book Old Treasures and New


Old Treasures and New is an eclectic mixture of humorous and inspirational poetry which showcases the development of my own unique style as a poet. It also features poetry made for the purpose of personal tributes.


Subscribe to our mailing list

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By the way, I also write personalised poetry and prose for special occasions. You can find my business here. If not, Please enjoy my free e-book!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Book Review - The First 20 Hours



The First 20 Hours - How to learn anything fast, as the above graphic suggests, is a book by Josh Kaufman, the bestselling Author of The Personal MBA. The point, obviously of this book is around the theory of rapid skill acquisition. In the introductory area of the book, Josh Kaufman outlines his desire to learn things fast, given the birth of his new daughter Lela, and also was written around a time of his life where He had far too many ideas, and too little time to carry them all out to fruition. Josh Kaufman notes in his first chapter that the seminal book on the topic of expertise, was authored by Malcolm Gladwell, who stated that in order to become an expert in any field, from Golf to Chess, you will need approximately 10,000 hours. While this seemed daunting to Kaufman, he noted that his intention was not to become the next Gary Kasparov or Tiger Woods, he did want to acquire skills to a level of competency- the give the example of Golf, he didn't want to win the PGA tour, but he did want to be able, for example, to play golf competently enough to not embarrass himself.

Without being overly specific, Kaufman delineates the major principles behind rapid skill acquisition, being Deconstructing skills into sub-skills, Learning sub-skills, removing learning barriers and practicing in a set way for at least 20 hours. In chapter one, he also speaks of the importance of practicing in a real world context, the importance of having instantaneous feedback, the difference between training and skill aquisition, and the difference between education and skill acquisition, briefly touching on the concept of neuroplasticity, which is garnering much more interest and popularity recently.



Josh Kaufman also gives practical, real life examples of learning these skills- expanding on his experience in applying these skills to six fairly eclectic things he has learned in recent years, being Yoga, Programming, Touch Typing, The ancient chinese board game "Go", the Ukelele, and windsurfing. At the end of the book, the reader may probably wonders if this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr Kaufman! Specifically I found the chapter on playing the Ukelele interesting, as I play Guitar personally. Mr Kaufman, in this chapter outlines how to play, with diagrams of the Ukelele for the rank beginner, the process he takes for choosing which skills to practice, the equipment he uses, the musical skills he chooses to learn, and having a target of performing to a small audience at the end of the twenty hours.

In a sense, some of this book is common sense- a few of his Amazon reviews have even said so, and even Kaufman himself says "It's not rocket science". However, as a How-To book it holds a good deal of weight for beginners at all ages at anything, and especially for readers that take more attention to the theories this book is based on. One key thing mentioned in the book that struck a chord with me, is the idea that people who believe themselves not naturally good at something can actually learn, because the brain is not hard-wired into something, but rather, flexible and able to make allowances, given the attitude of the learner. Whilst I don't believe this is an earth shattering or life-changing book as some people tout that it will, it is certainly an interesting and sufficiently researched book that will make learning a new skill as painless as it can be, and certainly gives hope that there is a way to learn quickly. Good, factual, relevant and easy to understand reading.

4 out of 5 Stars.




P.s. I am currently in the process of setting up a blog called www.only20hours.blogspot.com.au to test this theory. It is not currently up and running yet, but I will be blogging to test the theories outlined in this book!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Welcome AGAIN!

Hey readers,

As you may have noticed, there's been some changes around here. I have revamped my blog after thinking and recieving comments that it might not be the easiest thing to read! In an attempt to rectify this situation, I've decided to go with a plain White background, with hopefully still enough colour to make it interesting! If you like the layout, please make a positive comment. If you don't, keep it to yourself, I don't need that kind of negativity. (Just kidding, all comments welcome!)

Ben.


P.s. Subscribe to my blog, and I will be your friend (maybe).

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Guest Post #2 Mishka Gora

Today is my second foray into Guest posts. My guest today is Mishka Gora, a writer of some note, who predominantly blogs and writes about political and cultural aspects of eastern Europe. The question I have asked her, given her unique background is "Why is it important to write about things that matter?", but first, a bit of her bio: 

Mishka Gora is the author of Fragments of War, an autobiographical novel about aid work in the former Yugoslavia, and the forthcoming fantasy The First Realm.She writes frequently about conscience, war, international justice, and the former Yugoslavia in publications such as 'Quadrant Magazine', 'Connor Court Quarterly', 'MercatorNet', and 'Online Opinion', as well as at her blog Eyes of the Mind. Her articles criticising the ICTY have drawn international attention, and this campaign for justice is featured in the 2012 Croatian documentary film Udruzena Nepravda (Joint Injustice). She worked as a humanitarian aid worker in the former Yugoslavia in 1993, holds degrees in American Studies, Philosophy, and History from Monash and Brown universities, and her doctoral work on conscience won the 2007 George Yule Essay Prize.  You can follow Mishka and her work on Facebook.


You can buy the book "Fragments of War" here


Mishka's current blog is at:  


without much further ado, please listen to how Mishka responds to the question  "Why is it important to write about things that matter?"



Actions may speak louder than words, but sometimes the action we need to take is to say something, and this is when words really do matter.

Three years ago, I saw a news headline that was all wrong. It announced that two Croatian generals had been found guilty of war crimes. I had considerable knowledge and experience of the war in question, a unique understanding for an outsider, but there wasn’t much I could do. The overwhelming evidence of their innocence had been ignored. I was just a stay-at-home mother in far-off Tasmania, and I thought I had put the war behind me. I didn’t want to return to a life plagued by nightmares and flashbacks. I didn’t want to disturb the tranquillity of family life in rural Tasmania.

I had my freedom, though. It was a basic freedom that had been denied to the generals incarcerated in a UN gaol. They weren’t just two innocent men either. They were two innocent men who had led the fight for freedom from Serb occupation, broken the Serb stranglehold on Bosnia to allow humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of starving civilians, and thwarted plans for further genocide in the wake of Srebrenica. My freedom taunted and ridiculed me. I could not remain silent.

But who would listen to me? What use was freedom of expression or the ability to craft words if no one would read what I wrote? What difference could I make?

But the whole point of doing the right thing is that you do it because it’s right, not in order to attain some goal or receive some reward, but simply because it is right. Those of us who remain free to do so have an obligation to speak out against injustice, no matter how futile it seems. So many are silent because everyone else is.

Ultimately, writing about things that matter is as simple as writing the truth. The truth always matters, especially if you are a believer, because God is the Truth. The object of faith is truth. Hope makes us wayfarers in search of truth. Love (or charity) is the “extraordinary force” that brings our faith and hope to life. “To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity.” Without the truth, any writing I might do would be at best “interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments”. (Caritas in Veritate)

So I wrote my article, knowing that even if no one read it, that even if I were pilloried for it, it still mattered.

The day after it was published, one of the defence lawyers working on the generals’ appeal wrote to me. He told me my article had reached thousands of people in the international justice community, including “virtually everyone” at the Hague tribunal. It was a “bright ray of encouragement”. Then there were articles in a major Croatian daily newspaper, and a documentary film in which I featured alongside notables such as the actor Goran Visnjic and Margaret Thatcher’s adviser Robin Harris. The rest is history. I take no credit for the generals’ freedom, but I am glad to have provided encouragement and taken a stand, to have spoken the truth in love.

You may ask what love has to do with it, but the relationship between truth and love isn’t one way. They illuminate each other. Love, by which I mean the will for the highest good, the sort of love we are commanded to bear for neighbours and enemies alike, ignites our passion for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It sees the big picture and does not allow selective facts to represent the whole person or situation. It was true that General Gotovina ordered the shelling of the town of Knin, but those who consequently judged him guilty of a war crime ignored the prudence and temperance he exercised in what was a just military action in defence of his country and people. Love does not allow truth to be manipulated.

Just as the absence of love distorts truth, the absence of truth perverts love, turning it into mere sentimentality. Our assessments of men like General Gotovina become subjective and arbitrary, and our duty to be charitable cannot be lived out. Any compassion we might bear for an ‘enemy’ is an abuse of the very concept of love if we can only do so by sweeping the truth about them under the carpet. General Gotovina did not deserve freedom because hundreds of thousands of Croats adored him as their hero. He deserved freedom because he was innocent.

Feeling revulsion for someone, as is inevitable if we know the truth about our enemies, does not preclude loving them. If we desire the best outcome for a criminal, we desire justice here and now, so that they have the greatest opportunity to repent of their crimes. The pursuit of truth and justice in an atmosphere of lies and deception is an act of love, sometimes a sacrificial one. Writing the truth can lead to gaol or execution in many places, and yet it continues to be proclaimed. Love is the impetus behind this – nothing less than the love of God or man could inspire the laying down of one’s life for truth. There would be no point in dying for the truth if it could be disconnected from faith, hope, and love.

Yet so much of today’s entertainment, including what we read, is nihilistic. There are no moral principles and the absolute nature of truth is denied. We defend this entertainment as “realistic”, but this is just a euphemism for what used to be termed “shock value”. Even those who seek the highest good are not immune to the decay of truth in our society. While they do not deny truth, they constrain it with self-absorbed ramblings and attempts to mimic the pretentious ‘style’ of what’s popular with the literati. When we write staccato and disjointed prose, our attempt to write about the things that matter is unintelligible. There is little beauty, and what truth there may be is lost on the reader.

If we desire to write about the things that matter, we need not worry about the topic. Everything matters. The issue is how we write, whether we inspire and enlighten and do not leave our readers discouraged and confused. If we are to write about what matters, we must constantly ask ourselves what good we can do:

“For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so is it better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate.”


(St Thomas Aquinas, Summa IIª-IIae q. 188 a. 6 co.)
Please Subscribe, Visit Mishka's blog, or buy her book! :)

Ben Mathewson.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Marcella's story

Hi Again! For those of you who don't know, My wife had a pretty difficult pregnancy with our last child Marcella. My wife and I wrote the full story, here:

http://www.thejoyofthehome.blogspot.com.au/2014/05/my-full-story-of-surviving-percreta.html

I wanted to share with you though, a smaller, more prose-ey piece of writing with you first though, based on my experiences of what I went through, during the emergency pregnancy. I hope you like it!



Born unbeknownst to the swirling storms around her. Her mummy is on the operating table, Her father in the throes of anxiety and tension. Her siblings, sensing the anxiety of something different, eagerly await news from Daddy, and settle into the new and unfamiliar babysitter's rules. Marcella's world, however, born in the hospital far away from their house is a blur of alien sounds and smudgy visions.

Will she see her mother?

Words fall on daddy’s ears, confusing and meaningless, as the squirmy beautiful pink flesh is handed to him. He jolts himself out of the mental fog to attune to what’s happening now.

“You need to be there for the baby’s first times- Her first bath, her first cuddle with daddy, cuddles with brothers and sisters”, the nurses words, a mixture of compassion and professionalism, are only heard as a numb metallic sound. “...So that when she wakes up, Her mother will have a record...”
“...When?” , thinks Daddy.” “...more like If?” It’s been four hours since she went into surgery and daddy’s heard nothing from the doctors - Nurses have come and offered cups of tea, and eagerly set a bed up for Daddy, calling the complications "a special case" and looked at him in compassion. The question, burning in his heart always being how she is, and the response, always: “We don’t know... We will let you know when we do”

“It’s been so long since I’ve bathed a baby” Daddy says, his hands and arms trying to remember the motions, struggling awkwardly. “My other children are so big now. She’s so small”. He says to the nurse with the kind, steady look on her face.

As Marcella is lowered into the green plastic tub with the lukewarm water, the uncomfortable squawking of not wanting to be disrobed stops. The warm safety of the bath covers little arms and legs and her chubby tummy. Maybe some remembrance is returning of that safe place of covering? Her eyes are wide open now, staring at the world with a slowly gathering comprehension. Just as Daddy has loved the other children instantly, this one he loves too- yet with a cloud of apprehension- This baby is a token of the dawn- borne from deep darkness, a token of the dawn to our family. The nurse takes a photo with her digital camera.

‘Marcella’s first bath’.

The squawking begins again as Daddy dresses her for the first time, since seeing her. Little Pink Dress. Stockings. Her face squishes up as the little limbs slide clumsily through the cotton. Daddy gives Marcella her first bottle, prepared carefully by the nurses. She fusses impatiently, then settles into daddy’s arms. Briefly he forgets about the maelstrom as he focuses on that tiny head adorned with sparse hair, and the beauty of her repose. It’s the first time Marcella has fallen asleep in Daddy’s arms.

Upstairs the bleeding refuses to stop, as the medical staff work together quickly, quelling the rising tension in the room with steely determination and knowledge of procedure. Blood infuses her almost as quickly as it gushes out. The room is filled with a rising urgency tempered by a strong urge not to lose be overwelmed. The clock watches on. Downstairs, Daddy is crying tears of anxiety in a parents room bathroom. It is the first time Daddy has cried in a long time.

It has been two days, as Daddy eats the overly salted chips, finding a quiet corner away from others in hospital cafeteria. Mummy is still sick, but she is alive. Today is the first time Marcella has been placed on Mummy’s chest. The doctors have moved the wires, as she was placed, naked against mummy’s bare chest. One of the lady doctors stops her vigil over the other patients to watch the two. There is a type of recognition without stroking, a type of acceptance without words, as the two share their first bond.

It is a Wednesday. Mummy is no longer grey. The wires and machines are gone, and her feeble body can assist itself. She has moved now, from the ward on the top floor to the maternity ward, surrounded by cards and baby toys, still close to the nurses in case a “situation” develops. She will be home soon, It will be the first time she has returned in four weeks.

Nothing has changed. Yet in other ways, everything has, and nothing will ever be the same.

The Head surgeon visited mummy for the first time since the operation. He speaks as a man incredibly relieved at helping to save this mummy, and gives mummy’s oldest child a little gift. The children want mummy to come home. They have had their first visit, some now have had their second. Xavier, the youngest is frightened. He’s forgotten the cuddles with mummy as he has slept somewhat coldly in the bed next to Daddy. It might take a while until he will snuggle with her again. Perhaps his first time might be the hardest.

It’s now been a year. There is no vortex of anguish left beyond the normal fluctuations of fortune mummy and daddy face in normal life. Mummy missed much of Marcella’s first things, but this last year she hasn’t missed many of the others. She’s seen her first real smile, and the first time she started crawling, she also helped her with her first taste of solid food, and felt the pain with her of the first teeth as they were painfully bursting through her soft gums.

Daddy loves Marcella, and loves that he has mummy’s love too, and they both hope they are present for every other "first" in Marcella’s life.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Guest Post # 1 Zainab Abbass

If you are a regular at reading my blog (Thank you, by the way!) You will have noticed by now that I have written about the things that inspire me. From time to time I read other people's Short Stories too, and they, I believe can be most inspiring indeed. One such Short story is from a Young writer called Zainab Abbass, whose story "The voice of a boy who saved everyone but himself" had me overwhelmed by the quality of her writing. Her style is brilliantly detailed, emotive and impacting. If you have some time to spare, do yourself a favour and read her short story here 

and her other short stories are here:



I have asked Zainab to tell my loyal readers something about herself, and asked the question  "What Inspires You". Here is her answer:

Hi, I'm Zainab. I live in a fairly large city in England - while it is fairly hectic, I live on the outskirts where it isn't too busy and a small walking distance from lots of fields and countrysides and nature that I can't connect with. I like a lot of things, but I'm not good at much. I suffer from fingers that are a tad uncoordinated and like to drop things and cause me to drop a grade in sports. I'm not good at anything active, but I enjoy running and walking, especially as it makes you feel really good afterwards. I'm pretty sure there's a lot of scientific evidence to suggest why exercise makes you feel so great, but I can't really quote any because I don't know any! Oops! However, I do like reading, writing, listening to and discovering new music, watching TV series' and movies, cracking bad jokes and feeling. It's weird to say I like feeling, but emotions are a constant reminder that I'm alive and whilst they can be physically painful, there's something about feeling that's really quite beautiful. In such a complicated way that I can't begin to explain it without downgrading it.

I don't really know what I'd like to do in life, generally anything concerning the future has me confused. But I guess I'd like to find a career where I make some sort of good change in someone's life - nothing big or dramatic. Just something that will make somebody feel more at peace, happier etc. I'm never going to a prime minster or the next John Green nor will I ever inspire a generation with my voice/my face/my words. So sometimes, you just have to downsize your dreams. It doesn't exactly impact the mark you leave behind, I think.

So I'll stop rambling on about myself and I'll write. Ben asked me;

"What inspires you?"

I thought about music, art, love, my parents, my older sister, friends, names and personalities of great poets and musicians. I thought about bands, articles, quotes, books, hot cities and beautiful languages. and then I thought "Nothing" and then I left my train of thoughts and went back to normal life for three to four days, hoping that along the way I'd discover the answer around me or within me. So my inspiration was nil when I was asked if I'd like to write this post. I nearly said "Sorry I just don't think I can." and then when I went to type out the message, I completely changed my mind and wrote that "I'd love to!" or something along those lines and it was not a white lie. I really knew I'd like to sit down and do this, and so well I'm doing it. I've stopped forcing myself to think of a witty answer and I've figured out what inspires me. I've figured out what the source of all my inspiration is.

"What inspires you?"

"People. People inspire me, day in and day out. The cashier at my local supermarket and my favorite poet (The king of words - Rainer Maria Rilke). The woman who runs the charity sale every Tuesday and the physicist who's ideas were so bizarre and yet the only part of Physics I could ever even be interested in (Hugh Everett lll, y'all)."

Let me explain further. I could sit and say "Music" inspires me because music is a huge part of my life. But behind the delight of music, there are the artists and the musicians and the producers and the people who run the record company and there are the fans and all the rest of the people involved in creating music. Little pieces of a jigsaw that would be incomplete if just one minuscule piece was missing, if just one person was missing. Without people, there would be no inspiration. And coming to that conclusion really solidifies why I think human beings are the greatest things to be inspired by. We are constantly creating and making and inventing. We make mistakes and learn lessons and produce material for everybody else to enjoy and feel passionate about. With our own minds, we have managed to find cures for diseases and illness' that were thought 100% incurable and through the pain and the wars and the discomfort, we have managed to somehow make it through.

Whilst I could sit here and tell you all about people we've all heard of, of people who have changed the entire world with their way of thinking and their talents, I'm not going to. I'm going to tell you about people you may know, or people you've never met, or people that are similar to people you know yourselves.
The most inspirational people are the one's walking past you on the street. And with no fear of sounding like a sonder, I'm going to tell you about normal people who I still think of today. Who, when I sit around, will suddenly think off and for a pang of a moment, I'll wonder about them:

-The woman who runs the charity sale on Tuesday's raises money for Help For Heroes - a charity that helps aid soldiers at war - and whose son died at war. And after one hazy school day, in a discussion we were having she said; "I can't help him but I can help others." - in a bid of giving back, she helps save other people's sons. To obviate other's from feeling the grief she had so heavily felt herself.

- The blind woman and her husband who suffers from a mental disorder, who every single day, hold their daughter's hand and take her right to the school gates. With the aid of the young girl's grandfather, I presume, who takes care of all three and smiles at every single passer-by and never stops to take a break or rest on a bench. Most mornings, I see them on my way to school and I do a silent prayer for all four, an unlikely group of people who take care of each other because the bond of family is stronger than the bond of any illness or age.

- When I forced myself to go to a Writer's festival earlier this year, I met a 21 year old girl in the reception. She was quiet and spoke in a hushed voice, as if she was afraid of being heard. And her long blond hair was in a plait - and where the parts of her hair intertwine, are pens. About 4 to 8 pens just lining her hair, so she could never run out. I thought that was such an efficient way of never losing pens.

- At the same festival, a girl on stage, carrying out a poetry slam, said a poem about liberated bodies, loving yourself, the act of scarring yourself in order to feel something. And right in the middle, she spoke a line - and this is directly quoted - "I don't have the energy to kill myself tonight." and I thought it was the most powerful thing I'd heard in years. I can't remember how she even looks like but I can remember the moment she said it, how her voice sounded, how brokenly amazing it was and how I can't seem to forget it.

- Recently, during my work experience at the library, a deaf family of three came in. They communicated through sign language and various' noises. My boss did not understand sign language, but 20 minutes the family had been understood and had been given what they wanted and had comfortably left. I don't know how she did it, or how she managed it but I felt a new sense of respect towards her and her years of experience that had led her to sit down and talk without speaking a single word.

- My Literature teacher who has made me see beyond everything - beyond a single letter, beyond a single glance etc. She taught me that the greatest words are the ones unspoken.

- A very close friend who once said to me "Realize that you can't change the unfairness of the world, but that you can change your state of mind." and changed my life, forever.

I guess what I wanted to do was expand on why I think people are inspiring and why if you stop and really see the people around you or the strangers you can get a few minutes with, you'll realize how every single person contributes to the entire world's pot of inspiration. This links back to why I'd like to make just one change - I'd like to be the person that someday, in the future, a person lists as one of the people they found just a tiny bit inspiring.

Hope you enjoyed that! This is the first in a number of guest blogs to come, where I ask my guest writer the importance of writing about things that matter. Don't miss out and don't forget to Subscribe. 

Blessings,

Ben Mathewson.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

EPIC rap battles



Most knowledgeable YouTube aspirants dream of being viral, and one of the key indicators that you are a huge success is if your video is featured in the <What's Popular> section, when you first come to the Youtube website. A series of videos have gained a good deal of traction in the "What's Popular" category are the Epic Rap Battles of History set of videos. Created in 2010, and based on a comedy skit that was not received as well as the originators (Peter Shukoff and Lloyd Ahlquist), had planned, Epic Rap Battles has become, according to Wikipedia, the 15th most subscribed channel on YouTube. Epic Rap Battles generally pit one (and occasionally two) people of a similar field in history against each other, and have an imaginary battle, each with a loosely prescribed time limit for each round. The battles have become so popular that celebrities themselves have featured in them over the last 2 years (e.g. Snoop Dogg and 'Weird Al' Yankovic). These are some of the celebrities covered in Epic Rap Battles Videos:

Justin Bieber Versus Beethoven
Einstein Versus Steven Hawking
Goku Versus Superman
Lance Armstrong Versus Babe Ruth

or wildly different characters with no seeming association otherwise:

Genghis Khan versus the Easter Bunny
Abraham Lincoln Versus Chuck Norris
Lady Gaga Versus Sarah Palin
John Lennon Versus Bill O'Reilly and many more.

My personal favourite lately is Edgar Allen Poe Versus Stephen King, which I will present to you a little later. E.R.B. guys are really popular for a good reason. They offer infectious beats, surprisingly good likenesses for celebrities, professional audio and visual quality, and very well known celebrities. At a basic level though, beyond the visuals it is also excellent poetry with consistent rhythmic meter, great puns, and allusions, and metaphors added in for good measure. It is also very well researched. consider the first line of one of the more recent  Rap Battles between Stephen King (Zach Sherwin) and Allen- Poe (George Watsky), where he refers to a trochee (A a metrical foot used in formal poetry which contains a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one- something I learned after doing some research, myself).

 
 For these reasons and more I look forward to more Epic Rap Battles in the future. 

Ben Mathewson.