An Introvert’s Dream

In 2019 Oxford’s word of the year was ‘climate emergency’. I’m willing to wager now, by the time the sun sets on our top to bottom beyond cray cray 2020, everyone’s presently favourite-not-favourite term ‘social distancing’ will rank high up the list for this year.

Yet for a particular parcel of the population known to be crowd-averse at the best of times, social distancing equals nothing short of a raving good time. You heard that right. The current virus-flavoured cataclysm unraveling a million threads from a million different blanket corners from the fabric of society does have a silver lining.

For the world’s introverts – known by such not-especially-complimentary colloquial terms as ‘homebodies’, ‘shut-ins’, ‘wallflowers’, ‘loners’ and ‘solitaires’ – what’s happening at present as far as the curtailing of social contact and the ban on large groups of people – is frankly nothing short of a form of heaven on Earth. And it’s one this quietly spoken and inward-looking army of tens of millions were sure they’d never be so lucky to witness in their lifetime.

Seriously? Seriously. And joyously if you’re an ‘Intro’.

Wasn’t there an ancient tongue saying doing the rounds at some point long, long ago about the meek inheriting the earth? Well…welcome to it!

What the grey-bearded ones conveniently failed to mention however was the fact that by the time the ‘inheritance’ was left to be claimed, whatever was left after the devastation to be quietly, politely and considerately stood in line for, would, undoubtedly, be in such a shambolic state, no one – be they meek or shouty – would be the least bit motivated to covert these leftover society’s ashes.

Collapse and carnage aside, point is seeing whole nations come around to what you’ve been doing your entire life – albeit not willingly but rather something that’s been forced on them much like a pair of police-issue handcuffs (or a sloppy kiss from great grandma – choose your own analogy) – is nonetheless personal validation on a grand scale for Earth’s social moths, shyologists and keep-to-them-selfers.

Pretty sure this Poster girl for Introvert’s United is not a genuine introvert herself but hey, she’s been chosen to deliver the message so LETS RUN WITH IT!

Throughout my life I’ve alternated between believing myself to be an introvert as well as the more outward-focused extrovert. These days my pet go-to description is the very new-millenium-sounding ‘ambivert’.

For those who haven’t heard the term before – of which, until very recently, I counted myself as one – it’s a description of people who embrace traits from both ends of the introvert /extrovert spectrum, continuum or whatever you want to call the genetic personality lottery that makes us us.

And before we go any further now seems as good a time as any to map out exactly what is meant when we describe someone as being ‘introverted.’ Most descriptions I’ve encountered over the past day or so appear to cite a similar batch of re-occurring traits.

For those playing at home (where else would you be?) try asking yourself, on a scale of 1 – 10, how true the following statements are for you. Ready? Steady? Go…

  • I hate small talk but I enjoy deep conversations.
  • I get tired if I stay at a party or social gathering too long.
  • I feel like everything I say should be meaningful and often refrain from talking for this reason.
  • I prefer one-on-one or small group conversations over talking in large groups.
  • I need to spend time alone to recharge my battery.
  • I think before I speak.
  • I have difficulty thinking in a group. I think best when I’m on my own.
  • I usually listen more than I talk.
  • I dislike interruptions.
  • I hate conflict.

Adding to that checklist, here’s a few of my own. You know you’re a social vegan who avoids meet when –

Your idea of happiness is when the elevator door successfully closes before anyone else can get in.

You’d rather forgo the chance of winning $200 000 in Channel 9’s ‘I wake up with Today’ phone promotion because there’s a chance you might be interviewed on television.

You regularly enjoy watching your phone ring until you miss the call.

You know and understand that the collective noun for a group of introverts is a ‘no thanks’.

Your personal motto reads “I may on occasion ‘visit’ the world of people but my true home will always be solitude and the world of thought”.

The idea of sleeping in a coffin with a sealed lid holds genuine appeal.

Equally the thought of climbing into a packing box and staying there (just like you did as a kid only now you’re adulting) is… attractive.

And if after all that checking you’re still unsure whether you’re a bona-fide ‘intro’ or merely just a victim at present of ‘Corona circumstance’ one thing is for certain – there’s plenty of books on the subject-

Ps. Got some great bonuses for you this week. Try THIS ONE on for size for starters. It’s advice on how to last 42 days alone in your own room – you know… just in case?

Pss. Two of the three cartoons used in this post have been lifted, with permission, from an amazing little site called INTROVERT DOODLES. Owner Maureen ‘Marzi’ Wilson – U.S author of four books – says she created the site as a way for her to better understand her own introversion.

Psss. In a world gone stupid, what we need now more than ever is love. How’s that for a 1970’s-radio-DJ-style sedgeway into presenting the latest Lady Gaga song video STUPID LOVE? This clip maybe Michelin star quality gourmet eye candy but what’s it doing here, at the end of this post you ask?

If nothing else it’s exhibit A for the case why this world, beholden and calmed as it may be by the introverts, is most definitely, and undeniably, created and choreographed by extroverts.

Pssss. Just quietly – the introverts aren’t the only stock holding up better than most during this time of…of… disarray? The OCD‘ers who’ve been known to compulsively wash their hands a dozen or more times a day are also fairing quite well I hear.

Psssss. I could leave you with a Coronavirus joke but you probably wouldn’t get it. Hopefully not anyway. And before anyone thinks about voicing their concern at the standard of purported humour on this site, it’s best to keep in mind one thing: protesting will get both you AND I precisely… nowhere.

150 Reasons to Smile

There were at least a few ways that came to mind when considering how best to celebrate SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK publishing it’s history-making 150th post – the one you’re now reading. They included –

Hiring a white stretch limo, taking myself off to a fancy restaurant and eating and drinking the night away.

Rounding up a bunch of my favorite subscribers/commenters and shouting them all to an open bar down at Pyscho Suzi’s Tiki Garden.

Letting out a long slow breath, like I didn’t even know I’d been holding it in, and nodding with a slight smile.

In the end I chose to go with the final option because – you know – understated. Rather than getting all paralytic at the bar and then ludicrously moving around a lit dance floor like my limbs were made of cooked spaghetti, this more low-key approach allowed me time to reflect and more properly take in the occasion, like this…

Part of that reflecting had me thinking about age and the feeling of reaching milestones. Once you’ve racked up a certain number of years on the planet some of us find it handy to have a list of ready-made snapbacks responses to those sometimes socially awkward inquiries – “How old are you?”. Now and again, goddammit, you may not feel like playing ball and spilling the actual number.

In those circumstances sassy retorts like these become useful –

Age is just a number and mine is unlisted.

I’m 9183 days, 3 hours and 22 minutes.

Age doesn’t matter unless you are cheese or wine.

Don’t you mean how YOUNG am I?

Thing is I haven’t had to put anyone in their place with use of one of these lippy wisecracks. I am completely happy for people to know my blog age. In fact, excuse me while I shout it from the rooftops one more time. I’m 150 posts old today!

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any merrier, a glorious email arrived in my inbox. An email from no less than Scott Morrison. That’s Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Or ‘ScoMo’ to his friends – of which I obviously am now counted among.

I nor anyone else should be naive about the elevated status such a ‘trophy’ well-wishing message can bring it’s receiver… so to heck with modesty. I will share it (proudly) with you all now –

Dear Glen,

Allow me to be among the first to congratulate you and SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK on the occasion of publishing your 150th post.

My staffers inform me that within blogging circles such a milestone, while modestly regarded, is nonetheless still compared to that first time in a couple’s relationship when one partner may inadvertently bear witness to a blushworthy moment of flatulance on the adored other’s part.

Awkward it may be, yet properly handled it is not cause for dissolution of the union but rather provides an unlikely bonding moment that signals the relationship is ready to proceed on to a more deeply human, exploratory and committed phase.

Having established a foothold in the hearts and minds of readers, so too SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK seems ready to embark upon the next phase of its mission to bring quality blog content to readers for the long term (shall we say at least ’till the next election?)

Having just a few days back also notched my 150th (150 meetings for the calendar month) – I believe I can relate somewhat to the feeling of satisfaction you are feeling now it is all over… er, I mean – the feeling of satisfaction now you have reached this important waypost.

Here’s to you and all that you have achieved and will achieve in the hopefully COVID 19-free years to come.

You’re an inspiration.

Liberally yours,

The Honourable Scott J. Morrison

30th Prime Minister of Australia


Ps. Forgive me for observing but I get the sense that SWS and LNP are both from the same political alphabet soup tin – if you get my meaning.

Perhaps my people can talk to your people (ok, I know it’s just you, so… my people can talk to you) come next election time about a little bit of ‘you scratch my lower lumbar I’ll scratch yours’ mutual favorable publicity.

I’ve had the odd back-rub in the past from both political friends and foes alike (even one from a duffer who claimed he was just removing lint from my shirt) and I know how beneficial they can be. Let me know if this sounds interesting.

Carpe Diem.

Our Scomo really is one big lovable and well-meaning teddy bear on a political stage crammed with moth-eaten cabbage-patch dolls – isn’t he? I treasure those congratulations from him, while choosing to overlook his obviously poorly advised and supremely self-serving postscript borrowed directly from the Political Manipulators & Scallywags handbook.

And now, as one is apt to do on occasions such as this, it’s time to travel back through the dusty blog pages of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK history and nominate my..

MIRACLE AT THE DRIVE-THRU (Feb 2017) What made this trip to Maccas so memorable? Order yourself a Big Mac re-read HERE and find out.

THE GREAT WRINKLE MACHINE (June 2017) Well… someone’s gotta be the smarty pants! A prankster does what he does best HERE

CASE OF THE MYSTERY LETTER (June 2017) How exactly did I find myself reading a jail prisoner’s handwritten letter? The key to cell block A lies HERE

BAND T-SHIRTS – HOW OLD IS TOO OLD? (Oct 2017) Cool? Ridiculous? Ironic? You be the judge HERE

WHEN FASHION MEETS ICE-CREAM (March 2018) You won’t see Scenic Writer’s Shack speaking too often about ladies handbag fashions. But you might HERE

GOODIE GOODIE GUMDROPS! (March 2018) ‘Scenic’ bravely peers inside the Oscar nominees complimentary ‘Goodie’ bag and comes away floored, breathless and not a little hankering HERE

A SWING AND A MISS (March 2018) What do ghosts and golf courses have in common? Quite a lot if you believe Scenic HERE

THE GREAT VANILLA SLICE RIPOFF (June 2018) Scenic led the way with this daring foray into investigative journalism – exposing what could be labelled ‘The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Internal Pastry Layer’. Prepare to have all your treasured cake shop memories shattered HERE

WHEN NO MEANS NO (Sept 2018) Ok, so you try approaching YOUR wife or partner for permission to adorn the family car with wrap advertising about your beloved blog and see what response YOU get. Relive the pain of rejection HERE

INTO THE SNAKEPIT OF FRIENDSHIP (Feb 2019) Friends come and go but enemies last a lifetime. Right? Wrong? Sometimes? Plunge down the rabbit hole and mull it all over HERE

A big thank you to all the people who have followed this blog over any portion of the last three and a bit years. Writers write to be read, plain and simple. Without you guys there would be no ‘Shack.

A special gesture of appreciation is reserved for the readers and followers who go that one extra step and ‘like’ or, better still, comment on a post. Your engagement with topics lights up a part of my brain that makes me feel connected and fully awake. I call them ‘minty moments’ and I simply love them. Thank you again and please… keep doing it!

For the last six months or so Scenic Writer’s Shack slogan has been PEACHY NOT PREACHY. Have no doubts the commitment implied in that motto will continue to be upheld. Now seems like as good a time as any to unveil the new slogan which will help carry this blog forward for its next exciting stage – THE BEST IS YET TO BE WRITTEN. And I really do mean that. Here’s to the next glorious epoch… the next 150!

Ps. It may be SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK’S birthday but you get the presents! Click HERE for a very infecting affecting bonus read.

Lost in the Fog

Three years ago I wrote a short story about two lighthouse keepers. Amidst the confines of cramped quarters, one was slowly driving the other mad with his nightly tinkering of the ivories. I called it ‘PIANO MAN’. It was deemed good enough to be published in a literary journal and much to my delight they sent me two complimentary copies in the mail.

I mention this now since unfortunately this is likely the last positive words you’ll read here for the next short while. At present with movies, you see, I’m on what you’d call a roll. More like death spiral, actually.

After enduring the shotgun-to-the-face blast of boredom that was the Mel Gibson/Sean Penn starring THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (HERE) you would have thought I’d resolved to treat myself a little more kindly.

Some people gotta learn the hard way. It seems one lesson in arthouse lethargy torture just wasn’t enough ’cause the very next weekend I’ve gone and lined up to see the William Dafoe/ Robert Pattinson film THE LIGHTHOUSE.

You want symbolism? Gee, Here’s some… I’m the bull heading full steam in the direction of something I thought was attracting me only to end up running smack bang into an immovable object of cast-iron ‘LIGHTHOUSE’ tedium.

Before things degenerate completely I should point out THE LIGHTHOUSE is currently being hailed, courtesy of a vast chorus of in-the-know voices, as some type of modern day masterpiece. Lovers of surreal avant-garde cinema have declared this a once-in-a-decade treasure of a film.

This type of once-in-a-decade is way too often for me, I’m afraid. 109 excruciating minutes spent with this – if you’ll pardon the expression – white bread yawnage story vomit was enough to send me

My chief gripe with THE LIGHTHOUSE, and films like it, can be summarized in just three words …


Being an arthouse movie, nothing bloody happens naturally in the most stylish of ways! I’m old enough to know by now when I see films bathed in praise like –

  • ‘technically immaculate’
  • ‘an audiovisual feast’
  • ‘haunting’
  • ‘striking’
  • ‘thought provoking’
  • ‘could not possibly look more beautiful’
  • ‘a gorgeous piece of film craft’
  • ‘heavily stylized’

I need to start running in the opposite direction as fast as my feet will carry me…

THE LIGHTHOUSE tells the story (and I use the term ‘story’ like a toddler uses a cigarette lighter… that is to say ‘recklessly’) of two early twentieth century lighthouse keepers who are ensconced in the claustrophobic confines of a lighthouse situated on a remote uninhabited island.

If living with your boss is not your idea of a good time spare a thought for Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). He’s put up with the dirty moods, foul cooking and dictatorial ways of senior lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (William Dafoe) for four long weeks, only to learn a raging storm has caused the resupply vessel with his replacement on board to no longer be on its way. The next ship is due in anything up to seven months.

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy, including, unfortunately the viewer. Because what I’ve just outlined, if you get right down to it, is merely a premise for a story. An actual fair-dinkum story story requires the accompanying infinite and intricate twists and turns necessary to take the viewer on the rollercoaster ride they think they’re paying their money to see. There is simply none of that here.

What there is is howling winds, long conversations over meals, drunken dancing, raised voices, creaking floorboards, more drawn out conversations over meals, repetitive dream sequences, blaring foghorns, a depiction of the daily chores and drudgery necessary to keep a coal-powered lighthouse going at the turn of last century, and yes, just what we needed… still more long exchanges over dinner-table meals.

By the end of it my mind was spinning on it’s own gears with boredom

and I was wishing I was some relative of Godzilla so I could do this to the whole agonizing and completely miserable saga…

Then again, when you sit down to a roast chicken dinner you can’t expect the taste of fish. Shot in glossy black and white, THE LIGHTHOUSE is an arthouse film to it’s core. That means, by it’s nature, there is an emphasis on the thoughts and dreams of characters rather than presenting a clear, goal-driven story.

I uphold the nobility of the idea of arthouse movies – what with their elevation of a director’s authorial style and their clawback against Hollywood’s cliches and traditional story telling elements. But I question why the end product has to so often end up being painfully self-serious, miserable to watch and an all-round trying experience.

One American newspaper reviewer of this film observed THE LIGHTHOUSE “has got nothing and lot’s of it” .

My thoughts precisely.

And because two lackluster films in a row have caused a tsunami of negativity to spill forth on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK these past few weeks, movie reviews are now banned from this site until further notice. Let’s see how long that lasts...

Did I say 5th rate? Didn’t quite have the heart to write ‘15th rate fiction’ but, well… here’s my short story, PIANO MAN, from 2018. Incredibly, some nurturing but possibly misguided soul considered it good enough at the time to print publish in their literary magazine. No accounting for taste, right?

Last night, my world turned grey and my face along with it. I know now what happened was no accident. It was, rather, a most deliberate attempt on my life. In its aftermath I have set in motion a scheme to rid myself of this most horrible place and as well the person I have called my roommate these past five months – the treacherous old sea dog known as Captain Drake McNally.

The whole sorry ordeal was sparked some four weeks earlier when the Captain (I have always wondered whether this rank was real or imagined) deigned that we should welcome into our midst no less a fixture than a Steinway grand piano. Given that we were both working as the caretakers of a remote island lighthouse known as Owl’s Head, located some sixty nautical miles off the east coast of Wales, this presented some degree of challenge; most especially to the three intrepid furniture removalists tasked with delivering the polished wooden monstrosity.

The challenge, such as it was, involved lugging the thing up sixty-eight winding, crumbling concrete steps, every one of them encrusted in black scale and sea salt. Once in place, so began my endless nights of being forced to listen to the most awful attempts at music making any pitiful soul has ever had to endure.

After several weeks of this I wondered to myself if the hightop ‘concerts’ were not being done in such quantity and at such irregular times as to constitute an effort to irritate me and hasten my leaving.

Late one afternoon when I could stand no more, I politely asked the ‘Captain’ to take a break from his noise making. This was so I could get some rest in preparation for the coming nightshift. He did not take kindly to such a request. Later that same night, with a storm brewing in the west, I went outside to bolt the boat shed door.

On returning I found the lighthouse door locked. I hammered on it with my fists as waves smashed over the rocks behind me and the waters began to rise. I saved myself from drowning by eventually locating a rope and hoisting it high on to an outside ledge of the tower near the gantry.

I sit here now waiting for the supply ship to come. It is three days overdue. When it arrives I will bid this wretched place farewell, never to return. The painful sound of yet another of the mad Captain’s ‘performances’ of “Chopsticks” echoes down from his upper quarters as I write. Forgive me if I describe it as  like some kind of slow drip strain of syphilis for the ears.

With his fingers thicker than beef sausages, mention must come also it is by no means unusual to overhear the nerve-jangling sound of several keys being struck at once, adding to my torture.  Wax earplugs dull the pain. They and the last bottle of rum is all that sustain me. I pray my deliverance will be soon.

Ps. This short story appeared in the March 2018 edition of BALLOON’S LIT JOURNAL. If you’d like to read it directly from the on-line version of the magazine (because.. well…um…actually, come to think of it I don’t know why anyone would really want to do that – but just in case anyone did) click HERE.

Pss. I’ve long been in amazement at people given to populating their personal blogs with mundane holiday snaps boring-er than dry toast believing they are of interest to anyone outside of themselves and their immediate family.

So before I go ahead and do exactly the same I’ll at least have the courtesy to place a ‘Boring Content’ warning for all to see. Would it be too bold of me to suggest if more people did this the blogosphere would have every chance of transforming into a far more reader-friendly thing of beauty overnight?

The photo above left of Bruny Island Lighthouse was taken on our trip to Tasmania four months ago. I include it here as It’s now the last OFFICIAL pleasant memory of lighthouses I HAVE.

Psss. How’s this for serendipity? The screensaver we have decorating our computer screen showcases a different enshrinably beautiful nature scene every four days. The delish piece of eye-candy that popped up yesterday was this —

Mad, Bad and Glad when it was over!

Art-house movies and I have never really been what you’d call the best of friends.

Same goes with historical costume dramas.

So what was I thinking taking myself off to see THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN, which, as it turns out, is both art-house movie and died-in-the-wool costume biopic – set in 19th century London?

What was I thinking? Quite a lot actually, and up to the point of the movie theatre lights going down in that time-honored, sped-up sun-set kind of way, it was all positive.


THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN is really two based-on-fact stories rolled into one. The first centers around the 70 year long project – begun in 1857 – of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary. In real life this monumental task – the equivalent back in its day of mapping every star in the heavens – was helmed by Scottish schoolteacher and self taught linguist (he was fluent in more than a dozen languages) James Murray, played by Mel Gibson.

The second story concerns real-life American Army surgeon Dr Chester William Minor – played by Sean Penn. He spent 38 years in the infamous English mental asylum for the criminally insane Broadmoor. While incarcerated there he sent more than 10 000 submissions to James Murray for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary.

A film about a dictionary compiler was always going to be a tough ask shaping it into something marketable and even mildly watchable for the general public. The inclusion of the numerous psychiatric institution scenes was an attempt to inject some drama and pathos, yet this film remains strangely lacking in energy.

THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN manages to generate as much tension as a broken guitar string. It’s ability to generate emotion is likewise on a par with a 2am multi-folding-ladder info-commercial.

Every character with a speaking part is saddled with delivering speech-long, overly serious monologues that have you wishing time would somehow magically speed up. And it’s all set to a wearying, sappy soundtrack that alternates between full-on opera and a mega-blast from the strings section of the London Philharmonic.

Two hours with this movie felt like two days. Managing dutifully to avoid reading a single review before seeing the movie, I poured over a heap of them afterwards. “A film which ends up being only mildly more interesting than reading an actual dictionary” was a reoccurring lambasting quip from a number of paid opinion-givers.

Going into the movie I held genuine curiosity. After enduring 124 minutes of near unrelenting tedium, I came out with eyeballs feeling like this –

If all that sounds a bit harsh, I can agree – it feels harsh saying it and writing it. Though perhaps not as harsh as Mel Gibson unsuccessfully suing the production company in a valiant attempt to wrestle back creative control of the project, and thus saving it from the commercial and critical disaster it has ended up becoming.

Nor maybe as harsh as both Gibson’s and Sean Penn’s decision to abstain from doing any interviews to promote the movie, less they somehow convey the false impression that they in anyway approve of the final product.

I really wanted to like this movie. Yet I’ve concluded what would probably be far more to my liking is the 1998 book which the movie is based on. The Surgeon of Crowthorne was written by British author (and Oxford graduate) Simon Winchester, a journalist with more than three decades of experience.

As a final note I should add that perhaps I could have recognized the writing was on the wall with me and this movie long before I actually took my seat and the lights went dark. The theater I ventured to see THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN at (The Regal at Graceville) has history for me. Bad history.

The last time I lined up to buy a movie ticket there was 16 years ago. That sadly lackluster occasion also ended with the eyeballs madly spinning and the smelling salts having to be brought out to revive me. And before anyone tries telling me what a marvelous viewing spectacle the Bill Murray/ Scarlett Johansson movie LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003) was, I say this…

Ps. Every cloud has a silver lining (except apparently the mushroom shaped ones which have a lining of Iridium and Strontium 90) so watching THE MADMAN AND THE PROFESSOR wasn’t a total loss.

Seeing this film set me on track to unearthing some pretty interesting facts and figures about the English language. You’ve borne the brunt already of my version of the madman. Now comes the Professor

The English language passed the MILLION WORD mark back in 2009 (at 10:22am GMT on June 10th, to be precise).

As of this writing, there are currently 171 476 words in use in English.

The average adult knows the meanings of approximately 30 000 words.

3000 words will cover 95% of everyday writing. 1000 words will cover 90% of everyday writing.

The English language adds a new word every 98 minutes.

Arabic is a language reputed to have over 12 million words.

The word “dictionary” first came into the English lexicon in 1220.

A Monopoly on fun?


Like an historic museum specimen preserved in resin, old-school board game MONOPOLY some how still clings to life in the mega-pixel  NPX  (NintendoPlaystationXbox) era.

I haven’t played it in close to forty years, and with my own daughter turning 10 next year, the window of opportunity for me to do so is fast closing.

Yet there now exists a reason that might well lure me back to the land of cheating bankers, paper money and pushing a grey plastic token (the shoe and the wheelbarrow were always my two faves) around a virtual properties gameboard.

Recently my favorite (yet perennially struggling) football team released their own branded version of the game. Fans who purchase a copy at least have some chance of winning when they play. That’s more than can be said for the St George/Illawara Dragons – the team that’s inspired this latest version.

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The Dragons may have at one time owned the world record for achieving the most consecutive number of professional football premierships in a row (11 from 1956 -1966) but that, as history buffs would say, was a long time ago.

If  poorly performing football teams aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other specific-interest incarnations of monopoly going around nowadays –

Capture 56

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The three biggest innovations to emerge from the Monopoly Universe in recent times have been the ‘Cheater’s Edition’ –

The ‘Speed Die’ version –

And the cashless MONOPOLY VOICE BANKING edition –

Oops! Did I say THREE major innovations? Naturally I meant four because how could one forget this newest addition to the stable –

And to finish off there’s this…

Ps. There’s always time for one last monopoly story, right? So here it is….

Recently my family and I holidayed at a mountain retreat (O’Reilly’s) adjacent to Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. The idea of this place is for guests to get back to nature while unwinding and taking life at a more relaxed pace. ‘City-life detox’ was what we’d come for (some family members being more eager than others) and city life detox was most definitely what was served up. Hotel rooms didn’t have televisions, air-conditioning or internet access.

What they did have was board games. Lots of board games! If you asked at reception they’d prize open a cupboard and an Aladdin’s cave of old school favorites – think Trivial Pursuit, Cluedo, Scategories, Kerplunk, Battleship and even the immortal classic Trouble would come spilling out like presents from Santa’s sack circa 1973.

Monopoly was there too but regrettably I wasn’t quick enough off the starting blocks. A Chinese man grabbed that one ahead of me. An hour later I spotted him again at the reception desk with the same Monopoly game tucked firmly under his wing. I wrongly assumed he’d finished playing and was returning it.

I chanced a friendly inquiry as we were both waiting in line while another guest tried without success (“Terribly sorry sir, this is a retreat. None of the rooms have televisions.”) to secure a tv-equipped room upgrade – “Wow, that was a quick game”, I enthused. “Playing with the speed die were you?”

Using perfect English he set me straight : “We haven’t started playing yet”. From that deflating moment on, and continuing for the rest of our two day stay, a weird dynamic developed between this 6 foot 2 inch chap and myself. Since it was a 25 kilometer dirt track trip down the isolation of the mountain for anyone wanting for a few hours to ‘retreat from the retreat’, most guests tended to remain on-site for the duration of their stay.

Guests got to know each other a little more under these enclosed circumstances. You’d start to recognize the same faces at the bar, the pool, the reading room, the games room etc. Every time I’d spot the Chinese man – whether it was in the dining room or feeding the parrots in the outside bird area or playing the ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ pinball machine with the slow-twitching right flipper in the entertainment precinct – I’d feel a strange compulsion to ask “How’s the Monopoly going?”

There’s no polite a term for it – I was Monopoly stalking. Maybe it’s the first time it’s ever been done anywhere in the world. But that’s what was going down. Even the usually obeyed Frozen-esque chidings of my wife to ‘Let it go’ fell on deaf ears. I had to have that Monopoly game.

I never did get that Monopoly game. To his credit, the Chinese man from Room 36 (Of course I got to find out his room number! What do you take me for … some kind of rank amateur?) always responded in a polite fashion to my none-too-innocent inquiries (cloaked by first engaging him in some distracting innocuous banter) regarding “How’s the game going?” In fact, he never once so much as even flinched – “Great game last night. Loved it so much we’ve got another one planned for this afternoon.”

I don’t in all honesty think he cottoned on at any stage to the fact that for two whole days he was the subject of surveillance and movement tracking the likes of which covert Intelligence units from any elite special forces unit you care to name (but can’t because they’re so secret) would have been proud to call their own.

It’s better he didn’t know how badly I wanted that Monopoly board. At the end of our stay, when the girl behind the reception desk opened up the creaking cupboard one final time to put back the games we had managed to borrow, I quickly eyed the shelves to see if the object of my nostalgic desire had yet been returned.

No dice. That Monopoly game and I were destined never to be united – at least while I was there. As we handed back our room keys and settled our account, I imagined even at that exact moment someone in Room 36 letting out a muffled cheer of joy because their thimble had landed on Mayfair and they had the cash in the bank to buy it.

PPS. A feature length MONOPOLY movie starring Kevin Hart (JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (2019) looks set to hit theatres early next year but in the meantime there’s this –

PPPS. Still haven’t had your fill of MONOPOLY related stories? Oh alright then … better click HERE.

Park Run and Me

It’s no secret ParkRun and I haven’t always been on what you’d call friendly speaking terms. Holy smoke, I waged war against these guys two years ago (HERE)

That’s all in the past now. These days I’ve really hit my stride with this Saturday morning five kilometre weekly ritual fun-run. You might even say I’m cruisin’.

Three years ago when I first commenced doing ParkRuns, my running ‘style’, for want of a better description, looked not unlike this –

Now, I’m happy to report, I can maintain a steady rhythm that on a good day looks more like this (minus the collar and tie) –

Last year I completed 26 ParkRuns. That works out on average one each fortnight. That figure surprises me somewhat since I couldn’t get motivated to turn up to a single ParkRun the whole of winter.

For those who are interested in this sort of thing, out of those 26 runs my fastest time was 28 minutes and 3 seconds (November 9th) and my slowest time was 31 minutes and 36 seconds (January 12th). The vast majority of my run times were in the 28 minute range.

In the name of humbling comparison, these are the current world records for running five kilometres –

Male – 12 minutes & 37 seconds (set in 2004)

Female – 14 minutes & 11 seconds (set in 2008)

Need it be said both these time-slaying, cork-popping, chiseled in history records were set by Ethiopian runners. Ethiopia (population 114 million) recorded bronze medals in both the male and female 5000 metre running events at the Rio Olympics back in 2016.

But I digress…

My own humble record-setting feat – I’ve been doing 7am ParkRuns since 2017, with 2019 being my most consistent ‘run’ of completion – was achieved across a total of five different ParkRun locations.

The most scenic of these places was without doubt the ParkRun I completed while on holiday down in Tasmania. Here’s a picture of me crossing the finishing line, with daylight second –

Daylight second huh? That seems to suggest either I finished way ahead of everyone else or dead-stone motherless last. The less spectacular truth is somewhere, actually precisely in the middle of those two extremes.
I finished pretty much in the centre of the field of approx 70 runners with a gap of a hundred or so metres between myself and the next runner at either end.
While down in Tasmania I decided to call in on the Hobart branch of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. All’s well (and definitely scenic!) down there.

Anyone who’s ever participated in a ParkRun will find what I’m about to say difficult to fathom. On the Tasmanian ParkRun I actually got lost. I’ll say that again in case anyone is thinking they’re misreading that – on the Tasmanian ParkRun I got lost.

This course was a winding dirt track ‘in the woods’ located right next to Risdon medium to maximum security jail for male prisoners. Among the giants of root and leaf and with the wind blowing with a passion it felt like I was in the land that time forgot.

Actually, what it really reminded me of was the feeling that somehow I’d found myself in a deep woods scene from the Burt Reynolds movie DELIVERANCE (1972). Thankfully I didn’t meet up with any escapees on the run or toothless hillbilly’s while moving through, unlike poor Jon Voight and Ned Beatty in this moment –

Anyway, there I was putting one foot in front of the other amidst the Tasmanian wilderness when all of a sudden the track split into two. Up to this point I’d been careful to maintain sight of the runner about 40 metres ahead but coming around the bend, suddenly my guide was nowhere to be seen.

A ‘go left or go right’ decision lay waiting for an unsuspecting Queensland first-timer and I literally had no clue. So what did I do? I broke my golden rule about never stopping for breath during a 5 km ParkRun and stood and waited. Within 15 seconds salvation was at hand in the form of a singlet- clad 50 something ‘running man’ who steered me on the right path.

And THAT is my peacetime ParkRun story.


The list below is taken from the website RUNNER’S WORLD (HERE) It chronicles unusual things real life joggers have seen, found or encountered during their runs.

PSS. Not into running? Then you’d surely better click HERE

PSSS. If you’re not into running but more into movies about writer’s click HERE

That’s a Wrap – 2019

 Love may be blind but marriage is a true eye-opener. If it’s end-of-year truth you came looking for, you’re definitely in the right place this week.  On the eve of launching into the fourth year of life for this blog, that morsel of tongue-in-cheek wisdom may be as good as any to hang my metaphorical hat on and reflect.

After three solid years and 147 published posts on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK, it’s fair to say my ‘relationship’ with blogging has by now entered the marriage stage. Gone are the heady days when I believed with every cell of my double helix I was about to shape humankind’s destiny and set the blogosphere alight every time my finger hovered over the ‘publish’ button.

If I think back I’m pretty sure I may even have originally set out to create the funniest, wittiest blog site the world had ever seen. Pretty quickly that proved to be way too hard. Like, WAY too hard. In place of that what else was there to do but start serving up common banter such as what you’re reading now. Humbling to be sure but over the passage of time adjusting the scope and breadth of ones formerly lofty ambitions makes sense if you want to keep going. And I DID want to keep going. Still do.

With over 600 million free-to-access blogs in the world competing for interest, that, I can now appreciate, was always an amusingly naive, overreaching thought. But gee-whiz, the illusion and false-belief phase sure was fun while it lasted!

These days, again like a marriage, I’m fully awake to the idea I’m no longer running a 100 meter race in the blogging stakes. Now I’m chugging along more like a marathon runner with the occasional surge and one or two sprint finishes thrown in for variety. Under these road rules the challenge is trying to keep things fresh and fun along the route.

On that note, I’ve said it before and I’m not shy in saying it again – the day I start taking things too seriously around here is the day I break open the metaphorical cyanide capsule that dangles on a gold-plated chain around the slender neck of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK and bite down. Hard. 

Over the course of the last three years I’ve seen a number of my contemporaries take their last breath. Blogs have a lifespan like all other things. When the interest that once burned magnificently like a furnace flame has dwindled to a barely breathing wet candle, and, worse still, perhaps even assumed the status of burden, there is little else for one to do but slip away quietly and make way for another, freshly setting out on their own blogging promenade.

This year saw SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK set a new comments record (60) for an individual post. My interview with junior author Georgia Bowditch in August received a very positive response. 2019 also saw me reconnect with two old ‘mates’ – John Rambo and the T-800 Terminator with the release of long-awaited new installments in those two film franchises. With friends like that who needs enemies right?

Then there was the right royal pranking of the Nigerian scam artist back in March. You had it coming Mr Badenhorst or Catherine Bessant or whatever your name was! Those antics ran for a total of three posts and kept me and a few readers along for the ride entertained in a pay-back flavored manner for the duration.

What will 2020 bring? Mystery, shenanigans and rum’n raisin icecream are all guaranteed since they’re my favorites. For assurances of anything else you’ll just have to tune in to find out. Before then however it’s time to look back on the year that was SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK style.










Top 50 Songs List (June)

Art of the Niggle (July)

Super Computers (August)

Bruce Lee (August)

Top 50 TV Series (September)

2nd Hand Stores (October)

Brisbane – Australia’s 3rd best City (November)

Murder of Author Helen Bailey (November)

Best Book Covers of 2019 (December)



AQUAMAN  (January)




Rambo:Last Blood (October)

Terminator: Dark Fate (November)



MEMBER OF THE FAMILY by Dianne Lake (February)

THE COMEDY WRITER by Peter Farrelly (March)

A CAPTAIN’S DUTY by Richard Phillips (June)





Champion Racehorse Winx Retires (April)


‘Knowledge advances funeral by funeral’

Australian entertainer & tv host Jimmy Hannan (January)

Actor Jan-Michael Vincent (March)

Australian musical director and tv personality Geoff Harvey  (March)

Singer & Actress Doris Day (May)

Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke (May)

U.S billionaire and former Presidential candidate Ross Perot (July)

Australian cookbook author Margaret Fulton (July)

Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher (August)

Author Toni Morrison (August)

Actress Valerie ‘Rhoda’ Harper (August)

Australian actor Paul Cronin (September)

Lead singer of Roxette – Gun-Marie Fredriksson (December)















11 Year Old Georgia Bowditch (August)



Rambo: Last Blood (First Rambo movie in 11 years)

In Stereo (First new Bananarama studio album in 10 years) 

Best Read of 2019


Brooke Shields’ 2014 autobiography – THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL: THE REAL STORY OF MY MOTHER AND ME



T Shirt Logo

Ok, I’m out of here. See you when the adventures return in the new year. And one last thing… don’t forget to come back!

Ps. Couldn’t farewell the decade without leaving you with one very last bonus read HERE.

Pss. And finally …Wanna see an uncannily accurate picture of how I’ll be spending the New Year’s holiday period? No? Here it is anyway…

Best Book Covers of 2019

Show me a person that DOESN’T judge a book by its cover and I’ll show you a person who doesn’t read books.

What’s meant by that old axiom about book covers is don’t judge a book solely by its cover. But what fun and exquisite eye-candy those covers can sometimes be!

All but two of the books featured here were first published sometime during the course of 2019. Korean writer Un-Su Kim and American born author Nisha Sharma’s books, both published prior to 2019, were re-released this year with updated covers.

I can’t vouch for the content and story of a single one of these books ’cause I haven’t read them but oh my, do I like their skins!

January – Korean writer Un-Su Kim’s novel was originally published in 2010. It got a killer new face for the hardcover release this year.
January – Intriguing and eye-catching to its core.
February – Slurp on this!
March –
COLOR contrast + simplicity wins the day.
April – Portals anyone?
May – Nothing, absolutely nothing, can hold a candle to this cover.
Both stunners. The covers, that is.
May – Say hello to pre-school art. It is a children’s book after all.
May – Floral anyone?
June – A collection of short stories that features a puppet-like George Washington figure on the cover? Well, yes…
July – This one must surely be considered on the cutting edge of design.
August – Originally published in 2018 but released with a new cover this year. I do like my pop art.
September – Is It the cover or is it the title? it’s both!
I may not read his novels but King does put out a very fine cover every now and then.
October – Nothing like a retro 1950’s style cover to revive ones senses.
November –
WITCHY. And blue!
December – Letters form letters form a word.
December – The art of the half face.
DECEMBER – The angle the car’s titled on suggests mystery and something out of the ordinary. Either that or maybe there’s just 10 000kg of Cast gold Bullion bars in the trunk that’s slid to one side.
December – Blue anyone?

Ps. You want more 2019 literary lookback? Be my guest HERE.

What The Killer Did Next

Recently I watched an episode of a new UK-based true crime television documentary series called WHAT THE KILLER DID NEXT (HERE)

This blog post will explore details of the case that featured in the debut episode of this program.

Helen Bailey (1964 – 2016) was a British author who wrote both the Topaz L’ Amour series of books aimed at 9-12 year olds as well as the Electra Brown series for a teenage audience. In all she had 22 books of short stories, picture books and young-adult fiction published in addition to several non-fiction works.

She was reported missing in April 2016; three months later on 15 July, her remains were found hidden at her home. Her partner, Ian Stewart, was charged with her murder and found guilty in February 2017.

In February 2011, Helen Bailey’s first husband John Sinfield drowned while swimming when the couple were on holiday in Barbados.  They had been together for 22 years, and married for the last 15. 

Her first book for adults, When Bad Things Happen in Good Bikinis (2015), was based on her Planet Grief blog (HERE) which set out her journey through grief after he died.

The video below was filmed four years ago and shows Helen Bailey talking about the release of her newly published book WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN GOOD BIKINIS –

The book also noted her subsequent relationship, beginning in October 2011, with widower Ian Stewart, a father of two adult sons. In an uncanny coincidence, Stewart’s first wife also died in mysterious circumstances, back in 2010. This death was re- investigated upon his conviction for Helen Bailey’s murder.

Helen Bailey’s remains and those of her pet dog were found inside a hidden second septic tank inside her home. During the murder trial the jury was told by Bailey’s brother that during a visit to her home (in the town of Royston, North Hertfordshire, England) she had joked about the septic tank in the garage being a “good place to hide a body”, and that the remark had been made in “full earshot” of Stewart.

Financial gain appears to have been the motive for the callous crime. The jury learned Stewart was the main beneficiary of Bailey’s £3.4 million estate, and would also benefit from a large life insurance policy.

Ian Stewart was described in court as a “greedy, wicked narcissist”. Members of Stewart’s former bowls club recalled how he was obsessed with money and extremely parsimonious: he accounted for every penny he spent or was owed and once caused a scene at a bowls match when asked to pay for a cup of tea he argued that should have been covered in his membership fee.

Ian Stewart will be 90 years of age when he first becomes eligible for parole.

Ps. Back in November 2017 I delved deep into another homicide case involving a famous successful author. On that occasion however the author was the murderer. Revisit that story HERE

Tempting Fate – or a Fate Worse Than Death?

The last time I watched a TERMINATOR film in a movie theatre Bob Hawke was Australian Prime Minister and George Bush senior was in the White house.

It takes some coaxing these days to get me out into multiplex land and when it happens, there’s usually some connection with the past. A new RAMBO film (HERE) two months ago was one such occasion. I’m hoping the just released, long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING (words I never thought I’d hear myself say) will be another.

The chance to cast eyes on the latest installment in the TERMINATOR franchise was likewise too good a thing to pass up. I’ll admit I stopped following goings on in this series after the first two films (I rank the original THE TERMINATOR (1984) in my list of Top 30 all-time favorite films. I also consider it, unusually perhaps, as the most underrated romance story of 20th century cinema.

This latest addition to the Terminator stable was also an opportunity to see reunited for the first time in almost thirty years the original team of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton again playing Sarah Connor and director James Cameron, who serves as both co-story creator and co-producer this time ’round.

Speaking for the herd, I’ll pronounce TERMINATOR: DARK FATE ‘decent enough’ without ever going close to spectacular. 99 out of 100 movies made and watched never get within the electrified-fence perimeter of ‘spectacular’ so that in itself is certainly no failing.

But there are definite ‘problems’ with this film that have prompted some hard-to-please critics to label it as dull and lackluster. I’ll call them ‘flaws’ and if by chance you happened to be looking for a list, you’ve come to the right place.

Nearly thirty years ago, the at-that-time newly conceived digital morphing technology that allowed a cyborg assassin to get blasted square in the face with a shotgun and have the wound magically heal over before audiences’ eyes was both-barrels completely mind-foozling.

But three decades on when more or less the identical same film technology is used (the only difference being the liquid metal is now colored black compared to it’s circa ’91 silver appearance) to heal over bullet wounds, but to far less effect and far less sparingly than back in T2 time, the result is inevitably way more diluted.

The second major obstacle the film poses for audience enjoyment lies within the reprised character of Sarah Connor (played with a detached been-there-seen-that demeanor by 63 year old Linda Hamilton).

Where at one time the once humble waitress character who grew to become the embodiment of formidable female empowerment, channeled via a reluctant hero pushed too far and forced by circumstance to decisively and spectacularly ‘step up’ – in much the same way Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley character from the Alien movies did back in the same era – DARK FATE forces it’s audience to endure the company of a perpetually foul-mouthed, sarcastic, cynical and embittered warrior (what a lifetime of fighting will do to most people) who definitely comes across as though she’s fought one too many battles.

This hate-filled and at times downright arrogant matriarch bent on future-shaping and past-correcting revenge has, by this 6th movie, now transformed into a person who, frankly speaking, is somewhat of a melancholic downer to spend extended time with.

I’ll admit this one is less a flaw and more personal preference. Because of the negative tropes and stereotypes associated with Mexican/hispanic movie characters (drug cartels, gang members, maids, unwed mothers etc) I tend to shy away from stories that center themselves in that territory (an exception being the Siacario films which I enjoyed, if ‘enjoy’ is the right word given the ultra-heavy nature of both those movies).

DARK FATE boasts both a Latino heroine and no less than a Latino terminator, plus all the action takes place in Mexico city. U.S/ Mexico border patrols, border crossings and detention centers all feature heavily. White characters are in such short supply Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on more than one occasion referred to as ‘Gringos’. A similar phenomena made itself felt in Stallone’s most recent Rambo installment (HERE).

Maybe I should just be thankful the scriptwriters had the good sense not to force the Latino Terminator (played by American-Mexican actor Gabriel Luna) to utter Arnie’s famous line from T2 – “Hasta la vista, baby”.

No TERMINATOR sequel has ever come close to matching the sublime alchemy of James Cameron’s original 1984 masterpiece, in my eyes, for the simple fact that that first movie combined what I (but probably few others) regard as one of the best love stories of modern cinema with face-caving, next-level action. That’s a very rare mix that gets done well let alone as first-kiss unforgettably as T1.

TERMINATOR 2 featured at it’s heart a different kind of love – the maternal kind felt by Sarah Connor for her son John – that likewise assisted that movie to luminous and bankrolled heights. Since then however, poignant moments have been few and far between in the concussive TERMINATOR series.

DARK FATE is non-stop action to the point of repetitiveness. And when the ‘catch your breath’ moments do come, shoehorned in-between the almighty body-slamming battle set pieces, they’re full of dry exposition and back-story.

Throw in a distinct lack of suspense and tension, not to mention the complete absence of even the faintest trace of the quasi-noir atmosphere that helped make the original movie such a stone cold classic, and it’s no wonder some opinions of this film have it as, at best, a meek palate cleanser.

What no doubt comes across as poking and negativity on my part is an unfortunate by-product of my need to try to put into words why, despite a pretty fair attempt, DARK FATE comes across a little hollow and might be seen as confirmation that a tried and true formula is starting to show its age.

To at least partially atone for that I will end on a positive. There’s a flash-back scene about 15 minutes in that is so cleverly done it’s worthy of mention. Shortly after the apocalyptic events of Skynet-engineered Judgement Day have been averted, a young Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Edward Furlong (John Connor) and a completely back-in-the-day-buff Schwarzenegger (T-800 Terminator) play out a scene on a Guatemalan beach.

Since all the actors are circa early-nineties young again I figured this was footage filmed at some point during T-2 (1991) that never made it into the final film and had been rescued all these years later from its relegation to the cutting room floor (to use a pre-digital term if ever there was one) and inserted here into DARK FATE.

Not even close, as I was to discover. I learned after watching the film that this re-imagined scene using younger versions of the now much more aged actors was all done using CGI. That is truly fall-to-your-knees-awesome film making. And soooo 21st century!

Ps. In the audience of the session I attended for DARK FATE were many people who were sitting alone. A number of these patrons were women well into their seventies. I noted one munching on cucumber sandwiches throughout the screening.

When the lights came on at the end several made their way down the carpeted steps with an uneven gait born of dinky hips. It was quite the eye-opener to behold the diversity and age span of folk who one might not necessarily first think of as being your garden variety TERMINATOR fan.

Pss. For a REAL time travel experience back to two years ago, click HERE.

Psss. If it’s gold standard analysis you crave look no further than the video below. The guy that put it together has used Sherlock Holmes style sleuthing skills not to mention countless hours of time tracking down key information references across the first five TERMINATOR films to assembly complex timelines documenting key events.

DARK FATE may have had its missteps but this video deserves no less than a Pulitzer Prize for film analysis. At 24 minutes it’s intended for die-hard fans but the screenshots below it should give some idea of the level of documented research on show.