Monday, April 30, 2012

Allergy free lemon slice recipe

  • 150g Nuttlex
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 1/3 cups Orgran All Purpose Flour
Lemon topping
  • 4 tsp Orgran No Egg whisked with 120 mls water
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/3 cup Orgran All Purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp gelatine or pectin
  • Optional: yellow food colouring
  • Icing sugar mixture, to dust

  • Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced.
  • Grease a 3cm-deep, 16cm x 26cm slice pan.
  • Line with baking paper, allowing some overhang.
  • Melt the Nuttlex in a small saucepan.
  • Set aside to cool then pour into a mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the vanilla and sugar.
  • Sift the flours over Nuttlex mixture.
  • Using a spoon, stir until soft and somewhat crumbly dough forms.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared pan.
  • Press the dough into the pan with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
  • Remove the base from the oven.
  • Set aside to cool.
Lemon topping
  • Whisk Orgran No Egg mixture, lemon rind, flour and sugar together until smooth.
  • Add lemon juice, gelatine or pectin and if you'd like a yellow colour a few drops of food colouring (natural or not).
  • Whisk to combine but make sure there are no bubbles on top before pouring.
  • Pour the lemon mixture over the base.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the topping has just set.
  • Cool completely in pan.
  • Dust with icing sugar.
  • Cut into pieces to eat.

  • The food colouring adds the colour that the eggs would have.
  • Some of these points I learnt along the way - the bubbles for example - so please excuse my final product. Tastes nice though.

Best fictional dogs

I made a list of cats previously so fair's fair. This time I'll look at the best fictional dogs.

"Dog" - He will fly into an embarrassed rage if his real name is revealed.

Snowy (he's scared of spiders but otherwise is a great detective's dog.)


Huckleberry Hound

Seymour Asses in Futurama



Clifford the Big Red Dog

The Dalmatian family





Scooby doo






Old Yeller






Sunday, April 29, 2012

Is cursing in fiction necessary?

Recently I ran across this question: Is cursing necessary in writing? I thought it was an interesting question.

I wouldn't say cursing was necessary but the frequency with which it appears in texts throughout our written history indicates that cursing is a part of our everyday speech as well as our entertainment (whether you like to hear it or not). Even the eminent William Shakespeare was fond of a good curse or blasphemy, although many readers may not recognise them as such. 
  • "'sBlood" - God's blood
  • "sWounds" or "'zwounds" - God's wounds
  • "Firk" - meaning "fuck"
  • "Sluic'd" meaning "fucked"
  • "Out, damn'd spot!" - referring to blood or the reddening of hands through murder
  • "What the dickens?" - referring to Satan, as in "What the devil?"
  • "What the deuce?" - referring to Satan, as in "What the devil?"

And if his quick cursing wasn't fit to entertain he would write insults and black observations like these:
  • "So, so, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge thy glutton bosom."
  • "Have you no modesty, no maiden shame, no touch of bashfulness?"
  • "He daily doth frequent with unrestrained loose companions."
  • "Her beauty and her brain go not together."
  • "He will fence with his own shadow."
  • "He shall die a flea's death."
  • "Damn her, lewd minx!"
  • "Base dunghill villain, and mechanical, I'll have thy head for this."
  • "There's many a man hath more hair than wit."
  • "Out of my sight! Thou dost infect my eyes."
  • "Many a man there is (even at this present, now, while I speak this) holds his wife by th' arm, that little thinks she has been sluic'd in 's absence and his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by Sir Smile, his neighbour."
Oh, I could go one for absolutely ages...

As for Chaucer... Wow. Really, just wow.

He didn't just use swear words, blasphemy and foul language. No, he was one for xenophobic insult as well. If you manage to get past the Middle English (some words are still the Old English versions while some would be used for years to come as Middle English and our English) to tackle the text for its content then you will find an incredible amount of swearing, bawdiness and insults. And it is what gives his characters depth and believability because most are the likes of cooks, merchants, millers or knights: the ones you'd expect such words and behaviour from. Besides, you simply cannot tell a bawdy tale properly without using curse words, innuendo, insults or double-entendre.
  • “Sir Parrishe Prest,” quod he, “for Goddes bones telle us a tale … by Goddes dignitee!”
  • "For Cristes sake, ne swereth nat so synfully in dismembrynge of Crist by soule, herte, bones and body. For certes it semeth that ye thynke that the cursed Jewes ne dismembred nat ynough the preciouse persone of Crist, but ye dismembre hym more."
  • "The cursed Jewes"
  • “By God! I hadde rather than my sherte.”
  • “I-blessed be thy breche and every stoon”
  • “O leeve sire shrew, Jhesu shorte thy life!”
  • “By Godes herte!”
  • “For Cristes peyne,” “for Cristes passioun.”
  • Our Host gan to swere as he were wood [mad]; “Harrow!” quod he, “by nayles and by blood!”
  • "shitten shepherd and clene sheep"
Does this sound less impressive than "fuck"? It isn't. These manage to insult in far worse ways than by crudely referencing sex or that someone is unlikeable. These lines go straight for what is most important to many of the era: religion. Oh, that isn't to say that Chaucer never used terms meaning something similar to "fuck" because he surely did. Multiple times. Or he'd just write this:

"Derk was the night as pich, or as the cole,
And at the window out she putte hir hole
And Absolon, him fil no bet ne wers,
But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
Ful savourly, er he was war of this."

(I'm definitely leaving this untranslated or it becomes a little too rude for the younger readers.)

All this from an English poet of the medieval era said by Thomas Hoccleve to be “the first finder of our fair language.”

So if the two greatest writers we know; Chaucer who helped establish Middle English and wrote down many words never before seen in manuscripts (it is unsure if he invented them) and Shakespeare who invented more words than any other writer and has become a, if not the, figurehead of English literature, used cursing on a regular basis to add colour to their works as well as humour, cynicism and black wit then it is fairly safe to say that cursing, although not necessary, definitely has its place in literature.

Personally, I think that if it is used in everyday speech then it can and sometimes should be included in dialogue as it adds depth and realism to the characters. But as with everyday speech, overuse is off-putting. I do tend to swear a great deal myself but I blame my woodworking and tomboy past for that (trust me, any craft where a final cut or assembly is done wrong means you've lost a stack of money, time, effort and supplies will make you swear a blue streak similar to and sometimes worse than that done by your average sailor). Still, in my writing I tend to be a bit conservative. In my latest manuscript I made every single swear word or curse appear in another language: Croatian, French etc. An amusing result is that the swearing has gained a touch of class and has about the same impact on a reader as when you hear cursing in a foreign language and just have to find out what it is. Also, I have only used one curse more than once. The rest are all distinct in their application, appropriate to the moment.

Variety is the key, as you know if you frequently swear a blue streak. It isn't worth the time of effort to include swearing in your work if you just use the word "fuck" two hundred times. It is boring more than anything else and we all know what happens to boring reads. It also isn't worth the effort if you place it unnecessarily. By this I mean, if a character isn't saying it then it can probably be cut as narrators don't tend to swear unless they are actually one of the characters. If a character swears too much - your readers will let you know or you may be able to tell yourself - then cull it back. In the case of swearing less is more. Limited and appropriate use, such as when a character is anger, lascivious, shocked or insulting someone, is more impressive than overuse or consistent use. Swearing can also be used to set scenes, establish authenticity in a gritty world and generally lower the tone, which can be required for some stories to read true. You wouldn't write a book on gangsters without including swearing. It just wouldn't ring true because we expect gangsters to swear.

So, while not necessary for the most part I'd say that cursing in fiction is here to stay and has its place, one easily defended. Use it wisely and you'll see your characters become real, understandable and sometimes sympathetic. Use it badly and you'll turn your readers away.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Allergy free chocolate coconut goat's milk ice cream recipe

Poured into my freezing dish and about to go into the freezer.

  • 3 cups long life goat’s milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 200g plain goat’s cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tablespoons glucose
  • 5 tsp Orgran No Egg
  • 1 tsp gelatine
  • 2/3 cup chocolate sauce (homemade or bought)
  • 40-50g powdered coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 pinch mixed spice

  • Add crumbled goat’s cheese, sugar and 1 cup goat’s milk to bowl, mix until smooth.
  • Add remaining milk, glucose and gelatine then mix until smooth.
  • Add Orgran No Egg and mix until smooth. 
  • The mixture should thicken somewhat.
  • Add chocolate sauce, powdered coconut milk, vanilla essence and mixed spice. Then mix until smooth. 
  • If the mix feels a bit slimy between your fingers then it is ready to go.
  • Pour into freezing bowl/dish and place in freezer. If there are any lumps remaining in the mix then slowly pass it through a sieve while pouring.
  • Fold or whisk every 15 minutes until near frozen to break up any large crystals.
  • Pour or spoon into storage containers to freeze.

Physiological reactions to watching and reading stories

There is some documentation and a few theses on the physiological reactions a viewer has to watching movies or television. Here are two theses I found links to online:
Sound, colour, action and surprising events play a big part in creating that emotional impact which in turn creates the physiological reactions of increased or decreased muscle tension, increased heart rate, increased or decreased in saliva production, sweating, steady or increased breathing etc. It has been said that being engaged in watching an action movie is a little like exercising because you keep tensing your muscles to run or react just as a character you're drawn to does or when a sound and event scares you. The reactions aren't quite to the same level, as you would agree if you exercise at all, but there is definitely a reaction. If you doubt me them go watch a big, loud film where the protagonist is made to run about to survive. Enjoy, engage but pay just a little bit of attention to your reactions. You'll be surprised that it isn't only that little jump of fright you get when the monster goes "Boo!" or the explosion slams into your ears.

How many of you tensed up seeing him go through the top of the door?
Also, if you haven't watched District B13 then get cracking. It's a fantastic movie. Originally in French but you can easily get subtitled versions. Pierre Morel also directed Transporter and Taken.

Movies or shows can also create lasting reactions. During and after viewing horror you might feel anxiety, sleeplessness, fear and phobia. These all have the potential to last many years if nightmares occur, anxiety isn't addressed, and a common fear is compounded by other experiences to become phobia while phobias can be maintained by the reiteration that this particular thing is something to fear, seeming to justify the excessive reaction when average fear would have been more appropriate.

Enjoyment of a film or movie can also have a lasting effect. Laughing lots will shape the way you look at the world and also embed a particular set of ideas into your mind as enjoyable or worthy of laughter. Desire felt can also further shape your sexual preferences, although it is very unlikely to change your base drives. 

So it continues. Many studies, whether watertight or not, have been done on the impact of movies and television as there is some concern over the shows viewed shaping the mentality of the young. Will a person watching violent shows as a child grow up to be more violent than otherwise?

Hard question to answer but my personal opinion is that the shows just feed you information on how to act on your rage and how to disregard your own morals if there is adequate need. It doesn't make you essentially angrier to begin with. Just more knowledgeable on how to act on it which is, I suppose, what many wouldn't like and yet many others would, depending on the job you are aiming for. Not everyone in society is asked or required to be quiet and peaceful. But I guess, even if you lacked the training you can get that if you prove yourself aggressive in a useful way.

Why we watch is another matter but it does involve emotional responses, endorphins and addiction.

So do we have physiological reactions to written words? 

In short, yes. I bet you've had sleepless nights, sat there tense in your seat, been traumatised by a book's topic and felt your skin scrawl at particularly gruesome descriptions. I bet you might have also felt a tingle of desire at reading a well written sex scene. Ever feel stressed, tense or nervous while reading a book? What about that physical punch of betrayal that hits near the heart? Have you ever cried? Emotions and physiological reactions go hand in hand so it isn't surprising that if you've emotionally invested yourself in a character or story that you'll feel some of what they are portrayed to. It isn't surprising that it reflects in your body's reactions. 

Unfortunately there aren't so many studies available on the impact of seeing written words on the human system. I believe we are less worried about it although I'm not entirely sure why, given that many of those scary and violent movies and shows were originally books, in which the gore is explicitly explained. Same goes for sex scenes. There might not be a picture but there is one painted in words and the safety of the characters is not always mentioned as a concern, leading a reader to consider that particular acts would be fine to try without proper knowledge being applied.

Writing is an almost direct line from a mind to media without regard for the reader's reaction unless marketing knowledge is forcefully applied to the imagination and thought processes or used upon editing. As such subjects are often explored to great depths and with an almost complete disregard as to how acceptable the topics are, the words used are and whether the way any of it is said is offensive. This is why when you write a letter, email, message or notice it doesn't receive nearly as much attention as required for the content to be acceptable - see my writing in anger post. If the writer is intending to market the work to a wide audience containing varied opinions and appreciations then the content of the work will be adjusted accordingly.

Never undervalue the careful use of the editing process. It is like remembering your pleases and thankyous.

So for the most part what follows is part my understanding of what happens through years upon years of reading and part observation, general knowledge and what little is gleaned from researching the topic.

In stories constructed purely of the written word physiological reactions also occur but the immediacy is dulled by the lack of sound indicators, flashing movement and quick surprises (there is surprise but, as noted, the immediacy is lost so you don't jump in your seat when reading a surprising event, you just mentally say "Oh!" or "Huh?" and move on, thinking as you read).

The impact of the written word is dulled to the point where only the active use of the imagination can fire a strong physiological reactions. Just scanning without engaging will not bring about such reactions unless you flip across indicator words like:

  • Hate
  • War
  • Rape
  • Torture
  • Hope
  • Feast
  • (A list of naughty words) - this is a youths friendly site thank you so I can talk about sex but just not be explicit. Youths do actually know such a thing exists.
  • Death
Most words we pay attention to when scanning will be of the negative variety or connected with desires such as sex and food as we tend to instinctively keep an eye out for threats more than we tend to keep an eye out for love or relaxation. That is all connected to survivalism and not pessimism.

While scanning, the rest of the words become filler and are by and large ignored unless containing content relevant to your search - the reason why you are scanning rather than reading.

As such, at its basest level - when presented separately - the written word has a stronger impact when it refers to a threat, to our desire and to our survival. Many argue that fear should be gotten rid of or that it is useless. This is completely the wrong way to approach life. Phobias, the overreaction to things feared, are crippling so this type of fear also pose a problem regarding survival. Fear, just plain fear over a thing or event, is a reaction that will help you survive and so should be embraced when felt and acted upon. Don't just stand there wondering what it is you're feeling and why. Move! React!

Side note:
The same goes for pain, hate, disgust etc. You are meant to react. Pain tells you something is wrong and needs attention. Emotional pain is the same just that it likely deals with relationships and your thoughts rather than a physical problem to attend to before you bleed out or drop dead. If you feel pain and have the chance to react be thankful. Not everyone feels pain the same way, some can't at all, and so their ability to react in a timely manner is inhibited.

So if writing has its greatest impact when words, topics and ideas related to survivalism are used then inserting fear, cynicism, hope, betrayal and desire into your work, both in words and in the events will ensure that your book has the greatest impact it could have.

Love you ask? Love isn't necessary for survival but it does help it. It is a long term emotional response and not an immediate. It makes you act to protect and care but it doesn't impact upon you unless you feel love in the first place. By that I mean reading and viewing love won't make you love, it just refers you to what you do know if you do at all. Otherwise, it is intangible. Writing on love and inserting the word love in a text has less impact than sex or desire because the latter has a more immediate connection to survivalism than the former. Something has to be there to be loved (partner, child, friend or family) in order for love to be felt and how that something comes about is through sex and desire. Desire is the initial draw card to love, leading to both love and sex, leading to move beings to love and protect. At the moment it is a chicken and egg question but without desire you'd only have rape, possessiveness and violence so no matter whether it is the chicken or the egg I'm completely thankful that love is in our list of emotions.

So can you see why love stories, now that censorship has been reduced, have crept closer and closer to porn? Why the writers are more concerned with physical appearances and why so many people read them for the sex scenes alone - of which the average number is growing from 3 per book? Why they are sold with covers focused on the physical attractiveness of a character? Why you almost never (I only added the almost in case there really is one out there) see an ugly but intelligent and loving man portrayed on the cover? Why you almost never see the same for a woman?

I should also mention that desire could be expressed as hunger or greed, both of which have great impact.

Love, protracted sadness, trust, thoughtfulness, awe, appreciation and such like have less of an impact than those topics directly related to survivalism. This is not to say they have no impact, just that the impact is less and so the read is more calming and 'light' as we call it. This is why love stories are sold as chic lit and chic lit is portrayed as airy nothingness read for the sole pleasure of wiling away an afternoon in relaxation, without challenges. This is quite false as chic lit and love stories can address some rather heavy and demanding issues. Still, the impression remains as the focus of the book is usually about a topic that has a lesser impact on your body.

That just leaves you wondering where humour falls, doesn't it?

Humour is made by playing with ideas to create laughter. Play is essential to survivalism as it also is part of invention and finding solutions to problems. Humorous topics do actually have a great impact upon the reader but this isn't always the case when only a word is shown, unless it is classed as naughty. In the following case "smile" likely doesn't make you smile near as much as seeing the word "fart".

Humorous events and topics can be used for the greatest impact but separate words such as laugh and smile don't create as strong a reaction as those words related to survivalism. Words like laugh and smile are limited by memories and associations (you can create a more direct association if you use "fart" than "laugh"). Showing laugh and smile to someone won't create humour without a reference. It will only refer the viewer to a humorous event or situation they know of.

Also, the most powerful reactions would be smiling or laughing and a slight calming of the system from the release of endorphins. Writing an entire event or a series of comic events that keep a reader laughing throughout will create a lasting impact though, especially if it becomes one that can be referred to on use of the words smile or laugh.

So humour sits at the halfway mark and has its most powerful impact if explored in full.

On another side note: The best humour for creating a lasting reaction is known as black humour. Anything that approaches and breaks taboos will last a long time in a readers or viewers memory. Watch this for why.

So for a writer to achieve the most resounding physiological impact and thus a reader's deep connection to a story the writer should include topics or events that induce fear, cynicism, hope, humour, betrayal and desire.

But books with great impacts and heavy themes aren't the only ones to sell well. If there is a glut in the difficult books market then writing a book with less of a physiological impact might be advisable. In which case including topics and events that inspire love, protracted sadness, trust, thoughtfulness, awe and appreciation could help you sell your book as your book would then allow the reader to relax and meander through your work at leisure.

It is up to the writer and publisher to chose the appropriate topic and style as both heavily engaging books and alight reads are enjoyable and worthy or reading.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Where do all the pens go?

Made from Bic pens.

Made from pen caps.

Fiction in translation

This time I'd like to write on something from a wholly personal perspective (not that I haven't inserted the personal perspective before - I definitely have - but this time I'm not just making idle side comments).

I've wanted to say something on the Anglocentric or rather English-writing-centric nature of my blog so far. I feel like there is much left to be explored when it comes to literature or anything fictional but I'm bound by the need for translation and will remain so unless I learn multiple languages. And the way my life seems to be going, I'm only likely to end up with a smattering of each that I'm constantly coming into contact with (Japanese, German, French and the like), but no real fluency in any but English. One day I might get the spare time or chance to travel that is needed to learn a language properly.

The whole situation honestly makes me wish I could live multiple lives. I can really see why people are drawn in by the idea of immortality despite its complete impracticality for the world and our own minds. The desire to know is great but the flesh is weak and will not last long enough.

Similarly, and I've been known to say this as a joke on occasion but this is honest and true, I and going to be massively pissed when I kick the bucket half way through a book because I'll never know what happened in the end. Argh! The frustration of not being able to live long enough to read all the works I'd like has me gnashing my teeth but this, this is the worst scenario. So yes, I've requested the hubby - if he lives longer than me - read the end of the story to me anyway. He's requested things related to heavy metal music so fair's fair in morbid city.

My bucket list:
Read everything.
Watch everything.
Discover lots and lots.

Anyway, I'm a fan of manga and anime although I need them translated, foreign films of all sorts (except probably romance - again) from everywhere but I need subtitles to completely understand - I have been known to sit and watch ones without subtitles just to see how much I can comprehend from action alone - and the odd translated book that makes it to the shelves of my bookstores.

Perfume being a good example, which was originally published in German as Das Parfum. I've loved the story in Perfume since I first picked it up when I was in year 11 or year 12 (the end of high school for those not Australian). It had been written in 1985 but I don't know when it was translated or originally appeared in bookstores around here. Suffice it to say that the cover scored me a lot of certain types of looks as it was this one: 

I ended up reading it 3-4 times in quick succession (for me anyway, which means I read other books in between and this was read 3-4 times over two or so years - I remember stories too well so rereading before I've forgotten something is a bit boring) and during one read I managed to make a prospective love interest do the double take over the cover. Hehe, if you can't handle a cover like this then you're in trouble for close-mindedness as far as I'm concerned. But then, maybe it was that he thought I wasn't the type to read something with a cover like this. See? You do get judged by the covers of the books you're reading. They do make people see you in a whole different light.

Oh, and speaking of German writers, try reading these: 

Walter Moers: One of my favourite authors ever.
Oh, I wish I could, I wish I might... ah, it sucks I don't have this imaginary world as my own to play with. Oh well, I have my own little worlds in the making.

My last few crazes were and are Asian horror and westerns (plenty come out of Japan, China and Korea), anime and manga (I prefer Japanese styles but have read other similar styles). Enough that I'm running out of translated or subtitled works in manga that I'm interested in and enough that about 2 years back I exhausted the resources for Asian horror too. There are only one or two left on the shelf I haven't gotten to because the sheer volume of violence means that they are for viewing when you're in the right mood. I don't mind watching slayage any day but the extended and rather graphic torture scenes do require you to have a certain amount of mental fortitude about you when you first press play. Don't worry though, I'll watch them soon enough. And I am still searching for that Japanese horror where the little girl is super freaky. I just haven't found it yet. Though I am having fun re-watching so many along the way.

So, the original point I wanted to say: in posts such as listings of comics made into films, the comics in question are English-writing-centric. Besides, most manga fanatics wouldn't like me lumping manga in with comics. They are distinct in certain ways even if they are of the same art form. Like wood sculptures and brass moulding. You end up with a sculpture but the way you got there and what is used to construct it is different.

So for fun and a bit of blood and slaughter give this manga-to-movie a whirl. No, there aren't any slinky costumed girls prancing about so if you were dying for that then you'll just have to handle bloodshed instead (I have to say, in manga and anime the violence is not nearly as censored as in comics or cartoons. In most comics or cartoons there is violence but so many characters pop back up from the dead or near dead without issue that it hardly counts. And those slain are more often than not the baddies. Not so here.)

Oh, and if you are dying for a girl prancing about in a slinky costume where the plot actually is enjoyable (yes, I realise this is a side issue at times) then try this one. It is actually very fun to watch even if you aren't just watching it for seeing her run about wearing mere (and I do mean mere) garbage bags: white, size small. They may as well be sandwich bags... Anyway, this one is great for a laugh.

As it says: Cutie Honey

So, at times and when I can I will add in a few bits and bobs to do with works in other languages, at least originally, because I just plain love them.

So forgive me for my English-writing-centric blog posts and try these fantastic comic/anime-to-movies for a bit of fun:

Forgive me yet? No? Then I'll just have to keep adding things as I find them... There is another in the Death Note series called L: Change The World.

Ken'ichi Matsuyama who plays L is such a good actor. Oooh and there's this one he acted in. You'll love this one:

Any fan of heavy metal will get a laugh out of Detroit Metal CityAnd those you're with. Especially if you're like most heavy metal fans and have that inner teddy bear personality. I'm not knocking it! I swear! I love the inner teddy bear. I married one.