The Pyre

I watch as they place the wood carefully and add a flame, faces lit by the glow, as embers lift gently on the breeze and the smell of pine fills the air.

I feel the warmth on my skin as the fire grows, the two girls on either side of me wail and moan, drowning out the soft crackle of the wood.

The townspeople are on their knees praying to some god they believe allows this act of brutality.

As the flames reach around my body, I feel power swell in my gut. It won’t be long now.

I hear the girls beside me gurgle as they plead. The crackling of the wood now mixed with the sizzling of their skin. The stench rising amongst small sparks.

As I feel the ropes around my body burn and drop away, I slowly step down from my pyre and walk through the flames to stand before the prostrate mass, naked as my creator intended.

Imagine their shock as I lift my arms and call the fire behind me. It engulfs them before they even know what’s happened. Their words to their god becoming screams for mercy. Why do they look so surprised? Did not they think me a witch?

As I reach the forest, I feel the coolness caress my skin where their feeble flames were only moments earlier. I walk slowly towards town. There are more who will pay for tonight’s comedy.

© Amy Hutton 2019

 

Venom – Movie Review

Screen Shot 2018-10-05 at 7.05.29 PM

It’s a comedy, right?

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Super-hero

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

I’m not sure if comic fans of the Venom character are going to like this movie, but coming at it purely as a movie goer with a limited understanding of the comic Universe Venom comes from, this rollicking action flick is super fun.

It’s the oddball humour that makes Venom the whacky ride it is. The interaction between the Symbiote, Venom and his human host, Eddie Brock, is at times damn hilarious. Venom has the best lines in the movie, tormenting Brock from inside his head with some zippy insults and sassy banter. Unfortunately the film makers took a little too long to reveal the alien with a passion for tatter-tots and people’s heads, leaving the audience with no real sense of the character they’re supposed to be rooting for…eventually. Who and what Venom is, is never really explored, so if you don’t come in with that knowledge, it’s hard to feel a connection.

In fact, one of the flaws in Venom is the emotional jump the Symbiote makes from ravager of Earth, to saviour. It was literally a “Huh?” moment. There is no evidence of an emotional bond developing between Venom and Eddie, and at no time does Eddie represent the kind of influence that may change the mind of an alien who initially sees our World as a smorgasbord, to one who doesn’t want to see the human race perish. Eddie is a bit of a dick for a lot of the movie. Consequently, it’s a jarringly sharp turn in the narrative. Just a little interaction between the two showing a growing understanding of each other would have done the job, but the leap the audience is asked to take is a large one and winds up making the movie feel disjointed.

There’s no doubt Venom is an uneven film in writing and structure, but that doesn’t stop it being enjoyable. The action sequences are pretty cool, with energetic fight scenes and an epic car chase through the streets of San Francisco (and who doesn’t love a good car chase), plus the stars are the kind of actors that can turn a less than stellar script, into something that is more often than not, delightful.

Tom Hardy is always compelling, sometimes confusing, and often downright terrifying, but here in Venom, he’s, well, goofy. Hardy’s Eddie Brock is not exactly the most likeable character on screen. When we first meet him, he’s selfish with no regard as to how his actions will affect anyone, and as his life crumbles, he becomes a shambling loser who blames everyone else for the situation he created through his own arrogance. But once Venom takes hold, even though Eddie doesn’t exactly redeem himself, he does become more charming somehow. Probably because…Tom Hardy. Hardy, even when a little strange, is undeniably charming. His quirky performance breathes life into Brock.

Michelle Williams, as Eddie’s love interest Anne, doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but like Hardy, Williams is such a wonderful actor that the moments she is on the screen are lovely to watch. Essentially Eddie, Anne and Venom are having some kind of bizarre love triangle rom-com in the middle of all the shooting and throwing of baddies around the screen, with Venom instantly appreciating the awesomeness of Michelle Williams, as well he should! Rounding out the cast, Riz Ahmed plays bad-guy in the guise of entrepreneur Carlton Drake, with a suitable amount of shadiness. But none of the characters, and especially not Venom ever feel completely 3 dimensional. They just aren’t given that room.

Venom definitely could have been a better movie, more Venom would have helped for a start, but it’s a big, nutty, snarky, slightly bizarre, popcorn chomping, hell of a good time, and if you’re willing to just go with it and want to be simply entertained, chances are Venom will do it for you.

3.5/5

Bonus tip: There are 2 after credit scenes. The mid credit scene is the standard Marvel teaser, the end credit scene is a sequence from the upcoming animated film, Spider-Man: In to the Spider-Verse which looks AMAZING! So stick around.

 

© Amy Hutton 2018

The Ups and Downs of Expat Life

straw hat and paper lantern placed on bamboo pole
Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Tahlia had always wanted to return to Hong Kong. She was born in the bustling territory and spent the first 15 years of her life growing up in a thriving expat community. “My dad was a civil engineer,” says Tahlia. “And went over there because the work was much more interesting and paid better, and they wanted an adventure, him and my mum.”

At 15 Tahlia headed back to Australia to attend boarding school, but over the years the city she’d spent her childhood in continued to fascinate her. “It’s a really interesting city culturally,” she says. “It’s kind of east meets west. I’d always had the itch to want go back.” Then as fate would have it, Thalia’s partner was offered a job in Hong Kong. So, she packed up and went with him.

At first everything was new and exciting, but the reality of setting up life in a foreign country soon set in. Though Tahlia had grown up in Hong Kong, she never learnt the language which made finding a job hard. She was out of work for nearly a year and this impacted her socially. Without a job Tahlia found it difficult to establish friendships. Though there’s a large expat community in Hong Kong, it’s predominately based around playing sport. “I’m not particularly sporty,” Tahlia laughs. “I found it really hard to make friends.” For Tahlia, those first months were often lonely.

Ironically, when she finally landed a job, the subject was the sporting world she’d previously shunned. Tahlia ran community engagement events for the Hong Kong Sevens Rugby series, even meeting the odd celebrity like American TV star, David Hasselhoff. The job turned out to be a lot of fun. She started to make friends and finally settle into her life.

Though at times living in Hong Kong was tough, it did have perks. Tahlia and her partner got to discover more of Asia. “We did so much travel. I’ve been to so many amazing places.” The pair visited Cambodia and Borneo, making multiple trips to Vietnam. Tahlia adds: “That’s probably one of my favourite places now.”

These days, Thalia is back home in Australia about to start a new stage in her life. “I just got a new job today,” she says. “I’ll be working on Nike as an Account Manager.” While living and working overseas is an experience she’ll always be thankful for, it also made her grateful for the life we have in Australia. “The work life balance is just incredible compared to there and our standard of living is so much better.” And though she’ll never regret her Hong Kong adventure, she loves being back in Melbourne with friends and family, living close to her mum and with her cat, Persephone. “The experience was great,” Tahlia says. “I don’t regret it. But I think people think living overseas is definitely all fun and games when it’s 100% not. I’m really, really glad to be home.”

 

© Amy Hutton 2018

Cruciate Ligament Injury and Recovery in Dogs

So, your dog just did the cruciate ligament. DON’T PANIC. Okay, you can panic a little.

0-5Just the words “cruciate ligament” can send icy knives of fear through most dog owner’s hearts. It’s common as hell, expensive as hell, and a pretty big deal. It’s a big surgery, with a lengthy recovery period.

I have a Staffy cross something-something called Buffy. She’s loving and sooky and ridiculously friendly and runs like the wind! I’m not kidding. She’s the fastest dog I’ve ever seen, the only dog in the park that can keep up with the local Whippet! 7 weeks ago, Buffy did her cruciate ligament. She was charging across a grassy field, turned around to come back to me, squeaked, and pulled up hopping on three legs. My heart sank. There was no big accident, no big fall, no crying, just a squeak, and then I had a three-legged dog.

Trying to be optimistic, I thought, “oh she trod on something” or, “she’s pulled a muscle or something”, but that leg… well it was not going anywhere near the ground, and though she seemed perfectly happy in herself, from that moment on, she hopped.

I took her to her vet later in the day, hoping against hope that I was going to be told it was nothing. Nope. My vet took one look, a couple of feels, a bit of a bend, and said, “Hmmm pretty sure it’s the cruciate ligament”. Damn.

We decided to give Buffy a couple of days. Just to see if she came good. She was given some pain medication and I took her home, sorted out a bed for her on the floor (she usually sleeps with me), and crossed everything I could cross that a bit of rest was all she needed.

The next morning, she was bright, and happy… and still hopping. Damn. I medicated her up, put her in my bedroom so that she couldn’t move about too much, and went off to work. My vet called me first thing that morning, “Let’s not wait”, she said, “I’ve booked you an appointment to see the specialist tomorrow morning at 10.00am. If he decides it’s the cruciate ligament, he’ll operate then and there.” “Okay”, I said, knowing this was the right move. “Do you know around how much the operation will cost?” I held my breath. “I’m not 100% sure”, my vet said, “But somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand, depending on what kind of procedure the surgeon decides to do”. I sighed. Lucky, I have pet insurance.

The cruciate ligaments are fibrous bands that cross over each other inside the knee joint (stifle) of the dog – so in the back legs. Their function is to allow the knee to flex and extend, whilst stopping the adjacent bones from sliding apart as weight bearing occurs. It is a major part of the knee function, stabilising the joint. Once a cruciate ligament is damaged the joint becomes unstable and painful.

dog6

        topdoghealth.com

 

The cruciate ligament can tear or rupture through injury or can degenerate through age or excess stress on the joint area due to the dog being overweight. Some dogs may present with a persistent limp, where others, (like my dog Buffy), will cause enough damage that they are unable to bear weight on the leg.

As planned, I took Buffy off to see the specialist surgeon. He had a quick look at her, wiggling the leg and eliciting a squeak, and told me he was going to keep her in, sedate her and do a series of x-rays. If the x-rays showed, as he expected from examining her, that her cruciate ligament had ruptured, he would do the surgery while she was under. He then drew me a quick diagram of what a dog’s knee looks like, and what the surgery he proposed would achieve, and then told me how much it would likely cost. The estimate was between $5,000 and $5,500. Did I mention how lucky it was that I have pet insurance?

There are two common forms of surgery for the repair of the cruciate ligament. One is to replace the ligament with surgical material that replicates the action of the ligament. This is the standard surgery which has been most commonly practiced in the past. For a small dog, or an inactive dog, this surgery can be highly successful and can usually be performed by your own vet. However, just as the cruciate ligament can be damaged under stress, so can the implanted material, and the surgery may need revisiting due to the material failing. This is especially a problem in large, and active dogs. The other most commonly recommended surgery is called Tibial Plate Levelling Osteotomy or TPLO. This surgery is recommended for use on dogs over 15kgs and highly active dogs and should be performed by a specialist vet surgeon. (This was the surgery my specialist recommended for Buffy). In TPLO surgery, the bone in the knee joint is cut and rotated and repositioned to level the joint – creating a knee joint that more resembles the human knee. A plate and pins are then connected to the repositioned bone to secure it during the healing process – just as with bone surgery in a human. This is the tibial plateau levelling surgery.

bone xrays   willows.uk.net

 

After my specialist surgeon x-rayed Buffy’s leg, he called to tell me her ligament was completely shot, it was a pretty bad injury, and he was heading straight into surgery with her. He would call me later with news on how she did and then discuss what happens next.

TPLO surgery takes about 2 hours dependent on the size of the dog, and due to the length of time the dog is under anaesthetic, the vet will keep your dog in overnight. There can be potential complications including infection or loosening of the screws and plate. Around 1 in 5 dogs require the plate to be removed several years down the track, which is a small surgery with minimal impact on leg function. A small percentage of dogs that didn’t have an injured cartilage at the time of TPLO surgery can tear it at a later date. A sudden increase in lameness usually develops and a second operation is necessary to remove the torn piece of cartilage. However, in the majority of dogs that undergo TPLO surgery, knee pain is reduced, and function of the leg is improved.

Obviously, I sweated by the phone until I got the all clear call. The surgery went great, Buffy was doing fine, and I should call in the morning and the attending vet would let me know when I could pick her up.

Stage 1 was complete. Now on to the tricky part! RECOVERY!

The next morning, I was told the only hic-cup was that Buffy appeared to be allergic to the adhesive in her wound dressing (hilariously so am I!), but that wasn’t a problem and that they were going to leave the wound dressing free. She would be wearing a cone (of shame) which must not be removed, preferably at all, but certainly not unattended, and that I could pick her up at any time as she was fine to go home.

When I went to collect Buffy, I had a consultation with the attending vet to discuss her post-operative after care and OMG I was handed a 4-page document! I’m going to be honest, I panicked a little!

0-3The post-operative care for cruciate ligament surgery is vitally important and contributes to how well your dog will recover and will go a long way to minimising the severity of the arthritis that will most likely occur later in the damaged knee.

Buffy was on anti-biotics, a morning painkiller (which she was on for 6 weeks), and codeine, which she could have morning or night as needed. She was on restricted movement, she was not to play, jump, run, or do any of the other things she did constantly. She was to have 3 x 5minute walks per day and was to be kept in a secure space with limited room for moving around. After 2 weeks, she would need her wound checked, and if all okay, her stitches could come out and the cone of shame could come off. At the same-time she would need to start a series of weekly injections – 4 in total, and as long as she is starting to use the leg, walks could be increased by a few minutes a day until she was at around 10 minutes 2 – 3 times a day by 4 weeks, and 15 minutes 2 – 3 times a day by 6 weeks. At 6 weeks she was to have the leg x-rayed again to ensure that the bones had healed correctly, and then if given the green light, she could be slowly eased back into normal life! Somewhere in this she was also supposed to start physio therapy! I’m going to say it, I broke my ankle and didn’t take anywhere near as good care of myself!

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I bought Buffy a memory foam arthritis bed, because she generally slept on my bed or on the couch, and as she was not to jump, those places where out. It was winter, so I got her a couple of new blankets to keep her toasty and kept her locked in my bedroom when I wasn’t home. I soon discovered that certain bowls did not work at all with her cone of shame, and I had to revert to a tiny, flat bowls that she couldn’t accidentally flip, sending water and biscuits everywhere! I reduced her diet by 25%, because her exercise was so reduced, and started her on rosehip at the recommendation of my brother, who found it worked wonders with his dog’s bad back. I walked her twice a day, because I worked full time and couldn’t manage 3 walks and felt guilty the entire time because I knew she should be getting a walk in the middle of the day! After just 2 days, she started to put the foot down. By 2 weeks, she was putting it down to walk on here and there, and it got better from there.

I tried so very hard to keep her calm, and on the ground, but she’s an excitable girl and there were times when she was jumping around so much, that I was freaking out stressed that she was destroying her brand-new knee! She’s a dog, she’s going to be an idiot! Everyone from me, to my friends, to the vet nurse, to the vet would be grabbing her and saying, “STOP!” as she jumped around trying to give all the humans all the love.

We did the best we could, because that’s all we could do, and at the 6-week check-up and x-ray, thankfully, she was given the all clear.

0-4We are now coming up to 8 weeks post-surgery. Buffy, for the most part is back on four legs, albeit with a limp. She limps less in the morning than in the evening, when she obviously gets a bit tired. We did one session of physio therapy, where I learnt some stretching and massage treatments to do on her, which I do every morning before we head out for a walk. She hates the massages…NOT! We are now at around 30 minutes of walking in one stint, which she handles well. She plays with her friend Wilbur, and uses the stairs. But by the end of the day, she will often pull the leg up, which relentlessly worries me. My vet says this is habit as much as anything, and that I need to try and stop her doing it as much as possible – hilariously, she now understands the command, “foot down”! Typically, it can take 9 -12 weeks until a dog with a cruciate ligament injury starts to get back to normal movement, and sadly, chances are they will develop arthritis in the knee joint

As it turned out, the recovery period and post-operative treatment wasn’t as overwhelming as I initially thought it would be. Buffy and I just did the best we could. And that would be my recommendation if you and your dog are facing cruciate ligament surgery, just do the best you can. Listen to your vet and have the recommended surgery performed. If TPLO surgery by a specialist is recommended and the cost is prohibitive, see if the specialist can perform the operation in your vet’s surgery, my vet does this for clients that find the procedure at the specialist vet centre too expensive. It is likely to cost a lot less at your vet’s surgery than in the specialist centre. Most of the time, vets will find a way to help. Do your best to keep your dog restricted and quiet, but don’t freak out when they do the exact opposite of what you want them to, they’re dogs, and they feel okay as long as that leg isn’t on the ground, so they just don’t get it! Keep that cone of shame on them, even when they give you the puppy eyes, you do not want them pulling out the stitches! Keep up the recommended walking routine, it’s super important, if you can’t do as much as recommended, do morning and evening, or see if there is someone who might be able to help you out. If you can afford to see a pet physio therapist, do it, you really only need 1 appointment, so you know what to do yourself, and your vet can also give you advice on anything extra you can do to help your dog’s healing along. But most of all, don’t panic! It will be okay. Just trust your vet, talk to them if you have any questions or concerns, follow their instructions and just do the best you can. That’s all any of us can do.

Oh, and if you can afford it, get pet insurance, seriously, it’s worth every cent!

 

(c) Amy Hutton

 

Reference:

http://www.willows.uk.net

http://www.citybeachvet.com.au

http://www.topdoghealth.com

http://www.pets.webmd.com

 

 

 

The Meg – Movie Review

the meg.jpg

Good, old-fashioned B-grade horror flick. Big, dumb and fun, with enough thrills to keep the heart rate up.

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller, Horror

Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

Starring: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Ruby Rose

Straight up I have to own that I LOVE big shark movies. Or big croc movies for that matter. Deep Blue Sea, and Lake Placid are two of my all-time favourites. They’re on frequent re-watch in my house, and I’m not going to apologise for that. They are gold. And I’m just going to say it, I’ve seen pretty much every SyFy shark movie to assault our screens, from Two-Headed Shark Attack, to Ghost Shark, to the epicness of the Sharknado series. I can’t help it. They are stupid and fun (mostly). So, it’s no wonder The Meg, was on my “must see IMMEDIATELY” list.

There’s no denying, The Meg is seriously derivative. It’s a little bit of all of the above mixed with a decent helping of Jaws. The amount of times I wanted to yell out, “HAVE THEY NOT SEEN JAWS?” Well…it was a lot. GET OFF THE BACK OF THE OPEN BOAT, PEOPLE, THERE’S A MASSIVE SHARK OUT THERE. Guh. (Please watch some movies, movie characters). There are gobsmackingly outrageous (yet totally epic) heroics, and some genuinely good scares. I can’t say there were many surprises, all the plot twists, if that’s what you’d call them, you could see coming at you like the Meg itself. But it’s big, and it’s dumb, and it’s wholly enjoyable. A solid B-grade schlock horror flick, with decent effects, and enough tension to keep me sitting forward in my seat. I had a pretty good time watching it.

The Meg starts with a rescue mission gone wrong. Jason Statham’s character, Jonas Taylor, makes a tough choice, lives are lost, and he pays for it with his career. Flash forward five years, and Jonas is now the sole hope (of course he is), for rescuing a bunch of scientists stuck at the very, (very, very, very), bottom of the ocean in a tiny sub, after they were attacked by something rather large, the same something rather large, coincidentally, that made Jonas’ original mission go awry, and which no one believed him about. Dun dun dun! It’s time for Jonas to pop on his hero pants, confront his fears, and discover the Megalodon of his nightmares!

I was wracking my brains trying to remember what I’d seen that had Jason Statham in it. I’d figured I’d seen a few of his movies, the hits like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, I remembered he was hilarious in Spy, and as I was enjoying the hell out of watching him fight a ginormous prehistoric shark, I was thinking, “I really should watch more of this guy’s movies”, only to come home and look up his filmography and realise, oh, I’ve seen a bunch! Who knew! It was Statham who holds The Meg together, he’s pretty close to perfect as the tortured, reluctant hero, all deep sighs, furrowed brow, and cuteness with the pre-requisite, sassy kid. There’s a smattering of romance shoe-horned in between his and Bingbing Li’s character, which manages to give the audience an amusing, and not entirely unpleasant, Statham shirt off scene. Though for someone who’d been sitting around Thailand drinking beer for a few years, he was totally ripped! Must have been low-carb…

Once the formerly, thought to be extinct, Megalodon manages to escape the bottom of the ocean and make its way into open water, our ragtag team of hero, scientists and billionaire jump on a boat to hunt it down. Let the good times roll! Seriously, if they’d just have popped on Jaws on the way out… I mean, there are genuine lessons they could have learnt there!

There’s a pretty cool, over the top, scene with a whole crowd of people floating on inflatable rings in the sea, (Megalodon window shopping below them), complete with kid asking his mum if he can go in the water… *whispers* don’t go in…have you not seen Jaws? This scene was part of an excellent marketing campaign that positioned The Meg as a good/bad movie with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. It lives up to that hype.

In the end, there’s enough self-aware humour and jump scares to make this an enjoyable ride. The Meg is certainly not high art, or the best in its genre, but it’s a pretty good time with a talented, diverse cast. The shark is big, the action is big, Statham’s abs are ridiculously big, just grab the popcorn and let it wash over you, like the gaseous mist from which the Meg emerges.

3.5/5

 

© Amy Hutton 2019