THE YEAR THAT WAS 2016 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

This post is the concluding chapter to my best hit adverts from earlier in 2016, which every four months would track changing statistics. First up the United States of America had the most views this year taking over Australia’s lead from the year previous. British views also saw a sharp uptick almost knocking Australia into third. Canada followed in fourth I’m pleased to see and Spain and Brazil battled it out for fifth with Spain ultimately proving victorious.

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                                     1,712 Views
  2. Australia                                                                                                                              1,145 Views
  3. The United Kingdom                                                                                                      1,120 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                                 312 Views
  5. Spain                                                                                                                                     181 Views
  6. Brazil                                                                                                                                     118 Views
  7. Germany                                                                                                                             117 Views
  8. France                                                                                                                                  103 Views
  9. New Zealand                                                                                                                     78 Views
  10. India                                                                                                                                      43 Views

 

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Out of 57 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. I’m happy to see so many views for the post on the Kibeho massacre. That story should never be forgotten and those who were there should always be thanked for what they endured and accomplished. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captains Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                   133 Views
  2. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                 104 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                    97 Views
  4. Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection                                                                               91 Views
  5. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns Up a New Zealand Gem                        87 Views
  6. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War                                        81 Views
  7. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO                       67 Views MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN
  8. A Quick Word to my Sponsors                                                                                    59 Views
  9. Bad Moms is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                               59 Views
  10. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds                                        56 Views
  11. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO                                      56 Views KONDALILLA FALLS
  12. Youth is Wasted on the Old                                                                                         55 Views
  13. Star Wars has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                           53 Views
  14. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live                                                                52 Views
  15. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was that V All About?!) 50 Views Superman Rant
  16. Sully: The Man in the Air                                                                                               48 Views
  17. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground                                                             48 Views
  18. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Papa Foxtrot Gulf                                                          46 Views
  19. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                        43 Views
  20. Finding Dory Fails to Find All of Pixar’s Former Inspiration                             42 Views
  21. Birth Days                                                                                                                           42 Views
  22. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                            40 Views
  23. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times                                                              40 Views
  24. A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters                                                           40 Views
  25. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time With                                                             39 Views

One of the most interesting things I take away from the stats is that sometimes what I don’t think are my best posts still get interest if the subject matter appeals and in particular if there is very little on the web about something. Take for example General Ngo Quang Truong. Also if a film is popular a post about it will retain interest with examples including Finding Dory or Star Trek: Beyond.Whereas I’ll be sitting here hoping more Sully, Brooklyn and Youth.

Top 10 Most Liked Posts 2016

10. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                               14 Likes

9. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                     14 Likes

8. Barce: Where Right and Glory Led During World War II                                        14 Likes

7. ABFAB Still Fabulous Enough Darling                                                                         14 Likes

6. Bad Moms Is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                                   14 Likes

20161030_1641215. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part VII: Mt Bithongabel and 3rd Times a Charm         14 Likes

Image result for superman the movie4. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live                                                                   15 Likes

16193. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton and Back         21 Likes

Again

2. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem                            24 Likes

Image result for captain reg saunders1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                           51 Likes

For Your Consideration

Finally I’ll quick just give a shout out to the posts for better or worse that I take some pride in writing last year.

My film reviews for Youth (mortality), Brooklyn (my windswept and interesting younger sister), Eye in the Sky (war), Deadpool (comedy) and Eddie the Eagle (the drudgery of working live compared to dreaming dreams).

My short story Birth Days, which received some positive feedback which just meant the world to me.

Out of the 7 hiking posts I put up I am most sentimental about the one where Karen and I first discovered Mapleton Falls of which later we would take her grandfather to and hiking with my sister to Kondalilla Falls.1619

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My posts about The Heroes of Kibeho and Victoria Cross Winner Corporal Bryan Budd I hope struck a nerve. It meant a great deal to me that Sgt Terry Pickard who was Kibeho commented on it.

If you have a particular favourite please let me know and I will endeavour to maybe write more like that although in the end all writers are stuck writing what best compels them if they are to have any chance of amusing others. I feel very blessed to be part of my small blogging community, I don’t always get to read as much as I used to and wonder how they manage to keep up with my output. A particular highlight for me this year was receiving a Sunshine Blogger Award. Effectively the awards are chain letters but I don’t care – I was chuffed and tell everybody now about my award winning blog. I am very grateful and thank you all.

-Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VII: MT BITHONGABEL AND 3RD TIMES A CHARM

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The entrance to the Main Border Track, Lamington National Park. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Those who follow this blog will know I have done quite a bit of hiking around the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk in recent years. In 2016 I decided it was time to seek out new trails. To the south of my hometown Brisbane is the Gold Coast and nearby rainforests of the Tamborine mountains. I started thinking about finding a trail in that area when a quick internet search turned up the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk. From there I looked at various tracks before settling on one at Lamington National Park on the Main Border Track. It would take me 6kms down the track to Mt Bithongabel for a return journey of just over 12kms with differing vegetation. It was said that from Bithongabel one could see the path Bernard O’Reilly‘s journey when searching for a lost Stinson aeroplane in 1937. O’Reilly’s Retreat an accommodation and picnic ground site is located in Lamington National Park and was started by Bernard and his brothers. In 1937 a Stinson airliner enroute from Brisbane to Sydney went missing. Bernard a bushman and author suspected the plane had failed to clear the McPherson range due to heavy rain. He went looking for it and found the survivors of the crash.

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A Replica of the Stinson that was used in the 1987 movie The Riddle of the Stinson starring Jack Thompson onsite at O’Reilly’s Retreat. Copyright Lloyd Marken

On the 10th of April, 2016 Karen and I set off from the northside of Brisbane to get to Lamington National Park. It can be tricky sometimes driving out to Lamington. A wrong turn on those mountain highways cannot always be remedied by a quick 3 point turn. I took such a wrong turn and it cost us time. Eventually we knew we were on the right path as we ascended a mountain with sections of one lane only and two way traffic. I’d never driven on such a road before and found it exciting to say the least. Part of it has been carved out of rock which is quite neat to drive through. We arrived halfway through the afternoon and started down the Border Track at 3:09pm. Where I can become obsessed-Karen can see reason. We walked for 3kms together through beautiful rainforest that included ancient Antarctic Beech trees (some examples have been known to have lived for over 12,000 years). Yet having walked through a rainforest at night Karen sensibly turned around at that point. I knew I could push further but knew time was not on my side.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I walked on at a much quicker pace alone passing more parties on their way back with looks of puzzlement at the direction I was heading in. Onward I went checking the time unsure of how far I had come. Could it be just around the corner? When up on the path ahead lay a collapsed tree, as I went to step over it a reptilian head darted around an opening. Was it a snake or a lizard? It didn’t seem to have ill intentions towards me and I figured it was probably a lizard.

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Very friendly and probably a lizard. Copyright Lloyd Marken

The sun was setting. What would it be like to come back across this tree when it was dark knowing there was potentially a snake nearby. Keen readers will note I have been in rainforests before when it is dark. I stepped over the tree and kept walking.

 

The time I planned to turn around and go back came and went. Fifteen minutes past it. Half an hour. I reasoned with myself what was the new time to go no further. That time came and went too, the sun was low, the path was becoming gloomier and the rainforest noisier. I came down to the end of a long path hoping for a sign. I knew I was close to 6kms. I looked at the terrain, where did the land stop to rise? How much further could the path ascend? I was walking to a mountain lookout and it didn’t seem the ground climbed much further. I walked down a long straight path long after the point of no return, my blood was pumping, my T-shirt stained with sweat but my body was working in a rhythmic exuberance. I wasn’t tired, I was possessed. But at the end of that stretch, the path winded around to another stretch. Bithongabel could be a mere five hundred metres ahead but it was too far. My wife was waiting for me and it would be dark before I made it back.

I pivoted and walked back frustrated to have travelled so far and yet to have not planned it better to have given myself enough time to reach my goal. Coming back I moved even faster knowing the path now and with a bit of downward slant for the most part. Having only just walked it for the first time that day I could not judge where all landmarks were and how much farther I had left. I just pressed on but when I became sure I was close I saw an opening in the rainforest on my way back with a sunset sky. It was the closest I came to a payoff that day.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t have a working torch that day as I usually would so I was glad to see the dirt path turn to red concrete as the rainforest became dark. The red concrete told me I was near a path to nearby villas and had less than a kilometre to go. Possibly much less.

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Karen at the entrance to the Main Border Track. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Finally the light at the end of the track and Karen came into view. I had made it but I would need to return and reach Bithongabel next time.

 

Life stepped in though and I never set out again for Lamington until the 23rd of October. Karen couldn’t come so I set out alone without my navigator. Google maps was not my friend that day going offline up in the mountains. I corrected my course but at some point found myself on my way to Mt Tamborine. I knew I wasn’t going to make it in time to get out and there and back before dark. So I headed for Tamborine and stopped on the side of the road at one of those mountain car parks where people will stop and take photos together of the view.

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The view from Mt Tamborine 23OCT16. Copyright Lloyd Marken

My plans were a bust. I turned and saw across the road one of those touristy themed eateries and heard my stomach rumble. Trying my best to be a impromptu weekend traveller of windswept interest I sauntered into the German themed restaurant and asked for a table at the back. Beautiful red flowers covered the outside, inside was fine wooden furniture and out the back a pretty water feature. I sat down and looked at the plastic laminated menu and saw a variety of schnitzel and pork loin meals. A fan of neither I asked for the loin with a helping of mashed potato. If you love your German schnitzel or pork loin I cannot recommend this place enough but sadly as I gave up finishing my loin and polished off the mash I felt complete failure in my endeavours for the day. I couldn’t even order the right food for myself. As I headed for home I let Karen know I would get pizza on the way from a southside place I had grown up on. The day would not be a complete bust but I was now more determined that ever to achieve my goal. Next Sunday I would go to Mt Bithongabel.

 

Sadly again Karen could not come so I set off alone with a different path to O’Reilly’s. Unsure of how this would play out. Google maps at one point pulled me off in the opposite direction at Yatala and then directed me around in circles through an industrial area. I knew we were in the wrong place and losing time but as I continued to drive I found myself on a familiar road and my hopes were raised. Eventually I came to the same mountain driving cautiously through the one lane sections. I passed an abandoned car at the top off to the side of the road on an angle. Noting traffic around me I went on and let the volunteers at the Information Centre know whom then called the police. A reminder that these roads were dangerous. It was still later than I could afford it to be but the sun was setting later this time of year and I bought a brand new torch from the O’Reilly’s gift shop and a fridge magnet for my Mum before setting off in earnest.

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Copyright Lloyd Marken

I had not gone long down the path when I saw a massive tree had collapsed with its giant stump lying next to the path  which was sunk in. Six months had passed and there were many new sights as well as familiar ones to take in. The rainforest was alive and constantly evolving. Along the way I passed a guy who asked me where I was headed. I answered ” We’ll see.” knowing the sun was descending to which he helpfully pointed out ” It would be dark soon.” He was not the only one as I moved forward and I can’t blame them but at least I had not set off as late as I had in April even if I knew it should have been earlier than it was.

 

Eventually I reached as far as I had come – now I would see how much further it was. The track moved into a more open area with pine needles everywhere and a chance to turn down another path. I racked my brain, I had turned off my phone due to the google maps  having drained most of its power on the way up. I was on the Main Border Track and surely I remained on it to get to Bithongabel but if I was wrong then this decision would cost me any chance of reaching my goal destination. I went forward fairly confident and the path ahead went along the side of the mountain. There was a golden sheen to the vegetation as the lowering sun pierced the canopy. It truly was beautiful but I began to worry. I had already reached a point where I was glad I had turned back in April. There was no way I would have made it to Bithongabel before it was dark that day but now I wondered if I had taken the wrong path. The sun was fading and the path started to dip. We were going down the mountain and I had not reached the top. Had I taken the wrong path after all?

That’s when I saw it and I knew it was it.

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At the end of the path to the right is the sign for Bithongabel. Copyright Lloyd Marken

Bithongabel on a simple wooden sign. I had made it but there was no lookout to speak of. Where was I supposed to look out to retrace Bernard O’Reilly’s steps? I reasoned it could be a bit a further down so I stomped off down that way but soon I had gone several metres without anything in sight. I knew not much further along was the Tooloona lookout. Bithongabel had disappointed me and I needed a prize for my efforts. Once again I found myself bartering with my better angels about when to turn back. The path became muddy and my sneakers squelched and slipped through some pretty big puddles. I continued to descend not sure how much further I could go when I saw a young man up ahead with a camera. I stopped where he was standing and looked out. This was Tooloona lookout. What the hell was this guy doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Didn’t he know the sun was about to set. Maybe I wasn’t an idiot. He was staying nearby at the campsite at Bithongabel. Oh okay so I was the only idiot present. He left me to it and I took a picture. Mist came off a nearby peak and with the setting sun it truly was a beautiful sight. My phone gave out at that point. I smiled grateful for the photos. I moved off back to Bithongabel where I looked for the campsite and found it down from the sign along with the young man I had met at Tooloona lookout.  We discussed the lack of a lookout and I went further and climbed over some boulders to the edge of the outcrop. From there you could imagine seeing much if the rainforest hadn’t grown up some trees blocking the view. Maybe this had offered better visibility in the past, maybe I had unfairly expected more. No matter I was pleased with the sights I had seen. I bid the young camper farewell and headed for what would now be a long trek home. On and on I went and the rainforest again came alive and the shadows grew darker. With a torch now available and picking up a wooden stick I feared not but it was a long trek back and my camelback came close to being empty.

 

As night came I once again reached the red concrete and knew I would make it. Up ahead in the dark I saw a light flashing and wondered if a Wildlife Ranger or someone else had waited for me after hearing tales from other hikers of some fat bozo with a shopping bag walking up the Border Track mid-afternoon. I turned my torch on just in case but as I walked on I came to realise no one was there. I turned my torch off and kept walking. On the ground I saw what appeared to be a red light flickering. Odd I thought  and walked up to it and turned my flashlight on it to see what was there but there only leaves. I turned off my torch again and this little light flashed again. Then I turned on my torch and saw a little creature move. I turned off my torch but no further light shone. Many years ago I had gone with my wife to a tourist attraction of the Glow Worm caves at Tamborine Mountain. I say Glow Worms but technically they were Glow Maggots but you can understand why the place wasn’t called that. I’m 36 years old and have gone camping on and off for various organisations throughout my life. I found the Glow Worms caves interesting, was I seeing something similar now in the wild? I’d never seen anything like it before.

I turned and walked down the path and a flickering golden light lit up and off dancing in front of me. It danced around my whole body in a full circle and then lit up the sky directly in front of me. With my phone dead there was no millennial impulse to reach for it to take a photo. What technology could possibly capture this as beautifully as it looked right there in real life without the use of special effects. Here was a special effect from mother nature herself. This expression gets overused a lot but ‘It was a moment’. One I wished I could have shared with Karen but Karen may not have allowed herself to be stuck in a rainforest after dark…again.

I had spent recent months more bound to a desk than I have been in most jobs and glued to screens in my downtime. Here was a unique and rare reward for getting out and moving through the world and all it had to offer. A reminder that life was to be lived for such moments. I came out of the entrance not many more metres after that and headed home. On the way back I checked that the crashed car was empty and ended up behind a convoy of vehicles going down the side of the ranges which made that part a lot easier. I arrived home that night to my lovely wife with a fond memory. Bring on 2017.

-Lloyd Marken

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The view from Tooloona Lookout. Copyright Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART VI: PICAPALOOZA

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In this entry for 10 Pics from the Sticks we’re going to break the cardinal rule of only having 10 photos. I’m throwing restraint out the window as I show extra photos from hikes already written about and hikes that have not been covered but cover familiar tracks.

We’ll start with photos from Mt Tibrogargun hike which took place in early 2012. With a full back pack we hiked the steep ascent of up Tibrogargun and back down before covering by comparison the much more flat 6km Trachyte Circuit.

From there we go the well worn track of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. We first walked this track in 2009 covering Lake Baroon to Baroon Lookout before turning around and heading back to the carpark. A nice hike of just over 4kms. Next in May 2012 we covered from Lake Baroon to Flaxton Mill Road 14.5kms away. In July 2013 we hiked just the 11kms from Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls and again in May 2015 and October 2015.

Usually we’ll park one vehicle up at Kondalilla and then one at Lake Baroon.

You can go off track to the Narrows Lookout where in late 2015 I was a little adventurous and went off the track to get a better look.

After about 2kms walking up hill you come to Baroon Lookout, the view alone from there is worth it for those who don’t want to hike much more than 4kms.

If you go beyond this point you soon find yourself descending into the rainforest. Sometimes we stop for a snack when we reach the creek at the bottom.

From there you can continue on. At the halfway mark there will usually be an opening with a pretty view.

Sometimes it can be hard to judge how far you have to go until you arrive at another creek where you can sit and eat.

Then you start to really get into deep rainforest where the temperature drops. You can hear the waterfalls before you see them. There are beautiful stone steps that lead down to the base. On recent hikes this section has been closed due to safety concerns. The ascent up while still steep is not as hard on the alternative track but you are not able to see the pools at the bottom of the falls and you see less of the falls themselves during your ascent. There is a new look out thought that does provide spectacular views.

Usually at this point we will get in one of the cars parked near Kondalilla and drive back to pick up the other one at Lake Baroon. Last year when leaving in our car at Baroon having already started the engine I noticed a little visitor on the passenger side window. While our new friend flew around quite a bit, he quite graciously flew back to our window a few times giving me the opportunity to grab my phone and take some photos.

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In May 2012 when we hiked all the way from Baroon to Kondalilla we continued along Flaxton Mill Road for approximately another 2-3kms. Essentially this last part was a hike along country roads until reaching another rainforest track that heads towards Flaxton Walkers Camp. In 2013 we did a hike that started at a small car park at the entrance to this track.

 

This track was to be about 12kms and I set out to hike it with roughly 23kgs on my back. A kilometre in I started to feel the pack and the rest of the hike for me physically was essentially a slog. Some of these photos clearly show sunshine but as we descended down to Baxter Creek Falls it was already raining and the dirt ground turned to slippery mud.

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The Falls themselves located close to a Suspension Bridge are pretty and usually not crowded. This is a path less taken and essentially with it brings its own rewards. In July 2015 my little sister was back over from England and with my brother and his wife and Karen we hiked to here and then back again to Flaxton Mill Road rather than go the full 12kms.

© Copyright Karen Marken, Rebecca Marken, Lloyd Marken.

Back to 2013 we trekked uphill to the road.

Where we came to Mapleton Falls lookout for the first time. There’s a road and car park on site so sometimes since we’ve driven people there after a long hike at Kondalilla Falls but on that day we hiked there and it felt like an appropriate reward for our efforts. There have been times when we drove to Mapleton Falls lookout only to find the walkway shut. I’m happy this was not the case on the day I hiked 6kms in the rain with 23kgs on my back to get to it.

On the way back we came across an echidna in the wild which has remained a special treat from that day.

Going back was particularly tough that day in 2012 but we made it back to the car just after the sun had set and the rainforest had become dark.

In July 2015 I was eager to set off from Mapleton Falls itself for a hike further along the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. 7kms in from Mapleton Falls would place it at the Ubajee lookout and a 14km hike was certainly something we were capable off so we sent off with my friend Tim and Karen. It currently is the only time we’ve done this trek.

Mapleton Falls Lookout was still closed at the time but we made use of the nearby Peregrine lookout.

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When we got the main rainforest track it was quite built up and dense but we soldiered on enjoying a path less taken.

Then we passed into more open terrain.

When we reached level terrain I know we couldn’t be far from the Ubajee Walkers camp site. Not long after we found a little sign and walked down to a simple seat on the edge of a mountain. We had made it. The trek and lack of crowds again had made this view feel more earned.

We retraced our steps seeing much of the same sights but this time we arrived at Peregrine Lookout as the sun was setting.

Well that concludes this special edition of 10 Pics from the Sticks. I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to catching up on everybody’s blogs real soon. I leave with a few pics from the nearby Geordi Lane which serves the best savoury muffins and chutney I’ve ever had and whom my siblings introduced me to. On a clear day you can see the ocean from the mountains on their balcony where they serve tea. And of course Capriccios pizza.

-Lloyd Marken

©All images are my own unless stated otherwise.

SOME STATS FROM 2016

This is just a quick stocktake for the second quarter of the year to see where we stand heading into the last third of the year. Think of it as less a self-congratulatory pat on the back and more a shameless plug for previous posts.

Image result for united kingdomConsistently most of my views come from the USA ( who overtook the top spot from Australian readers early this year and don’t look like handing it back anytime soon), Australia, the UK, Canada and then Spain. Early this year Brazil powered ahead to No.5 but Spain has shot back in the past couple of weeks. Near the end of August Great Britain had the most views for the month but then the world turned, the East Coast woke up and America took out the No.1 spot just like they did in the Olympics. I wonder if the U.K. could take out a month though in the future.

Top 5 Most Views by Country 2016

  1. United States 1,209 Views
  2. Australia 922 Views
  3. United Kingdom 811 Views
  4. Canada 220 Views
  5. Spain 122 Views

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 129 Views
  2. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 77 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho 76 Views
  4. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 66 Views
  5. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 56 Views
  6. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 55 Likes
  7. Youth is Wasted on the Old 54 Views
  8. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live 52 Views
  9. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds 45 Views
  10. Stars Wars Has Return to our Screen and Our Hearts 45 Views

Top 15 Most Liked Posts

15. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time and A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters

Rounding out the Top 15 are the last two film reviews with 10 Likes equally. On paper one is a old school masculine driven film and the other a revived franchise that re-casts women as the central heroes. Both have similarities though, in The Nice Guys a young daughter is usually the most sensible and smartest person in the room despite the guys loudly throwing punches and shooting guns, she maybe the one who makes the biggest difference. Both are also about people having to face overwhelming challenges to find out who they really are and take up that mantle. In one two damaged but good men discover they can do the right thing and in the other women surrounded by naysayers prove they maybe the only ones who can save us from Ghosts. Sadly I found The Nice Guys a delight despite a third act finale that didn’t quite take off for me but Ghostbusters was another example of a tired old regular reboot blockbuster. Not bad by any stretch but lacking the laughs and confident subversion of Paul Feig’s previous films.

14. Hail, Caesar! A Lovely Film For Those Who Loves Films 10 Likes

As a film buff, Hail, Caesar! may speak to me more than the average cinema goer. There’s the usual clever Coen dialogue to be found here and even a lot of depth underneath the surface. I doubt it will go down as one of their classics, it feels very much like an inbetweener (yes I know this isn’t a real word) for them but I liked it quite a bit and you can’t deny what the heart wants – the heart wants.

13. Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC 11 Likes

Those who may say women can’t serve in combat may want to look up Cpl Norris. A 19 year old medic when deployed to Iraq she became the first female soldier ever to be awarded the Military Cross. Subsequently 3 other female soldiers have earned the Gallantry Award.

 

 

 

 

 

12. 10 Pics form the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 11 Likes

1711Part of an ongoing series of blogs about hikes I’ve been on, I gained confidence from the excellent Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots to post these and they seem to have gone down well. When my sister came over from England with her Canadian partner I decided they would enjoy the spectacular views of The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. That day was even  more enjoyable for the opportunity to get acquainted with them. A wonderful memory.

11. South Vietnam General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 11 Likes

It may surprise some to find out that the South Vietnamese military had one particularly good leader who was respected by all sides and would eventually turn back a North Vietnamese invasion in 1962 when mass American ground troops had left South East Asia. He lost the war he fought and his country but he never stopped rising to every occasion including re-settling in America with his family and making a new life.

 

10. The Year of Blogging Dangerously 11 Likes

Well this is awkward, this was a similarly themed post from April and includes shouts outs to reviews from previous years like my love for About Time, Craig Ferguson and David Letterman.

 

 

9. Birth Days 11 Likes

A little short story I wrote for university that played with narrative structure. Essentially relating birth moments throughout a lifetime with certain patterns emerging again and again over the years. It means a great deal to me all the positive feedback I’ve received for it.

8. Alice Going Through the Looking Glass and the Sequel Motions 12 Likes

Not a particularly good film or good review but it’s nice to have fans.

 

 

 

 

7. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes 13 Likes

Image result for love and friendship movieWhat I like to call a clean review. Fairly concise, not too boring to read hopefully and sums up what is good about a pretty decent movie. The number of likes probably reflects an interest in the film itself which has been getting good notices.

 

 

6. Central Intelligence – There’s Worse Films Out There 13 Likes

I felt inspired writing this review to touch upon this guy I knew in high school who became a bit of a success story. The film itself didn’t bowl me over but there were funny moments to be had and The Rock and Kevin Hart are two very likeable star personalities who played well off each other.

5. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live 14 Likes

Image result for amy adams vanity fairThe film depicts the character of Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller and Deadshot very well. I’m intrigued to see a better film with these performers playing off the dynamics of their core relationships. That unfortunately is not what this film was and a rant and Amy Adams Vanity Fairs photo shoots ensured. People seemed to enjoy reading which is a relief because it was one of my longer rants of late.

4. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground 14 Likes

star trek star review trek beyondStar Trek: Beyond has been well received by most critics and fans so pay to attention to my opinion but here it is for those that are interested and it seems to have intrigued some.

3. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem 20 Likes

Out of the 2016 films I’ve reviewed so far the best ones have been Eye in the Sky and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Those that have seen the film seem to have been enchanted by it and that good will meant people were just happy to share their joy of the film here on this post as well. It really is a gem, be sure to check it out.

2. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 20 Likes

1619Karen and I went hiking one day up at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walks and came across an echidna in the wild which was a real treat. I also touch upon a trip we took with her grandfather to the same area not long before he passed away.

1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 51 Likes

Blame GP Cox and his amazing blog which started about retelling the experiences of his father as a Paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and now is just a fine source of history from that period. When GP posts something within 24 hours he receives 100 Likes, goodness knows how many views. He’s built this following up over time with fine consistent work and consistent supportive interest in the blogs of his followers. As soon as he reblogged on his site my post about the first known Aboriginal to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army – the stats on that post shot up. Captain Reg Saunders was a war hero who endured much upon his return home and always overcame the racial indignities of his time with humour and resilience. We could learn a lot from his example.

 

For Your Consideration

I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer but nonetheless sometimes I’m excited by what I come up with. Other times I can’t help but feel it is a bit messy and has nothing of interest to add. My review for Captain America: Civil War for example lacks any real hook. I list a few things I like and what narrative threads may have consequences throughout the franchise but it’s a joyless review for a film that was quite joyful. Suicide Squad an imperfect frustrating film on the other hand led to a funny review (an attempt at being funny anyway) and one that was relatively painless to write. Here are the posts that I’ve enjoyed compiling and seeing reactions to that you may have missed.

Cpl Bryan Budd VC

Published March 29 3 Likes

article-1216591-025CB87C000004B0-562_470x423[1]The closing paragraph I’m particularly proud of but at the end of the day this soldier’s story tells of extraordinary courage and sacrifice and should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection

Published March 29 8 Likes

The first great film of 2016 has a lot to say without clamping down on one agenda either way. It will spark debate, discussion and thoughts about many aspects of modern warfare but in the end it is a poignant tale about one girl selling bread on a street corner and whether she will survive to see tomorrow.

 

Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 6 Likes

Brooklyn maybe my favourite film of last year, maybe not the best I’m quite happy Spotlight won the Oscar, but my heart literally swells right now thinking about Brooklyn. I felt like I went to three different funerals while watching it. It’s about falling in love, chasing dreams and planting your feet about who you and where you’re headed in life. It made me think a great deal about my little sister and how much I love her.

Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 6 Likes 

I went for broke trying to be funny here and I’m quite happy with the results. It’s the first time I got to write about Jennifer Garner and I hold no shame in that. People have gone cold on the film already saying it’s not that original and the marketing sold it. Fuck them. Any idiot could say the filmmakers edited around a standard origin story but there’s wit here that you just don’t get in many blockbusters anymore and it punches above its weight in terms of budget and action sequences. In a summer of disappointments Deadpool stands tall against all odds as the little blockbuster that could AND DID.

Youth Is Wasted on the Old

Published January 10 3 Likes

Youth didn’t light up the box office or feature much in the end of year award shows. For me though Youth stays in the mind for a long time after. Michael Caine gives another stellar performance as an ageing composer facing up to what he’ll do with the time he has left and what he has lost along the way.

Thanks again to all those reading and have a great weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO KONDALILLA FALLS

 

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Baroon Lookout with the Lake in the background. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

My little brother got married in August 2013, my sister Nadia, a teacher working in England came out for the wedding with her long term partner Dave. It was the first time we all got to meet each other. Nadia’s trips to Australia are EVENTS, a tense trade off between family, friends and former colleagues all wanting to catch up with her and also not fatigue her with overscheduling. Since it was Canadian Dave’s first trip to Australia as well meant that naturally having shelled out money on such airfare they hoped to see a little bit of Australia while they were here. Oh yeah and there was a wedding going on too. They did a good job. There were trips to the Olgas, 4WD Beach driving, I was best man at my brother’s wedding which was a joyous occasion and Mum and Dad went to Hervey Bay with them to do whale watching where my mother discovered she was capable of becoming sea sick while out on the ocean. This was a couple who’d sailed along the Nile, been to a wedding in Gibraltar, taken in the beauty of Angkor Watt and half of Europe. Let alone their recent adventures in Oz. I wondered what we could do together that would be impressive and memorable. Who the hell is going to sit around and reminence about that time we went and saw Tron: Legacy? How many times will I get to spend with these people over the decades? Such moments will create ties that will bind us together. I decided the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk would be interesting enough, a sentiment that continues I guess after all why do you think the only blogs from my personal life relate to Hiking? Believe me I do not hike regularly for fun.

We set off to Kondalilla and parked one car there before hopping in my vehicle and going to Lake Baroon, the turn off to get there includes a spectacular elevated shot of the Lake before you drive down to its carpark. Nadia knew the local area well, many years earlier her championing of Maleny and Montville had led to me taking Karen there for our first holiday together. I had decided we would do the same track we did with Rosie and Sandro in 2012 only this time without the last bit to Flaxton Mill Road. Having recently struggled with a full pack at Mapleton I didn’t want to appear fatigued in front of Dave so I just took my webbing and camelback. We set off in good spirits and after Nadia noted Karen’s walking stick Nadia and Dave got their own walking sticks. The ascent to Lake Baroon lookout went painlessly and quickly and we all enjoyed the view.

We reached the valley next and I weighed up whether we should stop and eat by the creek. It was lunch time but my memory played tricks on me and I reasoned it wasn’t too far ahead until we would reach the rocks where we could also have lunch. A year on from last doing the track all I remembered was lantana before hitting deeper rainforest. We kept hiking, I’ve done this track four times and each time the pacing can change or your perception of time passing can alter. On that particular day it seemed we walked a long time through the centre of the trail. Last year I got us to eat at the creek and it scarcely seemed too long before we hit the rocks. There were no fungus on trees, no mud or lantana and I began to wonder where it all changed and how far we had to go. Part of the purpose of the hike was to give us some time together with no distractions to catch up and get to know each other, this was where Nadia who had been blogging a bit impressed on me that she thought I should start a blog perhaps reviewing films if I liked doing that. By the end of the year this blog started with a review of About Time and I have Nadia to thank for that.

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A perfect place to have lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

As time wore on I worried about dragging everybody through the bush with no clear idea of when we would reach the rocks to have lunch. In mid-afternoon I called it that we would sit down on the path and eat. I think Karen was the first to point out that it was very possible just a little further on out of sight was the rocks and we all heartily agreed it was a very real possibility. Nadia and Dave had picked lovely treats from a local deli and thanks to them we enjoyed pumpkin scones with delicious chutneys amongst other things. Near the end of our meal we noted a thin worm like leech climbing over my pants and got to our feet. Thorough checking that night by both couples revealed this was the closest encounter we had with a parasite.

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At the rocks just after lunch. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Karen’s words became prophetic as we literally walked no more than 100 metres down the path to come to the rocks and creek. Happily have just sat we all sat again and took it in. I was mindful of our pace and the steep uphill conclusion to our hike but there was time.

 

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Nadia and Dave with their walking sticks in the rainforest. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We now entered the thick rainforest where the temperature drops and spirits were high as we reached the bottom of Kondalilla Falls and explored the pools below. In the times I have been back to Kondalilla Falls this part has been closed off due to land slides but I hope once again it will be open to the public as it is really quite beautiful.

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The famous stairs near the Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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Along the creek near the bottom of the falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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Kondalilla Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Last time we hiked up the Falls, Karen had felt it and this time Nadia grew fatigued much like I had when climbing with my pack at Baxter Creek a month earlier. While not enjoying her distress I was happy to see that Dave knew how to deal with it in the way that partners always do. I had just met the man but he had been part of my sister’s life for 3 years. As always when we reached the top and the hike ended we all felt relief. It’s nice to get out there and do it but at the 10km mark it’s done and you’re ready to chill out.

 

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At the end of our hike. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

We got in their car and drove to Mapleton Falls and arrived at sunset. Dave has a habit of sitting down at such places, almost like his body is making a declaration that he will take in this moment, I remained on my feet but appreciated the spirit of such a gesture. I had hoped they would enjoy the sights and not find them lacking after all the wonderful things they have seen around this beautiful world of our’s and such gestures suggested I had nothing to fear. Others came up the walkway to enjoy the sunset too. They were foreigners taking in the view and struck up a conversation with Nadia and Dave. All of them were citizens of other countries, living and working far from home ironically maybe even in the countries their ancestors had left to chase a better life. Is it really ironic though? There have always been travellers and I in my 20s always had plans to see the world too. I’m glad that my sister has gone one step further even if I do miss her.

When I stayed at Maleny with Karen in 2008 I saw across the road a brick building with a pizza sign and fairy lights. We went there for dinner, there was a beautiful mural across the entire wall of an Italian coastline. Out the back was a fountain and lights. Karen and I sat at a small table and a young kind waitress looked after us all night remaining polite and friendly throughout. We had pizza and cheap cocktails with frilly decorations. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a perfect night like that again at Capriccios but it was a moment for us and the pizza is good and so we like to share this special place with our friends. That night we shared it with Nadia and Dave and I felt for a little bit like I got to know them and their lives a bit and vice versa. Sometimes I worry that will sadly prove to be a one-off but I will treasure that day hiking for a long time. The ties that bind.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. If you enjoyed this hiking blog check out the awesome Cindy Bruchmann’s blog for her Five Shots series.

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Nadia and Dave at Mapleton Falls. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

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Mapleton Falls Lookout with Karen at sunset. Copyright Lloyd Marken

10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN

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The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

In July 2013 another need to get fit reared its head and I found myself driving up to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk with Karen to do another hike. This time I had recently gotten fairly fit training for a Half Marathon and decided I needed to take a full pack of 23kgs approx. We set off rather late in the day to cover 14.2 or 15.8kilometres approximately, about a kilometre in my pack became heavy.

 

Wanting to try something new that would still equate to roughly 15kms I had looked up a path that began at the Great Walks Entrance on Flaxton Mill Road where we had finished on our last hike which looked to have an interesting amount of the various things you look for on a hike. Changing vegetation, scenic views and perhaps a waterfall. When we arrived it was fairly sunny and we set off. Starting off from where we parked we travelled 2kms to Flaxton Walkers Camp where the path at times becomes a road. The second section of Sunshine Coast Great Walks begins here. Past the camp you start on a narrow path as you descend into a gully. 1556

Setting off down the gully. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Already getting fatigued I could only look forward to how much fun it was going to be when I had to ascend the other side. By the time we reached the bottom it had started raining and the path became muddy. Karen slipped once or twice but thankfully was not worse for wear. We were both wearing boots as well which was good. I did this path with my siblings last year and for any Australian readers, note the path then was not muddy but rocky and uneven, make sure you have good comfortable shoes.

 

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Karen at Baxter Creek Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

 

1572Karen Crossing the Baxter Creek Suspension Bridge. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

At the bottom we came a bridge where only one person is allowed on at a time. We went to the side as well to get a closer look at Baxter Creek Falls. Not as spectacular as Mapleton Falls or Kondalilla Falls it is often deserted and can be a calm pretty place to relax. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long this day as I was mindful of time and excited to show Karen where we were headed. The hike up was really where the mud got slippery and of course it was our first serious up hill part of the day. Pushing through this we got out to more open ground and while remaining overcast it stopped raining as we lost the canopy of the rain forest. The trek eventually moved into wider roads and big houses on hills that seemed to be eroding precariously.

1576I loved the red of these trees against the blueish-gray sky that I had to get a picture. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

We reached the open road of Obi Obi Road and even walked on footpaths as traffic whizzed past. Turning off and walking along Mapleton Falls Road we knew we were close to being halfway. While everything was wet and overcast rain was still minimal. My shirt more wet from all the sweating I was doing, I have to admit nothing really beats how great your shoulders feel after you’ve hiked with a full pack. I mean they feel shit but it feels good to have done something that pushed you. Along Mapleton Falls Road are horses and barns and then as you get close there’s bus parking spot for tourists to be dropped off. We’ve driven up to the Mapleton Falls several times since to show friends, one time I drove Karen’s grandfather up there and we sat out there with him on his walker eating brie cheese and drinking tea out of a thermos. He was 92 years old but he made it all the way from the car park to the look out without a problem. About 7 months later he passed, sometime later we took him for a drive around town for an hour. When he went to Mapleton Falls we were probably right on the edge of the last few days he could make such a journey. I’m glad we did.

1590The view from Mapleton Falls Lookout. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Mapleton Waterfalls © Copyright Lloyd Marken

There is something to be said though about hiking up to a spot that most people drive too and that was how we first saw Mapleton Falls, probably the most spectacular look out on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. I took my pack off at this point and enjoyed the view but was mindful of the time. Soon enough we were back off again but as my phone started to run out of battery power on Mapleton Falls Road we came across an echidna in the wild. This was a special treat and one of our best hiking memories.

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Echidna in the wild. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

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Echidna in the wild up close. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

Those were the last photos I took of the hike but it was more of the same. As we headed down the gully due to the rain, the late hour or our quietness I can’t say but birds uncharacteristically fluttered about more freely and undisturbed by our presence. We got to see a few more up close and in detail then we ever have. Another treat to boost our spirits. Once crossing the rope bridge I began to find it particularly tough hiking up hill with full pack. I shudder to think how I would go now in my current fitness. I’ve hiked steeper and longer but maybe only once further and over such trying terrain. I definitely struggled to maintain a pace but I just kept pushing forward. We soon enough went past Flaxton Walkers Camp as the sun set. This let me know there wasn’t far to go but even so as we reached the last part we were back on a narrow path in thick rainforest and eventually it was dark, sounds of wildlife buzzed around us but I was very fatigued and did not want to bother taking off my pack to get a torch if it was a handful of metres left. Our pace quickened and at the point where I may have looked for the torch to ease Karen’s mind a single lamppost appeared in a clearing near us. We had made it. I don’t think we managed Capriccios that day but it had been a terribly rewarding hike. Maybe one of my favourites.

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. This series of posts was inspired by Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots. Check out this fantastic post of autumn leaves in Arizona canyons. Just beautiful!

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A View from Mapleton Falls. © Copyright Lloyd Marken

The Year of Blogging Dangerously

002I studied in the Creative Industries and like a lot who do it is not now where I work. A few years ago my sister who blogs suggested I should too. I guess to have a creative outlet and maybe to practice my craft and build a portfolio. Sadly I don’t think I’ve really become a better writer but I have become a happier person. I popped my blogging cherry in November 2013 writing about my favourite film of that year – About Time.

Nighy is an actor so beloved that when he shows up in a movie you can’t help but smile. His first line had me grinning even though he wasn’t saying anything funny. I was just so happy to see and hear him. Such an effect from an actor makes him perfect casting for the role of the father. The world loves Nighy and that love will give the film absolute weight later on when he tells Tim what he used the gift of time travel to do with his life. Because if you’re a father and you can travel through time that is exactly what you would do. This is one of the year’s best.

There were no pictures and I didn’t check stats, there were errors galore and it all went on a bit too long but I had expressed something inside myself and enjoyed the process. It was only a matter of time but eventually I blogged again when Craig Ferguson and David Letterman left their late night programs.

When Craig Ferguson’s last show aired in the middle of the night I stood up alone in my living room in my boxers as Craig finished singing and the audience applauded. I smiled sheepishly knowing how stupid I was behaving but wanting to feel connected in some way.
No doubt I’ll be on my feet again this Thursday. Because that’s what you do when legends retire. You stand up and you applaud.

At that point I headed back to university for a short course and had more time on my hands. Being back around creative people with creative pursuits was terribly rejuvenating even if I regret not making the most of my time in the course. My fifth post was about The Martian and within 24 hours I saw these little cubes pop up on my post. busyk AntVicino cinetactic

 

A film about a stranded astronaut rife with 70s tracks demands a track from Bowie to be used and The Martian answers the call better than I could have hoped. The choice of Major Tom would have been welcome if too on the nose. Instead Starman begins right where it needs to in arguably the best moments of the film. The crew who left Watney behind circle around Earth to pick up supplies and sling shot back towards him. This enables the crew to communicate with families hundreds of miles away from them but as close as they have been in months before returning to rescue their stranded crew member. It is a heroic gesture full of sacrifice but the film plays the scene as one of unbridled joy. “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

I had a couple of followers before and my sister always shared my posts on Facebook but this was something new. Somebody was communicating with me specifically, 3 people in fact from AntVicino from Oakland, Cinetactic from the Philippines and Busy K from New York City. Another milestone. Next I wrote about the James Bond series and little boxes appeared again. I started to wonder if it was possible to always get one like when I posted. I also checked out the likers and followers and started following people myself which made the reader take on a new importance. Views and visitors though always fascinated me proving no matter how small the response people were seeing my work. I don’t particularly need validation, I’m still at heart just somebody writing About Time because I love it so much and have to express it, but it is very enjoyable to have feedback and to have interest in your blog.

As the year closed I wondered if a lot of views were garnered by me reading my posts when I was logged out. In any event it’s been a year since I started seriously blogging and in that time my followers, likes and comments have grown. In March when Cindy Bruchman announced I would be co-hosting her Lucky 13 Film Club in April it doubled my interaction with the blogging community. I was very lucky to be involved in something so well liked and with a blogger so well respected that my likes, comments and followers probably doubled in that time but so did the blogs I follow and the blogs I comment on or like. It’s been a very enjoyable experience to feel more a sense of community than ever. Having branched out from film reviews to posts about hikes I’ve taken and military biographies I wrote for an old newsletter, I finally bit the bullet and put forward a short story to read for that community. When you write a film review, the focus tends to be on your opinion and whether it’s shared by others. When you write a story though it becomes a bit more personal. People are focusing on you now. I’m touched to say that my fellow bloggers have been kind and it is a huge relief that they seemed to enjoy the story. So as I celebrate one year of regularly blogging I thought I’d reflect on some interesting stats and which posts seem to have struck a nerve from 2016 so far. Think of it as a shamelessly greatest hits plug if you will and less so a chest thumping celebration from someone who really has a very small blog. May I just say to my regular viewers, followers, likers and commenters. Thank you for everything from the bottom of my heart and keep it coming.

 

You know I’m big in Brazil.

Last year the vast majority of my views came from Australia (over 1,500 which I assume includes mostly from me) with 51 from the U.K. and 39 from the U.S., 8 from Spain, 6 from Canada, 3 from Switzerland, 2 from Denmark, and 1 from France. Interestingly none from the Phillippines?

In 2016 so far it’s 516 Australian views (I don’t think those are mine), 366 American, 314 British, 78 Canadian, 59 Spanish and chomping at the bit to get into the Top 5 Brazil has 52 views.

Most Likes

  1. Birth Days                                                                                                                   9 Likes
  2. A Reblog of Jeff Bridges: The Lucky 13 Film Club April 13                            8 Likes
  3. Hail Caesar! A Lovely Film for those Who Love Films                                  8 Likes
  4. Ex Machina                                                                                                                  7 Likes
  5. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part III: Lake Baroon to Delicia Road                     7 Likes
  6. Eddie the Eagles Soars Enough to Qualify                                                         7 Likes
  7. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection                                                                          6 Likes
  8. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant           6 Likes
  9. The Huntsman: An Unnecessary Sequel That Is Not Necessarily Bad      6 Likes
  10. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                 6 Likes

Most Viewed in 2016 So Far

 

10. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was the V all about?!) Superman Rant

Published April 1 – 30 Views                                                                                                                                                            Less a film review than a full blooded rant. “Kicking off where that film ended with Bruce Wayne on the ground during the Metropolis battle trying desperately to reach his people in a Wayne Enterprises building in the best sequence of the whole film. The music and sound pounding in an Extreme Screen cinema has to be experienced as Bruce a highly capable mortal man commutes by helicopter then car then foot through the mayhem. His skills keep him alive getting out of the way of destruction repeatedly at the last second but his figure remains powerless in the face of such super beings. Bruce Wayne is also with the victims that we never really saw with Superman in the finale of the last film. It’s an inspired way to address criticism of the last film and set up the central beef Wayne has with Superman in this movie. It also well and truly proves that audiences can now see movies that fully evoke the horror and helplessness of September 11, 2001. Take that Al Qaeda!

9. Birth Days

Published April 24  – 30 Views

The Short Story I wrote, it is trying to communicate something about the randomness, cyclical nature and inevitability of life with spare sporadic writing. There’s a lot of jumping in and out of moments where you have to pick up hints of resolutions along the way. Once again I am very grateful for its reception. A week old and the only post I haven’t shared on Facebook, the number of views, likes and comments is really encouraging.

8. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                                         

Published January 19 – 31 Views  

Arguably the funniest of the award season darlings last year. ” This is the film’s greatest conceit; it’s inversion of what happened. The majority of Americans got ripped off and screwed over by the Global Financial Crisis! Then it spread to the rest of the world too! The Big Short doesn’t follow suckers or losers though, it follows winners, people smart and brave enough to see what was going down and the film makes us feel included in their wisdom and plight when we weren’t. I don’t say this cynically, I think this is the best movie ever made about the Global Financial Crisis and it will reach the broadest audience and make them feel the most about it as a result of this approach. The film is never preachy but there are few lines sprinkled throughout that hit home not just about the financial sector but maybe even our society at large. There are montages of photos to remind us of current events and major pop culture distractions at the time. One great sequence shows many characters leaving a hotel and their current wealth defined by the car they leave in.

7. Ex Machina: A Small Film with Big Ideas 

Published January 27 – 31 Views 

My first post to get over five likes which I means I have to click on the word bloggers to have them all appear. Sadly such things give me a thrill. A real gem of a movie that not everybody has seen yet. “How each audience member reacts to each character may say as much about themselves as it does about the characters and certainly one of the pleasures of the film is seeing these very different creatures bounce off each other. The movie enjoys playing with the ideas of who is being tested, is anybody else maybe a robot, who is sympathetic or being dishonest and just where this all may lead? I wouldn’t dare spoil it, it is nice to not be sure of a film’s outcome and yet also at the end be satisfied with it.

6. Deadpool: Finally A Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 – 31 Views

Since the film revelled in meta humour I had a go at trying something different with this review. It was a lot of fun.” A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 – 32 Views

It’s always  nice when a piece of your writing that you particularly like seems to go down well with others. Of the film reviews that have done particularly well there often seems to be a correlation to how much I put my own personal thoughts, opinions and experiences into it. Not always but often. 🙂 I was thinking about my little sister when I wrote this. ” That seat at the table never stops feeling empty but the person missing is sitting at another table across the seas and they are loved.. and they are home there too. This is a great movie.

4. Star Wars Has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                                            

Published January 13 – 42 Views

Again more a spoiler filled rant than a review to the biggest film of last year. The film’s popularity may have something to do with this. ” Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s.

3. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 

Published March 29 – 43 Views

The first great film of 2016 is certainly garnering a lot of attention. “Missiles hovering high in the sky waiting for civilians at trade deals to come and answer their phones. Boys selling cheap plastic buckets to act as a cover story for an agent while he operates multi-million dollar miniature drones to fly inside a safe house. Bread in a wood fired oven potentially being a death sentence. Gavin Hood’s film powerfully conveys a brave new world with the same old truths of human nature. We want to raise our children in peace, go to work, come home and see them playing in our yards. But war has always existed and people die in wars.

2. Youth Is Wasted on the Old                                                                                                 

Published January 10 – 48 Views

 

Again another film that I really enjoyed and a review that I really enjoyed writing. It is a pleasure to have it be one of the most viewed posts. “ The whole cast is uniformly exemplary but Sir Michael Caine is here once again taking on the lead role and giving one of his best performances ever-worthy of an Oscar as anything else I’ve seen this year. Even at this stage of life Fred Ballinger has a character arc and grows. He learns there are things to be done, there is still strength in these arms and there is not a moment to lose. The firemen are coming. This is one of the year’s best.

1. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                                

Published January 10 – 51 Views

Originally one of those pieces I wrote for my newsletter and then revamped for uni last year. There are no words to do justice to what was endured by all those who were there at Kibeho in April 1995. All I can say is I acknowledge them, I am proud of them and I wish them peace. If there is a highlight of doing this blog, it may just be to have had Terry Pickard comment on this post. When I told my Mum that Terry Pickard had commented on my Kibeho post she enquired “Is he a blogger?”. I replied “No Mum…he was there.”

-Lloyd Marken