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.

Image result for captain reg saunders

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

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

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

BIRTH DAYS

Trying something a little different today with the publication of a short story I wrote for university last year. The resulting grade of Distinction has given me the confidence to put it on the world wide web. I suspect the high mark was less for my writing and more for how I effectively displayed the power of narrative techniques. I hope though that some of you may enjoy it or see certain things in it, feel free to comment. Despite the first person narration I must point out this is a work of fiction reflecting none of my own or people that I dearly love’s experiences. It is meant to be universal in it’s appeal and themes.

Birthday

My birthday. I hate my life. It’s cold, it’s loud, it’s bright. Soft cloth envelops me tightly and I start to feel warmer. There is a clucking sound nearby that I like. The brightness flickers away and I am in darkness and warmth. That’s better I think and I sleep.

My 1st birthday

The candle glows bright at the centre of the cake. I reach out to touch it but it’s too far and Mum won’t let me lean forward. I look up at the bright fluorescent night and down at my family. Everybody is staring at me and chanting something. I want to touch the flame at the centre of the cake. It looks pretty and even from here I can feel its warmth. With all of my strength I rail against my mother’s hand and smash my fists into the cake’s edge. I never get close to the candle.

My 2nd Birthday

I am sat down in a big leather sofa on the lap of a very old man. He has a walker in the corner of the room. I’ve only been walking for about a year so I can sympathise with him if he can’t quite master it but he doesn’t seem bothered by it. He’s smiling a very big smile and after a few seconds I realise he’s smiling at me. I don’t know this guy. There’s Dad and Mum nearby and also Pa and Nanna but this guy is getting called Dad by Nanna. I point to Dad and tell Nanna that’s Dad. Everybody starts laughing but I’m not making a joke, I’m trying to help. The old guy gives me a kiss and laughs too. I don’t know why but this makes me feel good. I look up and see he has the eyes I see every time I look in the mirror…maybe that’s why. In the years to come I will never remember any of this moment. I will ask Mum all the time did “Great Grandpa like me?” The answer is right here in this moment that I will forget.

My 5th Birthday

My fifth birthday and Trevor Maybury is coming right at me with a box wrapped in cellophane. He looks a bit embarrassed because everybody is watching him. He threw a rock at me last week and now he’s here at my birthday. He hasn’t thrown a rock at me so far today and it’s already dark now. Maybe he likes me, looking at him give me the present does not fill me with confidence. Trevor’s Mum calls out to him to say happy birthday. Trevor dutifully complies and then my mother tells me to say “Thank you.” What a scam I think and Trevor seems to think so too. We share a smile.

My 8th Birthday

The night sky is awfully beautiful as I look up at the moon. I wonder if Nanna is closer to the moon now that she has died. I mean you rise up in the air like Jesus did to go to Heaven so she must be up there somewhere. Mr Thomas tells us in class that beyond the moon and stars are more stars and more stars that stretch on forever. I wonder when do you get to heaven, is it right at the end? Mr Thomas doesn’t think there is an end. Mum has been calling me and Dad comes out to get me. I don’t want to push my luck but I ask him is Nanna on the moon watching us or further away. Dad looks at me puzzled and then looks up at moon. He stares just a little too long at it in silence that I become uncomfortable. He doesn’t move and then suddenly he pats my chest, “She’s watching right here.” He tells me then lifts me over his shoulder and brings me inside.

My 14th Birthday

My head is full of Carolina, sweet Carolina with auburn hair and freckles. I’ve seen her in science class across the room. Sometimes when she turns I catch a glimpse of her bra between two buttons of her shirt. I’m a library monitor and she’s come in to grab her book. She’s looking for something in particular and has taken me to the back stack. I can smell her hair as she leans into me. My heart is beating so fast. BANG! BANG! Her ass brushes up against my groin and I can barely breath. Time stops. All that matters is the smell of that hair, the feel of her body against mine. BANG! BANG!

“If you don’t come out of the bathroom right now we’re cutting the cake without you and you’re not getting a piece.” I hear my mother on the other side of the door. Carolina and the library are gone. It’s just me in my parents’ house getting yelled at. I scream back that I don’t want the cake. Mum spent all day making it, she made the icing using butter just how I like it. She bangs the door again “How dare you speak to me like that?” I know she’s right. I can hear Dad coming. I put my pants back on and flush the toilet. I’m not going to eat the cake tonight. If I’m lucky I might get some tomorrow. I feel sorry for Mum after all the trouble she went to but thoughts drift back to Carolina. I know I’ll never get to touch her breast but I seriously wonder if I’ll ever get to touch any.

My 19th Birthday

“Stand fast.” I yell and we all jump to our feet at attention. The Corporal seems pleased as he walks into our room. Nobody was gobbing off, our gear is squared away, Tommy was ironing, Mick was polishing brass and Carl was reading the pam going over his IA Drills. The Corporal looks straight at me with that mean grin of his. I realise I’m the weak chain. I was writing a letter home to Pa. Nothing wrong with that but just not as productive to learning as the others. “What are you doing?” he asks walking over to the desk. “I was writing Corporal.”

“Writing what?”

“A letter.”

“A letter to a girlfriend? Can I read? I might be able to help you; I’m quite the Casanova you know.”

“Yes I do Corporal but I don’t have a girlfriend. It’s a letter to my Pa.”

“Your Parr. Is he back on de ranch waitin for you to help with dis ere’s crop?”

“No Corporal.”

“Are u going to tell him how your birthday here went?”

Carl inhales in surprise giving it away. I hadn’t told anybody. I wanted to be a gray man and given we’d made it to 7:02pm I figured I was safe.

The Corporal smiles even wider.

“You look nervous? Are you afraid of something?”

“No Corporal.”

He stares at me letting the silence hang.

I tilt my head towards him to meet his eyes. “Should I be Corporal?” and I muster the slightest of grins. He smiles back and walks to the doorframe.

“Make sure you tell your Pa in your letter how you did on the high ropes course. You never gave up. He’ll be proud to hear that and you better be writing to your mother too!”

“I am Corporal.”

“Happy birthday kid.”

My 20th Birthday

I see the muzzle flash in the dark and the tracer round go off. I can’t tell where the bullet lands but I’m still unhurt and I fire my rifle in response. Out of the corner of my eye Stewart has dropped to the ground and is firing. I leap up and charge forward and muzzle flashes appear all over the jungle. I fire a few rounds from the hip and land in line with Stewy. He goes to get up and I send rounds downrange straight at where I see a shadow moving. It seems to shake and go down. Did I get one?

My 23rd Birthday

I’m sitting in the test looking at the questions wondering if I have the right answer. The question seems to be asked in a way that can be interpreted both ways. I know what our readings said but the question confuses me. I studied so hard for this test. Dad says his department hires guys with this qualification all the time. I look up at the front row where Kimberley sits. I think about that time we smoked after class before my Dad picked me up. I wonder if that is why she didn’t talk to me again since I don’t have my own car. I’m going to be 23 today and I still don’t have my own license. Still live at home with my parents. I’m looking forward to the cake though with the butter icing Mum still makes for me. “Time’s up.” The tutor calls at the front. I tick the box.

My 26th Birthday

Dad and I are looking up at the moon in the backyard. I’m smoking a cigarette since Mum doesn’t like me to smoke them inside their house. Kimberley of course doesn’t mind at our place. She’s helping Mum apply the butter icing.

“You’re really selling?” I ask him as we stand outside in the backyard.

“What do you care? Aren’t you and Kimbo looking to buy your first house? Can’t raise a baby in an apartment?” he smacks me on the back. I haven’t told him what the Doctor said. It’s still uncertain anyway and he’s right, we are looking for a house.

“We are looking but sometimes… I tell Kim about Saigon sometimes and we think about. I mean she’s always wanted to go to Antarctica.”

“Antarctica.” He repeats but there’s no hint of emotion.

“It’s like when I went to Nam I saw a bit of this big interesting world out there and now I’m filling out forms in a basement and uh I think about how I could have died and… Did you ever want to go anywhere?”

“Your mother wanted to go Paris. We talked about it when your Pa died but we’re too old son. Your mum with the arthritis, it would be too tough. But you go, you go to Antarctica.” He tells me and there is a bit of wistfulness in the expression on his face.

My 28th Birthday

Kimberley is riding me, her hips slightly rocking mine as my hands reach up and squeeze her breasts. Her skin glistens with sweat in the moonlight seeping in from the balcony. I reach one thumb down to her clit and rub. Her body starts to tense and her breathing become erratic. She’s holding my wrist guiding me while I rub with my thumb blindly. The tension builds and then releases. She collapses on top of me and smiles. “I thought it was your birthday not mine.”

My 32nd Birthday

Mum falls back into the car seat with a huff. I place her walking stick down on the ground next to the seat and lean in to do up her seatbelt. I’ve got it she protests but she loses her grip. I tell her its okay and buckle her up. I kiss Kimberley and she waves as we drive out.

“She’s really good for you.” She says staring out the window. “Like your father was for me? I hope I don’t make it too difficult.”

“You don’t make it difficult Mum.” I tell her. It’s a beautiful clear night as the wind runs through the windows and cools us down.

My 33rd Birthday

Jack sits on my lap as Kimberley lights the candles on my cake. Mum is reaching out and tickling his cheek. He laughs and my heart melts. I have a son, a wife, a family, a house, a home. The wall behind Kimberley is still not painted. Too many nights working late and too many weekends drinking beers and sleeping in. Kimberley is not impressed but she smiles now. It’s my birthday and it’s a good one.

My 37th Birthday

The phone is ringing yet again and I know I can’t afford to ignore it again. I pick it up and my wife is on the other end.

“When are you coming home now?”

“I told you I got to get this done tonight. It’s just bad timing it fell on my desk this morning.”

“It’s a quarter to seven…it’s 7:02pm. They can’t make you work that late unpaid. C’mon I think I got your mother’s recipe for the icing perfect this time.” I can hear Jack in the background.

“They can make me work back. If we want to get the loan for the extension I need this promotion and that means I got to stay back!”

“We both know you’re the only one who cares about the extension. I want you home with your family. You’ve been spending too much time at work.”

“Please don’t nag me now. I will be home soon but I got to get this done.”

Kimberley hangs up and I look around the office and wonder why it is that I was happier when I was in a jungle getting shot at on my birthday?

My 40th Birthday

As soon as I open the door Jack comes racing up to me with a piece of paper. I pick him up and lift him in the air. He’s made me a birthday card in class which he is very proud of. Kimberley smiles as I enter the kitchen. “Thought you weren’t going to make it?” and I give her a kiss. She asks me if I’ve been smoking again and I shrug and say a couple.

“We can’t all be quitters like you.” I mock tease her but I know she’s right. Lately I’ve been feeling out of breath way too much when painting the gazebo.

My 46th Birthday

I rock up to the school hall and Jack is there in his Karate outfit with the head instructor talking to him and a few of the other kids. I must be a little late but not too much. I walk up the steps confused whether it’s easier since I’ve stopped smoking or harder since I put on 5kgs after I quit smoking.

“Sensei Dan my Dad was in Vietnam too.” Jack tells him and Sensei Dan sizes me up with his eyes.

“Oh yeah which battalion?”

“3RAR.” I answer.

“I was with 6RAR. Much harder tour.”

“You were with 6 huh?”

“Yeah.”

“God you must be so old.”

One of the kids can’t help himself and snorts but my son, my loyal loving son looks mortified.

Sensei Dan just smiles and shakes my hand.

“Anytime you want to join us in class let me know Mr Cordwell. Lose some of that Christmas pudding.” He tells me and the same kids snorts again. I turn around to leave and Jack is already half way to the car.

 My 50th Birthday

“Do you think Jack is having any girls around to the house while we’re away?” Kim asks me and I shrug my shoulders reaching for my glass of wine.

“I don’t care if my son is getting lucky tonight; all I care about is whether I’m going to get lucky tonight.” I tease.

“Well put another log on the fire and let’s see where this night takes us.” She replies so I get up and go over to the fireplace. I hear her coughing behind me. It’s getting worse.

“Why don’t we go to Antarctica?”

“It’s off season now. I’ll be right in the thick of treatments when it starts up again. Besides c’mon along with the medical bills, the mortgage still has a couple of years to go and Jack is in uni.”

“You always wanted to go?”

“And I will.”

My 51st Birthday

“How’s Europe son?” I ask him and his voice comes all the way down the telephone from Europe.

“Paris is awesome Dad. I’m going to celebrate your birthday when I get back next week.”

“Don’t worry about that.”

“Nah c’mon Dad. Did you go out with the boys?”

“No but they had cake for me at work. Fuckin cream icing shit. How about you? What did you and the guys get up to?”

“Actually I’ve met this girl on the tour and she comes from Brisbane too.”

“What’s her name?”

My 52nd Birthday

Minnie is a beautiful young girl and is practically glowing with her pregnancy. Jack comes barging through the door after her with a cake in one hand, loosening the tie from his work shirt in the other. He’s made the cake with butter icing just like he said he would. We walk into the kitchen past the photographs of my family. My grandparents, my parents, my wife. I miss them and I have no doubt I will see them soon. But I love my life. My life is good.

© Copyright Lloyd Marken.