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EDITORS’ LETTERS There’s something intriguing about the things we fear and can’t explain. The weird, the sublime, the uncanny, cosmic horror, the disconnect between our truths, perceptions, assumptions, and reality. The theme for this issue, ‘Funhouse,’ was inspired by the funhouse mirrors found in creepy carnivals and theme parks. The convex and concave sections of the mirror create a distorted version of your own image. As such the articles in this are about appearance vs. reality, the power of perception, and how things like the truth get warped and twisted. When delving into the old Grapeshot archives – and by old I mean late 2000s old – I was aghast when I realised the theme for this issue had already been done by Grapeshot before, in its first year of publication no less. When interviewing the founding Editor of Grapeshot Magazine, Kathleen Steele, she suggested that I revive this past theme. I read her editor’s letter before writing my own and was surprised by what I found. She begins the letter with: “Welcome to the funhouse! This is our last issue for Semester 1, so we thought that in the face of an ongoing financial crisis and a global pandemic, the only thing to do was have some fun.” I did a double take at the mention of a global pandemic, remember when swine flu was one of the worst pandemics the world had seen in decades? Yikes. We have some outstanding contributions in this issue. Basel Hindeleh’s article ‘Handala: A Struggle for Freedom’ gives a nuanced and insightful look into the Israel-Palestine conflict. Rhys Sage’s article ‘Distortions’ touches on how depression and mental illness colours one’s perspective and experiences, while Jennifer Le’s photography spread ‘Judging a book by Her cover’ explores the concept of fashion in the formation of identity and confidence. Fall down the rabbit hole and enjoy this issue of Grapeshot! Jodie, Editor-in-Chief

Funhouse was one of the themes I was most trepidatious about, maybe because Jodie told us to conjure up images of American Horror Story, Funhouse mirrors and the Twilight Zone during one of our early brainstorm meetings. And don’t get me wrong, Issue #4 has eventually become one of my favourite issues we have put out this year, it’s just that scary, spooky and unsettling are not really my vibe. Whilst I can do the odd 80’s very-fake-looking slasher film in the middle of the day when I am definitely not home alone, scary movies in general are not my cup of tea. During our meetings for this issue, it became clear that the Grapeshot team where very divided; either they were normal and didn’t enjoy watching unimaginable terrors of life on screen, or they were a bit too invested in the genre. Luckily, this issue of Grapeshot eventually shaped into a much broader range of stories, articles, and artwork. This issue of Grapeshot has an astoundingly wide variety of Creatives; Tayler Birch and Sara Choudhry explore the hidden depths of experience, revealing that reality is not always what it seems, whilst Lachlan Marnoch takes us on a journey to the city of Aresen in A Vanished City. The Grapey team also shared what music they’ve been listening to lately, which is always an interesting insight into the dynamics of the team, with quite a variety of tunes collected. As we do a few final edits to this issue, our reality shifted quite a bit from those first few meetings about Funhouse. Day 4 into a hopefully-only-twoweek lockdown has given a whole new meaning to the power of perception and Issue #4 invites you to challenge and consider the depths of both appearance and reality. Madi, Deputy Editor

EDITORIAL & CREATIVE PRODUCTION EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Jodie Ramodien DEPUTY EDITOR: Madison Scott CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Sam van Vliet CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Kathleen Notohamiprodjo NEWS EDITOR: Saliha Rehanaz CAMPUS NEWS EDITOR: Rayna Bland REGULARS/REPEAT OFFENDERS EDITOR: Eleanor Taylor FEATURES/CREATIVES EDITOR: Rhys Sage ONLINE EDITOR: Jennifer Le EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS: Tori Barendregt, Nikita Byrnes, Mykayla Castle, Olivia Chan, Nicholas Chang, Lachlan Hodson, Ky Stewart DESIGN ASSISTANT: Rhys Sage

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Sara Choudhry, Tiffany Fong, Basel Hindeleh, Lachlan Marnoch

COVER ART Kathleen Notohamiprodjo


EDITORIAL REVIEW BOARD Allastassia Carter, Marlene Khouzam, Amanda Mathews, Jay Muir, Amanda O’Neill, Ateka Rajabi, Eryna Tash



Mariella Herberstein

Melroy Rodrigues

GRAPESHOT acknowledges the Wattamatagal clan of the Darug nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and meet. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded, no treaty was signed, and would like to pay our respects to Elders, past, present, and emerging. We would like to extend those respects to all First Nations people reading. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.





Jeffrey Epstein and False Records from Prison Guards On Friday afternoon, May 21st, a shocking revelation was made in the United States in association to the high profile case of accused sex-trafficker, Jefferey Epstein. It has come to light that Michael Thomas and Tova Noel, the two prison officers who were guarding Epstein’s prison cell the night he killed himself in 2019, reportedly falsified records. The two guards have struck a deal with federal prosecutors in which they admitted to falsifying records. The documents they falsified were records pertaining to how often prison cells had been monitored and visited the night of Epstein’s death. Epstein’s cell was supposed to be checked every 30 minutes. The records made it seem as though the required checks on Epstein had been satisfied before his body was found in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in Manhattan. Instead, the pair have been accused of sleeping and web-browsing instead of monitoring the cell. According to the indictment filed against the two guards, there was one two-hour period where both guards appeared to have been sleeping. They had been both working overtime because of staffing shortages. One of the guards was working his second eight-hour shift of the same day, and the other guard was working a fifth consecutive day of overtime. The situation has also cast a grave spotlight on the American prison institution and the Bureau of Prisons as a whole, and also led to a greater awareness about the implications of prison staffing shortages and forced overtime work. While Thomas and Noel were reportedly sleeping and online shopping, Epstein died in his prison cell, 15 feet (or, roughly about 4.5 metres) away. His death was ruled a suicide by the medical examiner. At the time, he was awaiting trial for the illegal sex-trafficking of underage girls. The deal made with federal prosecutors will see Michael and Noel avoid jail time, and instead subject the two guards to ‘supervised release’ and 100 hours of community service. They will also voluntarily cooperate with the Department of Justice’s investigation into the matter. However, the deal will need to be approved by a judge and as such, is yet to be made official.


Scomo’s 75 Million-Dollar Advertising Blitz Funded by Taxpayers Early in January 2021, the Morrison coalition government announced a $75 million taxpayer-funded advertising scheme. The advertisements are directed towards promoting the safety and importance of Covid-19 vaccines to the Australian public.

Tokyo Olympics Will Still Go Ahead International Olympics Committee’s Vice President, John Coates, said in an online news conference with Australian Olympics organisers that the Tokyo Olympics, previously scheduled to occur in 2020, will go on in 2021 regardless of whether the host city is under a state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Japan extended a state of emergency in the country’s big cities of Tokyo and Osaka in April 2021, as Covid-19 cases began increasing exponentially. Other prefectures included in the extension are Hokkaido (where the Olympic marathon is scheduled to be held), Hiroshima, and Okayama. Business owners who comply with the state of emergency measures will apparently be compensated, and those who do not will face fines. The state of emergency has been extended from May 11 to May 31, a margin of less than two months before the start of the glorious Olympic Games. The highly anticipated games are scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021. Coates has been reported saying that “the most important thing is giving athletes a chance to compete,” as long as they can protect the Japanese public.

According to health officials, there is no specific target audience in mind for the advertisements. The goal is simply to ensure that the vaccination ‘uptake’ is as high as possible. The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Hon. Greg Hunt, said the campaign will be broken into three phases. First, advertisements will focus on assuring the public that the vaccines are safe and have been put through a ‘world-leading’ vaccination approval process. The second phase of the campaign will provide information on how the vaccine will be rolled out. The third and final phase will provide information about vaccination centre locations and how to get vaccinated, and further support on vaccination uptake. The campaign will not be confined to one particular communication medium, but rather be spread across social media, newspapers, radio, and TV messaging and broadcasting. The announcement was made earlier in the year, however a recent media spotlight in May on the ‘catchy’ Covid-19 vaccine advertisements in New Zealand and Singapore indicated many commentators pushing for Australia to do the same type of advertising. Criticism lands on the unspecified goals of the advertising campaign by the Health Minister and Morrison’s government, after news that mass immunisation centres across Australia have reported ‘low turnouts’ and individuals over 50 cancelling their appointments to be vaccinated.

This news comes after an online petition, called “Stop Tokyo Olympics,” gained more than 350,000 signatures. The petition was drafted by Japanese lawyer, Kenji Utsunomiya. In a news conference regarding the petition, Utsunomiya said that he didn’t believe this was enough; he believes that “millions” of signatures are necessary to make an impact. Utsunomiya’s primary concern about the Olympics is that the games will divert crucial medical services away from the public, which is concerning considering the recent significant rise in Covid-19 cases. In April 2021, the British Medical Journal also publicly suggested that the games be “reconsidered” by organisers.



Readers, I know university can sometimes feel like a joke. Slow admin, course changes, the gangs of ibis birds that never ever seem to go away, and power outages in the library during exam season! Plus you might constantly question if you like your degree, if it’s worth it and if you should keep doing it. I decided to drop my Law degree and pursue Arts. I hope the end of semester one did not treat you too poorly and the winter break leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to kick semester two’s ass.

DRAMAC: Comrev DRAMAC is presenting their annual comedy revue, Comrev. This year’s piece is titled ‘The Death of Comrev’ and is directed by Macquarie students Charlie Boyd, Michael Haratzis, and Soph Szecsodi. A revue is a theatrical performance that is a collection of skits, music, and dance! This year’s one includes games and audience participation! The satirical show centres around the theme of death. A rebel theatre society tries to save the Lighthouse Theatre from destruction by the hands of Spruce Brownton. I would not be missing out on tickets to such a spectacle! Auditions for Comrev are currently ongoing, so check out DRAMAC on Facebook to find out if you’re the next revue star!

Student Study Services Lo and behold, it’s final exam season, friends! Hopefully, you already know about the range of student services that are offered to help out stressed students with their assignments, skills, and developments. So do not worry! Our SSAF fees do sometimes go towards moderately useful services (if you can be arsed to use them of course). Here’s a few of the services that are available:

WriteWISE: Chat with a peer-writing leader online Senior Macquarie students give their time to discuss assignments and study issues with you. You do not even need to make an appointment. You can discuss questions about academic writing, referencing, and study strategies. Be sure to have your assignment questions, unit guides, and/or marked assignments ready before your chat session. Chat sessions run from week 2 to week 12 during teaching weeks: • Mondays to Thursdays, 11am to 5pm • Fridays, 11am to 4pm • Saturdays, 1pm to 5 pm Chat sessions are also run during mid-session break: • Mondays to Fridays, 12pm to 3pm


Be mindful that WriteWISE Leaders are not there to do your assignment, proofread or ‘fix them.’ They are just there to answer questions and discuss strategies! To start talking with a WriteWISE leader you can jump on the ol’ Google machine, type it in and you will find what you are looking for.

Studiosity online consultations Macquarie University has a partnership with Studiosity to help you achieve better results. Studiosity is an external 24/7 online writing and study assistance service to provide you with one-on-one academic study help through e-consultations. Studiosity offers writing feedback. You can upload a file on academic writing and get feedback on structure, grammar, referencing, punctuation, and spelling; or you can connect live and chat one-on-one with a Studiosity tutor to receive assistance with subjects like English, Maths, and Science. All students have access to ten free consultations in each academic session. You can access Studiosity through iLearn.

The Library There is of course the old fashioned library. You can visit their website to access digital resources, or to chat online with a librarian. Also, shout out to the librarians for refusing entry to high school students, they were always too loud and took up too much space. I know it might be temporary because of the pandemic but I know it was bliss for my friends studying in the library. If you have Tik Tok you might have also seen there was an arrest in the library! Dramaaaa. No idea who they were or what it was for but how lovely that I was able to witness it online. Imagine seeing that inperson, what an interesting study break. In all seriousness though I hope the bloke that got arrested is okay and was arrested for something cool like supplying drugs not like murder or something.

Frank the Bear Remember when bears were in the circus? Me neither. I have never seen animals in the circus because I am not a sadist (towards animals) and if you have, you suck. I only say that to stay on theme with Funhouse and to introduce Frank! Frank the Bear is a taxidermied and immortalised cuddly Walk. Why not check him out? Seeing creepy taxidermy blood pumping through my veins and that human beings

b e a s t that resides in 9 Wally’s r e m i n d s me that I am alive with are sickos for stuffing dead animals.

Ubar Sunset Sessions Catch live music every Friday from 4pm at Ubar! them on Instagram or Facebook to stay up-to-date their specials—like $2 large coffees! The perfect productive study sessions!

F o l l o w with all concoction for

That’s all for this issue, friends! Study hard, pull a and watch those HDs come through!

f e w

If you have any spicy campus or society news you want an email at!



all-nighters, send me


THE 2021 BUDGET: AN OVERVIEW On Tuesday May 11th, Australia’s Treasurer for 2021 delivered the Coalition government’s Federal Budget for 2021-22. Nikita Byrnes runs you through all the important details about the Federal Budget.


$1.6 billion on preschools. $26.1 million for non-university short course providers. $9.4 million in grants for private English-language providers. $19 billion for universities. The first budget paper lists $53.6 million to “support Australian education providers most reliant on international students,” but it is unclear what specific institutions are being supported.


Approx. $700 million towards new Medicare health services. Additional $13.2 billion towards the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme).


More than $2 billion towards prevention and treatment of mental illness. This will go towards: new adult mental health centres, Headspace funding, child mental health and wellbeing hubs, supporting parents with children who deal with mental health issues, and new suicide prevention and care plans.


$3.4 billion towards women’s safety. $200 million of this for frontline domestic violence services. $129 million for women’s legal centres. $26 million for Indigenous Australians experiencing family violence. $29 million towards measures that support migrant and refugee women experiencing domestic or family violence. $33 million toward educating young Australians about respectful relationships and addressing online harm.


Approx. 10 million people will receive the proposed $1080 in tax cuts. The tax cuts will only run for one year.


$1.2 billion towards low emissions technology, such as carbon capture technologies and regional hydrogen hubs. $1.2 billion towards improving Australia’s response to natural disasters. No money towards renewable energies, except for $30 million towards a battery and microgrid project in the Northern Territory.

Sources: The Daily Aus and the Federal Budget Paper No. 1. As The Guardian headline so accurately described: “Universities have been left to bleed in the Federal Budget.” The Federal Budget states that: “Expenses under the higher education sub-function are expected to decrease by 8.3 per cent in real terms from 2020-21 to 2021-22, and decrease by 9.3 per cent in real terms from 2021-22 to 2024-25.” Gayle Tierney, Victoria’s minister for higher education, wrote in a Twitter thread the day following the publication of the Federal Budget that the government has “failed to support universities in the Federal Budget” and is “deliberately ignor[ing] TAFE and public providers.”


During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Australia, and following its slow descent in infection rates, approximately 13% of Australia’s pre-Covid-19 university workforce has lost their jobs. The shock to the higher education’s funding structure seems antagonistic and even paradoxical considering the Liberals’ university fee hikes campaign of 2020. The campaign was predicated on introducing an extra 39,000 student places over the next couple of years, and encouraging students to study subjects and degrees that will make them “job ready” in industry sectors such as education, health, and STEM. These are, apparently, where jobs are “most needed” in the future.

So why, almost a year later, is university funding getting cut by 10%, and TAFE funding by 24%, if the government is upping fees to Humanities and Arts courses in an attempt to direct Australia into a more “job ready” future?

Treasurer Josh Frydenburg said in his speech to Parliament addressing the Federal Budget that, “Australia is on the pathway to net zero and our goal is to get there as soon as we possibly can, preferably by 2050.”

These controversial budget cuts have been interpreted as both detrimental and positive.

However, a week after the release of the Federal Budget, the government has revealed it has also allocated $3 billion towards supporting the fossil fuel industry. The Saturday Paper has reported that a further $600 million will go towards building a gas plant in the Hunter Valley. The government did not detail this plan in the Federal Budget, claiming that hiding the cost was due to “commercial sensitivities.”

According to Deloitte Australia, an international economic analysis and advisory firm, the funding to nonuniversity education providers (such as short course providers and private English-language providers) is expected to project a series of “flow-on effects to public universities.” Deloitte writes that because international students have historically used private tertiary course providers as pathways for gaining access to mainstream public universities, the government’s increased support for “non-university providers may help protect this critical pipeline into the university system.” However, it is unclear whether these ‘pathways’ really exist. Deloitte is unclear in their analysis regarding what evidence this statement is based on. It is also important to note that the government has abandoned their emergency research funding of $1 billion. The $1 billion was seen as a lifeline for elite institutions who have become, over the past two decades, increasingly reliant upon international student fees, for both research-funding and paying wages of staff. The cancellation of it has reported increasing anxieties and stress amongst university staff and leaders. As Dr Alison Barned, the National President of the National Tertiary Education Union has written, “Where is the rescue package for higher education, our 4th largest export sector which has lost over 17,300 jobs and thousands of courses after being locked out of JobKeeper? Where is the pathway for the return of international students?” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi responded to the Federal Budget in an interview with The Guardian, asking “How can we expect to rebuild with this government hellbent on decimating teaching and research?”

On Friday, May 21, 2021, a march for climate action kicked off in cities across Australia, primarily organised by School Strike 4 Climate AU. Students from each state rallied, demanding the end of gas and fossil fuels, with much anger surrounding the lack of money reserved for renewable energies in the Federal Budget and the Morrison government’s “gas recovery plan.” Students held various signs decorated with slogans which included, “Wake Up Scomo,” “Fund Our Future Not Gas,” and “I Can’t Die Before We Get A 1D Reunion.” Like with most Liberal-National Coalition governments in Australian history, messages and promotions are often not backed up by action. One of the key messages in this Federal Budget is that the Morrison government is focused on “building a more secure and resilient Australia.” How can it do that if it refuses to support the education of the future of Australia, if its measures to support women’s safety are merely a publicity stunt, and if it continues to hide its greedy gas and oil money-making ventures behind false promises of meeting international climate deadlines? Scott Morrison is letting Australia burn and fall behind international standards in all aspects of this Federal Budget. We can’t pretend this Federal Budget is doing anything else. by Nikita Byrnes

In other aspects of the Federal Budget, it is clear that Morrison’s Coalition government is falling short of expectations.

The Saturday Paper has reported that despite the Federal Budget’s supposed focus on supporting women and pledging $342 billion to support that initiative, one critical front-line service has lost much of its funding. The Working Women’s Centres (WWC) across Australia “provide information, advocacy, support and advice to women on work related issues.” The service requires $700,000 a year to keep its doors open. The government has not even allotted 30% of that requirement, and as such, some of the vital centres across the country may be forced to close by the end of the year.


Yafa, Palestine. That’s where I should tell people I am from when they ask. Instead, I hesitate, before I inevitably decide to give the shortest long version of my life story: “I was born in Australia, but my parents decided to move back to Jordan when I was two, and that’s where I grew up, but my family is originally from Palestine.” Their response; silence and a blank face. Geography of the Middle East is not a strong suit for many. Deflated, I sigh, “Israel?” I have just helped the occupation erase Palestine off the map. Reduced the region into warped Western colonial notions. Edward Said, the Palestinian-American founder of post-colonial studies, would be ashamed. My story is not unique.


Millions of Palestinians worldwide are tired of having to justify their existence to people who have only heard of Palestine in the context of “Middle East Conflicts.” We are tired of having to look at the fractured reflection of our collective image and explain how this is not a “complicated issue” or a “historical conflict going back hundreds of years.” So, we get complacent and give in, rather than going through the ordeal of explaining. But those who are still living under occupation cannot give in and are screaming for our attention. Recently, online coverage of the ‘evictions’ in Sheikh Jarrah forced us to listen. Israeli settlers under the protection of Israeli forces had attempted to forcibly remove families from their decades-old homes in East Jerusalem. These actions were in breach of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of an occupying Power’s civilian population into the territory that it occupies, and according to a statement by the United Nations violates international humanitarian law and “may amount to a war crime.” This is not the first time this has happened. It is part of the decades-long effort to ethnically cleanse Palestinians; carving out the Palestinian Occupied West Bank into many enclaves completely cut off from each other. Israeli forces had already been blocking Muslim worshippers from accessing Al-Aqsa Mosque during their holiest month of Ramadan, when they chose violence and raided the third most sacred Muslim site. Hundreds of worshippers were surrounded by Israeli forces; violently attacked with rubber bullets and sound grenades. International media diminished these asymmetrical displays of aggression and power to ‘clashes.’ The photos and videos going viral on social media told a different story.



Activists began sharing footage, artworks, and informational graphics of what was happening on the ground. Momentously, Palestinian voices were being heard and given an opportunity to share their stories. The myths of a levelled conflict based on land disputes were finally beginning to shatter. The narrative was shifting, and honest public discourse was starting. However, little action was taken to stop the escalation of violence. When these provocations, backdropped by the West Bank’s ongoing occupation, the ruling apartheid system in Israel, and the fourteen-year siege on the Gaza strip led to Hamas firing rockets at Israel; they responded with disproportionate force. This is when the world really started paying attention, and mass media began reporting. The long-standing narrative of “violent Palestinians attacking defenceless Israelis” was creeping back up. The media’s manufactured consent that has cultivated years of complicity began rearing its head. Headlines disregarded the context and undeniable power imbalance and instead chose to settle for the routine neutrality of “conflict” and “fighting.” What was not expected, was the growing criticism directed towards the media for inaccurate reporting. The United Nations, fearing a war, unfairly called on “both sides” to stop the fighting, but failed to act itself. The United States gave weak calls for de-escalation and refused to condemn the killing of children. They blocked three Security Council resolutions and announced that Israel had a right to self-defence. The United States also approved $735 million dollars in weapon sales but saw ground-breaking congressional pushback led by prominent democrats Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American congresswoman. This is all on top of the $3.8 billion they unconditionally send to Israel annually. Missile exchanges lasted for eleven days before an Egyptian-brokered unconditional ceasefire was reached. Gaza was decimated, with homes, hospitals, and media buildings reduced to rubble.

But this time, it’s a little different; the Hasbara propaganda pushed by the Israeli government, with all its obvious white, pink, and other colour-washing distraction attempts, which is propagated through other world powers, no longer controls the narrative. Palestinian voices – despite constant social media censorship – are finally being heard. Politicians are speaking out on house floors without fear of retribution. The biased framing that exists in the media is clear and many are becoming aware of the injustices. The deadly status quo is no longer accepted. In a show of international solidarity firmly rejecting settler-colonialism, hundreds of thousands of people of every age, gender, and creed around the world are protesting. Here in Sydney, ten thousand people went out to the streets to mark 73 years since the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, took place. Collectively, we raised the Palestinian flag, chanted for justice, and called for the end of the ongoing atrocities being committed against innocent Palestinian men, women, and children. As Ghassan Kanafani, a renowned Palestinian journalist and author, once said in a 1970 interview with the ABC’s Richard Carleton, “It’s not a conflict – it’s a liberation movement fighting for justice.” We must now not give up nor forget, and as we go through our lives we must not shy away from discussing Palestine. Literature is wide-ranging and resources are plentiful; all that is necessary is to open our hearts and minds. My hope is that this is only the beginning of a free Palestine, one that I may revisit not as an Australian, with the privileges of an Australian passport, but as the grandson of four Palestinians who fled their homeland in 1948 and never went back. by Basel Hindeleh

230 Palestinians, including 65 children were killed, hundreds injured, and thousands displaced. Entire families were wiped off the civil registry while others mourned their loved ones instead of celebrating Eid. There were 12 Israeli deaths, 2 of whom were children. For now, things are back to the way they were. Palestinians enduring under military occupation and being systematically discriminated against. Citizens, including children and journalists, routinely detained and interrogated, traumatising the young and threatening the old. While Israel continues its campaign of illegal displacements and demolitions, mere days post-ceasefire, not only targeting Sheikh Jarrah, but also other neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Silwan.





Greta Gremlin I can be your angel or your devil Size doesn’t matter Likes: Pranks, Eating, Dislikes: Sunlight, getting wet (Sorry ladies) Height: 1 foot


The Blob

*makes tapping noises* Enjoys a slow walk on the beach Likes: the Soviet Union, Sneaking around Dislikes: Saltwater, oil mining Height: 7 feet

Mushy and gushy in all the right places! jkjkjk... unless? Likes: Eating people, mass murder Dislikes: The cold Height: Depends on humans consumed


Pennywise Loves a girl with a sense of humor Not opposed to plastic surgery, I’ve had a bit of work done myself Likes: sewers, cream blush, eating scared children Dislikes: Turtles, music that isn’t circus related Height: 6 foot 3.5

Dracula Warm-blooded where it matters ;) Kebab shop owner Likes: Virgins, Necks, The necks of virgins :) Dislikes: Sunlight, Steaks and stakes Height: 6 foot 3

*Nickie Minaj voice* You can’t get rid of me BITCH! Aspiring MUA Likes: Vengeance, haunting people Dislikes: Orphans, Museums Height: 1.5 foot



BECOMING A RUNNER WRITTEN BY ELEANOR TAYLOR When I was a little kid, my sisters and I would go for ‘runs’ with Mum. She’d get in her gear and we’d dutifully follow behind her – normally dressed in tutus or superhero costumes. Dad would back us up, speed walking with the pram. As Mum ran and my sisters and I got bored after about five minutes, we’d hop onto the pram and go get babycinos with Dad and let Mum run in peace. Up until this year, that was essentially my only experience with running. I did rowing at school, we had to run two kilometres before our gym training each week, I hated it and walked most of the time. I would laugh it off saying “I’m just not built for running!” and then gesture to my broad shoulders and height as though it was a basic fact. About two years ago I decided to start going to the gym regularly, my cardio of choice was cycling (ironic because I have an irrational fear of bikes). Then, in the year of our Lord 2020… Covid-19 happened. The gym closed and I found myself in an odd spot. What could I do, if not Zumba? Not much it turned out, I refused to genuinely try running because I had defaulted to hating it. I think hating running is a common attitude. I never understood why someone would run. It seemed painful, tiring, and boring. In hindsight, don’t knock it till you try it. At the start of 2021, I decided to give it a go. I don’t know what motivated me to take on this hell-sport, I can only tell you what I have gotten out of it so far. IMPOSTER I ran 5km for the first time in February with a time of 50 minutes. In March I decided to get a proper pair of running shoes and to start following runners online. In a fit of inspiration I even joined the reddit thread ‘r/running,’ launching myself into the online community. There is an image of the “runner,” she eats salads


and drinks smoothies. She wears her hair in a cute high ponytail and is petite, lean and tan. She’s also probably white. I am an XL up top and was an XL down bottom. I am a sweaty mess 24/7 and have asthma which means I make quite an attractive wheezing sound sometimes. It is safe to say I felt outclassed. A couple of years ago, a person I had just met told me I should start exercising. I thought this was an interesting judgement from her as at the time I was working out five days a week. Based on my appearance she evidently felt her advice was warranted. At my school formal I was told I was brave to wear the dress I did, Even with your stomach! That was a long time ago, but comments like that created wounds in my self esteem that fester to this day. I am only realising as I write this now, that part of me was committed to becoming the idealised runner, even if I didn’t know it. I told myself I just wanted to be able to run 5km. I got 5km and told myself I wanted to be faster. Once I’d achieved this I told myself I just wanted to lose a few kilos. I became obsessive with my appearance and felt like a shapeshifter, gradually morphing into who I thought I needed to be. I did lose weight through this challenge, enough that people noticed and told me I “look healthy” – that’s the socially acceptable way of saying someone isn’t ‘fat’ anymore. But when I looked in the mirror, my butt had left the building, my hip dips were more prominent and I almost felt manish. It was the oddest experience, like seeing a stranger in the mirror. Even once I had lost weight and was running 5km in 30 minutes on a regular basis, I still didn’t feel as though I fit in. When I say comparison is a trap, I mean it. As for the performance aspect, seeing people who could run 5km in half my time left me both awestruck and insecure. I felt like an imposter in this space. Am I a ‘runner’ if I run really slowly? The answer to that is simple. If you are someone who goes for runs, you are a runner. I had to


remind myself that I was doing this to connect with myself on a deeper level and achieve my personal goals. THE LINE There’s a weird line between obsessive behaviours spurred on by mental illness and a healthy routine. I love working out and do it five or six days a week. Do I do this because I am obsessive and adhere to my daily routines with robotic precision? Do I do this because I enjoy it and want to be healthier? To be honest, I don’t entirely know and suspect it’s a bit of both. I think I do have an unhealthy obsession with working out, but at the same time aside from medication, exercise has been the best thing I have done for my mental health. I am more stressed and tense when I don’t exercise and get this urge to move. At the same time, when I don’t exercise I catastrophize. I get thoughts telling me I will lose fitness from one day off, that I am weak-willed and fat and unworthy of anything good. I don’t have an easy solution to this issue, and running has evidently not cured my anxiety. I hope that as time goes by and I continue working on these problems and on improving my mental health, I can learn to live with my anxiety and to ignore my negative internal monologue. MOTIVATION IS A BITCH It turns out, motivation is not a reliable source of energy. When I went for my first run, I felt like I was flying, as though I could do anything, wondering; How was I so wrong about this awesome activity? I ran as much as I could, five days a week and this lasted for three weeks. One morning I woke up and it was just gone. I simply could not be bothered to run. Luckily, I am great at forcing myself to do things so onwards I trudged, shuffling miserably into my running gear and onto the footpath. I definitely still have days where I feel like Usain Bolt, and I have days where I walk more than run. Days where I want to curl up and read instead, and days where I do just that. Most of the time, I am able to get myself into a good pace just challenging enough to sweat, without draining all my energy for the day. I can roll along listening to a podcast feeling pretty zenned out. Ultimately though, doing things requires discipline. I have learnt that you simply cannot rely on motivation, she is unreliable, clocks

out of her shift early, and sometimes just ghosts you. Making something a new habit is about taking advantage of motivation when it strikes, but also exercising discipline (pun intended). Working out became a part of my daily schedule, something that was non-negotiable unless I was sick or incredibly tired. I am yet to have a day where after I finish a run, I regret it. EMPOWERED I have always been a socially anxious perfectionist, living in a perpetual state of insecurity. Combined with my own mental struggles, I have arthritis, asthma, and an immune disease. It is weird to be 20-years-old and physically unable to do some things. Luckily, I can run and I love it. I love being able to move my body and know that I’m giving back to it by building muscle and cardio fitness, releasing endorphins, and improving my headspace. I love that I can run anywhere whenever I want, I don’t need equipment or a gym membership to run. I feel strong and free when I run. Although I still find myself having days when I feel really insecure about my appearance or my 5km run time, I am learning to coexist with my body and to see its changes as moving towards a healthier me. When I run, I am amazing and talented and fit and fast and thriving. The world shrinks to just me and my mind, bouncing along the Pacific Highway, adrenaline pumping, and that is why I do it. In a way, running is selfish for me. This is a thing I do where I am the centre of attention, no one else matters. I run for myself, not for others. I don’t exercise to lose weight or to look hot— some great side benefits—I exercise as a form of self care and giving back to myself. I’m still working on developing a well-rounded lifestyle, improving my mental health and accepting myself at every stage. TAKEAWAYS I love running, the benefits it has given me far outweigh any cons. Through running I have discovered insecurities I never knew I had, but this has enabled me to work on them, to identify and patch up problems with my mental health. It’s not much compared to elite runners or the girls I follow online, but my 5km run time is now 30 minutes, and I feel like I have won a marathon.



JUMANJI: PLAYING WITH LIVES WRITTEN BY TORI S. BARENDREGT JUMANJI: A GAME FOR THOSE WHO SEEK TO FIND... A WAY TO LEAVE THEIR WORLD BEHIND So says the inside of the Jumanji board game. Such a description promises a game that would absorb the players’ attention, making them forget about their troubles in reality. But Jumanji takes a different spin on this, a more literal spin.

Jumanji was first released in 1995 and follows the story of two kids, Alan Parrish and Sarah Whittle, as they start playing the sentient board game after which the movie is titled. The game is eerie from the start; the film begins in 1869 with two children, Caleb and Benjamin, in the night, desperately attempting to bury a chest in the middle of a fog-shrouded wood. Beneath the mound of dirt, you can hear the hallmark drumming of the film boom-boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom-boom… One century later, Alan is drawn to the burial site by those drums, digging up the chest and discovering Jumanji. Jumanji draws Alan and Sarah in, forcing them to play the game. The game pieces are stuck to the board, and the drop of the dice by a player is considered a roll and the pieces move on their own. On an unlucky roll, Alan is sucked into the game, that is, literally sucked into the board game, the alternate world of Jumanji, where he will stay until another play rolls a five or an eight. Alan thus remains lost to the world, stuck in the Jungle of Jumanji for 26 years until two new players, Judy and Peter Shepherd, join the game when they discover it upon moving into Alan’s old house. The rest of the movie is the stuff of nightmares, or at least the nightmares of 10-year-old me. With each roll of the dice, a new element of Jumanji is brought into the real world, whether it be fast-growing vines with purple flowers


that shoot poisonous barbs or yellow ones that eat people alive, giant mosquitos, monsoons, quicksand, or a terrifying hunter, Van Pelt, who is set on killing Alan. But is this just a fantasy adventure film meant to scare its viewers, or is it something more? Board games are meant to be harmless fun and entertainment, a way to pass the time, and engender friendly competition. But in Jumanji, the game is real. The game thinks. It effectively pits Jumanji against the players, bringing to life real dangers that seem to be bent on killing the players. Suddenly, the game becomes a matter of survival. But why? One of the themes running throughout the film is about ‘being a man.’ When being bullied by some other kids, Alan’s father says to him: “If you are afraid of something, you have got to stand and face it.” A similar line is repeated back to him when running away from Van Pelt, who shouts, “You miserable coward. Come back and face me like a man!” Alan then finds himself using this line to a crying Peter after being turned into a monkey as punishment for cheating: “If you have a problem, you face it like a man.” Following this thread, the terrifying game can be seen as a challenge for adolescents entering adulthood, facing their fears and overcoming them. But how does Jumanji change with the remakes? Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was released in 2017, and it was not an actual remake of the original but rather a continuation. When the board game is rediscovered in 1996, it discovers that it is no longer relevant and that video games have replaced board games, and so it evolves. When teenager Alex Vreeke starts playing, Jumanji sucks him into the game, similar to Alan Parrish. But in this version of the game, it must be completed in Jumanji, a virtual world in which you are only given three lives, and after that, you are dead. But Alex is only one player amongst five, and he cannot complete the levels without the other players. He then becomes stuck in the game for 21 years until four other teenagers, Spencer Gilpin, Fridge Johnson, Bethany Walker, and Martha Kaply, stumble onto the game and get sucked in. They must complete the levels of the game, completing a quest and ending the game. In this film, the players want nothing more than to leave, agreeing to destroy it upon its


completion. They are naturally horrified at being transported into the game and into the characters’ bodies within it. They are terrified and uncomfortable in their new skins, but as they adapt to the new world, they learn the value of their roles and strengths amongst a team. Only when they are down to their last life, do they become fearful for their actual lives again. Interestingly, Jumanji: The Next Level, released in 2019, follows this film and is only made possible because Spencer misses the power he felt as his character in the game. He feels he does not fit into his world and seeks out a better feeling in another world, repairing the game while inadvertently bringing new dangers. There was something less terrifying about these two films from the first. Maybe it was just the simple fact that I watched them when I was older. Or perhaps it was something more. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level offer an interesting, if not an over-talked-about commentary about the dangers of video games. The conjunction of these two films touches on gaming disorders where players can confuse the world in the game with their reality. While gaming is usually just a momentary distraction from reality, for some gamers, an addiction can form where they desire to be more in the game or start

seeing things from the game in their reality. But perhaps this transformation from a board game to a video game detracts from the scare factor. While it makes sense to change Jumanji to a video game for modern audiences, it is familiar to all of us, and we know that the screen will keep us separate from the gaming world and the dangers it encapsulates. Thus, the second two films capitalise on a line uttered by Sarah in the first film: “What if I get stuck in the game?” But in the first film, this is a real fear, a situation of isolation and displacement, while in the video games, you are at least with other people. Furthermore, the fact that Spencer seeks Jumanji out in The Next Level normalises this worldly displacement. The other players, more or less, voluntarily go into the game and have a rough idea of what is in store. In the original, however, Jumanji compromises your reality. The board game made the familiar unfamiliar. It transformed your safe and predictable world into a dangerous one on the verge of destruction. Once you’ve completed the video game, you are transported back into your safe world. This game only affects those that play. But after the board game is over and all the elements of Jumanji are sucked back in, and your world is once again safe and predictable, anyone who plays it can rerelease them, compromising your safety again. Your actions don’t just affect yourself but the people around you. Across all three of these films, is the theme captured in the description of the game, perpetrated through the real-life threats that Jumanji confronts the players with: you cannot escape your own reality.




Being gay and Indigenous is a box I will always be in. A box that I have come to know the four walls of quite well over the past twenty years and to be honest, we have never really gotten along. I have never felt quite Indigenous enough to fit into Indigenous groups and I have never felt queer enough to fit into gay groups. At either end of my identity, I am at a loss. On top of that, there is immense pressure from non-Indigenous, heterosexual worlds for me to perform how they think I should. I feel the need to educate, correct, or answer questions about Indigenous news and culture. I feel the need to be the hyper-feminine “yes queen, slay the house down mumma boots werk” gay that straight girls want me to be whilst we talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race. Don’t get me wrong I love drag race and everything about drag culture, but there is more to me than just the gay, Indigenous one. Over the years these award-winning roles of ‘Gay Best Friend #3’ and ‘Oh I have an Indigenous Friend’ have caused me to put up mirrors in my box. Mirrors that only reflect a little bit of myself but mostly what other people see me as. It is like my very own funhouse! And not like the cute Luna Park one where you take your significant other on your first year anniversary, but more like the one P!nk was being dragged from by a weird man in a white mask. The kind of funhouse that is full of mirrors telling me that I’m not good enough, nor do I belong where I am, and is like, kinda on fire too, not enough to panic but enough where you can smell smoke and feel somewhat alarmed but there’s no need to call for the fire brigade, not yet at least. Do you remember that one obstacle in Wipeout where there was a wall and it had gloves that punched the contestants in the stomach or the face? At times my little funhouse feels like it’s covered in boxing gloves ready to lay one right


on my chin, and um, these walls pack a mean punch. I hope I have painted a detailed enough picture of my box for you now. If I stare long enough into those mirrors, I start to believe the distortions that I see. I start to believe that I’m not good enough to be in the jobs, scholarships, or internships that I am in and that I’m just taking up space. Worse than that, I start to believe that I’m taking up someone else’s space. Someone that is far more deserving of the space than me. I start to believe that I am just a token, I am nothing more than a box that Susan from HR can tick off. Whilst this may sound like a desperate cry for help, it isn’t. It’s an opportunity for me to hold these thoughts accountable – my therapist would be so proud – because I am not myself for anyone else but me. A simple concept I know, but it is one that I have never been able to grasp. And maybe one day I will have the confidence to step beyond the four walls of my box and make myself a home. But for now, I’ll go check out that burning smell…



For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in the Church. It’s a familiar story for a minister’s daughter. I sang hymns on Sundays and snuck bikkies from the platters after the service – the scotch-fingers were always the best. When I was little, I knew everyone in my small country church, and everyone knew me. I lived on the church grounds, in a small house with a graveyard out the back, and I loved it there, loved learning about the God who loved me, and how I was to love and cherish all things in creation, as He did. Then I grew up. There’s a lot of things that you get introduced to, very sharply, once you hit the public school system. In high school, people told me I was stupid for believing the things I do and “hadn’t I ever heard of evolution, or science?” My dad was a science teacher and a minister, so at first, I honestly didn’t care too much. But after a while, you start to wonder if maybe they’re right after all. If God is really a bully in the sky or just a fable. Like Santa—a once-a-year thing that you keep going for kids. My parents split up, and then I left school disillusioned, convinced that love was something that can only end, that truth was a lie, and that God wasn’t real. People since then have started posting online about this thing called religious trauma. Basically, a form of psychological abuse brought about by religious teachings, often centred around shame, penance, and guilt. It rang in my ears because it sounded familiar— not, as it turned out, from my church-based experience, but from my father. My father is an emotionally abusive narcissist. When he and my mother divorced, I had to take a stand not to enable his treatment of the rest of my family. I told myself: If he ever apologised for his actions and took steps to make sure it wouldn’t happen again, I’d forgive him. He sends me these emails, blaming me for cutting him out of my life, and tells me this: God is forgiving and merciful, and so is my dad, so if I

repent, he’d forgive me. Whatever broken faith I had left dug in a knife because how dare he act like he was God, and not my father who sins? It’s tough to unlearn the culture you grow up in, and losing your religion is a form of trauma in and of itself. A lot of what I had built my faith on came back to my dad, so when I lost my trust in him, I lost my trust in my religion too. I came back to God last year during the pandemic, and I thank Him every day because of it. I have my people back, my surety, my hope, and my culture. But I still have these emails, and they still hurt. With every Bible verse he sends me that is wildly misinterpreted and incredibly hurtful, I still wonder if I’m not the bad guy here. These days, many people tend to lump all forms of religion into the same box as they do abuse of power and traumatic teaching. You can see it in people who dismiss Islamic worshippers as terrorists or my very own Christians as bible bashers and homophobic. It’s a sad reality that whatever group you’re part of, there’s always people who do wrong under the banner of their beliefs. People like my dad. Understandably, people want some kind of response, something to stop the ongoing trauma they’ve experienced—I want injustice to stop too. Often, organisations such as the Church can be slow to act or corrupt. But instead of pursuing understanding and mutual respect, we see a lot of responses based on anger and founded on trauma, people saying that “all Christians are this” and “all Muslims are that,” and it hurts because we’re not. It’s not my religion that’s traumatic; it’s the people who misinterpret and mistreat it that are. As a Christian, this is what I’m called to do: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” — Matthew 22:37-39. Before anything, I am to love. I’m not out to judge people or condemn people who don’t agree with me, or abuse anyone, ever. Understanding is the foundation of respect, and I want people to respect that though I live a different way, and have a different set of beliefs, that doesn’t mean they’re any lesser. Not every Christian is my dad. Most aren’t, actually. My culture and my religion is not something I need to be saved from or enlightened against. Different does not have to mean traumatic.



UNDERSTANDING LIFE WITH SOCIAL ANXIETY WRITTEN BY TORI S. BARENDREGT Life looks fun. I know because I watch people live it every day. Not just in the media, I understand those drama movies and TV shows are idealised and romanticised versions of life. But I mean, just in everyday life, the ordinary people I encounter through my own routine, doing what they probably reckon are pretty mundane things. I see them in the breakroom at work. I can overhear their conversations about workouts or cars or video games. I see them walking through the shops, clumps of girls gossiping, catching up over a coffee or drinks. I see them in the classroom, groups of my peers at tables across the room, deep in conversation about this week’s content. I scroll through my Facebook feed or Instagram and see the remnants of parties and outings, forever preserved in memory through the captured photographs. Big smiles on their faces, joking and laughing. I wish I could live that life. I am shy. I am an introvert. I am anti-social. But on top of it all, I have mild social anxiety. Social anxiety and shyness are often confused with each other, and though they share some characteristics, they are actually different things. Shyness and social anxiety are usually distinguished by the degree of impact on the individual’s life, such as how badly it impairs their functioning in social situations, how intense the fear is, and the level of avoidance they go to when confronted with a situation that affects them. It might be helpful to consider it as a spectrum where shyness is on one end and not as severe and social anxiety is on the other as the more serious. But shyness can also be distinguished more as a character trait and social anxiety as a mental condition. People who experience social anxiety thus usually experience severe symptoms. Some physical symptoms include excessive sweating,


trembling, blushing, stuttering, nausea and diarrhoea. This is also accompanied by anxiety and excessive worrying, which can be increased by these physical symptoms if the person is afraid that other people will notice them, even though their perception of this is often worse than it actually is, and no one even really notices it. This results in avoidance as the individual will do anything to keep themselves from experiencing this. I have always considered myself to just be a shy person. Growing up, I didn’t have many friends, and it was difficult for me to find them. I would have one or maybe two friends a year, but often I found that I would spend my recess and lunch at school by myself. It is not that I didn’t want friends. I just didn’t seem capable of making them. I didn’t start thinking that it might be more serious than shyness until I was in high school at a Halloween party. I was having a hard time getting involved and was just standing against a wall, watching some people dance when they tried to get me to join them. This was awfully nice of them to do, but panic welled up inside of me. I shook my head and backed away from them. They kept insisting that I join them, and the more they pressured me, the more I could feel my heartbeat increasing and the tears welling up in my eyes, so I ran out of the room. I have since avoided going to parties. Social anxiety can be triggered in different ways depending on the person. Most commonly, it comes from a fear of performing in front of others. For example, giving speeches and presentations; creates an intense fear of being judged, criticised, laughed at or humiliated. But this can honestly be triggered by anything, a seemingly normal activity that other people don’t give a second thought to, such as eating in front of others. If an individual’s level of selfconsciousness is high enough about it, it can give them anxiety. Social anxiety can also be caused by different things, including temperament, family history or environment. It usually starts developing in children or adolescents, when people are supposed to learn social behaviour. For this reason, children who are shy or timid are at higher risk of becoming socially anxious. But it may also be a genetic trait. Sometimes, it results from how a person is treated, such as being embarrassed or humiliated by others in

a social situation. I find that I cannot function properly with other people. Put me in a detached or professional situation, and I am fine. I can answer customers’ questions at work, speak to my bosses and teachers about the day’s work, and give presentations fine, even if my heart is racing a little. But put me in a personal interaction, and I freeze up. I worry about what other people would think of me if they know who I am. I once had my best friend in high school attack my personality, calling me rude, self-centred, loud and an attention-seeker. Coming from the only person outside my family that I would talk to, this hit me hard. I started wondering why she was my friend at all if she thought this of me. I sounded horrible coming from her lips. How could she possibly like me? I’ve recoiled into myself more and more when meeting new people, fearing that they will find this out and hate me too. Though this occurred years ago, the effects have remained. It has taken over a year for me to talk conversationally with my co-workers. I still don’t do it a lot and am in a mild panic when I do. My head is racing with different thoughts: Uh oh, someone’s talking to me. This is exciting. This is scary. Oh my gosh, they asked me a question. How do I answer? What do I say? How much do I tell them? I don’t want to overshare. Wait, what are they talking about? I don’t know anything about that topic. Should I ask? No, I don’t want them to think I’m stupid. Why are they so much more interesting than me? What if they find out I’m boring? What if they don’t like me? This is so embarrassing… Quite often, I just look at them with a tight-lipped smile and nod. I am probably the picture of uncomfortable and awkward, and the person I am talking to feels unwelcome and unencouraged, and they do not try to speak to me again.

therapy, exposing an individual to what makes them anxious in steps to help them overcome their fear. There are also medical treatments available and several strategies to help manage anxiety, including slow breathing, having a healthy lifestyle, and staying in the present moment. Beyond Blue offers more in-depth information about treatment, management, and getting help. There is nothing I want more than to have friends, proper human connection with other people. I am lucky that I recognised I had a problem early on before it got too much worse where I would need to seek professional help. Logic tells me that if people voluntarily talk to me, then I mustn’t be that embarrassing, and it must be in my head. But sometimes, it is hard to convince myself of that. For the most part, I can survive in a social situation, but it requires a great deal of mental application and self-reassurance that it is all in my head. There are quite a few people out there who live with this condition and are not getting the help they need. I try every day, coaching myself and challenging myself and maybe one day, I will be a seamless part of those conversations at work or in the shops or in the classroom or in those photographs from social events on social media.

Social anxiety is treatable. There are psychological treatments available, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying the thought patterns that cause an individual’s anxiety and then adopting new ones to reduce anxiety and improve coping skills. Verywell Mind states that nearly 70% of individuals with social anxiety can be successfully treated with CBT. Behaviour therapy (different from CBT) then focuses on feel-good activities to reverse patterns of avoidance. It also involves exposure



MT. DRUITT AND SURROUNDING AREAS WRITTEN BY TORI S. BARENDREGT From August 2018 to August 2019, I had the opportunity to live overseas in Orlando, Florida, working at Disney World. During this time, I had the chance to meet people from all over the world and learn about their cultures. But while I was over there, I also had my eyes truly opened to how people view you based on where you are from. I was working one day on the shop floor in the Magic Kingdom. As a part of our uniform, we wear a nametag that reads where we are from and our names. Under my name, it simply read “Australia.” I had two Australian guests come up to me. Our interaction went something like this: “Where in Australia are you from?” they asked. “New South Wales,” I replied. “Where in New South Wales?” “Sydney.” “Where in Sydney?” “The Western Suburbs.” “Where in the Western Suburbs?” “Mt Druitt.” “Do you have a knife on you?” I never believed that that stigma would follow me as far as the other side of the world. If you are unfamiliar with the area, here’s a quick run-down: Mt Druitt is part of the Greater Western Sydney region, a suburb in the city of Blacktown in the fourth ward. Blacktown City is a total of 246.9km2 and is the land of the Dharug people. Mt Druitt is 38 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD with its own train station and a Westfield right across the road from it and the hospital east of that. It received its name from its founder, Major George Druitt, who was granted


the land by Governor Macquarie. The area is primarily residential, home to people of varying cultural backgrounds, including Australian, Filipino, English, Indian, and Pakistani. Mt Druitt was also featured in SBS One’s 2015 series, Struggle Street, a documentary series meant to shed light on the struggles and aspirations of public housing residents in areas associated with high unemployment, drug use, and lawbreakers. Blacktown Mayor, Stephen Bali, called the series “poverty porn.” Mt Druitt is thus known for its high poverty and crime rates, inhabited by residents in the throes of financial difficulties. I actually live in the suburb of Plumpton in Blacktown City in the fifth ward. Even in Australia, when people ask me where I am from, most don’t recognise the name “Plumpton,” and I have to use the neighbouring suburbs to pinpoint the general area. Most people get it when I mention Mt Druitt (where I went to high school) and, if not, Blacktown. Though the suburbs are so closely knitted that the borders are near indistinguishable to me, all the area is pretty much the same. Plumpton is approximately 46 kilometres west of the Sydney CBD and covers about 3km2. It shares its postcode, 2761, with neighbouring suburbs Oakhurst, Hassall Grove, Glendenning, and Dean Park. It has four schools, Plumpton House School, Plumpton Public School, Plumpton High School, and Good Shepherd Primary School (my primary school before grades 7-10 at St Clare’s Catholic High School in Hassall Grove and grades 11-12 at Loyola Senior High School in Mt Druitt). My mother refused to send us to public school in the area because she was terrified of teenage pregnancy. My neighbourhood is on a sloping hill, right on the border with a neighbouring suburb, Rooty Hill. I have lived in the same house my entire life, and mine is the only family to have lived there. It is about a 20-30 minute walk to Rooty Hill train station, which I take twice a week for my 1-hour classes all the way to Macquarie Park. It is about a 20-30 minute walk to Plumpton Marketplace, the plaza where we did most of our shopping, only venturing to Mt Druitt Westfield or Blacktown Westpoint should the stores not be carrying what we were looking for. And it is only about a 10-15 minute walk to Nurragingy Reserve. I can’t tell you any great stories about Plumpton or even any remotely interesting ones from my childhood there. The area is pretty gruesome. There was a car theft on my street when I was

a kid, and I’ve heard of dead bodies discovered in Nurragingy Reserve. When I started going out by myself, my mother would always tell me to text her to let her know where I was to see that I wasn’t dead in a ditch somewhere. But for the most part, I was pretty sheltered growing up and wasn’t exposed a whole lot to the harsh realities of the area. But the early history of Plumpton is hopeful and does interest me. In my neighbourhood, further up the hill from me, is the Woodstock House. There is this little park just below it that I used to play at when I was young, and I remember it as a haunted house. It was fenced off, dark, run-down with broken windows, missing roof tiles and covered in graffiti, shrouded in shadows by a large tree on the lawn. This was what remained of the house of Walter Lamb, the founder of Plumpton. Plumpton had initially been called Woodstock, after the house, which sat at the centre of the 1011 hectare estate, covering the combined area of present-day Plumpton, Glendenning, and Oakhurst, owned by Walter Lamb. Lamb had purchased this property in 1872, but it is estimated that the house was built circa 1884, which became his personal residence. All this area used to be farmland which marked the beginning of economic activity in the area. Lamb started out breeding cows but later turned to fruit cultivation in 1878. In 1883, he was subdividing his land to sell to stone fruit orchardists. Economic growth in the area continued with Lamb’s establishment of the Woodstock Fruit Cannery in 1887. However,

Lamb was declared bankrupt in 1893, voluntarily liquidating the company with its demolishment in 1920. This came about due to a series of insect plagues during the 1890s that destroyed the orchards. Some of Lamb’s farmland remains at one end of my neighbourhood, but that has been slowly disappearing as residential construction has sporadically been starting and stopping and starting again. But Lamb’s enterprise did not stop at farming. Lamb engaged in coursing, a sport in which greyhounds were trained to chase live hares, and had established the New Plumpton Coursing Ground on his estate in 1880. This is where today’s suburb of Plumpton received its name. Since my days as a fearful child, curious about the ghosts that lived there but too afraid to investigate, Woodstock House has been completely renovated. It was purchased by Blacktown City Council in 1998, but work was not started until 2014 when the project contract was awarded to Carfax, who engaged Tropman & Tropman as the architects. The renovation was completed in mid-2016, opened to the public on 30 July 2016, and leased to Pecky’s Disability Services. My area’s early history is honestly the only thing I find interesting about it. Otherwise, it is quite an unremarkable and mundane area. Though I hope to move from this area, I don’t mind being from here. People are often shocked when they find out I’m from this area because I don’t embody those typical stereotypes!



FALLING INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY The Uncanny Valley effect has driven discussion regarding human evolution, sparking theories and folklore as we humans wonder: why do we fear objects that closely resemble us but are not quite us? Originally proposed by Mori Masahiro in 1970 as an aesthetic guide for robot design and development, drawing upon Ernst Jentsch and Sigmund Freud’s Theory of the Uncanny; the Uncanny Valley hypothesises that as objects become more humanlike, they become more appealing to us – we begin to stop seeing them strictly as objects as we begin to empathise with them – but only up to a certain point. This major plunge in affinity is known as the Uncanny Valley effect where we develop a sense of unease towards realistic looking robots before we climb back out of the valley with humans. Besides application to robotics, the Uncanny Valley has also been used by game developers and animators. Live action versions of animated films like The Lion King and the Cats musical brought discourse about the Uncanny Valley effect into mainstream popular discourse. Most notably, the liveaction adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog’s trailer led to adverse reactions from audiences regarding his character design with many describing him as “unsettling” with teeth that were “terrifyingly human.” When my friend first sent me a picture of it I called it “cursed” – Sonic’s human-like eyes with their dual corneas and human-like teeth accompanied by his thin human-like legs (which remind me of boys who wear shorts but have stick legs like why bro why) and articulated hands (not even paws, hands) all compounded by the fact that his whole body follows human ratios with the exception of his head and hair (like seriously, imagine being on the animation team and seeing this everyday). This backlash led to an overhaul of Sonic’s character design and pushed back the release date by over a year, a decision unheard of in the film industry due to the costs involved. Notably, Sonic’s redesign exaggerated his features and made his body less proportionate – his eyes bigger, the teeth less noticeable and his fur less textured, retaining a cartoon element to his look rather than the hyper-realistic effect which Paramount initially aimed for.

technology and CGI continue to develop in leaps and bounds, maybe one day we will climb out of the Uncanny Valley yet the prospect of an animation or robotic being so human-like that it is no longer indistinguishable from actual humans is a much more scary prospect for me. The Uncanny Valley has been suggested to be an evolutionary tactic for survival, however the great mystery is that we have yet to observe another animal experience this phenomenon. So we are left with the question of what was so dangerous to us that we developed a fear of things that closely resemble humans, but are not quite us? It has been suggested that some of the most dangerous creatures in folklore and fables are those that resemble humans. Think of vampires, witches, djinn, nine-tailed foxes and above all think of the fae. The fae who entice you with half-truths, who are able to gain incredible power over you with just your name, and replace your beloved child with a changeling. Another suggestion is that it is rabies which caused us to develop this evolutionary survival mechanism of the Uncanny Valley. Rabies and other diseases that attack our central nervous system have been around forever. As the disease attacks the body, common symptoms include nausea, confusion, violent movements, and paranoia. To see something human-like move in an inhuman manner causes a disconnect and in turn, sparks fear within us. But what if, what we feared was never something that resembled human beings? But humans themselves? New research has suggested that homo sapiens coexisted with several other human species like Neanderthals, homo erectus, homo rhodesiensis, homo naledi, homo luzonensis and homo floresiensis. Besides us, no other hominid exists today and their disappearance just 10,000 years ago resembles a mass extinction, yet there was no environmental catastrophe during that time to drive that change. A theory suggested is that our species, homo sapiens, outcompeted with the others – either starving them of resources or killing them off. So the question is, what if the Uncanny Valley Effect is caused by a fear of ourselves? While we may have forgotten our history, evolution will not allow us to forget the past. by Tiffany Fong

Yet, the Uncanny Valley has been part of pop culture discourse for years, gaining prominence in Pixar’s animated short Tin Toy where the baby drew adverse reactions from audiences leading to public discussion about the Uncanny Valley effect in 1988. This phenomenon arose again in the 2004 film The Polar Express and the 2006 film Monster House. It is noted that the Uncanny Valley is a bit of a misnomer, as we have never climbed out of it, once we have fallen off the cliff we have yet to find a way out without retracting our steps. As



Trigger warning: Contains discussion on depression and mental illness.

that I need to explain it—explain myself. It’s never good and it’s never bad. That’s how I explain it. It’s like watching the world through a set of rose-coloured glasses, ones that you don’t even realise you’re wearing until you take them off. I stop sleeping, I stop feeling motivated, I stop doing the things I like, I just stop feeling I guess. Well not stop feeling, I just kind of feel this emptiness. Empty is not a nice feeling, but I don’t even know this is how I’m feeling at the time, all I have are these retrospective thoughts. And the worst part is that I go through everyday like I’m sleepwalking—going through the motions and nothing else.

I was 18 when I was first diagnosed with depression. I mean you go to a psychologist and they turn around and say, “yes you are in fact depressed.” At that point in my life the diagnosis was reactive depression (also known as situational depression). Reactive depression is not really a formal diagnosis, more so it describes depression that arises from a significant stressor or event within an individual’s life. It mimics the symptoms of major depressive disorder and is pretty much a label for when people get depressed because something traumatic has happened in their life. A whole lot of fun right. Recently though, the diagnosis of a full depressive disorder has been the talk of the town. The question of antidepressants has sat in the middle of my mind. I’ve looked back at all this life I’ve lived. Most people know someone with a form of clinical depression or at least have a basic understanding about what depression is. Which honestly is nice. I don’t want to have to explain it to people. But there’s this feeling that I should,


These rose-coloured glasses throw the world into shades of red. It makes red roses out of white roses. It distorts everything—like the funhouse mirrors this issue is about. When you look back at those times it’s hard to see what I saw then, because it feels like there’s nothing there. Like maybe I’m just gaslighting myself. But it’s insidious and those thoughts will eat you up and make you feel so very small. They had already eaten through me when I was 18. It fucks with your head and stops you thinking straight. It twisted my thoughts all throughout my teen years. The first time I stopped eating I was 15. It wasn’t an intentional decision but I just stopped. I would only eat a small amount when I was at the dinner table with my family, mostly to keep up appearances. At the time I thought nothing was wrong, I just felt confused, I couldn’t understand what was happening. Some part of me thinks that it was a form of avoidance. When you can’t deal with your feelings the hunger is easier to understand and to name—it’s the way our thoughts are arranged. The part of us that makes us eat anything when we’re starved. Hunger swallows all our other thoughts and just does what we need to, to survive. I still feel weird talking about it. Because I’ve

always had to be the stable child not letting myself explode because everyone else’s wants and needs eclipsed mine. I wrote letters to no one in particular and then threw out the book because I felt foolish for giving myself space to express my thoughts. I wasn’t ready to admit or accept any of it—I was scared. I was a child. I let this linger, I couldn’t even really talk about everything when I was 18 at the psychologist’s office. I let it sleep until I was in a cabin in the woods and the rain fell so softly for 3 days straight. I was writing and I was alone. So very alone. And there it was. Fragments of my life on paper. It was like I was only allowed to be truthful when I was writing. Because when I was writing I wasn’t me—I was just the author, the actor, and the director of this story. I realised when I’d finished putting the 100 hundred pages together that I felt so, so very alone. In the space of a year after school I had stopped talking to all of my friends and the people I loved and I couldn’t remember what I had done to fill the time. There was nothing there. It was just empty. People say that sadness is the opposite of happiness but for me it isn’t. Emptiness is. With happiness and sadness there is something there so deep that we dwell in them, there’s something there for us to hold onto. But for me that emptiness is nothing. Complete and utter nothing.

How can so much have moved and changed and grown but I’m still the same. I’m writing about this now because I never got the chance to before—it’s kind of selfish. But there’s also this part of me that’s writing it to a younger version of myself, the one who was too scared to admit this reality. I’m writing it to anyone who’s ever felt those feelings and lived that life. Because I’m so proud that we’ve survived and that even if we aren’t perfectly okay at least we aren’t alone with this. I just don’t want people to feel like they’re alone. Sometimes I think people seem to forget how isolating it is. How lonely it can be. In some ways I understand the Red Queen. She just needs it to go the way she can see it in her head – the way she wants it to be. I think that’s all that’s holding her together at that moment, a shallow attempt to feel in control and to feel okay. If it were ever that easy everyone would have what they need—they would feel connected. I think the Red Queen just didn’t want to be alone – I think she just wanted a friend but couldn’t figure out why. by Rhys Sage

I guess I should have just tried to be happy. It would have been so much easier. That seems to be the way some people treat it. Like I’m not trying hard enough, like I’m lazy, like if I just push harder and harder I could find the other side. Whenever I think of how hard I have to try, I guess it has always just felt like it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how strong I try to be, it doesn’t matter how fast I run. It reminds me of a quote by the Red Queen in Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking-Glass. The line goes, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” And honestly, it does feel like that. I’ve tried as hard as I can and yet here I stand in the same place as yesterday, as a year ago, as that first time I walked into the psychologist’s office.


AN EPIDEMIC OF LONELINESS How much has COVID actually changed our social landscape?

How are you holding up? It’s the kind of opening gambit in a conversational bout that I wouldn’t have expected to become commonplace before the absolute battle that was 2020. As uni students, we’re uniquely placed to hear it more, with finals and the overall pressure of adult existence, only comparable to HSC Students, new parents, and those in particularly stressful careers. Almost universally, before 2020, the expected exchange is one familiar to us all— how are you? / I’m good, you? Are we good? The mental health impact of the pandemic is something we really won’t be able to see until its proper aftermath, and even then, it’s unlikely the shadow of it will ever completely leave our cultural mindset. A sense of anxiety is a common result of a time of societal instability, observed following the Great Depression of the ‘30s, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. However, that’s not the only thing that the scholars amongst us have observed following widespread tragedy and situational trauma. In the wake of the Spanish Flu (1918-1919), the closest pandemic pre-COVID to modern times, the “massive and sudden loss of life plunged many into a chronic state of helplessness and


anxiousness,” a study from the Psychiatric Times made only last year identifying also frustration, grief, guilt, confusion, and a decrease in emotional resilience. It’s important to understand the background of the human response to pandemic situations, because it gives us a blueprint for recovery. How did they deal with this, our grandparents, our greatgrandparents, our ancestors? Much like we did, as it turns out. Coping mechanisms throughout time have depended on the factors of distraction, support, and hope. During the pandemic, I’m sure our Netflix got as much of a workout as story-telling and games would have, in times even before the Spanish Flu, all the way back to the Black Death. They hoarded then, too, though not so much toilet paper as food and supplies. Support and a sense of community spirit is the next key part of emotionally dealing with what we’ve been through collectively. Australia isn’t exactly the best on the emotional front though. If you’ve asked an Aussie about their feelings recently, chances are that the grinand-bear-it attitude we’re so famous for kicked in, and you received a very casual response.

Yeah, nah, mate, we’ve been getting on. This is pretty normal behaviour. Avoidance as a way of coping isn’t the most healthy, but it’ll do in a pinch, especially if you’re lacking people to confide in. And this is really where we begin to see the flaws in our modern day, and our longterm emotional recovery. A Facebook friend is no substitute for the real thing, just as Zoom just ain’t it for the campus experience. It can only go so far, online friends, and for the hardest part of last year, that’s all we had. For the hardest part of the last decade, actually, that’s what we’ve been transitioning to, and this is what I’m beginning to wonder about: have we become too dependent on online socialisation? Before you shoot me down and call me a Boomer, let’s just have an honest think here. Have we become more comfortable texting than we have chatting in person? Do we get uncomfortable, nervous, and uncertain, when we arrange to hang out? The last year effectively removed any sort of casual friend groups that going out for drinks or parties allowed for… did you have many left after that? The idea that we’ll have to “re-learn how to socialise” is not lost on many of us, being picked up by the BBC in an article about forced isolation and its neurological impact. But arguably, hasn’t this process of taking friendships online as social media forged ahead already done that? I, as many of you, faced my teenage years armed with whatever the new method of communication was. I’m an introvert, so this was both very helpful and very not. On the one hand, late night chats were a rare form of chaotic joy, and funny videos and memes are a gift. Checking your phone when you aren’t comfortable provides a level of emotional security in awkward moments, handy when you aren’t good at conversation. It’s easy for a smartphone to become a safety blanket. This was the downfall for me. Conversational skills grew rusty, if they were learned at all, and the niggling feeling that I need to check my phone plagues my time with friends as I socialise. This is a problem I can only see increasing as younger and younger people become accustomed to life lived through a different medium than the physical, in-person environment that should be second nature to us all. Physical contact, as much as we don’t acknowledge it here in Australian culture, is an important part of developing a healthy, stable mind. Online relationships just can’t give us the

same sense of fulfilment as those that are inperson can. What we’re left with is a pervading sense of loneliness. 2020 lingers on, because it was built on the backbone of this worsening loneliness. Not much actually seemed to change, from where I was sitting, in my privileged living room. I texted my friends, I stayed inside, and life was stressful. Millennials, Gen Z—we grew up online. What the older generations face in loneliness and separation, we’ve been facing unaware for years. Talking online is not the same as having no one, we know. But it’s not dissimilar, either. What we do now, which we didn’t do before, is acknowledge it. The last element of overcoming the emotional cost of the pandemic is simple, and it’s one of the most difficult things to hold onto in the modern era: hope. Hope is what gives birth to endurance, resilience, and motivation. What have we got to hope for? Our future seems bleak, if you’ll pardon my saying. The planet is dying. The news is full of assault, robbery, crime, and corruption. Our support networks have been whittled down over time from region to neighbourhood to next-door neighbours to family and friends to dot dot dot. Employment is a peril unto itself, we’re facing up to another recession, and an invisible enemy in the form of disease. Life isn’t exactly pretty at the moment. Finding hope is essential, because to do so we must acknowledge what we’ve always known. The pandemic has been awful, and a tragedy and loss to so many, but it’s far from the only epidemic we face. Homelessness, depression, abuse—our future is not clear just because our COVID case numbers are down. We are a society that lives in the shadows of a future more uncertain than ever, in a community more unfamiliar and disjointed than history has seen. But we are not alone. Now you know. Now we can change. Build better friendships, get involved in your local community, look out for each other, look to the future and see possibilities. Now we can aspire to be better, to do better, to reach out, and ask our neighbour: how are you holding up? by Mykayla Castle




“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.” — Rod Serling

PERSPECTIVE On the cold bathroom floor I lay. The tiles my back presses into have left it sore and aching. Or maybe the tiles are pressing into me? Deciding to leave the physical existential ponderance for later I worm about, struggling to get back on my legs. My body moves side to side against the porcelain, furthering the pressure against my back. The fluorescent light above shines down on me harshly, its punishing gaze piercing my eyes. I shift and squirm for a while before I finally stop struggling and lay still for a moment. I think. I really should have been more careful. Scurrying in here hurriedly had caused me a slip or a trip before. I should have learnt. I wiggle my legs again, trying to gain their use, to no avail. I may die here. Maybe I’ll never gain use of my legs again. I’ll just lay here on this floor. For days. Withering away until I am released in a very permanent way. Perhaps I’ll be overcome with moments of determination. I’ll fight. I’ll struggle once more; I’ll try to get up again, try to leave this cold fluorescent hell. Maybe I’ll succeed. There is only one thing I know for sure. No one is coming to help me. Not unless you count putting me out of my misery as help. I squirm around some more. These damn legs. For the first time over the course of this predicament I am overcome with genuine despair. Damn this world. Damn whatever cruel god put me in it. Weak, small, alone, getting by in the shadows, while others live in the light. And to top it all off, this one last jab. My story ending, lying here. A pathetic life, a pathetic death. I’ve never been one for wallowing, but I feel I am owed a moment of it now, just one moment to feel, to allow myself despondency. I deserve at least that much. As it turns out, I am granted not even that. I hear footsteps down the hallway. At that I instinctively begin to call out for help, but my voice catches in my throat. A welcome interference from my otherwise incapacitated body. I don’t know if whoever is out there is a friend or foe. At this point I’d take even a foe who’d take me out quickly, who’d show me mercy. But that, I am not guaranteed. They may make it slow, painful, cruel. So, I lay still. Not daring to move. I am hyperaware of the soreness in my back. There is nothing I can do, I am helpless. Then, a strange thought passes through my mind. I wish I could cry. I wish I could scream. I wish I could let out the pain both physical and emotional. But I can’t. All I can do is hold still. I continue to do so even as I hear the creak of hinges, and my fate walks through the door. *** The teenager walked into the bathroom, fluffy slippers between her and the cold of the tiles. She rolled her eyes, noting that someone had left the lights on again. As


she internally chastised her family, her walk up toward the sink was halted, and she finally laid eyes on what fell before it. A scream pierced the air. It radiated through the halls; its lasting ring penetrating her ears. Footsteps echoed towards the bathroom, with her mother eventually halting to a stop behind her. “Are you okay?” she blurted out in one breath, looking shaken. “LOOK!” she received as the girl’s pained, choked reply, accompanied by a gesture towards the pearly shine of the floor. The mother glanced confusedly at her daughter and then down to where she pointed. Realization and relief set in. “Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me,” she laughed out, briefly lifting a hand to her forehead. “Well THAT scared the shit out of me,” the teenager huffed incredulously. “Just get rid of it, what are the dramatics for?” her mother responded, rapidly becoming impatient with her daughter’s hysterics. “Ew. I’m not going near it.” Her mother began to step forward to deal with the damn situation herself; muttering under her breath about “having to do everything around here.” Just then, a young boy ran into the bathroom, drawn in by the noise. “Why is everyone screaming?” he enquired. “Nothing love, your sister’s just being dramatic,” their mother replied, placing a hand on his shoulder. She attempted to shield his eyeline by shifting in front of him. The child, however, had spotted what the commotion was about, and had stopped paying attention to his mother. “Ew, it’s so gross! And it’s moving!” he cried out, running up to the source of the ruckus. With pronounced motion he lifted his leg up and swiftly stomped his foot down. A crunching sound echoed in the room. His sister looked at him, horrified. “God, that’s disgusting. Now you’ve got cockroach guts on your foot!” by Sara Choudhry


A VANISHED CITY The superb city of Aresen stands in the highlands of Isol, set inland from the harbours that feed it. A stream of airship traffic shuffles about the multi-towered citadel of the skyport. Skyscrapers of glittering crystal and steel and stone line parkways teeming with exotic plants and sessile tentacled animals, appendages drifting lazily. A great temple stands at the head of one such park, at the city’s heart. Here worshippers stand before the shrines of their chosen deities, heads bowed. At the park’s opposite end stands a grand bronze-cast statue of a past ruler, several stories tall, her watchful eyes cast outward and her hand resting on the pommel of a sheathed sword. Tourists in the old city wander the ancient walls, heritage sites preserved in memory of the onetime martial functions of the metropolis. Trains worm their way across the city, through tunnels and over bridges, propelled by no obvious means. On the streets are carts and carriages pulled by robust flightless birds or enormous beetles with twitching antennae, their drivers shouting curses at pedestrians despite strict road-sharing laws. Animal control corners an unwanted wyvern atop a skyscraper, keeping its fanged jaws and knife-sharp claws at the end of their shock-pikes; finally, with a deadly hiss and a flap of its wings, the creature abandons its nest of logs and cast-off scales to soar in search of a new home. *** Suddenly, an intense light shines from the city centre, somewhere at the edge of the middle park. The light becomes a globe, swelling from a central point, and in a heartbeat it encompasses the entire inner city. It holds steady for a moment before it contracts back to a point and vanishes. Survivors in the suburbs blink at the lip of a vast, spherical crater, glowing white with residual heat. A horrid wind blows inward to fill the sudden void, then a lesser wave sweeps outward as the air expands from the rising heat. Half a house collapses inward. A man gapes in disbelief at the place where his husband had only moments before sat painting his models, but where he can now see through empty space all the way to the southern hinterlands. There, the upward curve of the absent sphere has cut a concavity into the mountains. A rockfall tumbles from the rim. Spot fires flicker about the crater lip. Sewage lines and water pipes end abruptly at the sphere’s boundary; they pour their contents into the crater, flashing to steam on the cooling ground. Over the next few hours, the glass fades slowly from white to red, then ceases glowing, leaving a surface of fused glass. *** A response arrives from the Capital, a fleet of airships for a belated defence. It was an attack, they say, a pre-emptive strike. It must have been. From whom, though, they cannot say. Extremists from neighbouring Ereve perhaps, still seething over grievances long-buried by the two governments; or a remote strike from the warsorcerers of Lysis, the nation’s chief rival in trade. If anybody could develop such a weapon in secret, it was them. Blame flies in every direction. A hole has been torn in the heart of a people, and there must be atonement. But in the days that follow, and then the weeks, no responsibility is claimed, and no invading fleet appears to push its advantage. Humanitarian aid pours in from each of the nation’s neighbours,


from long-time rivals and enemies as much as friends. Motives are questioned, but no sinister agenda is identified. But then, what happened? A random disaster? Surely not. Something so destructive, millions killed in an instant, can’t possibly have been an accident. There’s no sense to that. It must have been part of a plan, part of someone’s plan. *** At the time of the explosion, finally caving to the demands of its growing suburban population, Aresen was undertaking a vast refurbishment of its public transport systems. Hundreds of contractors were employed to dig tunnels for a new set of train lines. One of these contractors, while casting spells to carve the bathroom for one of the new stations, happened upon an ancient bunker hidden in the bedrock. It was a remnant from Ages prior, built when the peoples that built the city above were stone-age hunter-gatherers patrolling a distant steppe. The sealing spell, improperly cast, was long-degraded, and the bunker door – once the rubble was cleared with a telekinetic blast — swung open at the worker’s touch. Stacked to the ceiling, cast in long shadows by his mage-light, were artefacts he couldn’t recognise as weapons; vials of liquid bubbling lazily, diadems tipped with gleaming gems, sets of armour shaped for bodies with more limbs than he had. He never knew what the white sphere was, propped in a stand carved from obsidian, or what terrible minds had devised it, or for which forgotten war. He couldn’t have known that the trigger mechanism had decayed — the safeguard enchantments, once designed to require input from several people acting together, had short-circuited, bypassing every component but one for recognising the touch of a sentient being. He only knew, with a mind that often pondered the materials of construction, that he must touch that smooth surface, must discover what material could produce such a remarkable lustre. Then he knew nothing. by Lachlan Marnoch


JUDGING A BOOK BY HER COVER I call this piece ‘Judging a book by Her cover.’ This piece is in line with the theme of Funhouse being about the power of perception and appearance vs. reality. Fashion has helped me come to terms with my identity and sense of self as it has for many of my friends and family as shown in these photos. Fashion is such a great avenue for creative self-expression where there are no limits to who you can become. It is both a reality and perception of ourselves that we are able to control and really own, contrasting to all other facets of our lives which we perhaps cannot. Fashion empowers me to show everyone else that I feel and am confident, even if I may not show it through my shy demeanor. by Jennifer Le



LUNA PARK Tighten your seatbelt and Store your phone away. Put your sunglasses down and Relax to the ticking sound. But my eyes snap wide open, Eyelids peeled back, Red and moistened, The whites of my eyes exposed. And my pupils are focused, Unlike a student’s focus, On a white beam glaring down, Focused on my down. And it puts into focus The thoughts that trickle when I’m down, That tickle the corners and Mingle with core memories Of white sound; Uncoloured and constant Distant yet adjacent To the fence of my house. Here comes the big dipper — Hold on tight! Don’t scream for mum Because she won’t hear your “fun”. The sounds of screaming Are merely choruses of joy Even when my skin is bleeding She’ll think it was a boy.

Holding your breath? Just breathe harder! But how can I do that when: Throat clogged— Nose blocked— Tight clothes— Mind a fog. And she’ll think it was a boy. Can you see the merry-go-round? Children laughing, Parents waving. But I couldn’t feel it swaying So I faked it’s motions Over my parents’ commotion. Money should be used better indeed, Instead of this childish steed. Shooting, fishing and bowling games Make their appearance in your gaze. I’ll make it sound like a counting game And leave you alone to find no one came. And the trains were loud But I stood there proud Until my feet hurt, Wondering where my friends were. The end is in sight Are your eyelids heavy yet? Lunar Park is almost closed Put your sunglasses on and pose. by Olivia Chan




LOVECRAFT COUNTRY I don’t do scary books. Or fantasy and historical fiction. For someone who reads quite a lot, I really stick to what I like; trashy rom-coms, YA fiction, detective mysteries and maybe a few thrillers. But, in an attempt to broaden my reading horizons, I have tried to read books out of my comfort zone this year. And that’s where Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country comes in. Published in 2016, Lovecraft Country is nothing new. However, after stumbling across a trailer for the 2020 HBO TV adaptation, I was intrigued. Described as a mix of “historical fiction, pulp noir, Lovecraftian horror and fantasy,” the novel is definitely outside my usual picks. Set in 1954, Lovecraft Country explores the conjunction between gothic horror and Jim Crow era America and consists of eight interconnected stories. The novel centres around Atticus Turner, a former Korean War soldier who heads north to find his missing father. On a road trip through 1950s Jim Crow America, Atticus, his childhood friend Letitia and his uncle George not only attempt to overcome racist monsters, but also supernatural horrors. The storylines delve into haunted houses, portals to other planets, race-changing elixirs, ghosts and sorcerers. Every time I wrapped my head around one storyline, another appeared even more confusing than the previous one. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the novel; it just took a bit more attention to understand than my usual easy read. Whilst the intertwining storylines are initially difficult to link up together (each could almost be read as a separate short story), the more you read,


things slowly come together to form a surreal plot. Lovecraft Country’s weirdness creates an interesting parallel to H.P. Lovecraft himself, who was known for his uncanny, horror-idled stories. Lovecraft himself was interested in humanity’s place within the universe, a theme that is central to Ruff’s novel. However, Lovecraft’s legacy has always been marred by his racist attitudes, which makes Ruff’s title choice interesting. Why name a story after a writer who argued for a strong ‘colour-line’ to preserve race and culture? Ruff cleverly employs Lovecraftian tropes as a way to examine race and racism in 1950s America, which are seen in the metaphorical monsters of Lovecraft Country. But they are not the traditional types of horror monsters. Instead, they take on a humanistic form, and that alone is what makes the novel scary. Whilst playing with fantasy, magic and the supernatural, Ruff also bases the story within historical fact, which adds to the unsettling nature of the book. George Berry, the uncle of Atticus, is a business owner and publisher of the “Safe Negro Travel Guide”, which is strongly reminiscent of the real-life “Green Book”, an annual guidebook that was published from 1936 to 1966. Whilst not as juicy as H.P Lovecraft’s classic stories, Lovecraft Country remains a really good novel, and I would definitely recommend it. Its themes, character development and interesting layout make it an unforgettable read. The slow burning plotline culminates into a satisfying finale and it makes me reconsider my narrow usual genre picks. by Madi Scott


THE MAGIC OF POLITICAL TV SHOWS We want to view our politicians as capable and in control, always playing the long game. Eleanor Taylor explores the functions of political television, and if it exists to delude us.

Political dramas and comedies have a long history. Born out of a desire to address current affairs in entertaining ways, the earliest form of this genre can be seen in Athenian Theatre with productions such as Aristophanes’ anti-war comedy Lysistrata. Later on we have playwrights, such as Shakespeare, examining the complex motivations behind individuals and how they act in positions of power. His work Coriolanus used the setting of Ancient Rome, but was based on Elizabethan politics. Now we can see parodies of political dramas such as Yes Minister, a fantastic comedy about how inept the British government is. On the other side of the spectrum is The West Wing — a show about capable leaders making strategic decisions and always being one step ahead of the game. House of Cards provides a very intense, almost Machiavellian view of American politics, depicting it as a field dominated by sociopathic white men. Essentially, as long as there is politics, and a form of government, we will have a media that aims to critique the system and in some cases, uphold it.

“We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.” — President Bartlet As a viewer of The West Wing, you feel pulled into the Capitol, like a fly on the wall watching important decisions being made. There is a sense of authenticity, like we have been invited behind the curtains into government. The exclusive world of political decision making becomes known and demystified. The characters were attractive, witty and could get anything done through their sheer confidence. This show is so wild in fact, that in one episode President Bartlet manages to negotiate peace in the Middle East. That’s right, he straight up just talks it out with world leaders and solves the Israel-Palestine conflict. In a world where the United States is a global superpower, it is terrifying to imagine it as being run by idiots making constant mistakes. Shows like The West Wing served as a way for us to feel like everything


TV SHOW REVIEW was under control. Sure, they are dramatic political thrillers, but at the end of the day sometimes these shows feel oddly comforting and give us a false sense of security. It feels good to watch someone as competent as President Bartlet make peace in the Middle East, even if it’s just on TV. But The West Wing came out 21 years ago, and boy has a lot gone down. America has seen 6 elections and 4 presidents since then. Social media was created and has exploded in popularity to the point where it can be used as a news source. The internet has been democratised and we have more information available to us about how badly our governments behave than ever. Living through a global pandemic has only amplified our discontent. The West Wing is a relic of a patriotic past showing us a government where politicians exist to serve and always restore control over any situation.

“Democracy is so overrated.” — Frank Underwood We also have cynical perspectives; think The West Wing, but everyone is a psychopath. Political drama House of Cards was one of Netflix’s most successful shows, demonstrating that there was a new perspective being shared here which people wanted in on. We are a suspicious society now, clued into the fact that politicians are short termist and self-interested. The politicians in House of Cards were cunning and calculated. These characters were deeply intelligent, always had the upper hand and the ability to keep things under control. Just as skilled as the cast of The West Wing, except these characters were duplicitous. They lacked any empathy or compassion, displayed little emotion and a Machiavellian-esque philosophy of doing whatever it takes to succeed. The series opens with a murder — introducing us into the real world of politics, which is far grittier than we expect. Where The West Wing gave us patriotic heroes, House of Cards gave us evil tyrants more interested in gaining power than actually utilizing it. Scandal is another example, drawing us into secretive negotiations and the murky forces involved in politics. Scandal shows that behind the scenes are lots of individuals acting according to their own interests. The government is duplicitous and an entire industry exists which revolves around protecting its image. These shows serve to increase our suspicion, to show us how little we know about the leaders that govern us. In stark contrast to The West Wing, House


of Cards makes the audience feel like they know politicians in a bad way, alienating them from the government.

“The public doesn’t know anything about wasting government money. We are the experts.” — Sir Humphrey Finally we have the other main genre of political television: the political comedy. Parks and Recreation, Yes Minister, Veep (my personal favourite) and Utopia to name a few. These all represent a radically different perspective to House of Cards, Scandal and The West Wing. Generally speaking, the stakes in these shows are quite low; Utopia follows a fictional government department, Yes Minister also does this with a ‘Department of Administrative Affairs,’ playing on the idea that governments are overly bureaucratic with unimportant positions that prevent any work from actually occurring. In both of these shows, the characters are smart and witty. At the same time they are woefully inefficient and often fully aware of how useless politicians are. Most of the humour comes from jokes made by the main characters about how bad government truly is. For example, this quote from the main character, Minister Jim Hacker: “I don’t want the truth. I want something I can tell Parliament!” Here we have characters who are often genuinely motivated to be involved in politics and then end up in positions that probably shouldn’t exist, finding themselves disenfranchised with the system. Here we are in on the joke, which is that no one knows what is going on.

“You get to BS-ing: brainstorming” — Leslie Knope Parks and Recreation differs from Yes Minister in that here, politicians are generally all idiots. They fail to get anything done because the cast are simply bumbling in and out of disaster. Unlike in Yes Minister, politicians in Parks and Recreation are not preloaded with witticisms and tongue in cheek remarks about the inadequacies of democracy. In Yes Minister, the characters are all Oxford alumni, elite politicians who are fully aware of the failures of their government. In Parks and Recreation, politics occur on a smaller scale in the town of Pawnee and the main character Leslie Nope is a

TV SHOW REVIEW naive optimist. Even when all of her coworkers are disenfranchised and her boss is a libertarian who wants to break the government from the inside, Leslie appears to be the only character who is genuinely trying to make a difference and believes that she can. It is a nice comfort viewing where nothing is as high stakes as it is in House of Cards (someone is actually murdered, wtf??) or The West Wing (peace in the Middle East is stressful!). Although this show is obviously critiquing politics by characterising politicians so negatively, it is a positive and fun show to binge watch.

The West Wing gives us big American propaganda energy, and I don’t think people really buy that anymore. It’s kind of funny now, because American exceptionalism is becoming increasingly parodied, even by Americans — Just look at Parks and

Recreation. This is probably the reason why we don’t have political dramas in the same way we used to. We can see a shift occurring, where we’ve gone from viewing politicians as noble patriots to seeing them as either evil or just useless. Social Media has definitely enabled us to mock politics on a much larger scale than ever before. On Twitter, the hashtags “Scottyfrommarketing”, “Scummo” or “Clot Morrison” are trending at least three times a week. It is hard to convincingly characterise politicians as being competent and awe-inspiring individuals, simply because we are exposed to every way they are not like that now. Ultimately, it will be fun to watch how political television develops, especially given the fact we are living through a pandemic. I hope we never lose our ability to find a level of humour in literally any situation — it provides good viewing. by Eleanor Taylor

You get to BS-ing: brainstorming



SHADOW AND BONE: LEIGH BARDUGO’S BOOKS AND THE NEW NETFLIX SERIES In our first Grapey Book Club, members of the Grapeshot team discuss the Grishaverse, the Six of Crows duology, and how the Netflix series Shadow and Bone impacted their opinions. Jodie’s Take When I read Shadow and Bone, the first book of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse years ago, I didn’t think much of it. I remember it being another somewhat formulaic YA narrative with a protagonist sharing the same special sauce that all YA protagonists seem to have. In this story, that innate specialness manifests itself in the character of Alina Starkov, ‘The Sun Summoner,’ a girl who has the ability to summon light. Other strong thoughts I had, among an otherwise hazy recollection of Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, are that Mal was super annoying and bland, and that I was a strong Alina/Darkling shipper. When I began binging the Netflix adaptation those were my main takeaways from the story so far. The first two episodes didn’t grab me, but having recently finished the second season of Succession, I was desperate for another show to watch, so I kept watching. Episode three got me hook, line and sinker with its humour and some phenomenal comedic timing by Kit Young, who plays the character Jesper. The general cast brought so much to the characters of Alina, Mal, and the Darkling, that I couldn’t help but like them all in a way I hadn’t in the book. New characters such as Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, and Matthias, who instead appeared in Bardugo’s other book series, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, also made their way into the adaptation. Showrunner Eric Heisserer managed to seamlessly merge two disparate book series into the same plot. After finishing the show and accidentally becoming obsessed with the Grishaverse I decided to start reading Six of Crows, Bardugo’s arguably more popular series. The tagline on the book framed it as being “Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones,” and this description wasn’t far off; although it’s much more like Ocean’s Eleven than it is Game of Thrones. Unlike in Shadow and Bone where the story more or less focuses on the chosen one, Six of Crows focuses on misfits and con artists, the dregs of society, the bottom of ‘The Barrel’ — a dangerous neighborhood in Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and one that is inspired by Amsterdam’s Red Light District. In this series our protagonists are cynical, downtrodden, and conniving — I loved them. Kaz Brekker’s “scheming face” was so much fun to read about that I didn’t put the book down for the two days it took me to finish it. My final thoughts are that this series has so much heart that it’s impossible not to love. I highly recommend watching it and reading the books, and if not reading all of them, at least reading my favourite series, Six of Crows.


GRAPEY BOOK CLUB Rhys’ Take Look, I’m not going to lie, I read the Shadow and Bone books a while ago. I couldn’t remember shit except thinking that Alina kind of annoyed me and Mal needed to cut the shit real quick. Let’s be honest, fucking ‘true love’ is kinda icky. I mean it’s not really ‘true love,’ it’s more of a weird teen love triangle with Mal being a needy ass piece of work. Anyways, that was the book. But from these pretty bleak beginnings — maybe I’m embellishing it wasn’t that bad — came Netflix’s new TV show. And my oh, did it deliver. Every single character was well cast, and the multiple storylines were consistently interesting. Netflix’s Shadow and Bone was fun and light-hearted at moments, but then harsh and angry — but hey at least Ben Barnes wasn’t a manipulative prick, right? Overall, it was an enjoyable experience full of everything I thought the show would need. However, the star of the entire show was Kit Young, who just so perfectly encapsulated the sporadic piece of work that Jesper is. Alongside him was Kaz (Freddy Carter) and Inej (Amita Suman), and honestly this trio was the best. Every single scene they had together engaged me further and I was invested in this trio of dumbasses. The acting of every single character was done so seamlessly that I completely overlooked all the parts of the books I didn’t enjoy initially. Look, I could tell you how much I loved the acting, the characters, the clothes and the writing, but the simple truth is it wasn’t those things keeping me in the show. Honestly, my favourite part of the show was the characters — like how the fuck was everyone so pretty and amazing, ugh!!! I binged the entire show in a handful of days and then convinced my family to watch it too. And it was this casting that I respect entirely. Kathleen’s Take Film and television adaptations of novels can sometimes be a bit disastrous. Take Rick Riordan describing the Percy Jackson films as his “life’s work going through a meat grinder” as a prime example. With book fandoms sometimes dismayed by how their favourite characters are portrayed on the screen, it is not surprising that there was nervous anticipation for the release of Shadow and Bone. Hopefully you will have realised by now that the Grapeshot team is very much in love with the adaptation. If the Percy Jackson films are grinded meat, then the Shadow and Bone series is a glorious steak. With author Leigh Bardugo also taking the role of executive producer, the show perfectly captures the fantastical setting and dark magic of the Grishaverse, while also making clever revisions to the storyline of her novels by meshing her trilogy Shadow and Bone and duology Six of Crows together. Having only read the Six of Crows duology, I started the show mostly invested in the Crows. There were multiple factors which made me quickly obsessed with how they were portrayed, from the impeccable casting of Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, to the way their relationships were carefully and authentically cultivated throughout the show. However, I could ramble on forever about their costumes and props. These gang members were fashionable. Nothing amuses me more than knowing that Kaz, the gang leader of the Dregs — aka the Bastard of the Barrel, aka Dirtyhands — wears a fedora. Similarly, all of Inej’s knives and Jesper’s guns were intricately decorated, showing no detail was overlooked. And don’t even get me started on Milo the goat. I would throw myself into the Shadow Fold for him. However, after binging the entire show within a day, I can definitely say that I stayed for Alina. From what I hear (see reviews above), Alina is a little insufferable in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, closely following the ‘pick me’ trope of many YA characters in dystopian universes. In the show, Bardugo has made revisions to her character, rewriting her as half Shu and mixed-race. Played by Jessie Mei Li, who is British and Chinese, Alina’s identity shows the implications of ‘looking like the enemy’ during the Ravkan war against the Shu Han. However, this portrayal of identity isn’t simply placed for ‘representation points,’ rather bringing important discussion to a story that centres on identity and belonging. After topping the Netflix charts for 12 consecutive days, Shadow and Bone has now been renewed for a second season. I absolutely cannot wait to see more heists (completed in style), acts of dark magic, and the inclusion of much awaited characters Wylan and Nikolai. Until then, I’ll be obsessively drawing each character while I give the show a re-watch.



TOBE HOOPER’S THE FUNHOUSE IS AN UNDERVALUED ‘80S SLASHER FLICK “Pay to get in. Pray to get out!” To think this is the film that got Tobe Hooper the directing job for Poltergeist. Had any other director helmed The Funhouse, it would just be a traditional blood-and-guts horror flick that would become obscure. But Hooper didn’t let that happen. Thanks to his keen eye for style and suspense, his unique vision for The Funhouse is what makes it an upsettingly underseen horror classic. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about the premise: Four teenagers (Elizabeth Berridge, Cooper Huckabee, Largo Woodruff and Miles Chapin) visit a local carnival to watch exhibits, go on rides, smoke marijuana, and finally spend the night in ‘The Funhouse.’ But once our main characters go inside ‘The Funhouse,’ they witness something shocking… and eventually, they’re hunted down by a killer, far more monstrous than they could imagine. Interestingly, Hooper chooses to open The Funhouse with a cross-homage of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and John Carpenter’s Halloween: POV shots of a masked intruder intercut with another scene where the protagonist Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) is taking a shower. The intruder breaks into the bathroom and repeatedly stabs Amy… but the knife turns out to be rubber, and the intruder is simply Amy’s brother Joey (Shawn Carson), who happens to be a horror enthusiast! That’s where horror fans know they’ll be in for a true treat, and it’s a strong opening hook to captivate audiences. What The Funhouse does right is that it recognises various tropes in the horror genre and the fact that its main characters would be commonly found in slasher films. So instead of trying hard to do something innovative, The Funhouse opts


to embrace its slasher tropes and breathes life into its characters instead, making them far more likeable and less clichéd than expected. Rather than indulge in senseless gore and cheap scares, The Funhouse spends its time getting to know the characters, and while there’s little to the story, there is still fun substance to digest. The revelations regarding the main villains are intriguing and even slightly reminiscent of Hooper’s classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and that’s where Hooper makes the most out of Larry Block’s script to construct an overall solid plot. Although carnivals should be harmless fun, Hooper recognises the sleaziness of the film’s setting. It’s genuinely filthy, with various attractions drawing attention to “freaks,” and several patrons are rude towards the characters, allowing for subtle commentary on the values of middle-America. It’s cinematographer Andrew Laszlo’s opportunity to shine, and he does by soaking in the scenery of the carnival and utilising aerial shots, highlighting how gorgeous the view looks… and how oddly terrifying it feels. Most images are atmospherically lit, aimed at enhancing the tension and shows the thought put into the style. What makes The Funhouse worthwhile viewing is Mort Rabinowitz’s production design. The sets are beautifully composed and even believable to look at, where the titular setting becomes unsafe to travel in, and it’s this attention to detail that makes The Funhouse far scarier than it should be. When the monster of The Funhouse is unmasked, the practical design is chillingly effective. This, along with a healthy focus on character, maximises the suspense factor, and audiences’ patience will be rewarded by a relentlessly tense finale, all of it further accentuated by Jack Hofstra’s tight editing and John Beal’s orchestral score. The violence

FILM REVIEW is surprisingly tame, even when compared to the likes of Friday the 13th, but that’s because Hooper favours tensely constructed set pieces and significant references to horror films, which transforms The Funhouse into fun viewing. Despite how enjoyably captivating The Funhouse gets, it’s likely to polarise modern audiences. Although the first act surprisingly hooked me into the film and its focus on the central characters makes them likeable, The Funhouse sometimes spends too much time engaging with the attractions and sleazy nature of the carnival, which causes the pacing to drag drastically. It’s not until nearly an hour through The Funhouse that the characters realise they’re in grave danger, and before that, several of the events are uneventful. It’ll wear on viewers’ patience, but I suspect hardcore fans would have little issue with pacing problems. These issues are further inflated by a subplot revolving around Amy’s brother, Joey, and never at a point does it impact the plot. It’s abruptly removed two acts through The Funhouse, and the film forgets that this subplot takes place.

A few character interactions are poorly performed by the teen cast, and the acting feels slightly unbelievable, but this isn’t largely problematic. Instead, the performances are decently watchable, with Kevin Conway stealing the show as a crazed freak show barker who hides something dark, and even Wayne Doba is genuinely terrifying as the monstrous killer. With a few more re-writes, The Funhouse would vastly improve. It’s mostly these pacing and writing flaws that have led audiences not to view the film as highly as Poltergeist and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. But through a strong sense of style and an eager focus on production design, Tobe Hooper has a deep respect for the horror genre. The Funhouse is a loving ode to slasher films of the 80s, and it’s one that deserves your attention. Score: 7.6/10. The Funhouse is available to buy and rent digitally on Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube and Apple. by Nicholas Chang



THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD WILL MAKE YOU WISH YOU WATCHED SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD Those Who Wish Me Dead will make you wish you stayed at home and watched a 90s action thriller instead. Taylor Sheridan has become a renowned writer-director, best known for penning the scripts of Sicario and Hell or High Water and his “selfproclaimed” directorial debut Wind River. All of these are neo-Western genre films aimed to capture and dissect the values of contemporary Australia. Although Sheridan has a keen, pulpy vision for Those Who Wish Me Dead, his latest script unfortunately reflects a misstep in his career. Angelina Jolie stars as Hannah, a smokejumper recently posted at a fire lookout tower, who is traumatised by the deaths of several people in a forest fire she was unable to prevent. Meanwhile, forensic accountant Owen Casserly (Jake Weber) finds out his boss and family have been murdered by assassins Jake and Patrick Blackwell (Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult, respectively). He goes on the run with his son Conner (Finn Little) to seek refuge with his brother-in-law and sheriff Ethan (Jon Bernthal). However, after being ambushed and murdered by the Blackwells, Conner escapes with evidence against the Blackwells’ employer and mob boss, Arthur Phillip (Tyler Perry), and crosses paths with Hannah. After reluctantly


siding with her, Hannah must protect Conner and get themselves to town, only to cross paths with a forest fire created by the Blackwells.

Those Who Wish Me Dead starts with a solid setup of its main storylines, and it clearly aims to be a throwback to action thrillers from the 90s. Unfortunately, the film is trapped with a plot in absolute conflict with itself. As the film is based on Michael Koryta’s novel of the same name, it appears something was lost in translation from book to movie. We have multiple storylines fighting for the most attention: Hannah and Conner finding their way towards town, the Blackwell brothers on the hunt, and the evidence that Conner holds against Phillip. The real issue that emerges isn’t how generic the plot feels but that there is no resolution to be gained from the experience. Rather than the script (written by Sheridan, Koryta and Charles Leavitt) offering any depth to the plot, it instead leaves behind a blazing trail of illogical and unanswered questions. Since Those Who Wish Me Dead is unsure which route it wants to take with its plot, its pace meanders within the first hour. Consequently, audiences won’t just be struggling to suspend disbelief; they’ll be losing interest before reaching the underwhelming climax.

FILM REVIEW It doesn’t help that the script struggles to build its characters effectively. Hannah is the only character given enough of a backstory, which provides sufficient depth but doesn’t always flesh out her character. Nevertheless, Jolie’s role is effectively brought to life, and her interactions with Little were enough to make the performances watchable. However, after the first act, the relationship between Hannah and Conner lacks believable progress, which can be attributed to inconsistent writing. Take this for example: earlier in the film, Casserly gives his son evidence against Phillip through an envelope and advises that it be given to someone Conner can trust. Soon afterwards, Hannah finds Conner, who runs away, unsure what to do, and when she catches up to him, he fights her off until he’s told town is too far away. Almost immediately after Conner has to stay with Hannah, he gives her the envelope. It’s at this head-scratching character decision that we begin to question the plausibility of the characters, and no matter how strong the performances by Jolie and Little are, they cannot salvage the poorly written material of their characters. The film’s most compelling characters are its central villains, Jake and Patrick Blackwell, and thanks to intimidatingly powerful performances by Gillen and Hoult, they genuinely represent themselves as real threats. Both of them share the same motivations and are determined to fulfil their mission, no matter how many innocent lives have to be killed. It is this storyline that grabbed my interest more than any of the other characters. One character who does have a surprisingly relevant role in the plot is Ethan’s pregnant wife, Allison (Medina Senghore). Halfway through the film, she’s revealed to be smart, resourceful, and even fights back against her threats, and this highlights the character-driven potential of Those Who Wish Me Dead. It is a shame that the script isn’t sure how to develop its characters or make them three-dimensional, and as loose ties aren’t fully resolved, most of the character stakes aren’t entirely justified. Even Tyler Perry’s character is given only one scene and then he isn’t mentioned for the rest of the film. What gives?

impact. The harsh brutality is further sharpened by Sheridan’s focus on the Montana wilderness, captured in its beauty by Ben Richardson’s cinematography, and the symbolic utilisation of the forest fire. The fire is unrelenting and does not care about the morality of the characters. It will devour everything in its path, and its dangers are indeed signified in the third act, where the wilderness turns into an utter, living hell. However, it appears Sheridan wants to convey the realism of the film’s grim setting, which conflicts with the plot holes and character inconsistencies of the overall script, and the style is squandered by an emphasis on CGI fire and greenscreen. Although Sheridan tries hard to envision the intensity of Those Who Wish Me Dead, the presentation is set back by a rather dull first hour and a poorly edited plot that had me regularly checking my watch. Although things get exciting by the climax, it does not offer enough to reward viewers’ patience and frustration. In the end, Those Who Wish Me Dead suffers from its inability to provide a complete and focused plot, squandering all of its potential, and the end result is a mess that goes increasingly downhill. Taylor Sheridan’s sharp directorial vision is enough to sustain the film’s entertainment value, and the central performances do their best with the material. If you can push aside the shortcomings of the visual effects, Those Who Wish Me Dead excels with its gorgeously shot locations and production values. It simply can’t make up for the frustratingly inconsistent writing, and in the end, Those Who Wish Me Dead just leads to meaningless pulp. Sadly Sheridan’s weakest effort to date, and hopefully doesn’t mark the beginning of his directing career in decline. Score: 5.4/10. Those Who Wish Me Dead is now playing in theatres and currently streaming on HBO Max in the US. by Nicholas Chang

What enlivens Those Who Wish Me Dead is Taylor Sheridan’s direction. He always has a sharp vision for neo-Westerns and knows how to let the action unfold well. He doesn’t shy away from the brutal nature of the plot, and every violent act, whether it be a gunshot, a beating or a burning, conveys an



GRAPEY’S SPOTIFY PLAYLIST Songs the Grapeshot team can’t get enough of this month: Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue) – Hozier Killshot – Magdalena Bay When He Sees Me – Waitress (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Boss Bitch – Doja Cat Jaguar – What so not I’m not in love – Kelsey Lu Driver’s license – Olivia Rodrigo Pay Your Way in Pain – St. Vincent Solar Power – Lorde Origin of Love – MIKA Movies – Weyes Blood t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l – WILLOW Dance – Julia Stone I Wish (Radio Edit) – Skee-Lo Creep – TLC Lady Blue – Emily Wurramara


horoscopes by Rhys Sage




Time to get restless, you cutie. Rebellion is fun. Fuck shit up and dye your hair, get a tattoo or all of the above! I mean everyone was judging you anyways; better make yourself memorable before your brief time on this earth is up. You aren’t bound to anything or anyone. Remember that Gemini. You don’t owe the world shit.

Let’s be honest – if life were a horror movie you’d die first. Nothing against you bestie, but survival of the fittest just doesn’t seem to be your thing right now. But hey, at least you’re not failing your classes right? Right?

You are an actor, my dear. On more than just the stage – it’s in the way you do your hair, the way you walk, the way you laugh and charm the world around you. You are Titania lying down to rest in sweet delight. Are you really this enchanting figure? Or has the world become a play. Under the twins of Gemini, it’s time to seek the counterpart to your golden act because when you are vulnerable, you are as brilliant as when you walk out onto that stage.




Oh Virgo, if you have one more bloody outburst, we’re sending you to the circus. Clearly, you’re all playing at being clowns, getting on everyone’s nerves like that. I mean it’s a joke right? Please tell me it’s a joke…

Dichotomising the world is easy, isn’t it Libra. There is right and wrong, up and down, black and white, good and bad, and the list goes on. But in dichotomising the world you oversimplify things. For example, your emotions are not polarised, it’s entirely possible to be simultaneously despondent and joyous. The pieces of this world aren’t mutually exclusive. Look at the binaries that you are enforcing within yourself and take a moment to unpack them – more importantly to accept them.

I wish I could make a joke at your expense but you’re already on that. Maybe tone back the self-deprecating humour – you can call it “self-care” and post about it on insta. I’m sure everyone will like that.




I’m like 90% sure that your soul is wearing shades because you’re that stupid-ass kinda cool. You keep telling everyone that you’re not good enough, but I know your Scooby-gang equivalent is ready to throw hands for you so maybe you’re wrong. You’re the cotton candy of this funhouse and everyone loves you and even if they don’t – screw em, you’re pretty af.

Aren’t you tired of being so stable all the time? Sometimes it’s fun to feel out of control – like when you’re in a mirror maze. Nothing makes sense anymore; left is behind you and above you there is the ocean. But it’s ok because these periods of instability give you a moment where you don’t have to control everything. Capricorn, sometimes it’s alright to let go. Give it a try this winter.

Everyone’s at the party but you’re vaping out the front. I mean yes you look cool with your half-dyed hair and thick eyeliner and scary looks but you’re a softie. I would say kindness is free, but we all know it isn’t. Remember Aquarius that it’s ok to set boundaries and to stick to them.




Your zodiac symbol is a fucking glorified “H” and you can’t convince me otherwise. Yeah that’s about it – love and light and all that.

You think you’re soooo cool, don’t you? Everyone knows you threw up after the rollercoaster, you ain’t fooling anyone. It’s the vomit on your sweater that gave it away. It’s alright, you should probably leave your pride in the bathroom too, what’s it really doing for you? We all know you’re insecure, it’s like the vomit on the sweater all again.

I know the rollercoaster is fast and scary – and makes you feel like a child again – but someone said they were buying cotton candy after. So, stick with it Taurus, you’re nothing if not persistent – the adjective ‘stubborn’ comes to mind. Just remember that thrill as your stomach curls when the rollercoaster whirls around and around. It’s there that you’ll find both freedom and joy. So buckle up baby.

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