The Big Issue Australia #670 - The Lord of the Rings

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670 16 SEP 2022





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670 18 A New Appetite For author Anna SpargoRyan, having a bite of tiramisu on a Saturday night out with a friend was more than a delicious decadence – it was an act of defiance.


The Ladies of the Ring


One Ring to Rule Them All? by Clem Bastow

Lord of the Rings super-fan Clem Bastow examines the legacy of JRR Tolkien’s series and our endless craving for more Middle-earth content on screen, as we also delve into The Rings of Power. contents photo by Ben Rothstein/Prime Video cover illustration by Matthew Brazier @matthew_brazier

Ed’s Letter & Your Say Meet Your Vendor Streetsheet Hearsay & 20 Questions My Word Letter to My Younger Self

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Ricky Film Reviews Small Screen Reviews Music Reviews Book Reviews Public Service Announcement


Taking Off the Armour Rapper Sampa the Great was in Zambia when COVID broke out and borders were closed – which has had a huge effect on her second album.


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In Bolivia, a group of Indigenous women wrestlers are empowering their community with their fighting spirit – and their acrobatic feats.

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Tastes Like Home Puzzles Crossword Click

Ed’s Letter

by Sinéad Stubbins Deputy Editor @sineadstubbins

The Tale Begins



ou might have heard the legend of the very powerful being who, feared by his underlings, made grand pronouncements about world domination. This story does not involve any trolls, elves or evil rings – not at first, anyway. It’s said that years ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos challenged his executives to create a fantasy epic that could match Game of Thrones, resulting in those executives fighting tooth-and-nail to secure the rights to JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. From this nefarious beginning came The Rings of Power, a new show that takes us back to Middle-earth and introduces us to new characters and familiar ones (such as Galadriel and Elrond) re-imagined. The hold that Tolkien’s universe still has on popular culture cannot be underestimated. Many tried to adapt the story, failing to recreate the magic and wonder. (Another legend: apparently the Beatles wanted to make a big-screen

adaptation of Rings in 1968, but the band was denied the rights by Tolkien himself.) Then, of course, Peter Jackson’s film trilogy from 2001 to 2003 defied critics who loudly assumed that Middle-earth could never adequately be represented on film. That original trilogy will always occupy an extremely sentimental corner of my heart. From the ages of 12 to 14, I plodded along to see the films every Boxing Day, at first not knowing anything about the story and by the last, despondent that there would not be another film next year. It was a sort of bridge from childhood to adolescence, featuring characters like Éowyn, who gave me a rare cinematic glimpse of a women warrior chucking on a battle helmet and conquering monsters. The new extension of The Lord of the Rings has delivered on its promise of further inclusivity: both in terms of diverse casting and an even greater representation of women warriors wielding swords. I hope there’s a 12-year-old watching who is just as delighted as I was.

I tore out the recipe ages ago from my Big Issue for Fast Ed’s Raspberry Coconut Cheesecake Slice. I finally made it recently and it was so delicious. It made me think that perhaps you could publish a collection of recipes that have been published over the years. The little stories that accompany them are always interesting. I have made several other recipes too with success, but none as popular as this slice. GAIL WHITE FERNTREE GULLY I VIC

Ed – Thanks Gail! And for anyone else wanting to cook Fast Ed’s slice, you’ll find it in Ed#613 or on our website: Wow! The Fiction Edition (Ed#669) has been a great read. So many great stories and snippets of information, like how to start a street library – I’m on to that now. Good on vendor Steve for celebrating 10 years of selling in Geelong! I buy my Big Issue from him whenever I can, he is always so cheerful. EVIE HALL GEELONG I VIC



The Big Issue Story The Big Issue is an independent, not-for-profit magazine sold on the streets around Australia. It was created as a social enterprise 25 years ago to provide both a voice and a work opportunity for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage. Your purchase of this magazine has directly benefited the person who sold it to you. Big Issue vendors buy each copy for $4.50 and sell it to you for $9, keeping the profits. But The Big Issue is more than a magazine.

• Our Women’s Subscription Enterprise provides employment and training for women through the sale of magazine subscriptions as well as social procurement work. • The Community Street Soccer Program promotes social inclusion and good health at weekly soccer games at 24 locations around the country. • The Vendor Support Fund will offset the cost price of products for vendors, allowing them to earn a larger margin on their own street sales. • The Big Issue Education workshops provide school, tertiary and corporate groups with insights into homelessness and disadvantage, and provide work opportunities for people experiencing marginalisation. CHECK OUT ALL THE DETAILS AT THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU

Gail wins a copy of Ellie Bullen’s new cookbook Simple (Mostly) Vegan Kitchen. You can check out her recipe for Lentil Shepherd’s Pie on page 40. We’d also love to hear your thoughts, feedback and suggestions: SUBMISSIONS@BIGISSUE.ORG.AU YOUR SAY SUBMISSIONS MAY BE EDITED FOR CLARITY AND SPACE.

Meet Your Vendor


interview by Lauren Tucker photo by Barry Street



Tony G

16 SEP 2022

I grew up on a dairy farm in Murgon. Dad was very strict – he always told us that whatever you want in life, you have to earn it. Mum was really beautiful. She was Italian, which is where I get my work ethic from. Mum was a great cook. We had an old wood stove with a cast iron lid, and I used to chop all the firewood for her. We never had much money. For us, a family holiday was going to stay with Uncle Johnny to help him paint his house! I’m a natural-born entrepreneur though. I’ve always found a way to make money. As a young boy, I’d be out mowing lawns for people in the neighbourhood. Around the age of 10, I started helping my uncle with his carpet-laying business and I was getting paid over $75 a day, which is great money for a 10-year-old! I missed a lot of school though, which didn’t bother me because I didn’t love school too much. I left school around 14 and started working full-time with my uncle. In my twenties, I moved to New South Wales and worked on a flower farm, selling all sorts of flowers on the side of the road. I eventually moved back to Queensland – on the day I moved back, I met the love of my life, Trish. I had arrived in Brisbane, and was asking directions from a couple of young ladies. One of the young ladies particularly took my eye; she was doing modelling at the time and was gorgeous. We ended up spending the day together. Three weeks later we moved in together, and the rest is history. We’ve never had a fight; we are still as in love now as the day we first met. The other love of my life is my Bull Arab dog, Pinky. He is my best friend, even though he hogs my bed! He eats one whole chicken every day, which is 30 whole chooks a month! Paying my rent and feeding my dog is why The Big Issue money is so important to me. Earlier this year, I bought an electric bicycle. I use it as my mobile shopfront for The Big Issue during the day, and I turn it into a mobile karaoke stand at night-time on the weekend. I even wired up my own Bluetooth speaker inside a Tupperware container! My life has been a journey of making things, whether that be carpentry, welding or designing things. I can pretty much fix or create anything. I have been a Big Issue vendor since 2002, around the age of 30. I’ve been doing it for 20 years this year! I like working for myself, working my own hours, being my own boss, running my own show. I am one of the highest sellers in Queensland now. I have got to know so many beautiful people out there over the years. I don’t judge people: no matter who they are, whether they are in a uniform or casual, I give them a show. I love coming up with lightning-quick one-liners that match what’s on the cover of the mag. It always makes people laugh.


Stories, poems and pictures by Big Issue vendors and friends

Meeting the Monarch VENDOR SPOTLIGHT


I met the Queen in 1977. It was the Silver Jubilee Tour. We were outside the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and I asked a police officer where the Queen would be that day. He told us where her car would pull up and we stood right near there. When she got out of her car, I said “Welcome to Perth, Your Majesty”. She walked over to us, asked what we did for a living, and my father chatted with her. She was very friendly. OWEN MT CLAREMONT I PERTH


The Love of the Rings




he first time I saw a The Lord of the Rings book was on my mum’s shelf. I was a young kid and I wasn’t much of a reader. In my early twenties I got into cosplay, and that led to a massive love of Middle-earth. Now I have 18 different versions of The Lord of the Rings books, including special hardback editions. The love of that then helped me really discover reading. Now I have an extensive fantasy collection. I had a massive birthday party for my 30th, a full costume party, and I dressed up as Strider, who’s played by Viggo Mortensen in the films. When my wife brought out my birthday cake, I thought, “If only I had a sword to cut it” and after I blew out the candle, I was given a replica of Sting, Frodo’s sword. I promptly used it to cut the cake! What makes The Lord of the Rings a really good fantasy is that it’s a good old-fashioned story of good versus evil. It’s so relatable – it’s about community. People say it’s about industrialisation versus environmental concerns, and we still have those issues today. It’s also about greed. I’ve got a 3D print of the One Ring of Power and have it tattooed on the back of my neck. Just recently, I invested in some collector stamps and commemorative coins. If it wasn’t for The Big Issue, I wouldn’t have been able to buy them. MATT CNR SWANSTON & LITTLE COLLINS STS, HARDWARE LANE & KMART ON BOURKE ST I MELBOURNE

When I was nine years old my parents took our family to Botany Bay. They had a reenactment of the First Fleet landing and the Queen was there. At the end, when the Queen was driving away, I decided to run across the road – and I was almost run over by the Queen’s car. The funny part was my mother said to me “Why didn’t you let the car hit you? You could have got some money from the Queen!” The Queen’s car stopped, and it was the Queen herself who got out and said, “Are you alright?” ALEX F MILSONS POINT I SYDNEY

A Royal Wave I met the Queen. I said hello and then she moved on to the next person. I was only eight then. We went to England, got a tour of Windsor Castle and that’s how we got to meet her. We toured the palace, you had to book it in advance. We’re talking about a massive building here. Back in those days, the tour guides would give you an idea of how the royals lived. That’s the only time we ever got to say hello. GARFIELD NORWOOD I ADELAIDE

Cover Girl Going back years ago, there was a big barbecue at Elizabeth Quay. The Queen was there, it was her last day in

Perth. I saw her, went up and shook her hand. I said, “Hello Your Majesty, here’s a free magazine you can take on the plane.” It was Ed#392, with a picture of her on the cover. STEVE W ELIZABETH QUAY I PERTH

Family Tradition My grandmother (I call her Oma) looks like she could be the Queen’s sister. She’s two years older than the Queen. Oma also wears nice jewellery but obviously the Queen had more expensive jewellery. Both are old-fashioned women from the World War II era. Now Oma will get a letter from

King Charles when she turns 100, instead of the Queen. SEAN J ADELAIDE TRAIN STATION I ADELAIDE

A Regent Remembered I never met the Queen personally, but I did see her at Perth airport in 1981. I was only four or five students away from her. I was a little disappointed that she didn’t come all the way down the line, but she couldn’t really get right up near us – she had security around her. When she was younger, I saw the royal family outside the palace while I was living in the

UK in the 70s. We were so excited! This morning I was reminded of these experiences when I heard the news that she had passed. The Queen went through a lot, especially with her husband dying last year. I have a lot of respect for the monarchy. I admired how the Queen was beautifully dressed all the time. All my life I’ve grown up with her as the queen, but now we’ve got King Charles! I’ve never lived under a King! It’s a big change. VERNON B STIRLING, ADELAIDE ARCADE, MT BARKERS FARMERS MARKET I ADELAIDE


The Queen and I




16 SEP 2022

I worked at Buckingham Palace as an apprentice guilder, laying gold leaf on picture frames. I was only young at the time – probably 16 or 17 – and it was a privilege to work there. The company I worked for, Pyramid Designs, used to advertise that they were working for Her Majesty – they used to get a lot of work because of that! I enjoyed the work and all the new knowledge. I saw the Queen in person a few times while I was working there. Sometimes I would nod my head to her; you wouldn’t chat to her, but you wanted to be respectful. I had seen her coronation on TV when I was little. I saw King Charles a few times while I was working there. I wasn’t thinking about him being the future king of England, or anything like that. He was young then. I’m only three years older than Charles – I’m 76 now. I saw him playing polo on the grounds. I was also in London when Lady Diana Spencer died and I went to Buckingham Palace to see all the flowers. It was really a sight to see.


Andrew Weldon Cartoonist

During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which the Queen was so widely held.

“What they’ve learned to do is to climb among the corals and bounce themselves to the next tide pool.” Gavin Naylor, a shark researcher at Florida’s Natural History Museum, on photos of the Papuan epaulette shark that has LEARNED TO WALK! Moving like sea lions, they are the only shark that can travel on land. THE JERUSALEM POST I IL

“It’s not just a fishing expedition. I mean, we’re still fishing, but we know there’s fish in the water.” Mark S Zaid, attorney representing musician Micky Dolenz, the last surviving member of The Monkees, who is suing the FBI for access to secret files on the 1960s band. They’re not monkeying around. ROLLING STONE I US

King Charles III pays tribute to his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who died 8 September, aged 96. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch. SKY NEWS I AU

“In my childhood I can recall watching her wedding highlights on TV. I remember her as a beautiful young lady, to the much beloved grandmother of the nation. My deepest sympathies are with the royal family.” Sir Mick Jagger pays his respects.

ways I dread a world without her. Although I know she lived a privileged life, I am grateful for the way she handled herself and the example she gave amidst a world that is crumbling.” Australian Vicki Hosking.




“For me, the Queen epitomised stability, duty and grace. She was such a constant in our ever‑changing world. In some


“It is unlikely we will ever see a monarch as respected or admired by the Australian people again… Queen Elizabeth respected the self‑determination of the Australian people.” Peter FitzSimons, chair of the Australian Republican Movement.

“I had to go through and delete my high school pictures because that was the Instagram that I used for my life. I wish people could understand how drastic that change was.” Actor Jacob Elordi on the perils of overnight fame – after the release of Netflix’s The Kissing Booth in 2018, he went to bed a regular kid, and woke up with four million followers.



“The Queen was 96 and this was always going to happen, so I don’t know why I am so upset, but I am, it is really quite raw.’’ Claire Wilson, at Buckingham Palace.

“It’s been really bizarre, but it’s quite comforting to sit across from someone who looks like you.” Guy Hampshire, 38, on attending “Russellpalooza” – the first-time get-together for the nine biological



“She deteriorated when her husband Prince Philip passed away. They were soulmates. They were like swans, together forever. I met her twice and I thought she was marvellous... I’m going to miss her so much.” Royal super fan John Loughrey, 67, in London.

“Some people want a job, for sure, but do you know what else some people want? They want a career. They want a leadership position. I don’t want to scare you, but we want your seats.” Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott calls on employers to hire more people with disabilities, with “only 54 per cent of them enrolled in the workforce”.


20 Questions by Rachael Wallace

01 Ngoyo is a former kingdom on

which continent? 02 In what event did Kelsey-Lee

Barber defend her title at the World Athletics Championships? 03 Who is Kourtney Kardashian’s

husband? 04 What colour is the label of Coopers

Pale Ale? 05 Which Picasso painting was stolen

from the National Gallery of Victoria in 1986? 06 Is the Earth’s core hot or cold? 07 Which country has six villages

called Silly, 12 called Billy and two called Pratt: a) England, b) France, c) Wales or d) New Zealand? 08 What type of animal was the

character Boxer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

A six-year-old painter, overheard by Stella of Erskineville, NSW.


“Now there are so many people in the world that the system is repeating itself.” Dr Manel Esteller, from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, on discovering that doppelgängers not only look alike but also share similar DNA and behaviours. THE NEW YORK TIMES I US

“We have to be sure that the software can find buildings with large footprints, not the doghouse or the children’s playhouse.” Antoine Magnant, France’s deputy director general of public finances, on the use of AI satellite technology to track 20,000 “illegal” backyard

pools in an effort to collect an extra US$10 million in property taxes.

09 Which rock star was left stranded on


10 Which country has the most public

“If we were to experience 4°C of global warming, Sweden would be the epicentre of pinot noir. But if we get to a world with four degrees of warming, we’re not going to have a functional world. We’re not going to have a wine industry.” Kimberly Nicholas, assistant professor of sustainability science at Lund University, foreshadows a Grape Depression. BBC I UK

“We went our alternative route, we made this music, we did our thing. You know, we hustled, we fucking killed ourselves to get to this space and now it’s like, ‘Eat the rich’. Man, we’re not stopping.” Rapper Jay-Z in an empire-building state of mind, hitting back at criticism of his wealth after making his debut on the Forbes’ billionaire list earlier this year. NME I US


stage due to a power failure at the 2002 NRL grand final? holidays this year: a) Cuba, b) Australia, c) Myanmar or d) Iceland? 11 Which player defeated Serena

Williams at the US Open in the latter’s final ever game? 12 Australian speech therapist Lionel

Logue famously helped who overcome his stutter? 13 La Rambla is a central street in

which European capital? 14 What is the name of Madonna’s

debut album, released in 1983? 15 Kindlifresserbrunnen is a statue in

Bern, Switzerland: what is the ogre depicted to be eating? 16 In which 1990s popular TV soap did

Lisa Rinna star? 17 Which country has the most KFC

outlets? 18 The World Health Organization

recently declared what growing outbreak a global emergency? 19 Which Donald Trump ally was

recently convicted of contempt of Congress? 20 Of the 44 national referendums held

in Australia, how many have been carried? ANSWERS ON PAGE 43

16 SEP 2022

“When you add white to red you get pink. But when you add white to blue, it’s just light blue.”

children of Darren Russell, a sperm donor in the 1980s. Guy discovered his siblings and biological father after taking a DNA test.



My Word

by Peter Papathanasiou @peteplastic


ou don’t need to tell anyone over 40 how challenging it is to maintain physical fitness. Not only are you fighting the inexorable march of Father Time but also a mounting schedule of work meetings, errands and caring responsibilities for young children or aging parents (sometimes both). Fortunately, I have stumbled on a path that draws inspiration from a youth misspent roaming the open spaces of suburbia. Physical education at school was always a series of peaks and valleys. Ball sports were the zenith, while undertakings like gymnastics and bush dancing dwelled in the lowlands. But no matter how enjoyable, PE was – for lack of a better word – “regulated”. It was always more fun to get together with mates out of hours and engage in whatever mad, freewheeling activity our underdeveloped brains concocted. This was invariably at a series of local ovals and parks, depending on which had the right goalposts, unbroken cricket pitches or basketball hoops we could dunk. But as my friends and I grew into our late teens, exercise began to lose its lustre. The focus shifted to dating, sex, going out and joyfully obliterating brain cells with either indeterminate drugs or rotgut booze (sometimes both). None of us were destined to be professional athletes, and we were at peace with that. But we were still young and with enough residual fitness that we could bluff our way through our reckless twenties, with snake hips still velvety and flexuous. By the time we reached our more benign thirties, the growl of dull aches and dormant injuries could no longer be silenced. Frozen peas doubled as ice packs, and drawers came to be filled with heat creams, anti-inflammatories and deep tissue massage rollers. Blokes got married and became dads, me included. Single-origin coffee shops, organic patisseries and craft breweries took the place of bitter instant, baked beans and longneck lagers. Some hung up the boots, with kids’ sports becoming the focus over adult competition. And then, COVID arrived and ground everything to a screeching halt. We retreated into our little worlds to bake sourdough and tend to lush gardens in the company of afternoon G&Ts. Solo bike rides and jogging lacked the same joie de vivre. I was bereft. Until the day my phone beeped

with a text message from an old teammate: “I’m stupidly heading down to the oval later to do some sprints. Wanna share the agony?” It was a throwback to a simpler time. As expected, it was monotonous and painful and sadistic, but at least it was something. Within a week, word had spread like the plague that brought us all there. And soon, there were five of us sprinting like little boys across the lush virescent grass, huffing and puffing and aching, and hating and loving it all at once. An array of battered old balls soon appeared as restrictions lifted, and games from our childhood were resurrected. We didn’t really care what we did – we were just happy to be doing it with each other in the sunshine. Looking back now, that time was a revelation; it was experimental and without judgement or structure. And it was organic, a product of connecting the abiding childhood desire for play and physical activity with limited resources. Cleaning out a neglected corner of the garage, I found my old basketball. It had chunky black and yellow segments, dimples that split the skin on your fingertips, and looked like it hadn’t been bounced in decades. I pumped it up and was stunned to find it still held its air. We were soon scouring the streets for courts on which to play. Installations that I’d driven past and ignored for years suddenly became my sole focus, like panning for suburban gold. Asphalt and concrete amphitheatres, with the undeniable charm of weatherbeaten backboards, buck-naked hoops and the crunch of broken glass underfoot. There was soon mounting chatter of forming a team and entering a competition if we could muster enough pairs of aspirated knees and fused ankles. Or we might just continue to play it old-school amid the gentle susurration of the breeze through the bosky neighbourhood trees. “Gimme the rock. Splash! Taste the rainbow!” The slang was infectious. And I’m sure it sounded downright daggy from out the mouths of uncool dads. But my kids weren’t there to cringe and tell me to stop. The future was undoubtedly theirs, these young, cocksure chips. But these ornery old blocks weren’t yet done raging against the dying of the light.

Peter Papathanasiou was born in a remote Greek village before being adopted as a baby by an Australian family. His third book (and second novel), The Invisible, is out this month.


Mucking around on suburban ovals set Peter Papathanasiou up for life.

16 SEP 2022

Muscle Memories

The Rings of Power is reportedly the most expensive television show of all time – but why are we still so smitten with JRR Tolkien’s tale? Super-fan Clem Bastow reflects on the excitement (and apprehension) of returning to the Lord of the Rings universe.



by Clem Bastow

Clem Bastow is a culture writer and screenwriting researcher based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her debut non-fiction book Late Bloomer was published in 2021. She is currently completing a PhD at RMIT University.


16 SEP 2022


ike an Elf longing to return to their ancestral lands in the West, for many years I felt a strange sort of homesickness for Middle-earth. There was nothing quite like the experience of seeing Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for the first time. Our family trooped off to Melbourne’s venerable Rivoli Cinema on Boxing Day 2001, having picked Fellowship as our annual 26 December movie outing. None of us had much of a connection to the work of Tolkien; I was a stubborn kid, and a certain group of schoolmates’ assertion that The Hobbit was, like, the best thing they had ever read, was a sure-fire way to ensure I would never read it, or anything else, by the author. It was a position that crumbled as soon as the screen went dark and a voice that I would soon identify as Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) murmured, “The world is changed… I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air…” and I quickly became the world’s biggest LOTR fan. Jackson’s vision – helped in no small way by the late, great cinematographer Andrew Lesnie capturing the landscapes of Aotearoa




In 2015 I wore my prosthetic Elf ear tips to see Return of the King – the extended, four-and-a-halfhour version – in 70mm at Los Angeles’ Cinerama Dome and did not go to the bathroom once. You get the picture.

New Zealand – was unlike anything we’d seen. My brother and I burst out of the cinema and went straight to the nearest two-dollar shop to buy anything that looked even vaguely like Aragorn’s and Legolas’ swords, and spent our entire summer holiday leaping around Tidal River as if it were the forests of Gondor. Life soon became a waiting game. It would be another year until the next film, The Two Towers, was released, so I set about reading just about everything I could, starting with Tolkien’s central trilogy and eventually taking in even the driest auxiliary information about which Elf begat whom. When the final film, The Return of the King, was released in 2003, a significant chapter of my life closed. Soon, like Frodo leaving the Shire, I would move out of home; my parents would divorce in another couple of years, and the Boxing Day movie trip would become a thing of the past (until, like all adults rapidly approaching their midlife crisis, I would reinstate the tradition for myself a decade or so later). LOTR, however, remained a constant; Mum and I would on occasion put aside a long weekend to watch the extended editions of the films (with the commentary tracks on). In 2012 I hand-sewed Éowyn’s Shieldmaiden dress in a hotel room in Christchurch the night before hiking to the top of Mount Sunday, aka the filming location for Edoras, in costume. In 2015 I wore my prosthetic Elf ear tips to see Return of the King – the extended, four-and-a-half-hour version – in 70mm at Los Angeles’ Cinerama Dome and did not go to the bathroom once. You get the picture. My reaction, though, to the news that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had personally involved himself in the negotiations to secure the global television rights to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings for a rumoured US$250 million, was mixed. Television – particularly its streaming incarnation – seemed like an uneasy fit for the world that JRR Tolkien created nearly a century ago. Yes, it could allow for the breadth of storytelling that made HBO’s Game of Thrones such compelling viewing, but it might also allow the worst excesses of Tolkien’s world-building to drag on. Jackson’s decision to stretch The Hobbit (a slim volume) into a trilogy the rough length of The Lord of the Rings series was surely a harbinger of doom: it was too easy to be bewitched by Tolkien’s universe, and fall into an abyss of overlong exposition, like a Fellowship member tumbling headfirst into the Dead Marshes. As many commentators have noted, Tolkien himself wrote the words “The road goes ever on”, which increasingly seemed less like myth-making and more like a grim premonition of 21st-century franchise filmmaking. Was The Rings of Power – based on a small section of Tolkein's appendix texts on the Second Age of Middle-earth – just another step towards the Marvel-fication of all things? Or, as Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican and Joanna Robinson put it, “If it falls short, it could become a cautionary tale for anyone who, to quote JRR Tolkien, delves too greedily and too deep”. Even Peter Jackson himself has a bittersweet relationship to the cinematic world he helped create. Speaking on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast in August, he explained that the worst aspect of his involvement in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies was that it robbed him

16 SEP 2022


of the criticisms of both Tolkien’s source texts and his own filmic adaptation of them, chiefly, the relative lack of female characters, led to the creation of a new one: the Silvan Elf, Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily. Tauriel’s romance with the Dwarf Kíli (Aidan Turner) was decried by “true” Tolkien fans, though the pair’s interactions ironically provided some of the few moments of true emotion in the overcrowded Hobbit films. I could see where he was coming from; in 2013, I found myself so incensed by the fact that Tolkien had not named the many daughters of Aragorn and Arwen (from the original trilogy) that I took it upon myself to invent a name, then dress up like her. Since I was (appropriately) reading A Room of One’s Own at the time, I settled on the Elven translation for “Virginia”: Rohdwen. In truth, the lack of so-called “strong female characters” was not as much of an issue in the cinematic Middle-earth as its blinding whiteness. The casting of actors of colour in The Rings of Power led, with distressing predictability, to a racist backlash from fans who believe that Tolkien’s vision – skewed as it was by his own experience of class, war and ideas about which peoples were innately good and evil – was a fantasy world populated largely by white faces. Beloved UK comedian Lenny Henry plays Harfoot elder Sadoc Burrows and has rubbished online trolls for being able to believe in dragons but not a Black “non-Hobbit Hobbit”. Another new character, the Silvan Elf Arondir, is played by Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova. He told GQ that he was anticipating the racist commentary. “I fought so hard for this role for this very reason. I felt that I could carry that torch,” he said. “I made sure that my Elf was the most Elven, the most incredible, because I knew this was coming. You can never use it as an excuse: ‘But Elves don’t look like that.’ They didn’t, but now they do.” And despite the televisual largesse, the Amazon dollars, and the occasionally clunky writing, that is what’s most striking about The Rings of Power: it has opened Tolkien’s world up not only to a new audience, but also to the audience that has always been there in spite of their inability to see themselves reflected in its high fantasy. As Galadriel herself might say, the world is changed – but for the better.



of the opportunity to see the films as a Tolkien fan first and foremost. “It was such a loss for me not to be able to experience them like everyone else was, that I actually did seriously consider going to a…hypnotherapy guy to hypnotise me, to make me forget about the films and forget about the work I’d done over the last six years, so at least I could sit and enjoy them.” And so, a few weeks ago, I sat down to watch the first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, reportedly the most expensive television series ever made, without much fanfare. Despite being a Middle-earth nut, I did not wear any of my hand-sewn Lord of the Rings costumes, nor my Elf ear tips; my Andúril replica sword was gathering dust in a storage locker, and my Fellowship cloak was shoved in a bag under my bed. In short, I had been burned before: memories of Jackson’s bloated 2012-14 adaptations of The Hobbit still simmered in my mind like the remnants of a bad dream. Within 10 minutes my shoulders untensed: it was so wonderful to be back in Middle-earth. The final few minutes of the pilot are some of the most arresting scenes of TV in years. Showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay made it clear that The Rings of Power would honour the work of Tolkien while gently nudging this screen adaptation of Middle-earth’s Second Age into the 21st century. Firstly, that meant centring female characters, namely Swedish-born Welsh actor Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, the character made famous by Cate Blanchett. Where Blanchett’s Galadriel spent most of Jackson’s films gliding about ethereally, Clark’s is a complex character. So determined to track down the Big Bad Sauron, she leads her party into peril, but she’s not above a little light flirting with her colleague Elrond (played here by Robert Aramayo; Hugo Weaving in Jackson’s films). Clark is terrific in the role, as are Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow and Markella Kavenagh as Nori Brandyfoot, the Harfoots (predecessors of Hobbits). (It’s not all good news: the Harfoots speak with “Irish” accents that sound a lot like Anthony Newley’s howling effort in 1967’s Doctor Dolittle, which has caused consternation among viewers.) Jackson’s own attempt to address some

SAVE THE (MIDDLE-) EARTH by Steven MacKenzie The Big Issue UK



The Rings of Power stars Sophia Nomvete and Robert Aramayo dig into why Tolkien’s stories are more relevant than ever.

One of the things I really love about what Tolkien tries to teach us is about respecting and honouring the natural world, and the natural process of things. the natural process, Tolkien usually punishes them. So, I feel like we could all learn something about respecting the natural world, and that’s something that’s really important.” Aramayo is no stranger to ginormous fantasy shows – or playing younger versions of notable characters. In the final season of Game PRINCESS DISA (SOPHIA NOMVETE) of Thrones he played Ned Stark in a series of flashback scenes. For Rings of Power, he certainly did his research, and speaks like a Tolkien scholar as he outlines the importance of setting the story in the ELROND (ROBERT ARAMAYO) Second Age of Middleearth: “It speaks to an interesting time in Tolkien’s history,” he says. “It’s a time when we don’t have much information, which is something really fun to play with in terms of the story perspective.” Relations between Elves and Dwarves were, Aramayo says, as good as they ever get – though constantly fluctuating, naturally. But there’s another powerful message, about the importance of different people coming together. “Ultimately, they manage to overcome enormous troubles... They realise that together, with a mix of immortality, mortality, Men, Dwarves, Elves and Halflings, you can achieve strength.” THE RINGS OF POWER IS RELEASED WEEKLY ON PRIME VIDEO.

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RR Tolkien’s tales were always about much more than precious jewellery or hoards of gold. His Lord of the Rings stories set in Middle-earth explored good and evil, friendship, fear, loyalty, courage and community. In the overwhelmingly beautiful and ambitious new adaptation, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – set thousands of years before Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring – the story goes much deeper than it seems on the surface. “What’s so great about the show is that every single audience member, no matter their background, or knowledge of Tolkien, or the movies, will be able to take something from this,” says Sophia Nomvete who plays Princess Disa, and is, as she says, “the first female Black Dwarf…to touch Tolkien’s work. “The overarching story is about the sleeping and waiting of an everlasting evil… And what it looks like when different races and cultures around the world experience an evil and how we handle that and deal with that. “And, of course, looking to friendships and love and greed and power – just navigating a world through the lens of Tolkien’s endless fantasy.” The episodes trace a new but familiar threat creeping over Middle-earth. “We see within this season looking outside of the community in order to gain strength and solidarity at a time that that feels like it could get a bit shaky,” Nomvete says. And given that we live in a very muddled earth of our own, with increasing threats to our own lives and livelihoods – from the pandemic to the cost-of-living crisis – Nomvete believes we could learn a thing or two from being more like Princess Disa in order to overcome the big issues we’re facing. “Everyone could benefit from thinking like a Dwarf,” she says. “They are quite a working-class culture. They are loyal and gregarious and formidable and strong. And they have a lot of hope and loyalty. “For my character, she is all about her voice and her empowerment which lives within her. A lesson I take from her, that I hope ripples out for audience members, is that, ultimately, that razor-sharp instinct and internal voice that we have can always be trusted.” Tolkien fans have long championed the writer as a naturalist who was ahead of his time. And so it’s unsurprising that this most epic TV show addresses one of the major issues of our time: climate change. As Robert Aramayo, who plays Elrond – a younger version of the Elf played by Hugo Weaving in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy – points out, the environmental message is deeply rooted in Tolkien’s writing. “One of the things I really love about what Tolkien tries to teach us is about respecting and honouring the natural world, and the natural process of things,” Aramayo says. “In the legendarium [Tolkien’s collected mythology] if a character or a group of characters try to supersede



A New Appetite For Anna Spargo-Ryan, a restaurant meal on a Saturday night was a giant step forward. Anna Spargo-Ryan is an anxious Melbourne writer. Her new memoir, A Kind of Magic, is out in October.

to remember how to breathe. My family brought me food and water, and sat next to me while I forced all my focus on the television. I could not speak. I could not make eye contact. I don’t know how to convey the seriousness of my fear other than to tell you I could not even make it to the bathroom. There were times I tried. I spent one Saturday morning in our garage, painting cardboard boxes to look like Minecraft blocks for my daughter’s birthday party. Another time, I went all the way to the shops to buy ingredients to make bacon and eggs for my family. But these moments of bravado were vanishingly rare. For 48 hours, my heart raced. Trapped by anxiety’s lies, I felt certain my gruesome death was imminent. At times I would lose focus and the weekend would suffocate me. It would get me in a chokehold and remind me I was in mortal danger, stamping and crushing my body with its boots. I was barely a person. Friends stopped calling. My partner moved out. I realised no-one else could fix it. I had to find the courage for myself. It took four years of therapy to get outside on the weekend again. Painful, arduous therapy. At first, I spent 15 seconds standing on my front verandah, a process that took so much effort I had to lie down for the rest of the day. Soon, I could go to the end of the driveway, then the street corner. Eventually, the world followed. I began to experiment with my brain, pushing it to go to the shops or the park or the beach. This is the most difficult and rewarding work I’ve ever done in my life. No-one else did it for me. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, I can head out into the weekend without the little voice that tells me I can’t. Finally. So, a few Saturdays ago when my friend and I twirled handmade pasta around expensive forks, and eavesdropped on lovers in conversation, and said yes please to seeing the dessert menu, it wasn’t just dinner. It wasn’t just pals catching up. It was a middle finger to my fear, and a celebration of the work that conquered it.


illustration by Daniel Gray-Barnett


n July, one of my best friends came to visit. We had a big weekend of food planned: Friday brunch, Saturday night at a pasta bar that my sister had raved about, and Sunday dumplings. Our basic plan was to eat as many delicious things as possible and try to digest in between. When Saturday night rocked around, I put on my favourite dress, narrowly avoided being run over at a pedestrian crossing, then took my seat in this small but lovely restaurant. Our plates were piled high with Italian fare, served by inhumanly lovely waitstaff. The music was soft. The company was excellent. I had a rich beef ragu. She had a creamy cacio e pepe. At the end of the meal, while we smashed tiramisu into our faces, my friend declared it the best pasta she had ever eaten. Afterwards, we went into the cold night and took a selfie by the train station, to prove we had been there, and that we had been smiling. My friend and I hadn’t had a night like that before, not only because of my near-death experience or because the pasta was so good, but because we had not, in six years of friendship, ever once been out on a Saturday. My morbid, paralysing fear of weekends began when I was in my late twenties. Being irrationally afraid of something wasn’t new: anxiety is a lifelong endeavour of mine. My fears range from being trapped in an underwater cave (very unlikely) to colliding with a nearby galaxy (marginally more likely), and my days have frequently been peppered by throat‑gripping panic attacks. Unfortunately, the best way to keep the anxiety at bay is to be busy. No-one ever taught me how to relax. I have never learned to be spontaneous or whimsical, to throw caution to the wind or to do nothing. You know: wake up late, stroll through a market, then recline in a beer garden. I couldn’t do any of that. I needed the weekend to be like having a job but with more casual clothes. Without the predictability and routine of the working week, I began to see the weekend as a threat. If I stopped, I might never start again. For eight years of weekends, I did not function. That is not hyperbole. I spent the days glued to the couch, trying

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Series by Luisa Dörr



Ladies of the Ring In Bolivia, a group of Indigenous women wrestlers are empowering their community with their fighting spirit. by Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is a broadcaster, writer and a former music editor of The Big Issue.


olivia is a very machismo country. It is not easy to be a woman there and there is still a lot of prejudice against the Indigenous population.” Luisa Dörr is extraordinarily direct when discussing the subjects of her work. The Brazilian photographer has forged a career focusing on the female form, so when she first encountered the Flying Cholitas, she inherently understood the complexity of capturing their world. The Flying Cholitas are Indigenous wrestlers from El Alto in Bolivia who are fighting oppression in the ring. The Cholitas, who are majority Aymara, have long faced discrimination, and in the 1960s became the face of a civil rights movement advocating for Indigenous women’s rights. “They are not just ring fighters, they are fighting for their lives,” Dörr explains. “Lots of them are single mothers, so they need to provide for their kids… I think that things are changing but it’s still hard to make a career there. They are brave people, and resilient.” The world she captured is one of dazzling colour and movement. Dressed in traditional Bolivian attire (powerfully and symbolically reclaimed by the women alongside the once derogatory term “chola” after years of colonial repression), with bowler hats atop luxuriously braided hair, the Flying Cholitas perform acrobatic feats in the ring. So popular has their wrestling become, they perform for crowds of tourists and locals on weekends. Their lives, while punctuated by dramatic performances and beautiful outfits, are also grounded by relentless work – both in and out of the ring. “El Alto is a really tough place to live,” says Dörr, who spent 10 days with the women. “It’s 4000 metres above sea level, making it difficult to breathe [when you first visit]. There’s a lot of traffic, due to big trucks, and food on every corner… The first time I was there was winter. The sun was strong during the day, burning the skin, and suddenly it turned very cold in the sunset.” But it’s also teeming with passion, she adds. The markets, where many of the women also work during the week, are bustling. And on the outskirts of town, the landscape changes entirely. “You could see beautiful lakes, lots of llamas, peasants, it was very calm and peaceful,” Dörr says. It was here, among the stark beauty of the snowcapped El Alto peaks, that she set up a wrestling ring to photograph the Flying Cholitas in spectacular clarity – capturing the great dichotomy of their lives, and bringing into focus the power and beauty of Bolivia’s much-loved wrestling superheroes. “The public love the wrestling between women,” Dörr says. “They are the big stars.”












Letter to My Younger Self

Being Gay Is My Superpower

Rugby league champ-turnedactor Ian Roberts on being dyslexic, the grand final he still can’t watch, and the importance of visibility. by Amy Hetherington Editor





’m dyslexic, but it didn’t have a name back when I was a kid. I remember repeating first class, [at] five or six. And I remember that was the most shameful thing. I kind of never really got over that; having to stand up and read in class was always really humiliating. That was the most difficult thing I dealt with through school. I really struggled with reading and writing my whole life. That was my biggest struggle. I learned to read and write in my mid-30s, when I went to the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, NIDA, through phonetics. I met a guy by the name of Kevin Jackson, an acting coach, and he was just like “you’re dyslexic, not a problem”. He changed my life. At 16, I’d just left school, I left in Year 10, and started an electrical trade. Being a sparkie was great. I was also playing football, Mascot Juniors. I was playing all the junior rep competitions they had. And I got graded when I was 20 from Souths Juniors. George Piggins took over Souths in 1986, I would have been about 21. And it was one of those rare things, I went straight into first grade the following year. It was wonderful, and I was grateful for all the breaks I had. I was still on the tools, I was working as an electrician. That was the norm, everyone did their day jobs, footy was a second job. We used to train at 4.30 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, so that everyone could get home from work and go to training. It was a very different time. I think, the first year I was with Souths, I would’ve been 21, and I made $9000. I thought that was incredible. And then in the offseason, I went to Wigan [in the UK] for five


16 SEP 2022

before he died, he said one of the best things that ever happened to him was to have a gay child, because he got to see the world as it really is. My dad wasn’t a man of many words, but just before marriage equality, my dad put down the paper and just said, “Why shouldn’t you be allowed to marry the person you’re in love with?” And it was one of those moments, you think, He gets it, he totally gets it now. My mum is like a rock. If people ask me, “Where do you think that you get your strength?” I say it all comes from Mum. She’s always had so much empathy for other people. My mum is honestly the most humble person in the world. I would tell my 16-year-old self, you’re going to be okay. Sixteen-year-old Ian, he just didn’t want to disappoint his mum and dad. I always thought when I came out, I would probably lose my family, and stuff like that. And that did happen for a little while, as well. As a 16-year-old, that was all-consuming. And that was terrifying. People think that because of marriage equality that the fight is over, and that prejudice and homophobia and transphobia isn’t as bad as it was, but I’m telling you it is. Sport is political, first and foremost. Sport has the power to change perception in society and push conversations along. As the Manly jumper [in July, the club’s Pride jersey saw seven players boycott the game] proved, it wasn’t the best way to get the conversation started, but it definitely got that conversation started. I think it was a real positive in the end. When there was all that controversy…Manly realised, “oh, my God, there are some things that are actually more important than two competition points”. What a Pride Round is saying to everyone is you are welcome here. This is a safe space. That’s all it’s saying. We still need as many allies as we can get. I honestly believe being gay is my superpower. I love being gay. I mean that because it has been empowering for me. And I’ve only realised that as I’ve gotten older. Now, it sounds a bit cliché, but the more I’ve lived in this body, this old sack of bones, I just feel much more comfortable within myself. I’m so grateful for that. I had such a wonderful upbringing. I’ve been so fortunate to have met so many incredible people, and rugby league has afforded me that – and to another extent, being gay has also done that as well.


months, and I got $15,000 – and I was flush, plus I was a sparkie as well. At 17 or 18, I couldn’t see a path forward playing rugby league. I was totally aware that I was same-sex attracted. And like oil and water, I didn’t think they could mix. That was obviously my own naivety, and my own ignorance. My dad was always my biggest supporter. We came to this agreement, he said: “Can you just do it for 12 more months and see what happens.” And in that 12 months I got picked for Presidents Cup, which is a representative team for Souths, I played some reserve grade games, and then I went into first grade. I was adamant I was going to give football away, and I just kind of did it for my dad because my dad had always been there for me, and my brother and my sisters. I came out in 94, on the Kangaroo Tour. We were on a tour of Great Britain and France. It was the worst kept secret in rugby league that I was gay. But I wasn’t out publicly. Through the 90s and late 80s, I was of the opinion that I shouldn’t have to come out, I just lived a gay life. When I first went to Manly, my partner Shane was the Sea Eagles mascot. Everyone knew that Shane was my partner. But then I realised, as I matured a little bit, people need to see visibility. Even back then, thinking, it wasn’t just about me, this has got to change. Change can only come about when people are talking about it, there’s conversation about it. We lost the 95 Grand Final, and I’ve never been able to watch it. That was when I was playing for Manly. We got beaten by Canterbury. I’ve sat down to watch that game quite a number of times and tried to put the DVD or the old VHS in to watch it. It still makes me feel uncomfortable and sick. I mean, obviously, representing your country is wonderful. But the game that’s had the [biggest] impact on me, it’s that grand final. I’ve never watched it. And that was 27 years ago… And I also think back when I first joined the Cowboys in 97, Tim Sheens made me the captain, I was an out gay man. And that was huge news that an openly gay man was captain of a male professional team sport. When I was growing up, I don’t know if I had any gay or LGBTI+ heroes, because gay wasn’t even a word. When I was a seven-year-old, I remember sitting on the couch with my dad. We were watching a show on the ABC, Chequerboard. It was the first time two gay men had kissed on Australian TV. It was 1972. I actually remember sitting next to my dad watching this, and I remember knowing – these weren’t the words, but I was thinking, Oh, these are my people. But my dad’s expression was: “They make my fucking skin creep.” But the story of my dad is a wonderful story. I grew up in quite a homophobic family. My dad

by Ricky French @frenchricky



hings are rather boggy down at the local creek. The clay soils of Melbourne’s western suburbs form an interesting texture when exposed to heavy rain – a consistency that’s both gloopy and sticky. It doesn’t look like mud when you walk on it, but afterwards you find your shoes completely coated in the stuff. On closer inspection, it’s most definitely mud. Not any old mud, either, but the kind that stays stuck to your shoes, unless of course you should tread on pristine carpet or climb into your recently vacuumed car. I didn’t actually intend to write about mud when I sat down to write this column, but since we’re here… I see this mud as a kind of metaphor for suburbia (let’s see how this goes). I generally try to avoid it, but somehow it ends up sticking to me. We walk most days with the dog along this desperately unloved creek, which some people use as a dumping ground. Foul human beings drive their cars down and unload onto the only pocket of nature within a 10km radius all manner of junk: TVs, hundreds of metres of electrical cord, sheet metal, broken toilet seats, anything. If the car is of no use to them at the end of the dumping session, they’ll abandon it there, setting fire to it as they leave. I’m often quite impressed at the places along the creek they manage to drive their cars to. Then there’s the hoons riding trail bikes who come out after the rain to tear the place up, the engines of their stupid bikes making that hideous, ear-piercing farty noise. Yeah, I don’t like them either. On one side of the creek is the old suburb – houses with their backyards to the creek. The opposite side was always vacant land, but is now being developed. McMansions are growing from the clay, and in this new age the creek will become a value-adding selling point, rather than a useless piece of land. Hoons will stop dumping rubbish because people will be perched on their verandahs watching them.

Around here wealth will soon be defined by what side of the creek you live on, and thus gentrification will arrive. In the meantime, our track along the creek exists as a kind of wasteland, contested by a few interested parties: us, the hoons and the ducks. But it’s also rather pretty, especially around sunset when the river gums glow orange and moorhens peck on the stream banks. We generally have it to ourselves. I often use this small walk to think about big things. Like how we end up living where we do. Everyone has to live to somewhere, so why here? Last year it looked like we might move to greener pastures, but then stuff like life happened, and for various reasons we’re still here. I’m lucky enough to travel a lot for work. I see all these wonderful places and try to imagine living there. But it’s impossible to feel comfortable in any one place, no matter how beautiful or enticing it looks, even hypothetically. I wonder how people make those big decisions, and I envy those who are bold enough to do it. By the time we reach the spot in the creek where the dog loves to lie in the water with her tongue lolling out, I’ve normally reached a compromise to solve this perpetual conundrum of existence: do something next year. By that time the McMansions on the well-heeled side will have taken root and blocked out the sunsets. It will be a sign. My greatest fear, though, is that non-rubbish-dumping, noncar-burning, non-trail-bike-riding people like us will move in, the creek will get cleaned up, a community will form and I’ll look round and say, “Hey, I kind of I like it here.” I would hate to think all those years of complaining would be in vain. Far less fretful to remain stuck in the mud. Ricky is a writer, musician and tough mudder. Fellow columnist Fiona Scott-Norman will be back soon.

16 SEP 2022

Stuck in the Mud

I see this mud as a kind of metaphor for suburbia… I generally try to avoid it, but somehow it ends up sticking to me.



Sampa the Great

Music International border closures meant that Sampa the Great couldn’t leave Zambia – but it also provided the inspiration for her second album.




Taking Off the Armour

by Cyclone Wehner @therealcyclone

Cyclone Wehner is a Melbourne journalist focusing on R&B, hip-hop, dance music, synth-pop and pop culture. Her enduring fixations are vampire movies and TV shows.


apper and avant-soulster Sampa the Great (aka Sampa Tembo) had something of a homecoming in May when she performed at the Sydney Opera House during Vivid Festival. “It just felt like a beautiful way to come back to Australia after relocating and not really knowing what the next steps were with my career, and not being definite in the way I’m going to move forward with music,” she says over Zoom from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Tembo has long had wanderlust, attending college in San Francisco, only to end up in Sydney in 2013, where she released her earliest music. But Tembo’s heart lies in southern Africa, having grown up in Zambia and nearby Botswana. And it was there that she conceived her second album As Above, So Below, the much‑anticipated

intergenerational Zambian figures: producer Mag44 and rapper Chef 187. Lyrically, Tembo revels in self-knowledge and self-love, as a Black woman on the cusp of 30. In the past, Tembo has challenged the tendency of Australian hip-hop narratives to erase her cultural identity, but says she’s moved on. “I’ve spent a lot of time defending being from Zambia – and defending the source of the music – that, when it came time to make an album at home, it became less of a focus.” While in Zambia, Tembo discovered the 70s-era Zamrock movement, a “brave and edgy” fusion of traditional music, funk and psychedelic rock that followed Zambia’s independence from Britain in 1964. It was a sound pioneered by the band W.I.T.C.H, who are little known in Zambia today, but are enjoying a cult revival in the West. Intrigued by this, Tembo connected with W.I.T.C.H. frontman Emmanuel “Jagari” Chanda and recorded high-energy ‘Can I Live’ with him, her new mentor. She also cut the sublime closer ‘Let Me Be Great’ with Benin’s Angélique Kidjo – an art-pop innovator rivalling Kate Bush or Grace Jones – as a harmonic ode to individuality. “Especially as a young artist looking at all these legends, you always want to remember to be inspired by them, but not to be a copy of them,” Tembo says. “I’ve

just learned over the years that being your own artist is something that’s really beautiful.” The process of collaborating with her idols was so organic that Tembo almost forgot she was tracking an LP. “When we got into the studio, it felt less like we’re creating something that has to be perfect and more we’re having an experience with each other where we’re experimenting and actually having fun making music,” she says. “So it became a cathartic experience.” Tembo is curious about the future of Zambia’s pop culture when elsewhere in Africa genres are proliferating – West Africa’s Afrobeats is already a global phenomenon. She hopes for “a beautiful renaissance”. Returning to Australia this month, Tembo is a special guest on megastar Billie Eilish’s arena tour. “For me, I look at an artist, I look at how they express themselves, how I would fit into that story,” she says of being Eilish’s support. “She’s an artist who’s able to experiment. Even her recent album [Happier Than Ever] and what she talks about, but exploring her sensuality as well – it’s just like, ‘Okay, we’re kind of aligned in the journey that we’re going through, which is really beautiful.’” SAMPA THE GREAT’S ALBUM AS ABOVE, SO BELOW IS OUT NOW.


sequel to 2019’s The Return, which scooped multiple ARIA nominations and the Australian Music Prize (which Tembo first won for the Birds and the BEE9 mixtape in 2017). This year she appeared on Barack Obama’s annual summer playlist. The MC, singer and multi-disciplinary artist was visiting family in Zambia when COVID hit, closing international borders. Though initially apprehensive, she welcomed the chance to immerse herself in the local music scene. “I sort of was just reminded of why I started music in the first place,” she says. “I’m returning to the place where the dreams of being an artist began and just really reflecting on the younger Sampa and what she dreamt of; what she would have loved from expressing herself through music. “I think, once I let go of a lot of the armour that I put on while I was in Australia – and trying to make sure I was an ambassador for a lot of people and making sure our stories were told – I really got to experience being an ambassador for myself and expressing all sides of myself.” As Above, So Below is a confident, celebratory and carefree record, with a perspective distinct from The Return – which focused on diasporic difficulty and confusion. On the new record, it’s clear she’s reconnected with her roots, and is exploring new ground creatively. Tembo collaborates with the likes of Denzel Curry (the lead single ‘Lane’) plus

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I sort of was just reminded of why I started music in the first place. I’m returning to the place where the dreams of being an artist began.

Wayward Strand

Small Screens

Up, Up and Awayward N The creative team behind Wayward Strand reveal the empathetic agenda of their new game, set aboard an airborne hospital. by Raelee Lancaster




Raelee Lancaster is a Wiradjuri/Biripi writer and library assistant based in Brisbane.

arrative game Wayward Strand does something few others do: its characters feel deeply personal, as if they are their own people. According to writer, producer and designer Jason Bakker, this is intentional – and meticulously done. “In the early days, we were talking a lot about our personal relationships with people,” he says. “We were trying to develop [the non-player characters, or NPCs] in a way where they really felt like they had their own lives and they weren’t just put in the world to be a resource for you.” Developed primarily in Melbourne by indie studio Ghost Pattern, the Wayward Strand team consists of game industry veterans alongside emerging artists and creators from outside the traditional games space. The story follows 14-year-old Casey Beaumaris, an aspiring journalist who spends a long weekend on the airborne hospital where her mother works. As Casey flits around the whimsical airship, eagle-eyed and hungry


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“It would be awesome if people were playing in a month’s time or in a couple of months’ time and think, Hey, there’s a nursing home near me and I’ve got a 14-year-old daughter, or I am 16 and I sit on my arse all day – maybe I could go and volunteer at a nursing home.” “There’s underrepresentation [of older people] in media,” adds Wallin. “And when they’re in media, they’re kind of stereotypical, whether they’re a gag or a plot device.” Part of combating these stereotypes meant having real conversations with elderly people, and casting voice actors who were age appropriate. These actors include some Australian greats such as Michael Caton (Packed to the Rafters), who voices Neil, and Anne Charleston (Neighbours), who voices Ida. Interestingly, Caton may not have enjoyed his character as much as others did. “By the end of recording, he was not having a bar of it,” Symons says, laughing. “He was like, ‘Who is this arsehole?’ “[Neil] is a really divisive character, which I think is a really good sign of the work that we’ve done.” Not everybody seems to share these views. Wallin assures us there are other characters to dislike more. Bartlett chimes in: “I used to not like Neil and now I like Neil.” And, allegedly, the trailer editor for Wayward Strand said if anything happened to Neil, they would riot. We, however, shall let the player be the judge and jury in this case.


for a story, she begins to believe there is more than meets the eye with the hospital’s elderly residents. This humanism of Wayward Strand is emphasised by writer and dramaturge Georgia Symons. “I think it stemmed from a love for neo-realism and wanting to include real stories from real people,” she says. “The idea of caring for characters that weren’t the player was interesting for us.” Symons, who has a background in playwriting, was drawn to the project due to its roots in live theatre, with the concept taking cues from immersive theatrical projects such as Macbeth adaptation Sleep No More (2011). As explained by Bakker, the characters in Wayward Strand go about their days in real time, with conversations among the residents, and hospital events such as medical check-ups, occurring without regard to whether Casey is around to witness these moments. As such, the player needs to be in the right place at the right time, or they will miss out on insightful information. These theatrical elements brought in composer and audio designer Maize Wallin, who saw “a lot of the same thought processes behind art in live space and art in a virtual space”. But more than that, Wallin sees game development as a way to represent our world today: “I think one reason why these games are really popular is because we’re seeing more diversity of developers and audiences; people realising that the queers, for example, actually hold a substantial part of the market. “On the surface, it’s beautiful and colourful and it has kooky characters and calming music, but these are real people,” Wallin continues. “We are not only trying to fight that stereotype of what a game for a diverse audience is, but also [the idea that] a grandma doesn’t just hug, she doesn’t just serve you porridge.” The game’s humanising approach to elderly characters hits close to home for Wayward Strand illustrator Marigold “Goldie” Bartlett. “At the time of Wayward Strand’s conception, my dad had been living in a hospital for six years, and I didn’t have any grandparents left. I have this mum who was a nurse in the 70s and 80s and 90s and she’s such a good storyteller,” she tells me. “I grew up hearing these amazing stories of hospitals and her time as a nurse, and it was frustrating to think that one day she won’t be around to share her stories anymore.” The power of Wayward Strand is that it holds a mirror up to our society and forces us to reconsider the way we think about the elderly in care and in the media. With the game’s recent release, Bartlett’s thoughts are on the real-world impact Wayward Strand could have.

Sarah Malik

Books 32


Flipping the Script In her memoir, Desi Girl, journalist Sarah Malik writes about being a Muslim journalist – determined to write the stories, not be their subject.

by Sista Zai Zanda @sistazai

Sista Zai Zanda is a self-described Afrofuturistic Storyteller and a PhD (Ed) scholarship student at University of Melbourne, researching anti-racism in early childhood education.




hen I’m here I don’t feel like I belong, but when I’m in South Asia I don’t feel like I belong there either, and I actually feel more Australian.” So says Sarah Malik, Walkley Award-winning Australian investigative journalist, television presenter and, now, author, on just returning from Malaysia. “I’m happy to be home, you know? When you’ve been away, you just kind of appreciate all the small things about being in your own domain again... And the lattes – nobody does them quite like here, right?” Malik laughs, adding, “Thank God for all these Italian immigrants who came to Australia and showed us how to do it properly!” Born to Pakistani parents and raised in Western Sydney’s Desi community, Malik remarks that travelling has quite an impact on her sense of identity as an Australian. Perhaps it’s those small things we miss while away that make us reassess the concepts of home and of belonging. Malik adds that her stories and experiences “don’t speak for all South Asians in the diaspora and this book is about my unique Desi Girl experience”. Malik says that, after taking some advice from writer

in history and the impact of that era and political environment on me specifically. “In the same way that white memoirs never become emblematic of a whole community, Desi Girl is my personal story about a particular time and political context that coincided with my entry into journalism as a career.” Malik also remarks that when she started in media, there were very few South Asian authors who’d had books published in Australia. Since then, many talented South Asians have been published in Australia, and appear regularly on television. For the authors who are part of this growing cohort, there’s now a sense that systemically marginalised writers can express themselves more freely and unapologetically, without the fear of stereotyping their entire community. Malik chose journalism as a career so that she could write the stories rather than be the subject of stories. Yet, once a journalist, Malik felt the pressure to conform to a journalistic standard of objectivity, but often questioned whether she was making a difference, if “the same people who congratulated themselves for being objective were also busily defining what was

important and what wasn’t; what to include and what to omit”. Striving to push against this, Malik was part of investigative teams, recognised with Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism, who explored domestic violence and faith communities, and religious divorce in Australian Muslim communities. Malik’s stories in Desi Girl are not just for her younger self, but also mount a convincing case to expand our understanding of ethics in Australian journalism. Malik also emphasises the important role language, voice and mannerisms play in how we can shift the gaze that determines how we represent subcultures. She notes that as a journalist of colour, she was always aware of how she thought of herself in comparison to how she was viewed and portrayed in mainstream stereotypes. Through Desi Girl, she wished to take up space and write a story that offers even more nuance to the growing body of work by South Asian authors. “These memoir stories speak to my personal experience as a Desi Girl growing up in a particular time.” DESI GIRL IS OUT NOW.


Alice Pung, she decided to write Desi Girl with just one person in mind as the reader – her younger self. Through a series of memoir stories, Malik offers to her younger self the information and advice gained over years of carving out a career in journalism, when she was the only Muslim in her newsroom. It was a time when Islam was regularly in the news, with nothing but negative connotations: jihadis, suicide bombers, terrorists and Indonesian executions. She tried to distance herself from her identity; with her colleagues expressing disdain for Islam, Malik emphasised her Anglo name, trying to get along. Unlike many of her colleagues, Malik did not have family or friend connections in journalism when she started out as a journalist. She hopes that her collection of stories will encourage the next generation of diverse journalists who are wondering if they will ever carve out a sustainable career, considering the challenges specific to their own time and political context. “The third character in the book is really the political context of that time, which is around 9/11 and how that era in politics really shaped my experiences in arts and media,” Malik says. “Through these stories, I’m sharing how I personally interacted with that time

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Desi Girl is my personal story about a particular time and political context that coincided with my entry into journalism.

Film Reviews

Aimee Knight Film Editor @siraimeeknight


his year marks the centenary of director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s birth, and the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival is celebrating the controversial artist with key retrospective screenings. Presented by the Italian Cultural Institute Sydney, the suite honours Pasolini’s “Trilogy of Life” – The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972) and Arabian Nights (1974). Each adapted from classic literary works, these bold films probe religion, folklore and sexuality, showcasing the director’s interest not only in moving images but also in the written word, and, above all, the human spirit. A reflective mood winds through the wider program, too. You’ll find documentaries like Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams (a portrait of Hollywood heel-smith Salvatore Ferragamo, from Luca Guadagnino of Call Me By Your Name fame), and Ennio: The Maestro (an ode to prolific film composer Ennio Morricone, by Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore). The festival’s centrepiece drama is even called Nostalgia – a story of a man who, after spending four decades away, returns to his home town of Naples only to discover that, as the saying goes, you can never go home again. An example of the New Neapolitan Cinema movement, it’s a fitting bridge to the program’s strong contemporary titles: Francesca Marino’s debut feature Blackout Love, Chiara Bellosi’s Swing Ride and Stefano Sardo’s rom-com in reverse, With Or Without You. The festival runs nationally from 13 September until 16 October. AK



A lonely young girl, Cáit (a phenomenal Catherine Clinch) is sent to stay with relatives for one idyllic 1980s summer in Colm Bairéad’s enchanting feature debut. Cared for by her mother’s cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) and her reserved farmer husband Seán (Andrew Bennett), Cáit blossoms, but a hidden tragedy lurks behind the closed doors of their quiet country home. Bairéad’s camera lingers in doorways and corners, capturing scenes of weighted domestic stillness from a child’s-eye view. Pregnant pauses give way to moments of simple tenderness that feel overwhelming: Eibhlín gently brushing Cáit’s hair, or gruff Seán wordlessly sliding her a biscuit before he leaves for work. The gentle score and lilting Gaelic dialogue give The Quiet Girl the subtle tension of a fairytale, hinting at something ominous hiding in the sun-dappled meadows. But Bairéad keeps his focus firmly on the ordinary tragedies of growing up, and the stifling sadness of grief, rooting his gentle film in the simple power of tender affection. LOUISE CAIN FLUX GOURMET




What comes to mind when thinking of the word “gastronomic”? You might imagine delicious cooking and sizzling pans – or bowel issues and colonoscopies. There’s all this and more in Peter Strickland’s (In Fabric) latest: another darkly humorous sojourn into the human psyche. Elle (Fatma Mohamed), Billy (Asa Butterfield) and Lamina (Ariane Labed) are performers in residence at the Sonic Catering Institute, headed by the imposing patron Jan Stevens (Gwendoline Christie). “Sonic catering” is like a harsh concert during a cooking show: distortion pedals and knobs are fiddled with amid chopping and blending. A writer, Stones (Makis Papadimitriou), who suffers from a mysterious condition causing constant flatulence, documents the trio in between visits to the arch Dr Glock (Richard Bremmer). Meanwhile, a rival collective rejected from the residency prepares an assault. Expect orgies and bloodshed amid a sharp piss-take on artistic motivations and how the patron system can fail creatives. A sonic and visual feast. CHER TAN


The latest treatise on the Gen Z condition dares to ask: what if Euphoria was a murder mystery? Genre films have long taken teenage histrionics to gruesome heights, but rarely with such venomous zeal. Set in a mansion insulated from a raging hurricane, Bodies scrutinises the disintegration of a toxic friendship group when a dead body is uncovered amid their hedonistic partying. Veering away from slasher territory, the film instead lurks within the dark comedy of its premise, as the unknown killer fuels an escalation of passiveaggressive interpersonal beef. While director Halina Reijn (Instinct) adeptly balances the violent tone, tension struggles to cut through the monotonous, murky cinematography. The cast features Maria Bakalova (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm), Rachel Sennott (Shiva Baby) and other emerging stars who can convincingly verbalise dialogue that sounds like viral tweets from 2017. All cringe aside, Bodies is a pointed reminder that a terminally online existence is the greatest horror of all. JAMIE TRAM

Small Screen Reviews

Claire Cao Small Screens Editor @clairexinwen



 | 21 SEPT ON SBS & NITV

 | STAN

Acclaimed Arrernte and Kalkadoon filmmaker Rachel Perkins poetically intertwines stories of Blak Frontier War heroes in this thoughtprovoking docuseries. Perkins builds a filmic monument for Blak history, following everyone from Pemulwuy, a Bidjigal clan warrior who started a 12-year guerrilla war against British invaders, to the Dharug women who built the Hawkesbury. The episodes use engaging voiceovers plus cutaways to the unnerving halls of a makeshift storage facility in Canberra that holds the remains of more than 400 Aboriginal bodies. Stolen artefacts, colonial paintings and scripted re-enactments of whitewashed histories are juxtaposed with interviews with Elders and academics such as professors Marcia Langton and Henry Reynolds. Throughout, Perkins astutely points out the irony of Australia being a country obsessed with war and commemoration, yet has hardly built any memorials to remember the lives lost in the Frontier Wars. You’ll leave with a sense of how far racism bleeds and how much history has been erased.

Hollywood has long forgotten how to make quality sleaze and we’re all the worse off for it. Take Paul Schrader’s sultry neo-noir film American Gigolo (1980), which has now been adapted into prosaic prestige TV, endlessly preoccupied with backstory but pointlessly light on sin. This reimagining sees the character of Julian Kaye, now played by Jon Bernthal (We Own This City), emerge from prison following his exoneration from a murder. Having previously worked within an elite organisation of sex workers, he now seeks out a new life even as his old life stubbornly intrudes. The laboured plotting fails to meaningfully analyse the swirl of fantasy and exploitation that defines Kaye’s life. At least the stiff edges of Bernthal’s jawline are kept in focus. His casting remains the central point of interest in the show; having built a career on selling red-blooded machismo, Gigolo finds Bernthal leaning into a different form of objectification and carrying the weight of his character’s ambivalence. It’s a defining performance sunk by an exceedingly generic show. JAMIE TRAM



t’s unlikely any show this year will match the visual splendour of the Second Age of Middle-earth. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a series that understands the scale of Tolkien’s indomitable classic, with its million-dollar budget glittering in every sweep of those familiar green hills and the drift of autumn leaves in the (previously unseen on screen) Elven realm of Lindon. Taking place thousands of years before The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this Prime Video prequel depicts an era of relative peace, when eternal baddie Sauron is presumed dead. Much like the other titanic fantasy prequel currently airing, House of the Dragon, the series shows a kingdom at its peak – with dread seeping in, just out of view. In the former film adaptations, the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm (or Moria) is in ruins; here it’s glorious, its dizzying tiers bustling with life. There’s also a keen awareness of the warmth at the core of the franchise, with Bear McCreary’s nostalgic score and a plucky gang of little Harfoots keeping the wars and politicking down to (Middle-) earth. With an immense cast of new, sometimes archetypical, characters, viewers may feel adrift; the story sings when it focuses on iconic characters who, in their youth, feel more accessible and rougher around the edges. Watch for Galadriel (the mesmerising Morfydd Clark), a prickly and fierce warrior, and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), when he brimmed with cunning overconfidence. Stay for a fantasy show that genuinely looks and feels out of this world. CC

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It’s a tired trope to depict trans girls and women in front of mirrors – an image that appears early on in this documentary, showing actor and trans advocate Georgie Stone brushing her hair. But director Maya Newell (Gayby Baby, In My Blood It Runs) knows what she is doing. Rather than artifice, the origami-folded assemblage of vlogs, home videos and years of footage underscore a deep sense of consistency in Stone’s character and embodiment: here she is at age nine, 12, 14, 17, groaning again, tucking her hair behind her ear, making that same face. Being who she has always been. That makes it all the more powerful when Stone says of her upcoming gender affirmation surgery: “I don’t want this operation to change anything because I’m really happy.” Stone’s story is her own, and many trans people won’t relate to the particularities of her journey. But most viewers will find something beautiful in this sensitive and optimistic coming‑of‑age story. JINGHUA QIAN

Music Reviews


Isabella Trimboli Music Editor



e’re in the second half of the year, and it’s the season for some of our biggest pop stars to return with equally ambitious new albums. First up, Beyoncé has recently released her seventh album, Renaissance, a fun, bombastic dance record, taking inspiration from the queer Black icons who invented house and techno music as we know it. Riffing on Detroit house and ballroom culture, and teeming with great samples, Renaissance is about the liberation of the dancefloor, and how it allows us a temporary break from obligation, despair and doom. The pop titan beckons us to quit our stuffy jobs, revel in carnality, and submit our bodies to the propulsive delights of clubbing. It’s a joyous record, reminding us that sometimes adhering to the pleasure principle is the only thing that can truly rejuvenate us. Then there’s Megan Thee Stallion, who has become a household name through her peerless punchlines and her uncompromising embrace of sexuality. On her latest record, Traumazine, the Southern hip-hop star is reckoning with the intricacies of her image, and the way she has been betrayed and vilified by those close to her, and by the media. It’s raw and diarist, demanding respect, and dishes out on those who have cruelly profited off her celebrity. The production is underwhelming, but Stallion’s lines – sharp, savage and delivered with full force – are undeniably brilliant. On the horizon, Taylor Swift will release Midnights, an album dedicated to late-night rumination, and Carly Rae Jepson will return with the introspective The Loneliest Time. IT




A leading name in the rise of low-fi house in the past decade – a set of producers specialising in wistful, fuzzy nostalgia, often with ironic names like Ross from Friends or DJ Boring – Australia’s own Mall Grab has moved forward with a patchwork quilt debut album, inspired by his seven years living in London. A harsh reading would say Jordon Alexander pulls from so many influences that it’s hard to understand what makes Mall Grab unique. But repeat listens reveal that What I Breathe is much more than an Australian abroad discovering sounds that existed long before them. The hardstyle of ‘Metaphysical’ vibrates with a fuzzy low-fi quality underneath; the twinkling synths and near-IDM of ‘I Can Remember It So Vividly’ twist and build subtly; and the piano house of ‘Love Reigns’ contains an ecstasy that’s hard to capture. What I Breathe isn’t a grand artistic statement, but it is very successful big-room club music, an eclectic but not too challenging set that will get – and keep – a room heaving. JARED RICHARDS





In their own words, “Plea Unit is the product of multimedia collaborations amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns”. Plea Unit pairs two of the freshest voices in Australian rap – Teether (Melbourne) and BAYANG tha Bushranger (Sydney) – and on this debut album, they work gloomy magic over beats by producer/artist Endless Prowl (also Melbourne). Plea Unit purposely situates itself in dystopian cyberpunk, citing novelists William Gibson and Ursula Le Guin as key influences. Endless Prowl’s sound projects this same digital doom – drudging alien music that may be compared to the spooky choppedand-screwed edits of Three 6 Mafia. Lyrically, mysticism and dejection pervade, manifest in the single ‘Burden’ that boasts the repeated chorus, “My body’s a burden to hold”, following from a verse by BAYANG, who reflects, “World is a bore/Feels like time is just borrowed/Tryna hold on to my soul”. Through the COVID crisis, the two have been prolific in releasing new work, and are certainly breaking new ground in Australian rap. ANGUS MCGRATH

Zac Denton released nearly 20 albums with The Ocean Party and other bands before his sudden death in 2018, aged 24. This collection showcases demos and sketches intended for further projects like Ciggie Witch, Pregnancy and No Local. The record reveals a natural songwriter who was acutely attuned to his interior world. Opener ‘Ciggie Whinge’ sees Denton looking forward to a summer reset, while the especially unguarded ‘Six Weeks’ is a heartbreaking love song about pining across time zones. There are lighter moments here too, as when he lets loose with a funny little “yeehaw” on ‘Pay You Back With Love’. Often kept to just acoustic guitar and keyboards, these songs double as low-key vignettes of Denton’s early twenties, from “going to the shops 10 times a day” and “living on frozen chips” to carving out his own space in crowded share houses. There are a few instrumental songs here, but his tender lyrics – filled with quiet revelations – are what grounds this introspective, compelling compilation. DOUG WALLEN

Book Reviews

Clare Millar Books Editor @claresmillar





Like her 2019 novel, Islands, Peggy Frew’s latest work is a fascinating portrait of a suburban family and its dysfunctions. Sisters Meg, Nina and Amber are all adults dealing with lives that have been in some way derailed from the promise they once held. But the youngest, Amber, takes centre stage – literally – when her talent for acting leads to a lifelong drug addiction that tests everyone. Over the course of a short holiday to Far North Queensland, the past and present lives of each sister emerge through tense and tender vignettes, which sometimes hint at more than they reveal, yet still provide enough intrigue to propel the story forwards. Given all the drama, the characters are not always likeable, and the girls’ parents are particularly aloof. Frew skilfully crafts an innate humanness and beauty for each of these three wildflower sisters. It’s impossible not to care deeply or be unaffected by the choices they make attempting to navigate their way through a world of pain.

Here Be Leviathans hooks you in from its opening sentence. This is a creative short story collection, with each story presenting an unexpected narrator. Flynn’s natural history and scientific leanings inform the stories, with narrators ranging from sabretooth tigers to grizzly bears, with a few (usually) non-sentient twists too. It’s delightful to open each story and realise just what/who the narrator is. There are a number of standout stories: ‘Inheritance’, ‘Monotreme’, ‘Here Be Leviathans’, ‘Alas, Poor Yorick’ and ‘A Beautiful and Unexpected Turn’ all produce a sense of wonder over the possibilities of life on Earth and how we interact with/disrupt the natural order. Flynn is imaginative in interpreting what the inner lives of creatures could be. A few stories lacked this clarity of direction, however – notably the final story of the collection, which was challenging to decipher and felt out of place. Overall, though, it’s a collection not to miss.


Nothing to Hide is the first anthology of its kind published by a mainstream publisher. The range of trans and gender-diverse voices is vast: First Nations, migrants, young and older folk, people with disability, and those experiencing disadvantage all share their stories across poetry, essay and sequential art. There are tales of navigating cultural traditions, interrogation of definitions of gender and sexuality, and chronicles of growing up with one body yet finding home in a more fitting one. Nothing to Hide addresses the harsher realities of being trans and/or gender-diverse, and how systems of power continually fail people who are trying to live their most fulfilling lives; and it’s also a celebration of existing outside cis-normativity. Two stand-out contributions are Asiel Adán Sànchez’s tribute ‘Portrait for Mama Alto’ and Ellen van Neerven’s ‘Abject Subjectivity (at the Awards Ceremony)’. This anthology is a document of hope and deserves a wide readership. GEMMA MAHADEO




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t’s that time of year – publishers and booksellers are gearing up for a blockbuster Christmas season. I wish we could review everything, but there are just too many good books coming your way. Out now you’ll find new books from popular writers Alexander McCall Smith, Danielle Steel, Maggie O’Farrell, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Victoria Hannan, Stephen King, Adam Kay and Di Morrissey. There’s new cookbooks from Donna Hay, Karen Martini and Jamie Oliver – and the new instalment of Andy Griffiths’ and Terry Denton’s treehouse series! There are another 13 new levels to the treehouse, including a stinky level and a TV quiz show level, and everyone’s got so much to do on the night before Christmas. This is sure to be a fun read for kids, who have patiently waited a year for this instalment. Also available now are new Anh Do titles – Cheesy Weird, the 19th book in the Weirdo series; and A New Gemini, the fourth E-boy story. There’s much more to look forward to as well. It’s the season of events, with the National Young Writers Festival running in person and streaming from Newcastle (29 September to 2 October). I’m excited about tuning into #LoveOzYA: More Than Just a Hashtag, with Alison Evans, Bianca Breen and Jess Sanders discussing the Australian young adult literature movement. I’m also keen on ‘English Is Cancelled’, with Dženana Vucic, Lise Leitner and Rafief Ismail discussing colonialism and languages. CM

Public Service Announcement

by Lorin Clarke @lorinimus

There’s a grandmother who lives down our street, and when she moved into the house, the street suddenly started looking kind of brilliant. She planted succulents in tiny gardens in the in-between bits. She put the odd tiny fairy sitting on a park bench in one or two of them. Once she started doing that, other people did similar things. The main thing I noticed, apart from how much I loved someone else’s grandma, was that I had never even noticed the bits before they became fairy gardens. What were they before? Leaving things alone is also sometimes a nice thing to do. Watching an ant crawl up a fence that to you

seems old and boring? The ant is having a fine time. Who are you to change the ant’s enjoyment of anting? Having a rocky time at work? With a friend? Confused about a life choice? The messy bits are easier when you recruit someone to help. When you think back, it’s the messy bits where you often love people the most. I have a friend who was recently becoming romantically involved with someone when she declared to me that she was not looking forward to the bit where the other person “discovered all my unappealing bits”. She likes to watch Real Housewives of Melbourne. She doesn’t like how her hair looks in the mornings. Suspending disbelief is what we call this in the writing world. She wanted to suspend disbelief. “I don’t want to know their unappealing bits, either,” she said, although we had just been googling them. But isn’t all this what loving someone is? Do not the people you love the most annoy you the most? A member of my family rubs the next page of the book they are reading and has done it all my life. I am very close to this person. I would do pretty much anything for this person. I adore her completely. If, however, she is reading a book, I need to make sure I am sitting out of earshot because honestly it is insanely annoying, and she doesn’t even notice she’s doing it. Even thinking about it is making me all hot and itchy. You know what mess is nice? The mess the day after. We had a party in the backyard. Some mates came over for dinner and we didn’t do the dishes. Someone’s going to clean up, sure, but wasn’t it lovely? Let’s make a cup of tea and wander about the place remembering who said what for a while. Let’s put some music on and warm up to the idea that we’ll clean it all up and it will be over. I write this sitting in a house that is so messy I don’t know where to start. But then, when I think about it, even that mess is evidence of life. Of creativity. Of love. Public Service Announcement: even the messy bits can be lovely.

Lorin Clarke is a Melbourne-based writer. The new series of her radio and podcast series, The Fitzroy Diaries, is on ABC Radio National and the ABC Listen app now.



o you ever notice the weird bits? The dull bits? The messy bits? Do you ever take a phone call and wander somewhere you haven’t been before where it’s quiet and see a small square of the world that has some grass coming through the bricks and a discarded plastic smoothie cup and some cigarette butts and busted-up concrete? I saw a meme the other day that purported to be a visual representation of the idea that “if all of humanity were squished into a ball, the ball would fit inside Central Park in New York”. Whether or not that is true is something you’ll have to take up with the “what if we were all a giant human ball” experts. It’s a fascinating concept though. Imagine if you could redistribute space. This is what I often think about those little ugly bits. What if you joined up that little uneven triangle between the fence and the school building and a pole against the messy porch of a house whose junk spills onto the lawn. Discarded plastic tricycles. A river with a shopping trolley in it and half a chair. In a computer game, you’d be able to get all these ugly bits and photoshop them into a whole different country. You could revegetate it and repopulate it. You could invent an entire new society. Some of it is probably quite nicely composted soil. We could also, though, stop trying to control the ugly bits. We could leave them unmanicured and uncurated. Because life is many things, not just one thing, which helps us pick our favourite parts. Public Service Announcement: the messy bits in life deserve to be noticed, too.

16 SEP 2022

Embrace the Mess




Tastes Like Home Ellie Bullen

Shepherd’s Pie Ingredients Serves 4-6

Potato Topping 540g potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm chunks 2 tablespoons vegan butter 3 tablespoons soy milk ¼ teaspoon sea salt 2 teaspoons dried parsley, plus extra for sprinkling



Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced. Start with the potato topping. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the potato, cover and boil for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Drain and return the potato to the pan, then add the butter, soy milk, salt and dried parsley. Mash until smooth and fluffy. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over mediumhigh heat. Add the lentils, frozen mixed veg, tomatoes, gravy powder and thyme. Stir and bring to a simmer, then cook for five minutes. Stir through the red wine and continue to simmer for three minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste. (For babies or toddlers, replace the wine with water.) Transfer the lentil and vegetable mixture to a large baking dish and evenly spread the mashed potato over the top. Sprinkle with a little extra dried parsley, then transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the potato is golden and crisp. Scatter some chopped parsley over the shepherd’s pie and serve hot.


Ellie says…


hepherd’s pie is a warming, wholesome dish that signifies home to me, as it reminds me so dearly of fond memories growing up and sharing mealtimes at the table with my family. It was a regular meal served at the dinner table for me and my siblings. Both my parents and my English grandmother used to make this dish for us when we were young, and I suppose it was a nice little ode to their English background. The one we ate was not exactly the same as this version – a plant-based take on the classic, using lentils instead of ground beef mince as a source of protein. My version is not only simple, but it’s also very cost-effective. Of course, it is incredibly delicious too! I mean, what’s not to love about gravy, vegies and mashed potatoes all baked together? It’s a winter staple. After years of travelling abroad, my husband Alex and I returned to Australia and moved into our new home on the Gold Coast shortly before the pandemic hit. I was a few months’ pregnant and, like many people, spent a lot more time at home, in and out of lockdowns. During this time, I found joy in simple daily routines and fell in love all over again with the pleasures of home cooking. We welcomed our son Bowie into the world in July 2020 and our lives became a lot more chaotic, with much less sleep and a lot less time to cook meals. The recipes in my cookbook were born out of my desire to cook tasty meals quickly, and they are very much a reflection of my current life stage as a busy working mum. Now, I love that I can cook this dish at home using plant-based ingredients for my husband and children, to create new memories for them. Hopefully it will be a dish that they love to come home to when they’re older, too. ELLIE BULLEN’S SIMPLE (MOSTLY) VEGAN KITCHEN IS OUT NOW.

16 SEP 2022

chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve


1 tablespoon olive oil 2 x 400g cans lentils, rinsed and drained 465g (3 cups) frozen mixed veg (peas, corn and carrots) 400g can chopped tomatoes 3 tablespoons onion gravy powder 2 teaspoons dried thyme 3 tablespoons vegan red wine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper,



By Lingo! by Lee Murray STREWTH

CLUES 5 letters John, Paul and George’s drummer Juvenile Metal block Of the Hungarian and related languages Stocky little dog 6 letters Dallying (with) Day trip In tears Remedying Tiresome 7 letters Thrashing Travelling 8 letters Pandering to



Each column, row and 3 x 3 box must contain all numbers 1 to 9.

2 8









9 2 9 4 6 1 9 7 6 8 3 1 7 9 1 4 9 8 5 6 3

Puzzle by

Solutions CROSSWORD PAGE 45 ACROSS 1 Blockade 5 Errand 10 Greed 11 Bookmaker 12 Tornadoes 13 Theta 14 Campus 15 Stumble 19 Inherit 21 Trials 23 Dogma 26 Golden age 27 Leitmotiv 28 Spill 29 On duty 30 Evil Dead

DOWN 1 Bogota 2 Overreach 3 Kidnapper 4 Dubious 6 Remit 7 Ankle 8 Dark Ages 9 Boasts 16 Universal 17 Balkanise 18 Vindaloo 20 Tights 21 Tel Aviv 22 Veiled 24 Grind 25 Admit

20 QUESTIONS PAGE 9 1 Africa 2 Javelin. 3 Travis Barker 4 Green 5 The Weeping Woman 6 Hot 7 b) France 8 Horse 9 Billy Idol 10 c) Myanmar 11 Ajla Tomljanović 12 King George VI 13 Barcelona 14 Madonna 15 Children 16 Melrose Place 17 China 18 Monkeypox 19 Steve Bannon 20 Eight

16 SEP 2022

Using all nine letters provided, can you answer these clues? Every answer must include the central letter. Plus, which word uses all nine letters?



Word Builder

If you go back far enough, you’ll run into the Ancient Greek strouthós “sparrow”. A short hop, skip and jump from there, you’ll meet the mégas strouthós “big sparrow”: the ostrich. And while there’s nothing more Australian than a sarcastic nickname… it’s got nothing to do with strewth. Sorry. Strewth is what we call a “minced oath”: a sweary expression that’s lost the actual sweary bit along the way. Minced oaths are much milder than their parent: think heck or darn. Strewth is an old-school 19th-century minced oath, having dropped a religious (blasphemous) element from its parent: by God’s truth. It probably doesn’t help that there are a stack of different spellings for it, either. Strewth, streuth, strooth, struth – gadzooks!


by Chris Black

Quick Clues










9 10










1 Siege (8) 5 Chore (6) 10 Deadly sin (5) 11 One who takes bets (9) 12 Twisters (9) 13 Greek letter (5) 14 University grounds (6) 15 Stagger (7) 19 Come into (7) 21 Tests (6) 23 Tenet (5) 26 Period when things were at their “best” (6,3) 27 Theme (9) 28 Reveal (confidential info) (5) 29 Working (2,4) 30 Horror franchise created by Sam Raimi (4,4) DOWN

21 22









Cryptic Clues




1 Lego product made without initial obstruction

1 Got into snake capital (6) 2 Go too far designing Back to the Future hover


5 Miscalculate & trip (6) 10 Overeating good grass? (5) 11 Publisher gambled with him? (9) 12 Senator upset about party columns getting

airtime? (9)

13 Mad Hatter: short character (5) 14 Author accepts first prize at uni? (6) 15 Beginning Spring-Fall trip (7) 19 Be left with popular woman’s computers (7) 21 Cases of foreign currency acquired by poet (6) 23 Follow mother’s teachings (5) 26 Greenlight Harry: A Legend for prime time?

(6,3) 27 Composed Tilt movie theme (9) 28 Knock over small tablet (5) 29 Cricket side tax working (2,4) 30 Cast did leave horror franchise (4,4 )

South American capital (6) Go for too much (9) One after a ransom (9) Suspect (7) Send, as payment (5) Spot for bracelet (5) Period when things were at their “worst” (4,4) 9 Brags (6) 16 General (9) 17 Break up (9) 18 Type of curry (8) 20 Close-fitting garment (6) 21 Mediterranean capital (3,4) 22 Hidden (6) 24 Chore (5) 25 Let in (5) 1 2 3 4 6 7 8

car? (9)

3 Criminal deviously pranked PI (9) 4 Uncertain term debts (7) 6 Send clock back (5) 7 Joint withdrawal from bank ledger (5) 8 Degas worried about craft a long time ago (4,4) 9 Crows skipper’s first to be involved in crafts (6) 16 “Doctor! Nurse! Vial is affecting all cases!” (9) 17 Hurt (as in bleak break up) (9) 18 French wine, lentils, ducks and curry (8) 20 Struggles to change top and fishnets? (6) 21 #6 valet returned to Mediterranean city (3,4) 22 Live broadcast: journalist covered… (6) 24 …hard work with a smile (and top dollar) (5) 25 Let in to commercial university (5)


1 2 4 5 7 6 3 9 8

6 9 7 8 4 3 1 2 5

3 5 8 2 9 1 6 4 7

2 8 3 9 5 4 7 1 6

9 7 1 3 6 8 4 5 2

4 6 5 1 2 7 9 8 3

7 3 2 4 8 9 5 6 1

5 1 9 6 3 2 8 7 4

8 4 6 7 1 5 2 3 9

Puzzle by

WORD BUILDER PAGE 43 5 Ringo Young Ingot Ugric Corgi 6 Toying Outing Crying Curing Trying 7 Routing Touring 8 Courting 9 Congruity

16 SEP 2022




Click 1955

JRR Tolkien

words by Michael Epis photo by Getty




here has never been a more unlikely mass‑market author and pop-culture hero than John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, an Oxford don who spent his life studying languages unspoken for centuries. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892, where his father, a British banker, was working. Tolkien, his younger brother Hilary and mother Mabel returned to England in 1895. His father was to follow, but died suddenly. Disaster struck when Mabel died in 1904 of diabetes, a fatal condition pre-insulin. Aged 12, Tolkien was an orphan, his guardianship assigned by his mother to a Catholic priest. At 16 Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, a Protestant. His guardian Father Francis forbade their seeing each other until he turned 21. Tolkien complied, and on the eve of his 21st birthday wrote to her, proposing marriage. She accepted, and they married in March 1916, just before Tolkien, having first finished his degree at Oxford, was sent to the Western Front. Bitten by lice, he contracted trench fever, and was shipped back to England. His wife had known where he was throughout by a coded system of dots in their letters.

When he volunteered in WWII as a cryptographer, it seems he failed the test, which is very odd, because as readers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will know, Tolkien had not simply studied extinct languages – Old English, Old Norse, Gothic, Old Welsh – but he had also invented languages and alphabets. Hand in hand with that went creating mythologies, without which Tolkien believed a language could not survive. After various academic posts, Tolkien became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. It was there, while marking exams, that he came upon a page left blank by the student. On it, Tolkien scrawled “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” By 1936, his manuscript was with publisher Stanley Unwin, who passed it to his 10-yearold son, Rayner, to read. The boy approved. His father accepted his recommendation – and a legend was born. Unwin wanted more. Thirteen years later Tolkien finished The Lord of the Rings, published six years later, in 1955. It became a staple of 60s counterculture, forcing Tolkien to change his phone number, thanks to annoying calls from stoned hippies. Tolkien died in 1973, and was buried next to his wife, with whom he had four children.

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