Sunday, 12 April 2015

Over the top we go... Hot Crescent Buns

My long-term readers will know I have 2 regular and non-negotiable items to write a year. Both lunar-calendar based, Chinese New Year ... and this one – related to the tradition of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, Easter. It’s a bit later than normal. Read on or listen here

My long-term readers will know I have 2 regular and non-negotiable items to write a year. Both lunar-calendar based, Chinese New Year ... and this one – related to the tradition of Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, Easter. It’s a bit later than normal.
This year I was in Turkey with my Father and his wife Di. We were chasing World War One ghosts in Gallipoli and Homer’s myths and legends in Troy across the Dardenelles. It’s always seemed a little strange to me that Troy is a real place with actual things like the Scamander river in which the Goddesses washed their hair and so on. At any rate this part of the world has been so central and important that these incredible Greek tales were set in them and the Romans claimed them too... Though perhaps it’s no different from the fictitious hero’s we populate ‘Gotham’ with in our modern legends.
Anyway as I was on Muslim soil and in the interests of inclusion and peace especially in religious ways I made a special effort. Ladies and Gentlemen - I present to you the Hot Crescent Bun! 

I did not bake these myself... I modified these from their original form. Wanting something of the cut-and-thrust of Homeric legend I’ve done a cut-and-paste job on them. But not of the Photoshop kind, no, this was an old school trimming of the sacred bread itself. Far preferable – after all who doesn’t like to get sticky fingers!
As you can see the results are like my beard - patchy at best - but it’s an effort to illustrate the title of this piece. Which in turn leads into the purpose of this missive. Tolerance.

While billions of people and countless cultural organizations don’t practice tolerance, YOU can. And that will make a difference. In your life and in the lives of everyone you encounter.

Religious intolerance is the most obvious global sticking point at the moment. I’m aware that religion has been the root of many horrendous conflicts. Or rather than root, its been used as the explanation for peoples being at war with each other rather than it generally being about economics as usual. And yet I am utterly baffled by the faith-based insistence on being right and to hell with the rest of you. And how otherwise logical folks think that there is any more reason to believe in one almighty god than there is to believe in the whole Pantheon of gods that meddled from Mount Ida in the affairs of noble Troy and are scoffed at now.

...But I’d like to address a different intolerance a little closer to home and insidiously active all around us.

Back in bad old segregated Johannesburg, South Africa I was in high school in the 80's. For an hour a week we were prescribed to do 'cadets’ training. This amounted to learning to march like we would be expected to when we went to the white apartheid conscript army after school. To some degree the students were left to drill themselves. Basically some of the seniors ordering the juniors to March around in class squads. Left right left wheel halt blah blah banal... Except once a group of matrics (final year pupils) decided to have some fun. They took our little squad of 30 or so 14 year olds. They picked one of them and made this one kid point out who was a faggot in the group. I don't have a lot of sympathy for this kid, made to choose, for he was a bit of a weasel and was clearly happy that he got to choose and therefore wasn't going to be the main target of this abuse. He chose a friend of mine, like me not very high on the list of sporting achievers and thus just perfect to bully. And of course I was also singled out as being ‘queer’. Next this matric (not the sharpest claw on the cat but definitely the meanest of the litter) made my friend lie on the ground with all the boys stand around and watching. And then I was made to do press-ups on top of him. I remember being horrified and embarrassed and just did what they asked and hoped it would end there. It pretty much did. What a stupid crappy thing to have to endure.

Now I don't really care about any of that anymore but I do care how homophobia is still used to bully, belittle and denigrate people around the world regardless of whether or not they even are homosexual. So I want everyone who knows me to know that it's not anymore ok to be even casually homophobic than it is to be casually racist, sexist and so on. But what freaks me out even more is that so many people aren't even casually so. They actually are so.

Everyone knows change is needed, everyone knows change is coming but people forget that change is and always has been happening... Each generation is more liberal than the last and more personal freedom attained than before. Many think this is a bad thing. But let’s face it... that decision is generally made by the people or groups in those societies that enjoy the most personal freedom within them. It isn’t the subjugated that choose slavery. At least its amusing to think how in a few years people protesting against same-sex marriage will look as daft as those protesting against equal civil rights.

But as per Gandhi’s words, being the change one wants to see in the world is unlikely to be comfortable. Being on the edge can be precarious... the precipice in front with a jostling eager herd behind or worse an angry mob filled with ignorance & hatred...

Like those brave men that fought and died in Gallipoli there was a moment at which they had to leap from their trenches and expose themselves to certain death. So too on much smaller levels there come moments in our lives in which we are willing to make a stand and expose ourselves to hostility. Not necessarily at some dramatic moment but rather at a point when one’s own confidence and indignation of the injustice has grown enough to do so. So over the top I go...

I've had some same-sex interactions. Almost entirely this has just involved kissing and most of those times have also involved a woman. I am far more drawn to women and to the female form however if I meet someone I simply have to kiss and they feel the same way then I have kissed them. Should I ever enjoy it more; I hope I have the courage to go beyond any form of residual societally placed homophobia and explore further. There is everything right with this attitude. In just the same way there is nothing morally higher or lower for any consensual act of love or sexuality between adults no matter the shade of grey.

My first pass at writing this article deliberately left my experience-level vague so people could think what they wanted to. I felt anything else might be apologetic. At one point I’d even considered ‘coming out of the closet’ as being bisexual or gay just in solidarity, regardless of the fact that I haven’t actually had sex with another man nor wanted to. But those were not my truths. I remain scared and wary of this form of sexuality but I completely recognize how wrong that is and how this fear has been placed within me by the actions of the social multitude and also the horrible few.

Whereas I know Love is Love. And I ... love you.

Doctor Lobster

This image courtesy of Francesca McHugh

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Baaaadd Times, Goat Friends...

Read on with pictures or listen to it here
As the Year of the Horse gallops over its finishing line a lot of us will wonder what we did on that ride, what shall we do next, how can we keep going, where are we going and why?
And to that the Goat, in Sheep’s clothing, sidles in with the New Moon whispering of a future of delight in a distant and pleasant land. The destination is often obvious but the path to it unclear... And to that the Goat remarks, “You can't force it to happen but you must contribute in order for it to happen, yet above all, accept that it is already happening!”
So in this mist-shrouded year seek the Middle Way. Not the erratic path of living two extremes or the moribund plod of appreciating neither. Rather the path of the faithful, the compassionate, the curious, the wise and the bold. The future is only assured by care in the present.
This is not a year to be shy and retiring. Free yourself to respond to life’s catastrophes with equanimity and individuation. Even if its just being noticed for noticing others or standing up for common differences. Kindness will carry you far this year. Kindness to everything, not the least of which is yourself. Self-harm and negativity, if indulged, will carve deep scars into your psyche this year. Yet upon completion of your challenge slip back into the herd and allow another the limelight. When the flock is like an oceanic flow of jellyfish its often just who you bump into that will enable vast and focused upwelling...
But there is an aspect to this year that can result in inadvertent destruction or unexpectedly bad consequences and never more than during a random encounter. Remember that a harsh word spoken at the wrong time will cast a very long shadow. That cuts both ways – so be ready with humility to lick a wound you’ve caused or deflect a thorn from your flank with indifference.
It’s a year of tight spots, close scrapes and grim determination... but set in the lushness of a green valley on a summer evening in a warm community ... Specific choices HAVE to be made and while you might not want to stand out it'll only be by choosing not to that you won't... You'll have to work hard to disappear into the flock - it's possible but on the other paw why would you want to? Better to take the moment to do a merry dance, shout out about the magic that is in every one of us and reassure all that no matter how long they’ve splashed around in the shallows each one of us is a person of depth.
This is the year to become the king your king wanted you to be.
Much Love
Doctor Lobster

But this also wouldn't be very Doctor Lobsternian if I didn't include some bizarre and slightly macabre thing I'd stumbled onto while roving the planet... New Years being an excellent reminder for us about the march of time and what that will one day bring to all of us. Peaceful Rest!!! El David and I encountered this field of severed goat heads deep in the wilds of Mongolia with nothing to explain it for hundreds of miles around. So it goes... 

Monday, 15 September 2014

To Bee or to Buzz

Read on or listen to a recording here 

Montauk, Eastern tip of Long Island, New York, a drinking town with a fishing problem.
Fresh in the water at the most Eastern beach, Ditch Plains, I sat on my surfboard beyond the break. I was acclimatizing to the blinding combination of saltwater ineffectually waterproof sunscreen. This reminds me of two phrases, Wherever you go, there you are meaning that there is no escaping ones problems, they travel with you until dealt with and there are flies in paradise, meaning the frequent small tribulations that distract us from being present to the grander beauty of a moment. That said, hardly able to see, I noticed a bee struggling close-by, in or more exactly, on the water. He/she/it (are bees gendered as such?) was wet but somehow not quite breaking the surface tension. My instinct is to save any life, however no good deed goes unpunished. So not wanting to get stung I tried at first to get it out of the water on my board or my neoprene-covered forearm.

This didnt work and I knew I was into Baywatch Water Rescue vet mode. I picked the bee up with my bare hand. It immediately crawled all the way up my ring finger, right to the tip and stopped. The symbolism of it choosing my commitment finger was not lost on me. I was in... I wanted to save this bee though I knew full well it was a fools errand with fractional chance of success. This half-drowned bee most likely already doomed.

I held him a while, close to my face, while paddling with a single arm to stay afloat. Such intricate beauties they are – fuzzy and detailed – so many little component parts, wonderful living machines. After a few minutes without any sign of life, I thought he had perhaps expired. Still fearing a sting though, I figured to move it to my wetsuit and rest my tiring lone paddling arm. I scraped the bee gently onto my right-forearm. As I did, he wonky-wobbled a few steps to the top of my wrist. Yay – a living bee! He was clearly still pretty troubled and lay still for so very long. Suddenly an antenna popped up then the other too. They windscreen-wipered his eyes. In a small flurry he shook his wings and walked in a small circle, now entirely dry. This was sooo encouraging. I tasted the chance of a successful life-save! Yet my board had turned nose-first toward the waves and in that beat, a large swell pitched me up, threatening to sweep me off and take my Apian passenger back to a watery grave. Desperately, and instinctively, I pushed down hard on my board with my left hand, arched my body high while thrusting up my bee-ridden right arm. Hoping hed take flight before the waves took us. I was thoroughly doused in the face, drinking water but managed to cling onto my board and righted myself fearing the worst for my fuzzy friend. But lo, he was still there... clinging to life and the dry-ground of my arm. Phew.
We stared at each other close-up. I said, Bee, you are amazing, you have to go... you have to fly back to land now. Its that way I said, showing the bee the shore. The Bee looked lovingly back, fluttered its wings tantalizingly-well once more and smiled as sweetly as any honey. Perhaps intoxicated by the sexy South African accent of this surfer showing such vigour in its defense, the Bee just gave me a cheesy grin as if to say, now weve met Im not going anywhere.  

I transferred her (our relationship being of a different nature now) to my fresher left arm, she crawled higher toward my shoulder. A good place I thought, perhaps now I could use both arms to paddle and make it to shore. A larger wave, sent by the jealous sea intent on reclaiming its victim, flipped my board up, sliding me right off! Desperately with my leftside up, I grabbed my board back, pulling myself on fully expecting her to be gone. Yet she wasnt. Miraculously she still clung to my bicep. Dampened once more though. One wave forward one trough back. Sigh. I shifted her back to an arm and we hung out a while in the heat of Summer. Again and again she fluttered those wings enticingly. I held her as high as I could, thrusting my hand up while shouting. Go my Bee, my love, live, be free but she would not leave. Our love in the water had endured 45minutes plus of my one-armed paddling. I was tiring. I had to save my bee-loved but how to do it? Ditch Plains, you have probably guessed, is not a beach you can get to shore without getting dumped by a wave nor am I the kind of surfer who can skillfully glide all the way in having only recently upgraded as a surfer from drowned rat to falling leaf. I had no solution but I had to make an effort. Other surfers drawn to my odd antics had admired the effort but could not offer solution either. If only thered been a stand-up paddle-boarder who couldve answered my prayers with an oar for a wing!

Bringing her close to my face once more, I said in as lovingly stern a tone as I could manage, Bee, you are amazing and I have so enjoyed being with you. Thank you for trusting me and for not stinging me. If you are able to, you must fly away. Even the wind is in our favour. I am sure you can make it to shore, you can do it.
Just the rich smile of a bee in the land of honey. I cajoled and exhorted her that she was the only hope the flowers had to procreate and for the good of the hive she should be strong and make it!
I continued, I do not know how to get you safely to shore. If I try I will likely fail. Its a miracle we have even made it this far. You must go.
And then in the sweetest voice she said. I trust you. You can do it.
I cant Bee. I will founder and you might drown. Besides if you can talk surely you can fly?
Once more, just that honeyed grin.

Silently I paddled a few more minutes while she stubbornly refused to see sense. Eventually I accepted that I would have to make an attempt to land. Perhaps if we got closer she might take flight. I was tiring considerably so needed to attempt this while I still had the strength.  
Thank you for spending this time with me. Its been a pleasure. I really dont know a way but I am going do my best and move slowly towards shore. As we get closer please do save yourself with flight. Im sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
Her antennae quivered and she saw (well into the UV spectrum) that I was utterly sincere but still she made no move. I shifted her from my hand onto the outer edge of my left bicep freeing my left arm for at least some paddling usage.

And so we began that perilous shoreline attempt. By a combination of paddling and crouching I made it through a first wave. On the second I was briefly standing before electing to go down with control so as not to lose my striped cargo. My hopes climbed that I stood a chance at pulling of a Great Beescape. But as we entered the more dangerous and rocky final section a third and humungous wave swelled right up ready to break and roll completely over me. Once more I put every ounce of energy and sinew into throwing myself up shouting Go, go, go. But I ate wave and was rolled right under water. When I surfaced... there on my upper left arm was... no bee. No Bee.

Nooooo - I felt the loss. Deep. I had known right from the start that this was not going to end well. That this little life was probably already done and doomed. That all that time in the water had probably already killed her. Or even that she had perhaps just lived her life out or indeed had even stung someone... but it had become a challenge and Id tasted hope. We had communed. Wed come to love. That I had done my best was beyond doubt but this had not been enough to save her. Any victory could only be claimed in the compassion of the attempt.

This is a true story. 

A short while later I was mulling things on the seashore. In this melancholic state I absent-mindedly wrote the word Self in the sand. I pondered why Id written that, and taking my phone out I photographed the word. Just then a wave washed over, obscuring the word from view. As it retreated the word Service remained in its place. An ocean-born message to me the lone survivor searching for meaning and purpose.

Now I had not actually seen that horror wave take Bee from my shoulder so perhaps I could console myself thinking she did indeed take wing and make it ashore. I doubt it. I think she drowned. But because we met and she died in this way many other bees might survive. This story is the start of my own effort to help bees and indeed to help ourselves. Its up to each of us.

To mangle a Stalin quote - a bee dying is a tragedy but a billion bees dying is a statistic... how is it that I and generally anyone would do so much to save a single creature and yet we do so little to save so many more? Right now the bees of this planet need us almost as much as we need them. And things are about to get even worse for them care of those fabulous pesticide corporations...

Please consider helping them... heres one good way.

If you happen to be in NYC on 20 Sept there is also this to check out...

If you have any open space at all, just think about planting some wild flowers. Apparently even that is a great help and hey, who doesnt like a flower or 3?

Much love

Hal / Doctor Lobster

And finally here are 2 shots of the reknowned Bee-hivoural pathetiologist author... pick your favourite...


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Not Cross Brownies

Read on or listen instead - click on the hidden gems too.

Good Friday – again – not the same day every year but the same motif, white crosses on a field of baked grains... all in the fine interests of dogmatic tradition and delectation. Yet in the preamble to this year’s joys I stumbled onto something that is truly the Devil’s work... The kind of thing that’d get those god-bothering anti-stemcell, it-goes-against-nature-and-god’s-will sorts in all manner of a pantie-twist... Hot Cross Brownies! Genius at first sight... And I thought aha – I have a humorous new angle for my Easter blog post. I can understand a need to increase sales and cash in on any vaguely marketable ploy… so add a white cross onto your brownies and be done with it. BUT these fiends would not stick to that. Oh no, they messed with the medium… they cross-bred a bun with a brownie resulting in something that looks like a brownie but tastes of Xmas at the wrong time of year and makes a train-wreck of the chocolate decadence one wants from a brownie – currants and cinnamon in a brownie? Like condensed milk on a sardine! If its not broken don’t break it... as the saying doesn’t go. If you’ve only got a thumb every tool looks like a hammer, right? 

Anyway these culinary horrors were uncovered in East London a week prior to Easter so I was able to forage for the more traditional fare... which is good as it is unclear what the Vatican’s stance is on Hot Cross Bun substitutes... and if those Brownies had been good many might’ve been tempted off the path of righteousness... This year I stalked and snared a brace of buns in the fields of Villandry, a restaurant that lies beneath the bastion of my gainful employment - Double Negative - stalwart in the VFX industry to which I owe so much. For the last 3 months, I have lived like a Prince of London in their Ivory Tower penthouse while serving on Avengers 2. So this morning, appropriately, I shared a bun with Rapunzel herself before leaving these fair and generous shores for a transatlantic ambush of my Canadian pals Katie and Skez who are about to leave Victoria, BC for Grand Cayman... en route I devoured the 2nd bun and can state that these buns have been about the best I’ve had in many years though I did doubt their integrity at first as they had but the slightest hint of a cross but a deceptively delicious glazing of sugar. Mmmm. 

 In the last 12months I have had a freewheeling wander across many parts of this beautiful planet. Along the way I have been to all ‘my places’ and seen ‘all my people’ except Slacktoria in Canada. And now I head there, to rectify that, not out of duty but out of delight!  I’ve seen the value of community and stability. London, Kas, Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York, LA, Black Rock City and Victoria – all places I would be welcomed to as if at home. Yet my life, my job and my choices, exciting at times have me shifting a lot... spreading me quite thinly over this magnificent globe so I miss out on the rewards community brings, building, growth, consistency which can translate to family, pets, learning from a master and for a 2nd year in a row Deirdre's homemade buns pictured . I fear it’s also cost me a prize more dear.

This last year has been extraordinary. It’s contained phenomenal loss and phenomenal gain. One aspect of it has been coming to terms with Love. What a delicate thing it seems to be but how ferocious and strong it can bind. There has been storm after storm and numerous occasions on which it has seemed to be snuffed out only for it to spring back to life stronger than ever. Yes, I cried and yes I have fed on my pain, beat my chest, rent my clothes and wanted it all to end. Certainly with bitter resolution I could’ve ensured its end. But, taking a leaf from pure impressionism I once made the choice to never paint with black. I am glad I didn’t. Instead I took some fat from the marrow of the bones of life I’ve been gnawing on and made a candle to burn in honour of what Miss Sparrow has been for me for the last 6 years.

Geographical dislocation, divergent life-patterns and encumbering baggage suggest the situation is round peg and square hole. Like learning the hard truth that friendship is not necessarily forever, so - I’ll quote the Byrds rather than the bible - I’m understanding 'There is a time for everything'. And now is not the time for Us. Now is instead the time to walk our own paths so that we may know the joys of our individual dreams. When we try to be together the Universe seems to pull us apart and when we make no effort it pulls us close. So off we bound into the woods, looking to live before we die, knowing that if we encounter one another again we will be absolutely fresh, renewed and reinvigorated. I understand this as living in Grace. This is not a regret, this is an opportunity and a joy. It’s an interesting journey and an even more interesting difference to separate from a love for the wrong reason compared to doing it for the right reason. I’ve had both with the same person for the first time. Separating now because we love each other rather than last year over mistrust. An angel-friend pointed out the possible reading of that song “You only know your lover when you let her go” to be that you have to let go of all ownership, all objectification within love to allow them to come to a full fruition and in so doing they may grow in absolute abundance and give many gifts in time. The future is a very big, promising and mysterious place but for now we each have to deal with our individual ‘presents’. I am calm within. I also understand that you don’t need religion to have faith. I have faith in the integrity and love with which we've made this choice. Taking a step away from the lowest common denominator trap and towards the possibility of a brighter future. We remain available to and for each other nonetheless. 

When I wake from this beautiful dream I call my life I hope to be at peace and in perfect harmony. I wish this for all. And in the meantime I plan to find out just how big this lobster can grow.

Super much love

Doctor Lobster

PS – I completed a bi-continental, mid-ocean, hat trick of HCB’s this year care of these slightly Cajungrilled-buns provided – seen in Champers McSpankypants’s garden of delight.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Clippety Clop

Neptune's Horse might've come second to Athena's Olive Tree in the race to name Athens but it does represent the Year ahead beginning on Friday 31 Jan. Listen here if you like.

There is much about life that is linked to Destiny. Yet this year – that of The Horse is one of freedom and allows for the most self-determination. Which is not to say one need choose that course. One may simply drift letting the Horse pick your path through bramble, rock or lush green grass, either side of any fence.

It’s a great year to dream, drift or knuckle down to some solid task. It’s a great year in general, so fresh and wild. Its dangers lie in driving you and yours too hard. If you pick a path too difficult you may well founder your mount by being too hasty. And for the want of a horse (and a few other things major and minor) a kingdom was lost. This is a year to strategically reposition yourself for victory in the next. Lead if you like, take your people to places but let them choose what to do once there. Self-determination is for all.

Whether by gallop, canter, trot, walk, plod or plough a fresh and positive life-perspective is available. Connect with the invigorating aspects of the natural world to understand your own strength and the value of community. There are many roads. All of them have delicious views. All of them lead to the Dark Heart of the Woods in which you can know your every dream but where you have to sacrifice one in order to live the rest. This will be the hardest item of the year, what will you relinquish from your stubborn grasp in order that the Trail of your Life leads through the Valley of Delight?

Much love

Doctor Lobster

This year gets a small additional note... last year (The Snake) was about internal growth through external change. This means shedding those things that no longer serve you (internal or external). You have until the Full Moon on 15 Feb to continue this process. By doing so you will relish the ride a lot more.

Apologies if that dead horse scared you... it comes from an art project I did based around the premise that Death might as well shout itself hoarse for all the attention we pay it until its oft untimely arrival... so I do like to think about... in sunshine and gloom. And that makes me love life that much more!