James Houston Turner's Blog
The Musings of James Houston Turner

Dec
27

In Australia, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day. Contrary to popular belief (and behavior), the origin of the Boxing Day name does NOT refer to the first shopping day after Christmas, when frenzied mothers engage other frenzed mothers in fist fights and “boxing” matches in local shopping malls over post-Christmas bargains. That is called mud wrestling.

Boxing Day (I learned from my good friend Chris Attwood) is actually an English tradition that migrated to Australia with the convicts (and stuck around, like the convicts). It is a public holiday not only in Australia, but New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Greenland, Hong Kong, Macau, and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations.  The origins of the holiday date back to Victorian England, when the aristocracy handed out boxed food parcels and gifts on the day after Christmas to servants and tradesmen in return for services rendered throughout the year — the original “boxed lunch,” I guess you could say.  Modern exclusions include said frenzied mothers who, contrary to popular belief (and behavior), do NOT get much of a holiday since they single-handedly make Christmas happen for everyone else.

This year, I “opened” my Christmas present on Boxing Day. In our family here in Adelaide, the adults draw names out of a hat for the gift exchange. There is a spending limit on the gift and we get to make special requests. I requested a Westfield Gift Card. I also added that I had never received a present baked inside a cake. Don’t ask me why I said that, because I have no idea. It simply popped out. It seemed zany and crazy at the time and I said it for a laugh, adding that I did not want any green icing. Don’t ask me why I said that, either. Green icing tastes just like every other color. And I never expected to be taken

seriously. After all, one of the boys, Craig, had my name and Craig worked long hours and had never baked a cake in his life.

But I forgot who Craig was married to.

Craig’s wife, Kari, is a master prankster and decided I would get my gift as requested. Thus, my Westfield Gift Card arrived deep inside a sponge cake with wonderfully gooey chocolate icing.

Being that we were at a family barbecue and had already eaten dessert (don’t forget, Christmas comes in summer here in Australia), I decided to “open” my gift on Boxing Day morning, where I could sneak a taste of Kari’s delicious cake for breakfast.  As you can see in the accompanying photo, it was a beautiful cake. But it also contained valuable treasure, so I had to cut it very carefully. As you can see in the next accompanying photo, I was able to do that successfully, which allowed me to then extract my treasure. The final photo shows me getting caught  with the evidence. There was no way I could plead innocent to the family misdemeanor of having unwrapped my present early (we always open presents together). I thought I was sneaky, but Wendy and her camera were sneakier.

I learned a lesson this past Boxing Day: crime does not pay. I always get caught. However, being a Cool Dude Writer, I continue to write about it as if I were a seasoned pro.

Originally from Kansas, James Houston Turner writes thrillers from his home in Adelaide, South Australia, where he tries unsuccessfully to out-sneak his wife. You may visit him at www.jameshoustonturner.com

Dec
12

I like books and films where I’m transported to another place and time. I want to be swept up in the adventure or majesty of the moment… to suspend disbelief and soar, run, or cry with the characters as they struggle against the odds.

James Cameron’s wonderful 3D epic, Avatar, is just such a film and it certainly impressed critics at its London premiere.

Avatar takes place in 2154 on the mythical planet of Pandora. Earth has been stripped of its resources, so the greedy Resources Developmental Administration, backed by a ruthless military contractor, casts its covetous eyes on Pandora, a sensual, wild, and often dangerous planet filled with gargantuan trees, floating mountains, and wondrous creatures in a lush, luminescent jungle. It is truly spectacular world created by Cameron’s CGI wizardry.

The film’s main character is Jake Sully (an excellent performance by Australian actor, Sam Worthington), a former Marine who lost the use of his legs in battle. His scientist twin brother has just died and Sully, whose DNA matches that of his brother, has taken his place on a mission to Pandora, where a group of scientists led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) have spliced the DNA of certain humans (Sully is one) to that of the indigenous population, the feline-like, gracile, ten-foot-high Na’vi, to create avatars of the creatures, which are then brought to life while their human counterparts lie in a sort of computerized coffin in the lab, channeling thoughts and life to the avatars. The purpose is to become part of the Na’vi society to learn more about them.

But the Resources Development Administration wants Sully to secretly furnish intel on the Na’vi in order to defeat them. Being the good soldier that he is, Sully agrees. It is when Sully falls for princess Neytiri (voiced to perfection by Zoe Saldana) and begins to appreciate Na’vi ways, that he regrets his agreement and instead decides to help them defend their planet against the coming invasion.

There have been a few negative comments from critics. Not a lot, mind you, but a few. While appreciative of the film’s 3D special effects, they nevertheless see a hackneyed storyline: an invading government’s willingness to do anything to anyone in order to gain access to what is coveted, in this case a priceless mineral lode buried beneath the home of the Na’vi. Sound familiar? Of course. But hackneyed? Not at all. It’s a theme reminiscent of how Native Americans have been treated in America, and I applaud Cameron for it. It’s a reminder of all we can be — the depths and the heights.

Through the years, many people have been kind enough to rave about my books, so allow me to do the same here. This film deserves it.  After all, I’m a romantic and I like satisfying endings. I like being swept away with majesty, heroism and a great love story in the face of danger — where I fall in love again with the trials and wonder of falling in love.  Avatar has all this and more.  Five stars out of five from me.

I have a feeling one viewing just won’t be enough!

James Houston Turner writes thrillers from his home in Adelaide, South Australia. You may visit him at www.jameshoustonturner.com

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