‘Playing dead’ to re-discover life again

ExamLiam Ryan of Ballina Co Tipperary. Picture:Marie McCallan/Press 22
Liam Ryan of Ballina Co Tipperary. Picture:Marie McCallan/Press 22

Clad in a black leather jacket and an eye-patch, I am sure you are wondering whether he is real or he is a movie character.  Whatever your answer was last Sunday when I made this post, let me introduce Liam Ryan. He is real. Two weeks ago, Liam attended a funeral of a friend and someone who had 12 years ago thought Liam would ‘go’ before him.

“We want to forget about dying. But we are all going to die. It is the worst kept secret in the world. The funeral reminded me again of how we can all be so busy living, we forget about dying. Dying is real and I’m so glad I have another chance at living”, Liam said.

Twelve years ago, doctors discovered a cancer that took over part of his cheek bone and the sinus. Liam’s close friends and family and even the doctors thought that Liam only weeks left to live.

“It began with a few headaches. Just the regular sinus headaches but they did not stop so I decided to have it checked at our local doctor”, Liam said.

The doctor’s visit ended up taking two days. The shocking news; Liam was the second person with one of the worst Head and Neck Cancer ever seen. The first had already died in a matter of weeks. Liam’s condition was diagnosed as Squamacell Carcinoma which also included a lot of skin cancers. Simon Rogers, Liam’s consulting doctor told Liam, there were only  two cases of Head & Neck cancer in the North of England every year but cases as severe as Liam’s only occurred every 30 to 40 years. Liam had stage 4 tumor in the middle of his head.

Liam was 40, healthy, fit, working successfully as an architect in a small town in Ireland. He had just completed his sixth marathon.

“I saw the end of my life appeared right in front of me. I simply had weeks to live”.

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One of Liam Ryan’s architectural projects – local stadium in Athlone, Ireland.

Liam was told very few hospitals in the world, could offer any hope to a cases like his. Liam just wanted to live. He fought the cancer with his will. Eventually, impressed by his fighting spirit, Professor Simon Rogers and his team in Liverpool decided to offer Liam a chance, a chance they themselves did not believe Liam could make it through. They told Liam he had a 5% chance to survive. Serious Head & Neck cancer required complex treatment and often kills the patient before the cancer does.

“If I was still alive after surgery I was likely to be without my sight, my speech, my hearing, my mobility, my brain function or any combination of all five, ” Liam said.

“Survival was all that was on the horizon. Anything beyond that would be a bonus. None of that mattered then. I just wanted to be alive. If I was alive I was winning, and cancer was losing”.

Liam underwent a 12-hour operation.
In the surgery, doctors removed half of the roof of his mouth, top half of his teeth and most of his cheekbone. He had seven weeks of radical chemo-radiotherapy. Then, Liam suffered another blow. In between his treatments he contracted meningitis and a deep vein thrombosis and nearly died. All these has been put behind Liam’s life now. Although Liam can now only open his mouth about half an inch, he can still speak perfectly and continues to do all the things he considers normal.

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Post cancer marathon runner: Liam Ryan.

“My amazing survival has now been outdone by my even more incredible recovery. I am working, talking, running and functioning again just as I did before. Apart from my eyepatch, it is almost as if I never had cancer.”

Liam’s doctors were simply amazed. Liam said through the work of the doctors and their great work, he has become one of the greatest cancer survivors of all time.

“From nowhere, I have become noteworthy.”

In 2012, on the tenth anniversary of his new life after cancer, Liam ran his first marathon and wrote a book. He said the book, was not just for cancer patients but for anyone “who has a mountain to climb”.

“I have become the living proof that nothing is for certain. I have been given a second life and with it comes an opportunity to encourage and inspire”.

Liam lives in Ballina/Killaloe with his wife Pam and their three children.

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Hawaii Homes Threatened by Molten Lava

Pictures from Hawaii four hours ago.

A slow-moving river of molten lava from an erupting volcano is edging closer towards dozens of homes and businesses in a seaside town on Hawaii’s Big Island.

The lava has already crept across a residential property and incinerated an outbuilding.

The lava flow from the Kilauea volcano has been moving towards the village of Pahoa for weeks and was clocked at speeds of up to 14 metres an hour as it bubbled over a road and overran a cemetery.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Hawaii Civil Defence agency said the lava advanced to within 250 metres of Pahoa Village Road, the main street through the town of about 800 people, built on the site of an old sugar plantation.


Civil Defence administrator Darryl Oliveira said Pahoa’s commercial district lies mostly to the south of the area in greatest danger, and most homes and businesses are believed to be out of harm’s way, based on the lava’s current trajectory.

“Right now where the flow is moving we’re very fortunate because the number and concentration of structures is very low,” Mr Oliveira said.

“But the caution to that is even though the flow front is very narrow at this time, if the eruption continues and the flow continues to be supported by the tube system a widening of the activity or flow is likely to occur.”

However residents of about 50 dwellings in what civil defence officials called a “corridor of risk” were urged to prepare to leave, and many were slowly emptying their homes of furniture and belongings.

Mr Oliveira told a news conference that no mandatory evacuations had been ordered but 83 national guard troops were undergoing training and would be deployed to the community on Thursday.
VIDEO: Lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano (YouTube: Ena Media Hawaii/Blue Hawaiian Helicopters)
On Tuesday the molten rock topping temperatures of 900 degrees Celsius engulfed a utility shed but spared the adjacent house on the property, already evacuated and cleared of furniture and other belongings.

“So far we have been very fortunate that the flow has not taken any other structures,” Mr Oliveira said.

Officials said they would close an endangered elementary school on Wednesday and shutter four more schools on Thursday.

The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the leading edge of the lava stream had narrowed to about 45 metres wide.

Provan Crump, a marine biologist who lives locally, said residents were well prepared.

“[They’re] just moving all their valuables out and then moving,” he said.

“There’s not much else you can do, it’s a force of nature.”



Turning Pages: Is criticism of creative-writing courses justified?

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Part-time writer: Samuel Beckett

I found this article by Jane Sullivan interesting because the argument she has discussed is the same used for other creative professions. Are institutions ‘killing’ the creative mind?  How so I ask? And if creativity (in writing) cannot be nurtured through mentoring, writers’ grants nor creative writing workshops – what are we suppose to do?..Quit? 

Having said that, aren’t we (bloggers) all lucky that we could write stories here on WordPress for free in our own genres, languages etc and build our own readership without worrying about whether someone reads the stories or not? 

Turning Pages: Is criticism of creative-writing courses justified?

There’s a scene in the Simon Pegg TV sitcom Spaced when a writer is kicked off the dole and has to get a job washing dishes. She complains to the manager: “But this isn’t me. I’m a writer.” The manager replies: “Oh, everyone who works here is a writer, dear.”

They used to make that joke about actors. Now it’s writers. Not that it’s new, exactly. Writers have always taken pride in listing menial and bizarre jobs on their book cover bios, and have taken comfort in the thought they were following in the footsteps of Hemingway and Beckett. A full-time writer is still quite a rare beast, and is usually a writer of books for children, or of books in a highly commercial genre.

So why is a Nobel Prize for Literature judge, no less, complaining about the rather meagre and intermittent help writers can get from institutions? You’d think Horace Engdahl would be totally in favour of writers’ grants and creative-writing programs to nurture talent and to supplement what are usually very modest incomes.

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Nobel judge: Horace Endgdahl.

But no, he thinks they are impoverishing Western literature. Just before the Nobel team announced that the 2014 prize had gone to the French author Patrick Modiano, Engdahl told the French newspaper La Croix that “professionalisation” of the writer’s career is having a negative effect: “Even though I understand the temptation, I think it cuts writers off from society, and creates an unhealthy link with institutions.” He cited writers including Samuel Beckett, who had to work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living.

Engdahl’s comments were reported in The Guardian, which drew some miffed responses from writers (one of them mentioned the Spaced scene). They just don’t view their lives as he does.

Most writers still take the Beckett route, combining paid work with writing in their spare time, and most don’t get any other income until they are published. Grants are still few and far between, last for a few months at most, are always under threat of cutbacks, and the competition for them is intense.

There’s always someone ready to rail against literary grants as a waste of taxpayers’ money. Creative-writing programs are similarly under siege. Although they have grown at a huge rate, they are as vulnerable as any section of academia to cutbacks, and they regularly get attacked.

Writers and teachers themselves have joined the offensive. The British novelist Hanif Kureishi has denounced creative-writing courses as a waste of time, even though he teaches one himself, at Kingston University. He complained “99.9 per cent” of his students were not talented, and many of them couldn’t tell a story. Lucy Ellman has agreed with him, calling creative-writing courses “the biggest con-job in academia”.

It’s true most creative-writing students will not end up in full-time careers as published writers (though they might well end up working in the publishing industry). They may not have the talent; they may not have the right teachers; almost certainly they won’t have the fanatical determination that is necessary. But it’s a huge jump from there to assert that all courses are a waste of time, or a con-job, or part of a “professionalisation” that diminishes literature.

Writing is a vocation that attracts a huge number of beginners; very few stay the course. Those who stay need all the help they can get. And the charge that a bit of intermittent assistance from a creative-writing course or a grant will put them out of touch with society seems out of touch with reality.


October 25, 2014

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/turning-pages-is-criticism-of-creativewriting-courses-justified-20141016-1170v2.html#ixzz3HcN4yvV9

The Momentum Of Life

There is momentum in good deeds that create ripples and also momentum in good intentions that are never appreciated.

Life is like that.

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Apparently, when these birds choose a mate, it is for life. Buff-banded Rails are beautiful looking birds. They are also very shy. Here is a story from our local wildlife story-teller Jim Butler about Rails that lived in a mutual friend’s place, less than ten minutes from my house.

Buff-banded Rail, Lady Elliot Island, SE Queensland, Australia Image by http://www.aviceda.org

For the last two years my friend had a pair of Buff-banded Rails living in her backyard where they raised their chicks. Her property in Kenmore Hills is opposite a park adjacent to Moggill Creek and the house next door is vacant with long grass, so the Rails had enough area to live comfortably. These Rails are very widespread and common in Brisbane near waterways and they feed on snails, insects and seeds at the water’s edge and on the banks and surrounds. They mostly forage out of sight under low dense vegetation; they run fast when frightened and usually fly only at night. However, when they feel safe they can become remarkably tame, which is what happened at my friend’s house where they often came out of the long grass onto the back lawn. They breed in Spring raising five to eight fluffy black chicks.

Buff-banded Rail, Gallirallus philippensis, Fafa island, Tonga Image by Duncan Wright

Recently, when a cat took one adult and a chick, both my friend and the neighbour who owned the cat became aware of the event. The neighbour decided to restrict the cat’s movement outside the house with a “cat yard” so that it could get enough exercise without being able to prey on the wildlife. The remaining Rail has now begun to re-appear in my friend’s yard and hopefully it will find another mate amongst the other Rails living along Moggill Creek where it can fly to at night.
Unrestrained cats are obvious predators of ground-birds like Rails. On average, a domestic cat kills 16 mammals, 8 birds and 8 reptiles a year according to an Australia-wide survey. And Dr Gillespie, NT Government Director of Terrestrial Ecosystems, says that ‘Across the continent it’s estimated that there are 15 million feral cats killing 75 million native animals every night’, a large number of which will be birds.

Women To Lead In Male Dominated Cultural Event


Two women are the first female canoe coordinators in the male dominated National Canoe and Drum Festival next week in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Some of you may think this is “not a big deal” but it is. Nellie George ( left) is organizing five sailaus or traditional canoes from the South Duau area of Esa’ala District and Vicky Lodi will lead in organising bogama canoes from the Maramatana area of Alotau District.

Each canoe will have its own tribal and ancestry markings and other decorations carrying special meaning and luck.

Sacred Culture

This part of PNG culture is sacred to men. Canoes and drums are used mostly by males in the Melanesian societies. Although it is dominated by males, we do have some females using drums in other parts of the PNG.  From the start canoes especially are prepared by men. Men choose the tree, carve and design the canoe. The canoes can be used by the whole family when it is completed.

Last year’s canoe racers.

Annual Event

The festival is an annual event that happens every first weekend of November in the sleepy seaside township of Alotau. This festival is the southern region’s major event of the year and showcases the coastal communities’ way of life particularly through traditional sailing canoes. Kundu (traditional drums) have been included in this year’s festival.

Men launch a brand new canoe.

To visit the festival and see other information, contact the PNG Office of Tourism and Culture.

I Am Wale, Respect Me

I Am Wale Respect Me, series of photos depicting women of Congo returning to society and gaining their rightful status. Photo by Patrick Willocq.

I Am Wale Respect Me. Personally, I think this is an awesome title for a body of art. This work celebrates motherhood, fertility and femininity. Photographer Patrick Willocq’s recent projects explore non-western narratives and mise-en-scenes in collaboration with local communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. After spending a portion of his adolescence in Congo, Willocq returned to document indigenous culture and customs through carefully composed performative images. In “I Am Walé Respect Me”, female subjects stage their return to society through a lyrical account of their isolation. Willocq’s photographs are in the Lagos Photo Festival which opened yesterday(Saturday Oct 25th) with 39 artists from 15 nations.  Thank you Art Living for sharing this story.



Who is this mysterious man?

Exam Liam Ryan of Ballina Co Tipperary. Picture:Marie McCallan/Press 22

Clad in a black leather jacket and an eye-patch, I am sure you are wondering whether he is real or he is a movie character. You could be wrong.

Life is a play. We are all characters playing a role on stage. Sometimes we play more than one role. Sometimes, we play others or ourselves. Sometimes, we become the character we have never dreamed of.  We play what we are given. JL

I will have this mystery man’s story on this blog, this week.

A journey to a thousand stories

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I took this photo on Tami islands, Wanam Village(PNG) 2009 while on my field trip. I have been asked about this picture a lot so I wanted talk about it. This scene you see at low tide every morning.

I have made a mental goal to write 1000 stories on this blog. This may take me five to ten years. I have written almost 100 for this blog in less than a year – so I feel it is achievable. Some of the written stories have not been published yet. I also feel good about this goal because I am getting stories from my readers – thank you!


It had been suggested to me to blog a few years ago but I did not feel comfortable about it. I think it was because I had no idea about what to do. I made a dare to blog on Facebook with friends and family. I said, if I got over 2000 Friends, I would blog. This was only last year. I had over 1000 Friends then. Many people read and enjoyed stories and other information and pictures that I shared. Before long, I found myself reaching 2000 Friends on Facebook and I had to keep my word to blog.

At first it was scary to become a blogger. I wondered who would read my stories. I wondered what I would write about. I read other blogs and got more confused. Mind you, some were very interesting. I was not technology-savvy and I had not done my market-research on readers and even on content. There were many other anxieties associated with blogging. I had assumed my followers would come from Facebook and I could continue to churn out what I had posted on that platform. So, that thought gave me some confidence.

In January, I started blogging. I did bring over 2,800 or so followers from Facebook. It seemed too easy. In that same month, my personal relationship fell apart and I was emotional. It must have been through these emotions that I showed who I was in my writing. At that point, surprisingly I had an average of 100 readers per day. This may not be much for other “pro” bloggers here but I was really happy and grateful. I had 149 hit one day and that meant a lot.

In June 2014, I was bullied and threatened and blackmailed on Facebook. Tracing fake Facebook accounts must be a normal thing because no-one really cared about it. I wrote to Facebook and tried to follow up through various contact, support and links offered by Facebook. All these channels led to nothing – just the computer talking – no humans, no response nor help. The pages/links for Help Facebook maintains on their site must be standard requirement. I decided for my safety and peace of mind, I would leave Facebook. I did. I sought legal advice and got some help from caring friends and some really good people.

Why do I Blog?

For two months I was depressed and I did not blog. I also became suspicious of everyone and everything – even people I knew. It felt  safe to live in myself. The time away served its purpose. I felt better. There have been worse things that have happened and I could not let this one get me. I returned to blogging in August this year. I was again thrilled to see people were reading my stories – even when I was not writing. That motivated me more. Then, in September, I lost all the followers who came through Facebook. I asked WordPress for help. I blogged about it. No response came. And so I accepted that loss and kept writing.

Last week, I made a comment about the New look on WordPress. Duvall (from WordPress) responded to my comments this week. I was grateful. Duvall then identified and confirmed that the loss of my 2800+ followers was because of my disconnection with Facebook. I accepted that.

However, this got me thinking…if the social media is your main “audience” and it is not safe – then what is really the point of writing to an audience? That was the question I asked myself. Should I question everything I write about? Can you possibly write safely? As bloggers – you all probably have your own answers. For readers – all I can say is, it is really in your hands once the fingers leave the keyboard. You can choose not to read.

I have been offered SEO help almost weekly and I get tons of spam from various companies or individuals here – of course they have been cleverly stopped by WordPress and I appreciate that – but it makes you wonder, why? There are stories about trollers I read from other bloggers.. Is it all worth it? And who really does care?

About My Blog

Anyway, the point of this long “re-cap” about my blog is that after everything that happened to break my blogging-spirit I decided, to hell with everything, I will personally re-build my readers. Write more. Increase my followers. I will use everything I’ve got IN my stories. My son told me – “mum, you write about everything and anything that catches your attention”, he is right. The main purpose of this blog (Tribalmystic) is to ultimately promote my culture. But I also wanted to blog about everything that is related to me, what I believe in and what I think is right. I also share things that do not make headline news, but I personally think they are beautiful and interesting. If one person sees or read a post – that is worth it.

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Flowers on Wanam Village, Tami Is, PNG. Tide coming in. J Leahy picture. 2009.

October Goal

My goal for October was to post one story every day. So far I have. I was thinking if I can keep this up, I could go for a goal to write 1000 stories. (I think I can). Since posting daily, my readership has now increased to an average of 50 per day and I had 103 one day this week. I had 20-30 in August. So, thank you to those who take the time to read my blog and comment or “like” and share.

Because of you/readers, all the hours of research and writing has been worthwhile. I will keep staying awake at night, thinking up new stories. Please email or let me know in the comments if there are any specific things you would like me to write about. And thank you Pauline Stegman for letting me know – you would like more re-cycled material stories.




Cool Stuff! – Many uses of used plastic bottles

I worked with the Nebraska State Fair to create a temporary installation to celebrate the Fair’s accomplishments in sustainability practices on its path towards becoming a zero-waste event. Garth Britzman

I am not a plastic person. Generally I love all-things-natural. If not handled correctly, plastic could cause terrible damage to nature and other life forms. For example we all know about the plastic bags that choke turtles in the sea. With plastic bottles, they are not bio-degradable so it is up to each of us to think of how to use it – apart from throwing empty bottles away in the recycled bin. People have been inventing new ways of using the bottles. In hot summer months here in Brisbane, a friend once told me to fill an empty plastic bottle with water and punch a pin hole on the bottom. Then, sit the water bottle at the base of my plants. Let the bottle slow-drip to ensure my plants don’t die in the harsh conditions. It works!

Pop Culture

In the greater scheme of things, plastic bottles are in art and design as in “Pop Culture”, the name of this installation (pictured below). Designer Garth Britzman with the help of students created this car port in Nebraska, USA. I know some of the readers here would have seen this picture before. I love the idea, simplicity of the theme, how the colours have been coordinated beautifully and, how useful the final product is. This is unless of course you are worried about your car getting stolen as the car port is not secured. Britzman also  designed the dome pictured above with plastic bottles.

This designer loves to re-cycle and his work is also an exhibition. There is another link below showing an exhibition of a Garth Britzman design using re-cycled printed paper. I am inspired.

Britzman and University of Nebraska students put a total of 200 hours into this project, which received financial support from Fulbright Canada and the University College of Architecture. The bottles together form a bright, undulating parking canopy that is not only practical but also very attractive. When the project was complete, 11 students helped to move the canopy into place at 5.45am! This is such a fantastic project – simple but also eye-opening – which will help local Nebraskans to rethink their consumer behavior both on campus and beyond. + Garth Britzman Read more: Pop Culture is a Colorful Canopy Made of 100′s of Recycled Bottles in Nebraska Pop Culture by Garth Britzman – Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building