Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell To Bacon

Dearest Bacon,

There's no point pretending: I'm writing to say goodbye. I want you to know that this isn't easy for me. Over the years you've always been there for me, with a greasy salty kick on a sleepy morning that would turn my whole day around. Your presence makes even the most boring risotto or pasta or potato salad so much more exciting. I'm smiling now just thinking about you.

I don't think I can easily explain why I need to do this. It's about ethics, and pigs, and the state of the world, and a whole bunch of things that I don't expect you to be able to solve. Forgive the cliche, but it really isn't you. I'm not sure that it's me either. Perhaps it's life, it's a shitty circumstance, it's not fair. I'm sorry.

Don't be sad, Bacon. I will never forget all the good times. And I'll try not to be jealous when I see other people enjoying you (although, you know me well enough to know that I'll be fighting a white hot anxiety - but I promise not to let it show). You are so scrumptious, I know there will be dozens of girls just waiting to wrap their mouths around you as soon as you're available. But I will always cherish what we've had, and I hope in time you will remember us as special too. But I feel that this parting is the right thing to do.

I'm sorry I didn't let on this morning, as I enjoyed you for the last time. It was selfish of me I know. You were just so delicious, snuggled in next to my tomatoes, I had to have you one last time. I wont be so weak again.

I wish you all the best, my King of Meats,


P.S. As for your brother, Salami, my fantastically dirty stick o'meat, don't even get me started. Late nights will never be the same.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lazing On A Sunny Afternoon

I've already lost track of which day of the week it is. Everytime someone asks me what my plans are later/tomorrow/for the holidays I reply "Dunno. Don't really have any." There are vague plans involving gardening, cooking, reading, possibly cinema. Hannah and I have scheduled in a sewing day for Monday which I am looking forward to. There's talk of a swim tomorrow. But mainly I am following my whims. It turns out that my whimsy is fairly lethargic and there's a lot of reclining on my bed flicking through recipe books and singing along to Billie Halliday and Peggy Lee.

Despite experiencing my first paid holiday in some time, my imminent tax bill and credit card debt mean that I am living very frugally. And in a strange way I'm finding it quite liberating. I'm very housebound. I'm not rushing anywhere because there's nowhere to rush to. The house is clean. I have ample Christmas presents to potter around with. It's so warm.

I will go to the supermarket later and get some noodles to make a stir fry for dinner, and I am also having thoughts about a slurpee. I ran this morning and have been sweating ever since. I sat at Ray with Andrew, who is going overseas tomorrow, and usual suspects Leith, Brendan and Casey, and my brother turned up by chance as well, as the odds might have suggested he would.

I ambled home, buying myself an apple at La Manna, stopping in at Sugar Dough where I've heard Emma Uttinger, an old workmate, is now working, though she wasn't there. I looked in a vintage shop, promptly bought a skirt (though only $12 it was about $11.50 more than I could afford), and then removed myself from further temptation by riding home. I tended to my tomato plants, watered the garden with the shower water that had cooled sufficiently, using Donald, my handsome new blue watering can. I ate some toast.

I might read.

and I love to sit so pleasantly, in this life of luxury

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Resolutions: First Draft

For a while now I've been mulling over my resolutions for 2009. I always like to get the wording just right, and go through a number of drafts before I commit them to hard copy on the inside cover of my diary. I like the opportunity to stop and reflect on what I'm doing and where I'm heading, and see if I want to make any changes. This year has involved so many quite large changes for me already that the ideas that have been floating around in my head are I think more about consolidation than major change.

Some of the rules of my resolutions are: that there may not be more than five; they have to relate to a specific action or goal rather than an intangible quality, for example: "I will throw a dinner party for friends once a month" rather than "I will try to be more sociable"; they must be achievable within 12 months or apply for 12 months (so I try not to make them about something whimsical that I will have a change of heart about in a few months); and each one has to pertain to a different facet of my life. These facets usually break down to: health, career/money, social/personal, and learning/doing something new (in the past this category has included learning Spanish, overseas travel and get a tattoo), but they don't have to be as strictly adhered to. Often my resolutions result in a list of projects I want to undertake. One final and very important rule of my resolutions is that they must be realistic in terms of ambition so that I am not setting myself up to fail. I tend to prefer less fantastic resolutions that I'm actually likely to keep, and I'll check in on them across the year to keep myself on track.

A few months ago I read Clive Hamilton's The Freedom Paradox and while I agreed with much and disagreed with a little, the idea in it that has stayed with me most is around having an order of preferences. Hamilton's notion is that human's (unlike other sentient creatures - a tangly premise that is not for tackling here) are capable of having both first and second order preferences. A first order preference is lodged in the present and is a direct desire cultivated by our ego. Whereas second order preferences are the preferences we have about our preferences, and are cultivated by our superego. Therefore we have the potential to curb our first order preferences to align with our second order preferences, should we wish to (a Hedonist would actively dismiss second order preferences in favour of always satisfying their first order preferences). Hamilton posits that most people fail to do this, and this is a source of much personal dissatisfaction.

A good example is exercise. A person may have decided that they wish to be fit, and understand that this means that they should go to the gym 3 mornings a week before work. This is their second order preference: to be fit. When they wake at a 5:30am alarm call and want to go back to sleep, this is their first order preference: to sleep. The person who drags themself out of bed and off to the gym is obeying their second order preference, and Hamilton believes (and I am inclined to agree) that this person generally experiences greater personal satisfaction and contentment in the long term than the person who stays in bed (even though that person may be less sleepy), because they feel that they have mastery over their will, rather than being its servant.

So anyway, this is something I've been thinking about a bit in terms of my behaviours and the things I do, and most of my resolutions this year are I think particularly intended to align my lifestyle with some of my second order preferences.

The resolutions so far:

I will run (or do equivelent heart-rate raising exercise) for 20 minutes a minimum of two times every week.

I will build my expertise at work to encompass policy design and evaluation, and to this end, enrol in a Masters degree for 2010.

I will travel to Japan, China and Vietnam.

I will make no purchases on credit that I can't pay off within 48 hours.

I will become a more ethical eater by only eating animals that have been farmed without cruelty, not eating fish or seafood that are overfished, buying local, seasonal produce as much as possible and growing and making as much food for myself as I can.

The last one is going to particularly hurt. No more freezer box party pies on a hangover! I have to admit to having eaten more meat than usual this December to savour those some last few treats.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Things I Love About Christmas

This year, more than in any other, I have been regularly encountering earnest and impassioned anti-Christmas sentiment from those around me. I've found it wherever people feel safe to complain about their family: on blogs, and over drinks in a bar, and in passing around the house.

The main source of anti-Christmas sentiment seems to involve grown children (my friends) who begrudge enforced time with their families. And to be fair, as I've listened and tried to understand these complaints, many of them seem damned reasonable. I have friends whose parents are acrimoniously divorced and demand exactly equal time spent on Christmas day, then try to undermine the other parent by guilting the children from leaving. I heard of insane step-parents and drunken racist relatives and right-wing siblings and physical fights. And the upshot of all this is that I feel both a little sad about the world and also terribly grateful for my far-from-perfect-but-nevertheless-pleasant-and-respectful family.

And so while I don't mean this as a gloat to people who suffer these relative torments (haHA - pun of the day right there), I feel the need to speak up in favour of Christmas. Christmas fills me with that internal wiggly feeling that is a sort of combination of contentment and excitement, and usually I also get a big childlike grin. Don't get me wrong, there are also many things that I can't stand about Christmas, but none of them are unusual or original, and there are plenty of outlets for them without me listing them here. Rather, I would like to pay tribute to the things I love about Christmas:

Decorations. It's like the houses are all dressed up and hoping to dance with that boy they've been looking at all year but been too shy to talk to, or at least have him smile and think they look pretty.

Presents. The buying of them. I like having to pay that little bit extra attention to the shortlist of people I love and am shopping for, so that I can anticipate something they will genuinely enjoy. I also like making things in bulk and distributing them a bit more broadly in general goodwill.

Mystery Charity Shopping. Having no little children in my family at present (a great shame at Christmas time) I like to go to the toy department at Myer, ogle all the frankly fucking awesome toys that get made these days, and buy something small for one of those wishing trees. I usually do this at the end of the long and frenzied day I've spent squeezing all my Christmas shopping into because I left it to the minute.

Wrapping. I love choosing coloured papers and complementary ribbons and baubles and then making a hack of them as I impose my terrible wrapping skills on them.

Food with Friends. I like that there is a time of year which places an onus on catching up with people you care about, because otherwise it would be all too easy to let some of those people drop right out of your life. There are degrees of friendship and while there are many people that I don't need to see regularly, I do like to stay in touch with. Then there are my good friends and the barbeques and dinner parties with them that involve great home-cooked food, good wine and the perfect company. Love 'em.

Christmas Dinner. Oh my lord my family is good at food. I wont go into too much detail, but let me just say that Christmas dinner with my family is a meal to revere.

Goodwill. Let's face it, there's a place for it all year round, but a bit of a boost never hurt anyone.

Little Kids. They can be horrors, and they can smell foul, but little children on Christmas, when their faces light up with the wonder and magic that they feel present in the world, are just the absolute best. If for no other reason, filling children with wonder is surely more than justification enough for Christmas.

Disclaimer - I am not religious and don't care two figs for the spiritual significance of the day. I like celebrating loved ones with food and sparkly things. Werd.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ode to Thursday

Dedicated to one who shall remain unnamed here on the Internets, as I'm sure he'd want it that way.

Oh day,
You've seen so much of the week
already, yet
You are not the bringer of sweet relief
which is Friday.
To some, you portent joy, to others you are
a cunt.
You are Thurs.
And I am thirsty.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bedroom Dance Party

I met up with Jade and Mandy tonight and drank delicious spritzers and ate far far too much sensational spicy Chinese food. Only when I got home did I realise I'd forgotten to take my penicillin tablet half an hour before I ate, and would have to wait 2 whole hours more before I could take it and go to bed.

So I began playing through some of my favourite hip hop tracks and bopping and strutting around my bedroom. It has been ages since I've had energy to expend superfluously on such wholesome foolishness! Anyway after about 45 mins, just as I decided to mix it up a little and delve into the Doobie Brothers (you heard me), my housemate Mandrew yelled the fantastic news that he had just made golden syrup dumplings and there was a bowl full for me. Despite being more than full, I sat down and voraciously tucked into my dumplings. Only after I had completed finger-scraping the bowl did I realised I would have to wait another two hours! I have set my alarm.

However, there is still time for a little Stevie. One of the upsides of this penicillin (the first being that I have the energy to do everyday things, like dance around my room, and write about it afterwards) is that it is tending not only to my sore throat, but seems to be tackling my chronic croakiness - that Mel has always attributed to my mythical nodjools - so that I can sing-along with gusto. What joy!

Oh oh Run To Paradise just came on!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

So Much To Tell You

Having gone 5 days now without the power of speech, or the power to do much at all due to the Lurgy Which Was Even More Dreaded Than The Last Lurgy which struck me down on Saturday, I have an awful lot to get off my chest: How crapped off I am about all the friend's birthdays I missed; How worried I am about how behind I'll be at work, and that my new workmates might just think I've got a head cold and am taking the piss, because they're not aware that taking a day off work is something I basically never do, let alone a taking a whole week; How spending a whole week at home Doing Nothing is a goddam effing waste of a week; the horrors of the Royal Melbourne Emergency Room on Grand Final night; How even though red jelly and fresh mango is a delicious slippery breakfast, I secretly wish I could just chomp down some vegemite toast; The importance of cuddles in times of crisis; How, even as the penicillin needle pierced my rump in excruciating pain several days in a row, I hoped that the nurse would reflect that I had a good bum; How Nature really kicks you in the nuts by making you look like a side-show-freak when you're sick, so that on the day that you can sit up in bed and think about getting up, you look at yourself in the mirror and promptly go and live in a hessian sack.

Still, I think instead I'm going to write about what I was planning to write about before I got sick. I'm going to write about Hollywood Paternalism in the movie Taken.

Obviously, Taken is a pretty one-dimensional vehicle for making Liam Neeson look like a tough guy. Which notion it clinches when he takes 6 bullets in the back and yet is unscathed, just like the Terminator. The basic premise of the movie is this:
Young American Virgin goes off to Paris for a holiday to stay with friend's family. On arrival learns that friend has lied and they have an apartment all to themselves. Naive girls share cab with first cute guy who asks, who also happens to be a Bad Guy. Within 20 minutes Bad Men have broken into the apartment and abducted both girls for their own dastardly ends (ie prostitution ring). Liam, luckily, just happens to be an ex-CIA 'preventer' (read: assassin) who goes to Paris to brutally hunt down the Bad Men and bring back his virginal daughter.

The film has lots of graphic violence, as well as lots of disturbing images of young girls forced into heroine use and prostitution in pretty dire circumstances. Now to me, the idea of showing these images of all these morbid young innocents would be to provide justification for Neesons's unstoppable violence. But the only thing that disturbed me more than those images (which truly disturbed me, more on this later...) was that the film was resolved when the daughter was rescued, with not a tear shed for the friend who'd been brutally raped and OD'd (it is charmingly implied that Neeson's daughter lived because of her valuable virginity making her a pricier commodity [what is this, the Middle East?!], whilst her dirty tramp friend probably had it coming), or all the countless young girls Neeson was quite comfortable about leaving behind to lives of torture.

The whole film turned on the wrong justification. It wasn't a film about a girl getting trafficked. It was a film about an assassin getting revenge. The girl's sexual slavery wasn't portrayed as abhorent because she was a human being deserving rights and agency, she was simply Neeson's property, stolen by some other men to be their property, then taken back. This was captured best in the scene where Neeson confronts the Bad Man running the slave racket, and the Bad Man tries to reason with him, saying "Hey, it's just business. It's not personal." And Neeson replies "It's personal to me" before shooting him as many times as his gun will allow. At this point I wanted to scream "It's personal for your daughter you stupid ape! And every one of those girls getting repeatedly raped. THAT'S who it's personal for! Can we PLEASE at least MENTION that it's personal for them too?" But no, it was only a problem because it was Neesons's problem. Once his daughter was safe, there was no need to feel 'personal' about the ongoing trafficking of women. As it was this film could have been about a car, or a jewel, or a top-secret new military weapon, or anything at all that would provide a Bad Man vs Liam Neeson set-up.

I give those titties Four Thumbs Down, Hollywood.

The other thing that this movie made me reflect on was how very personally outraged and upset I felt about the images of these trafficked women, and how this was due to a direct sense of identification with them. Not that I've been trafficked, obv., but because they were women and I am a woman. Or more pointedly, because the reason for their exploitation was simply that they were women. And I am a woman. My reaction to these scenes was so powerful I felt as sickened and outraged as I imagine I would were someone to actually try to do this to me. Which is probably a good thing. But it did make me reflect on group identity. And while I can see all the benefits and strengths of group identification, I was felt that I was also motivated by something profoundly selfish, ie 'This could happen to me!'

I was thinking about it in relation to the cyclist who was killed on Swanston St a few weeks ago, and how all those cyclist rallied. I think that the rally was a really good thing and if anything gets those ridiculous buses off Swanston street I, as a daily cyclist, will be forever grateful. But what I did find a bit weird were some of the notions coming through on that day that cyclists were grieving more than other people, they were more upset by this girl's death. Not because they knew her, because most of them didn't. Many other people also died in Melbourne that day. Cyclists and non-cyclists both didn't really skip a beat over them either. But I think this reaction occurred to this one particular death because it could have happened to them. And because cyclists in Melbourne are generally of a mind-set to get themselves noticed, which in itself is no bad thing. I don't mean to suggest that their outrage was somehow ignoble. Nor my outrage at the trafficking of women. But I do sometimes think it would be good to untangle our altruistic motivations from our more self-perserving ones, and if they align, maybe that's just a bonus.

I am now aware that my brain is dribbling in many tangential directions, and am going to eat some more jelly and go back to bed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

(Almost) All The Ways In Which I Procrastinated Today

Today has been my last official 'freelance' day. I am a full-time researcher, basically as of now. I had a list of things to do today as part of wrapping up my work for my last client. Here are all the things I did instead of doing those things:

- slept in, a lot
- scratched the dog's ear (a lot... she loves it...)
- showered, breakfasted
- gargled extensively (I have a throat infection at the moment which I'm relying on to excuse my excessive sleep in)
- checked my email
- checked my other email
- sent a few emails
- checked facebook, replied to messages
- read the fail blog
- read engrish funny
- read every article of interest on The Age online
- read my Herald Sun horoscope
- vacuumed
- did all the dishes
- cleaned the top of the stove
- watered the garden (with grey water)
- walked the dog
- went to the shops, got a coffee, bought some fruit, a pie, and collected my antibiotics from the chemist
- ate my pie
- did some work (about an hour's worth)
- had a cup of tea and cake with a friend
- fooled around with said friend
- played backgammon and drank whisky with second friend and brother
- rang my friend Lucy to discuss our impending holiday
- rang my friend Mel to dicuss our impendig holiday
- drank a bit more whisky
- watched 3 episodes of The Office
- ate lasagna
- made cup of tea
- blogged

Upon reflection this has been some of my best procrastination ever. Good procrastination to me is comprised of a series of finite manageable tasks that are done from your own home (or the location in which you 'ought' to be being productive on something else). Going out to meet a friend for lunch, or going to a movie: any of these things all involve a degree of throwing in the towel mentally, with regards to your intended workload. Whereas I managed to convince myself all day that each thing I was doing would only take 20mins or so and then I would be straight back to work. I went out to get lunch, but I brought it home and ate it by my computer rather than sitting in a cafe with my book as I desperately wanted to (in fact that was just about the only time that I got anything done so it's just as well). Each of my bouts of socialising were constrained by the fact that the other person had to be somewhere else at (insert time in semi-distant future) and so I was able to tell myself that it was definitely a finite break and therefore ok. Also, most of the things I partook of were fairly useful tasks that I could easily justify at another time, so at least I have some small scope for not feeling too lazy.

The ridiculous thing is that I could easily just do this work on the weekend, except that I am going away with a bunch of friends and am determined to finish it before hand. I plan to do all the easy bits now, and finish the rest early in the morning.

While the prospect of doing work now is depressing, I just read over my list again and felt not only a degree of pride at my fine procrastinatory effort, but also that it's been a pretty good day!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Perfect Sandwich, by Natasha Ludowyk aged 28 and 3/4


It would start with two really heavy, really tangy, steaming fresh slices of thick white sourdough. The top of the sourdough would not be dusted with flour (as they sometimes are); it would be supple with a delicate yet firm crunch to it.

On one slice of the sourdough would be a generous squishy layer of saggingly ripe brie cheese, probably a Kind Island Black Label or similar. On the other, a thick yellow smear of good quality, salty butter and over that a cheeky smattering of cranberry sauce, ideally homemade, but any good brand would suffice.

Then the sandwich is filled with turkey slices that have been finely carved from a roasted bird so that they maintain the original texture but are still juicy and moist. Round it out with crispy, dark green baby spinach leaves (at least half an inch thick) and salt and cracked pepper. Consume.


When I was a lass I worked at the deli at Daimaru, and I and the other girls who worked there would often play this game: describe your perfect sandwich, it being the perfect game for adept deli staff and the ideal way to fill in the hours prior to lunch. The Daimaru deli had huge quantities of pressed and cured meats, beautiful ham on the bone that we would hand carve, and four metres of cheese cabinet. Plus dips, olives, delicious crackery things and more, much more!

I hadn't thought about my Perfect Sandwich in a while, but was inspired by reading my friend Nat's rules of sandwiches the other day. The sandwich above was the sandwich I couldn't go past back then. It particularly lends itself to the week after Christmas. But now that I think about it, there are many more perfect sandwiches, and I think that the purely imaginary construction of sandwiches is a pastime worthy of further attention, so I shall revisit (always remembering that the key to a truly great sandwich is in the details).

I have also been known to while away many an hour contemplating The Perfect Pie and The Perfect Sausage. These too, I shall return to, especially as the weather is improving and the sausage (read: bbq) season is about to commence!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Movie of the Book of the Books of Jane Austen

Last night Leanne and I made good on a long-held plan to hire and devotedly watch The Jane Austen Book Club. We knew it wasn't going to be great, we were hoping for schmaltzy and good. And it was. It was very schmaltzy - I cried twice, secretly - and mostly it was good.

I was especially pleased that our new and excellent housemate Matt and my friend Leith were also there and stayed to watch it. I enjoy watching men cringe at the more obvious parts of chick-flicks, and enjoy it even more when they get right into it and tear up alongside you. Brendan declared it too girly and went home (probably to watch When Harry Met Sally for the 400th time. Hehe).

Now, I am not going to give anything like a serious critique of the film, and should also point out that I haven't read the book which it is adapted from. I have however read all the Jane Austen novels, some several times, and I felt that the story of this film ignored most of the more salient aspects of a Jane Austen novel. These aspects could be condensed for our purposes as follows:

Upstanding heroine who remains faithful to her values in the face of others' weaknesses and the trials of life? Absent. There were many heroines, each representing an aspect of a Austen heroine, but I only felt like two of them were tested, and only one of them passed. For the most part I felt that the characters didn't develop that much. They moved forward in their lives, but not necessarily as a result of personal growth.

Delightful ensemble of hilarious characters? Absent. Everyone was meant to be a bit of a winner in this film and this was one of its failings. It lacked some of the realism of an Austen novel, where not everyone is good, not everyone is happy, and people make compromises out of pragmatism more often than not. This was particularly telling in the ending, in which everyone in The Jane Austen Book Club had found love simply through reading the books of Jane, even if finding love hadn't appeared in their character arc at all throughout the rest of the film. Jane Austen had much more to say about life than simply that falling in love was good.

Unstinting Hero? Tick! There was only really one male character of any depth and he was an excellent example of an Austenesque Hero, although he could've had a few more demons. He was persistent in his pursuit of his object of desire, yet remained gentlemanly to the end. Yay for him.

Generous lashings of wit, with a mere lacing of cynicism to drive it home? Nope. The Jane Austen Book Club lacked any of the delicious stylings that make an Austen novel feel so voyueristic, as though the whole world is a legitimate source of entertainment. Mr Bennett captures it best when he says "well well, what do we exist for but to make sport for our neighbours, and to laugh at them in our turn" (or words to that effect). The Jane Austen Book Club didn't offer any grander insights into the human condition.

The best bits of the film were when the characters were discussing the books themselves, and disagreeing with one another over various characters' motivations. So in the end, the characters of Jane Austen remained far more interesting than the characters of TJABC itself.

Next time I want a chick flick, I should just go and read Persuasion again. I wont though. I'll hire Enchanted.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I Must Be Getting Clucky

I was sitting at the tram stop on Elizabeth street just now, waiting for the 57 to take me to Spinifex, and an unbelievably adorable Asian-halfie aged about 4 was sitting next me with her Mum on the other side, sucking on a very sticky looking pink lollypop and staring at my tattoo. She reached out to touch it and her Mum (an example of the kind of parenting I wish I saw more of in public) gently asked her not too because her hands were sticky and I (the lady - hee!) probably wouldn't want to get sticky.

I shrugged and said that I didn't mind, and the child and I exchanged a solemn look that meant we understood each other and everything was chill, and then she informed me with a smile that I had a very pretty flower in my hair (earlier this morning I had jubilantly declared it Spring by plucking some of the neighbours' lavender and ceremoniously shaving my legs). She had little fake flowers on her hair clips too so I told her that we both had pretty flowers on today, and she grinned at me and we were firm friends.

This child and her mother ended up sitting opposite me on the tram, and the child was singing some unintelligible song that had repeated 'dinging' of a bell throughout. She informed her mother, and the riders of the tram at large, that she was going to sing some other songs about bells, and then proceeded to sing a mangled interpretation of Jingle Bells about 6 times in a row. I did not find this annoying, and on the contrary found the whole thing pleasantly amusing. Hormones can do weird shit to a girl.

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Extra Wife For Longer Life! Sing It With Me Now...

The Age Online, that most wonderful site of endless procrastination, today published an article entitled "Polygamists* Live Longer".

My thoughts:
Really? Wow. How utterly surprising and simply darned wonderful for them. I bet aristocrats and people with slaves and those enlightened adult men who still live with their mothers and subsequently never have to cook or clean or care for themselves (let alone another) probably do too! I wonder if anyone's done some similar research within cultures that don't acknowledge marital rape? Or fathers that don't acknowledge their children. That would be illuminating! Gosh, it just makes you think how much most of us are neglecting men. Frankly, we could all be doing more for men's well-being. Like stripping on command, and performing handjobs on public transport (the confinement is perfect for it). Honestly, there are just so many ways in which women could demean themselves for men, why stop at polygamy for a few extra years when we really ought to be shooting for male immortality?

Okay, so channelling Catherine Deveny a little bit and apologies for ranting, but for fucks...

Horrifyingly, there was no mention of women's life expectancy/quality of life/existence in this insightful piece of reportage.

* As far as this article is concerned, Polygamists = Men

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Melbourne: City of Literature

I was planning to write about this several days ago, but this is the first alone time I've had with my computer since being away on my inaugural corporate junket (which was totes awesome btw). Melbourne has been awarded 'cultural city' status by UNESCO, named as the world's second City of Literature (Edinburgh being the first).

So, you know, this is good for our collective ego and all, but I failed to get particularly excited about the announcement. The best thing about it is that it triggered the Government into putting some money where its mouth was, by developing the centre for books and ideas at the State Library. The State Library has already been drastically improved and is now beautiful, peaceful and extremely useful, and this should be a great new initiative within it. It will certainly be hella helpful to the small and underfunded organisations that slave away facilitating the culture that has induced this recognition.

I just hope it doesn't cause the literati to be self-congratulatory. The publishing industry in Melbourne is largish to be sure, but the foundation for it is laid by the countless underfunded and poorly paid individuals who write because they love it, not to mention all those good people who will happily drop a wad in their local bookstore (which hopefully isn't Borders). And when you do something because you love it, you do it regardless of a UNESCO title. It saddens me to imagine that this City of Literature business will be seen as a victory for Penguin and Readings and MWF and lord knows Sleepers (who are just so hip they even have tattoos!) whilst overlooking the really important initiatives of Express Media, and all the zines in Sticky, and the websites and blogs and streetpress where so many local writers are broken in, and the wave upon wave of ever-shifting underground movements that are the true source of Melbourne's creativity.

I was mildly bemused by the request that was made of Is Not a while back that we provide some hi res images of our magazine and a bit of copy from our website to be incorporated into the campaign. Of course we consented and gave the committee making the bid the materials they requested from us, but I couldn't help feel a bit like we were the Little Red Hen who had laboured hard for our freshly baked loaf and suddenly people were happy to help us eat it. Of course, our magazine hasn't survived into the heady days of City of Literature status (although I'm sure this info didn't make it into the official bid). Nor were we informed of or consulted on any other aspect of the bid, nor notified of its success: I read it in The Age. Which doesn't particularly bother me, and while it's nice to have one's publication acknowledged, it sure as hell doesn't feel inclusive.

It's just that literary recognition is so top-down. I'm sure there's much good reason behind this, and not least because a lot of the manuscripts and other writing people produce are somewhere between mediocre and plain awful. But I would like to see the effort rewarded. I also have a massive gripe with massively-successful first-time author Carrie Tiffany's comment in the same Age article that writing is " of the rare things left in the world that isn't about money". Well not if you want to get published, Carrie. Publishing endeavours that aren't about money go broke. I'm aware that there are grants to allow artistic freedom from corporate bottom lines. But show me one grant that doesn't stipulate that your content be about Melbourne, or having a mixed-ethnic background, or the outback, and so on and so on. It's a politically correct artistic freedom that they provide. So that's sweet if you were planning to do that anyway, but if you were planning to write about your love for David Bowie or your collection of shopping lists, or something far more subversive, you better hope it's damned marketable, or have an in with an editor who isn't afraid to take risks.

My spirits were bouyed on Saturday reading the interview with Sophie Cunningham in the A2. The changes Sophie is bringing to Meanjin are truly exciting to me, and represent a new publishing outlet for the kind of work I find intellectually and culturally relevant and entertaining, and far too little of which is locally produced. It was also lovely to see the September issue cover displayed in the article, the artwork for which I'd seen only two days before in the Stuart and Jeremy's office on their new ridiculously fandangled soy-based printer thingy. I am greatly looking forward to getting my mitts on the first edition.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Duh, I Can Advertise Reel Guhd

Today on the tram I was seated next to an unremarkable looking guy around my own age who was scribbling onto a notepad. Bored, I spied on his scribblings. He had written:


Then he'd painstakingly drawn an artsy box, inside which he'd written:


I surmised he was in advertising. I further surmised that he was on-track to make a shithouse ad.

For the next 10 minutes or so the scribbler failed to add anything further to these two basic elements, but traced thoughtfully around the edges of the box, emboldening its lines (but not its sentiment). Then he caught me looking at him and most likely smirking, and he wisely angled his notepad out of my line of sight.

I can't wait to see the ad for Pineapple Chupa Chups when it hits the streets. I can't help but wonder, with my political incorrectness in full force, whether it will be flamboyantly marketed at homosexuals? Or whether it will simply try to distinguish itself from the other Chupa Chups by virtue of being, um, fruity. I also can't help but wonder what this guy gets paid...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hear Me Roar

I have been regularly observing behaviours, comments and events around me and found them to transgress my ideas of good feminism. Most frequently I'm seeing lots of examples of women being valued, and valuing themselves, for their appearance above all other characteristics. Women who will prioritise beauty regimes above some other kind of productivity (like being at work), men who will forgive some shabby characteristics with the throwaway - but completely sincere - justification, "yeah, *shrug* but she's really hot though". I often find it difficult to butt in during these moments with a feminist critique, not least because my own feminism is often hard to pin down, it's quite fluid and complex, and seems to undergo constant evolution.

When I was a teenager and in the early years of uni I confidently took up a pretty second-wave feminist stance and would shout it loud and proud where I could. I would be quick to jump to a pretty extreme position, which was often unhelpful and untrue of my own experience. But as I delved into post-modernism and post-feminism I couldn't help but reflect that I had personally rarely suffered from overt gendered discrimination, I had lots of opportunities and I wasn't afraid to take them, and my feminism shifted to a more slippery individualistic model. Also, I know only too well the usefulness of flirting (flirting? Let's call it being charming!) a little to help get my way. But, I never fully subscribed to this theory as some of my friends did, because there are so many people who do not enjoy the priveleged, educated, position that this kind of theory assumes. And even amongst those who do I see post-feminism being used to justify an awful lot of self-interested bollocks that has nothing to do with promoting the perceptions of and rights of our gender.

Also, there's always been a lot of other confounding factors. Unlike those of my friends with more punk sensibilities, I don't want to got through life pitting myself against something or someone. And I've always taken a 'you win more flies with honey' approach to feminist opposition - so that at least people will be inclined to listen. Also another big problem has been that, like so many of us, I really want boys to like me. I want to be found attractive. It's a difficult psychological hurdle to overcome, to contradict and potentially offend/anger the very people you're hoping to appeal to. And as I observe almost daily, boys will regularly opt for less-argumentative female companions than I (although I would like to point out that I'm not I'm blaming this for why I'm single - just that it probably rules out a big chunk of the field).

But recently I've felt that I and my peers are all too lax when it comes to this stuff. The types of sexism or problematic gender roles I'm encountering are so much more insidious, and sometimes not, and not uncommonly I'm feeling pissed off at something or someone but not knowing how to point it out without creating great discord. The other problem is that nominating yourself as judge and jury presiding over the behaviour of those around you is a massive problem, and I and everyone around me is smart enough to know so. But where does that leave us?

My friends and family are as intelligent, critical, educated and decent as any people I've ever encountered - so if we can't tackle these issues then I am inclined to despair. My new policy is that a bit of discord is a price I'm willing to pay. One of the biggest obstacles my generation of women is faced with is the sense that it's all much better now than it was, even if it's not perfect, it's not so bad that it's worth upsetting a lot of people for. Bah!

I began my new campaign at a family wedding on Friday night where I had a long and engaging conversation with my uncle, who is some kind of Freemason Grand Poobah, about why they don't allow women. I pointed out that no matter how noble are the works of such an organistion, I am instinctively inclined to mistrust and resent an organisation that excludes me just because I have breasts (exquisite breasts!*). He ended up agreeing with me.

*I did not say 'exquisite breasts' to my uncle. That would just be weird.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Gut Feeling

I have recently commenced my most corporate job to date, working at a small social research company. Having done various degrees of freelancing as writer or publicist for various 'trendy' organisations, as well as being something of a flibbidygibbet student and waitress for much of my 20s, I thought long and hard about the implications of an 'office job': punctuality; curtailing my gutter mouth; not being (too) hungover; probably not being able to wear outfits held together by safety pins; covering my tattoo. But then, I also reflected on the upsides: weekends; holidays; potential for professional and educational growth; being above the poverty line...

When my musician/it programmer/bum brother accused me half-jokingly of selling-out, I countered that I was in fact selling-in. Rather than spending my days utilising my intellect to convince people to go to bourgie cinemas and buy the olive oil popcorn, or arguing long and hard for the social merits of music festivals (of which there are many, as long as they're kept in perspective), I'm applying myself to investigating the justice system, or the public health system and such and such. So far I'm feeling quite good about it all. My workmates aren't hipsters but they are left-leaning critical thinking well-adjusted friendly people. Also, this office has an espresso machine. And I recently learnt that our annual 'team-building' exercise next Saturday - the prospect of which put me in mind of high ropes courses and paintball - is to be a 4 hour, 8 course degustation lunch in Daylesford. Saweeet!

In short, it's all good.

But on Wednesday I had my first experience of some of the constraint of a 'civilised' work environment, and this is why:

I had awoken in the morning and emitted a large burp, which I hadn't thought much about at the time. When I got to work the office was busy. There were two major client reports due that day and everyone was working frantically. In my fifth part-time week, I was handed a partially constructed report (I had not seen nor worked on a report for them at this stage) on a project I'd partly observed and asked if I could complete it by midday.

Around mid-morning two things became very obvious:
1) there was no way this report was going to be done by midday, and
2) there were dastardly things going on in my digestive tract.

We called the client and they agreed to a 5pm deadline, and I continued to work madly as the bloating further expanded (my stomach was both the circumference and solidness of a fully inflated basket ball), the gurgling intensified and the devastating cramps set it.

I went to the bathroom at about 11am and broke wind fairly emphatically, hoping that noone would come in and that the toilets were good and sound-proof, but suspecting that they weren't (like I said, it's a small office). Not much else was happening for me, and I felt like any absence from my desk on this day was conspicuous, so I went back to work.

And it all just got worse. If I'd been able to fart with violent abandon for about an hour I reckon I would've been fine, but alas this was not an option. And while I'm not afraid to be good and frank about the viscera of my corporal being, I don't really know my new workmates all that well and didn't feel like I could share my terrible intestinal pain. I was also acutely aware that this was the first time in this job that a significant task had been handed to me and that I was being relied upon to come through, and felt sure that if I mentioned to anyone that I was unwell they would all kindly insist that I go home (which i badly wanted to do), and that in doing so I would be letting everyone down.

In the end I just sat squirming on my seat, telling myself that I could go to the toilet at hour long intervals (figuring that shouldn't be too obvious, and if anyone asked I would tell them that I'd drunk lots of tea). The hours felt very long.

At about 1pm I had one of those panic-inducing cramps where you realise you have about 60 seconds to get your naked arse to a toilet seat or an all-brown, pungent hell will break loose, only to see David (the only male in the office apart from Stephen the boss-man) walk into the toilet ahead of me. So I turned my purposeful walk to the bathroom into a meander into the kitchen where I stood pretending to read the day's paper whilst clenching with fervour, then after about 5 mins I went to the toilet which was thankfully empty, and performed acts which are best left to the imagination. Let's just say that I cleaned that toilet with a scrubbing brush afterwards.

The rest of the day was pretty much torture - more psychological than physical - as I desperately tried to keep my cruel illness under wraps. And this was what struck me. Despite experiencing some legitimate physical anguish, I was horribly aware of my incongruous behaviour. I kept expecting that someone would walk into the bathroom, and then walk out again and glance at me suspiciously. In order to pretend that I wasn't constantly going to the toilet (which I would do the second my computer clock would tick over another 60 mins) I would try to befuddle my workmates by walking to the printer and looking at something on that for a second, or walking to the kitchen and turning on the tap for a few seconds, before dodging off surreptitiously to the bathroom once more. At one stage I fantasised that I could perhaps walk down the road to the Edinburgh gardens and use a public toilet there where I could relax fully, but I felt unable to leave the office when we were all on deadline. Also, there was an awful moment when Cathy was explaining hastily and in some detail the further changes I would need to make to the report (this was at about 4:15pm) and I had such an enormous dizzy spell I nearly fell off my chair.

Fortunately, this dizzy spell seemed to herald a downturn in my symptoms and my stomach began to relaxed. We finished the report at 5:35pm. The client was happy.

I am still grateful to have this job. But I would have paid good hard cash on Wednesday for workplace in which I could confidently declare "Evil things are living in my stomach and they have to come out. Probably don't go into the toilet on the right".

Monday, August 11, 2008

It begins...

This is my first foray into blogging, and to be honest I'm very conflicted about it. Primarily I am scared that my writing will turn out to be boring/lame/incorrectly spelled and will become a source of silent scorn for my friends and acquaintances. It's this very fear that has kept me from blogging until now. I am completely aware of how cowardly this is.

I am also a bit bemused: I don't have any specific game plan for this blog; nothing I am particularly driven to say. I have been reflecting recently on the cultural output of the many people around me. And what with the recent ending of the magazine I feel compelled to contribute something new, somehow. So I am curious to see what I come out with.

Also, I could use a new project.

As this has turned into something of a confessional I shall throw down a gauntlet to myself, and propose that I shall (try to) blog here several times a week. We shall see...