So since my last post I have clearly remained a very lazy blogger. I'd like to reassure you all (and myself) that I have not completely abandoned this blog! My latest excuses include a lingering lurgy and an enormous essay. I plan to be rid of both of these by the weekend... and then can turn to all those things I've been ignoring:
writing on my blogs;
the state of the bathroom;
my novel (the one I'm reading, not writing!); and...
maybe I'll go for a run.
In the meantime, here is a giant octopus fighting a shark:
I'm sitting on the couch, doing some internet business. I've had a delicious and none-too-healthy haloumi pasta and two glasses of wine, and I'm feeling a whole lotta Monday lethargy. I planned to make a start on an essay tonight. The same essay I planned to make a start on yesterday. Yesterday, instead of making a start on my essay, I went for a long walk up Sydney road with Leith, just to get some fresh air, and also a book, a record and a new pair of bathers. And some gourmet chocolates. And now all I want to do is go to bed, read my book for 20 minutes and then fall asleep with my glasses smooshed on my face until Leith gets home from his rehearsal, laughs at me, and turns off the light.
I'm sort of mildly disturbed at how much I want to sleep, watch tv, and generally laze about at the moment. I sometimes go through intense bouts of productivity: I can work long hours, start baking projects at 10pm, get up early and go for long runs, and use every minute to the full. But the last week or so has been notably relaxed.
I'm a bit annoyed at myself - all the things I haven't done in the last few days (run, study, bake, call friends I should have called etc etc) that I should have done. And there are things I've voluntarily let slide. Things that aren't essential, but that still add value to my days. Things like writing on this blog.
But at the same time, I can't get too worked up over it, because life is good, and I'm relaxed and happy. Maybe I shouldn't be. I can't help but think that I need to knuckle down a bit more. After all, most of the things I'm not doing are things that no-one apart from me can hold me to - they're things I want to do. So I'm being a bit perverse. But actually, it's not very often I get a chance to take it a bit slower, and so I'm going to let it go on for one more day...
Is there a particular phrase drives you barmy with rage? I have one. I heard it just now. I was in the chemist and a gruff older dude stomped in in his work boots and asked for a script he'd dropped in earlier. The neat, pony-tailed assistant said "I'll just get it for you" and he responded "Good girl".
Honestly, have you ever thought of saying this to a grown woman? Here's a tip. DON'T. I felt so mad for her. She politely continued on with her business and didn't seem to be mad, but then I usually react in a similar way because of MANNERS and POWER DYNAMICS relating to AGE. Because I don't hear it from anyone younger than me, or even those who are my contemporaries. Nope.
Being told "Good girl" is an unfortunate reality from time to time, and each and every time it's said to me it fills me with rage, and chips away at any respect I have for the person saying it. It's the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head, and every bit as patronising. It is said in a number of contexts, and as with the chemist today, I'm sorry to say that most of them are in the workplace, where you would hope that things like age and gender would just be left out of it.
The first situation in which it's often said relates to me having just performed some entirely basic and ordinary task that would be seen as merely minimum functioning in any adult with a normal intellect. This might be remembering to bring a document to a meeting, or something equally innocuous. Telling me I'm a good girl in this kind of circumstance is so utterly demeaning, because it implies that something that really ought to be assumed in even a mediocre employee making a nod towards professionalism is being rewarded to me. Would you say "good boy" to a grown man in the same situation? So for fuck's sake don't say it to me. (Seriously, if you answered 'yes' to this you need to go take a good hard look in the mirror). Just say thanks with all the decorum and brevity that the situation calls for, in a manner that acknowledges that I am in fact a professional and capable of really basic shit even though I am, like, female. Like the chick in the chemist today.
The second situation is where I've actually performed above and beyond in some way or another. "Oh good girl" I'll be told. No. Not fucking good girl. Guess what - the reason Ive performed so well and been able to impress you is probably because I'm a lot smarter than you. I'm sorry to come across as arrogant but seriously, my IQ is probably higher than yours despite me being younger, and being told "good girl" by you just makes me seethe. You know what else? I work hard. I've got many years of study under my belt, and even more of workforce experience. I'm an adult. I'm 30 goddam years old. So between my age, my intellect and my hard work, I would like to be treated as a professional in a professional environment. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?!
These are some of the things I will think if you call me a "good girl". Just so you know.
This includes you Tony *fuckface* Abbott.
NB If you are a complete moron, here is a basic test you can use to work out whether it's appropriate to say "good girl" to someone.
Q Would you say "good boy" it to a man your own age in this situation?
I have four days off this week. It's Time in Lieu resulting from the heinous overtime I worked during January, February and March this year. It took four months and some agitating to get these four days off. And I am spending all of them at my computer because I have a 4,000 word essay due for uni on Thursday. Balls.
I had a grand fantasy of getting everything done by Wednesday and taking a Real Day Off - maybe going to some galleries, sleeping in, seeing a movie, that kind of thing. However it is 6:25pm on Monday, I have been at my computer since 10am, and I am WELL BEHIND SCHEDULE. It is seeming highly unlikely that I will get said day off.
At this time it is important that I perform two great acts: one of remembering and one of forgetting.
Act 1: I must remember that I chose to do some Uni subjects this year. Me. Lots of people said "Oh, on top of full time work - you'll be so tired". And I shrugged my workaholic shoulders and said "Whatever, I can do it, it'll all be over soon enough".
Note on Act 1: I am a massive eejit.
Act 2: I must not directly relate this time to the time I spent working myself into a frenzy earlier this year. Because I will be filled with resentment and tears and they will almost certainly not be contained by my brain or my face and make will make everyone uncomfortable and me rather puffy. I must FORGET that this is Time in Lieu and technically intended to redress some of the kerazy I endured. It's four months too late and there's too much to do. So harden up, me!
Have you ever held a bake sale? I recommend it. Leanne and I had one last Saturday, and we had super huge amounts of fun. Sure, there was lots of standing, and some people (ie everyone) ate so much sugar we were bouncing off the walls, but what can you do?
How hot is Leanne when she punishes that biscuit dough? I know.
We were set up at Smiley McSlidey Rehearsal Studio, who were celebrating their opening with a large garage sale, gig and bbq. Lez and I got together and had one of the most fun Friday night's ever. We drank wine, ordered pizza, watched Masterchef and WE BAKED LIKE MACHINES. Honestly, we were so on top of our game, we had whipped up three different kinds of goodies by 8pm, washing up as we went, exchanging extremely important gossip and only slightly burning one batch of biscuits due to wine/good times.
Then, having produced our delicious wares:
Peanut Butter and choc chip biscuits
Choc-fudge cupcakes with raspberry icing
We set ourselves up with coffees and the paper, and sat around all day while our friends traipsed through, exchanging hugs and money for sweet treats. Then we spent all our profits on clothes at the sale. We probably could have made more profits, but we were weakened by the cuteness of the many kids there and sold a lot of stuff for cheap (like 20c cupcakes! Bargain!). Also Leanne busted a little girl shoplifting biscuits and made her go and get $1 from her parents. I was proud of Leanne's moral fortitude, and frankly thought the little girl showed little to no remorse. So after all it was an important day full of life lessons, even more than just don't sit the chocolate slice in the sun and if you bake it, they will come, and not just a frivolous excuse for two grown women to make a big mess and wear silly aprons.
Also, at this point I'd like to tell you about my yoyos. I don't want to brag... okay okay, I really want to brag, but my yoyos are just so good. All credit to my Mum, since it's her recipe (would you like it? Okay, here it is). And she came and bought one to test mine, and I think I passed. I do want to say that I've made yoyos numerous times and these were probably the best batch I've produced so far.
They're all gone now, in case you were wondering. Because we sold out of everything by about 3pm. Uh huh. It was a really lovely day, which is likely to be repeated in a few months, and I'd urge you to get down there, have a snag, buy a skirt, hear some bands, and eat a yoyo (if there's any left).
If you were to ask me how life was panning out, having moved in with my handsome gentleman companion, I would wax lyrical about the many things that are just lovely. But right now, I'm going to tell you about just one of them.
Life with a record player. I haven't lived in a house with a record player for years. My parents had a record player with accompanying magnificent old school fabric covered speakers on wooden and steel 70s stands. I used to adore playing my story book 45s, turning the page when the bell dinged. I also danced daily to Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat at the age of 3. I remember falling asleep in our tiny Frances St house with the reassuring sounds of the music (usually an opera or else Gilbert and Sullivan) my parents were listening to filtering into the room. Later I found their old copies of Hair and the Beatles box set and danced away to them. When my parents seperated, the record player went with Dad.
Later, my brother Tristan bought one, and as a student I lived in a house that had one. But they weren't my record players and I didn't buy records for them.
And now I live with a man for whom music is fundamentally important, and has a considerable record collection, half of which I adore and half of which is just not my thing. But I have rediscovered the warmth of sound that vinyl gives you. It's not like other sounds. And I'm not sure how much of this I associate with my early childhood, but regardless, it's wonderful, and it's opened me up to new kinds of music, and new ways of listening to it.
Sunday mornings Leith has a habit of putting on Jazz - Coltrane or maybe something like the Swingle Singers (!) and I can't recommend this enough, accompanied with eggs and the newspaper.
I also tagged along a few weeks ago with Leith record shopping. And I got the bug. I got it bad. Because all of a sudden I realised: these records can become instrinsic to my home life. I enjoy playing Leith's music, some of it more than others, but in the record store were albums guaranteed to send shivers down my spine. Artists whose tracks had not been released on cd and nor were they likely to be in future. And artists who belonged to a vinyl era. I bought Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. And oh my I love those records. And I fantasise about going back to buy more!
Another realisation I had was that the songs that most move me, that send me outwardly catatonic while inwardly I get all stirred up, are the most pathetic, tragic and anti-feminist love songs. They're the songs I go to when I know I'm tense and need to provoke a good cry. I don't know quite what this says about me. And I don't know whether I can untangle what I perceive as the tragedy of the love the women feel from the tragedy that the women should feel love for such objects in the first place.
All I know is that these songs slay me. I'd like to leave you with a few, but trying to find them on youtube is like trying to find a diamond in a big pile of poo. I thought about providing the lyric, but the lyric without the music and the delivery are hollow at best and do nothing to convey the heartwrenching truth of these songs. The only one I can find is Aretha. For the others, the best I can do is provide a few links and urge you fervently to check them out, with a box of tissues handy, and preferable on vinyl.
The 'debate' about potentially banning the burqa in Australia is very troubling to me. Many people have jumped on this bandwagon recently in the name of Freedom, Democracy, Feminism, Equality, Civic Responsibility and goodness knows what else. And I haven't agreed with a single one of them on the issue.
I've agreed with a lot of the objections to the burqa. I find the implication that one's appearance can offend your peers or your God pretty offensive. But then, I'm an atheist. And I don't think society is objecting to religion. Just Islam. But an individual objection to something (hello Southern Cross tattoos) is different to banning it. Banning something takes individual values that are acknowledged as having place in society (religious, family, aesthetic) and making them universal. It is handpicking one set of difference and saying that we don't want that here. The arguments being put forward for the burqa being an unacceptable difference are masquerading as libertarian and feminist and democratic. And I posit that they are not, they are racist. So let's look at some that have been prominent lately, and I'll show you why.
One argument is that by covering the hair/face, women are concealing important aspects of their identity. They are not fully participating as citizens. Well tough shit I say. I can walk into a bank wearing sunglasses. Or a hood. When my hair was long I would wrap it up into a scarf to clean the house or simply on hot days. Eastern European and Mediterranean women will wear headscarves. African women will wear headscarves. Indian and Asian and Anglo women will wear headscarves. So why just ban Islamic headscarves? Uh, that would be racism.
A further argument is that the burqa carries a symbolic element that is offensive to women, as exposing the head/hair is considered to offend god and man in Islam. Well I happen to agree that this is a daft notion. Did I mention I'm an athiest? But Jews do it with their skull caps, nuns do it with their habits. So do you want to rip the habit from a nun in the name of her freedom? I don't see anyone ranting about these other forms of religious coverings in the newspapers or suggesting for a moment we should make it illegal for these other groups. Only Muslims. That's racism.
There are people arguing against it on the grounds of feminism. That many women would prefer not to wear a burqa but are forced to by their family and community. In righteous feminist outrage, these advocates want to remove the shackles of this oppression by making it illegal.
Well I put it to you that the people advocating on these grounds are not giving one toss about women in this situation. Because they will only be further oppressed and excluded by a ban on the burqa. They will not be able to leave the house, and their freedom will be further curtailed. Honestly this argument of 'freeing' women by banning the burqa is the most selfish and stupid of the lot. The only people it will make feel better is the rest of us. The white priveleged people who will no longer have to squirm and feel uncomfortable when a burqa clad lady gets on the tram. The ones who refuse to allow that some women are choosing to dress that way as an expression of their ideological conviction. Banning the burqa is not about feminism, and it's not about freedom. It's about one group of people deciding what makes them feel comfortable, and imposing it on another group of people. Again, racist much?
This doesn't mean that I don't think that we, as a society, should try to tackle religious and sexist values that result in women being forced to dress in a way they do not wish. We absolutely should do that. But banning the burqa doesn't do this at all. It doesn't involve any engagement with the people who would enforce it. It only punishes the women who are already oppressed through having to wear it, and punishes those who have freedom and use it to choose to wear it. Discuss the burqa. Discuss with the people who think it's important. There are knotty issues wrapped up in there. Confront them in dialogue. Don't ban it.
And if anyone wants to go down the road of 'how free is the choice of the women who are choosing it?', well good for you, it's a damned important question. But don't pretend for a second that any of us aren't making value-laden peer pressured choices all the time. Of course we are. We have freedoms, but they are not absolute, not for any of us. I've yet to see one commentator acknowledge this fact.
If I had my way, then I wouldn't wear clothes in Summer. At all. I would get my tattoo out at work and in front of my grandmother. How is this different from a young woman who covers her hair in front of her relatives? The outcomes for me might be less severe if I transgressed these norms, but I choose to follow them because it makes my life easier, it makes my grandmother happier. Is it a loaded choice? Of course. Do I wish the conservative people in society could cope with my having a tattoo? Absolutely. Do I wish that conservative Muslims could cope with the exposed heads and hair of their female relatives? Darned tootin. But for society to BAN it? To make it illegal? How is this anything other than a socially sanctioned punishment for a difference that we can't tolerate. How dare we call ourselves multicultural or diverse and entertain such a notion?
Do I have a problem with women being forced to wear a burqa? Yes.
Do I have a problem with a woman freely choosing to wear a burqa? No. Can I know how free the choice is of a woman I know nothing about, beyond what she's wearing? No.
So what are we left with? The burqa oppresses some women. Undoubtedly. And banning it? Oh wait, that is a problem and will oppress women. Yep.
Let's recap. Burqa = oppressive. Banning the burqa = oppressive. The difference between the two options? White people feel better about themselves.
So why would we ban it, when every objection to it has its counterpart in other religions and social norms? Um, because we're racist?...
NB My friend Beck has pointed out (see comments) that the burqa is a full body covering, as distinct from a hijab which is a headscarf. Thanks for clarifying Becky.
I sat up tonight pottering around and playing on the internet. I was trying to show some solidarity to Leith, who is up working just like he has been every night this week. But in actual fact all I did was snicker audibly at people's twitter feeds, fart surreptitiously a few times, and go to bed. Despite making him a cup of tea, I am clearly lousy at solidarity.
Ok, so I utterly failed at writing up Cherchez la Femme the next day. And yes, I am a lazy and haphazard blogger. Also, beyond an immediate whole-hearted endorsement of the evening, as I pondered the event, and discussed some of the ideas with friends and loved ones over the following view days, it took me some time to organise my thoughts. For feminism is complex, it operates in many different spheres simultaneously: personal, professional, social. It touches on understandings of free will, and the role of the environment in shaping subconscious associations, and how you understand yourself as an agent in the world. The degree of responsibility you feel towards others. And I am constantly flummoxed by the murky and mysterious ways in which these ways of knowing and of being interact. As someone dear pointed out to me recently when genuinely curious as to why I would feel so strongly about a feminist cause, my life doesn't show any signs of having experienced disadvantage based on my gender. So why am I so upset?
But I don't want to have an emotional or intellectual outpouring here, nor get too philosophical. Nor will I go into the detail of the night itself. Mel has already done so as articulately as anyone could wish. I enjoyed the night thoroughly, and thought it entirely worthwhile. That said, I'll be honest, I wanted some answers from Cherchez la Femme, and I didn't get them. I got a lot of ideas to ponder instead. And later on, I got questioned about the case for feminism and female disadvantage. Because all the women at Cherchez la Femme were educated, employed, stylish, assertive.
And so the best possible response I can offer to anyone, man or woman, who may wonder what need there is for feminism in our Australian society today, is a simple imaginary exercise.
Imagine you have grown up in this world a girl.
Think about what things adults might have said to you as a child. How important is it to be told you're pretty? How often do you hear that, as opposed to some other praise?
Imagine you wanted to run around and get muddy and swear and yell. How might that have been responded to by your parents and teachers?
Imagine reading some of the most exciting profound literature of your youth about wondrous worlds beyond your door. What do the men in these books do? How about the women? How many of the adventurers and protagonists and heroes are men? You're not one.
Imagine the schoolyard and fighting for the sought after downball courts. Would you win them? What would it take?
Imagine going into the 7-Eleven to get some milk for your Mum pretty regularly. You pass newspapers, chocolate bars, and a rack of magazines with breasts all over them. You're only little, do you stop and wonder why there are no magazines with men on them? Or is it simply that those ladies are pretty?
Imagine learning history at school. History is the story of things men have done. There aren't really any women in history. No one seems to notice. You don't. At least, not yet.
Imagine that despite playing sport all week, when you turn on the television all the players are men. You're not one.
Imagine being at high school. Imagine you always do better on tests than the person you have a huge crush on. Do you think he's cool with this?
You're told to be polite and ladylike to your superiors. You're told that this will be necessary if you want to get ahead in the world. You're told it's not fair but it's just the way it is. Polite and ladylike means non-confrontational.
Imagine the hierarchy of popularity amongst your friends is determined by their degree of popularity with the opposite sex. As in, whoever the boys like best is who the girls will also defer to. If you haven't already, you may start to say to yourself, what the fuck?
Imagine that you're not allowed to do things your brother is because you're more likely to be assaulted. Everyone acknowledges that it's not your fault that you're more vulnerable. But you have to take responsibility for it. You are told to dress modestly, act discreetly, not take risks. People say this because they love and care for you. Truly. Who then is left to complain to?
Imagine that critiquing the bodies of your gender is a passtime that is done by your friends, your peers, the media and society both publicly and fairly constantly.
Imagine reaching for the new remote and trying the wrong button, only to have it gently but firmly taken from you before you even get a chance to look at it twice.
Imagine a world in which young women will opt to be photographed in porn-style poses for a clothing store or a website; they find it empowering. You know you're not a kill-joy that you wouldn't find it empowering at all, but others may not see it that way. But many of those others are the intended consumers of those images, and you are not.
Imagine you can get a job as easily as a man can. Imagine knowing that despite working your arse off and being damned good at your job, you are paid statistically less than you would be in the exact same role if you were a man. Your boss would be offended if you suggested as much to him. Probably almost every woman's boss would be. But the women are still paid less, including you.
You're less likely to be promoted regardless of performance. Your reproductive organs make you a risk to a business, regardless of your plans for them. This is fairly commonly accepted.
You're less likely to both have a family and reach the upper echelons of your field. Your partner isn't.
Please, if you haven't already, imagine some or all of these things. Imagine that you are generally very happy. You are in a loving relationship of equals. You are respected by your friends, colleagues and family. You work hard. You have fun. And you have a problem with the way the female gender is constituted in the world. This is what it is for me to be a feminist. It isn't always angry and ranty, but sometimes it is. It isn't whingy and it isn't anti-fun, unless your idea of fun requires an imbalance of power. It isn't blaming the men or the women of our generation for creating these power dynamics, but it does require the men and women of our generation to take some responsibility for changing it, and for men this means changing it away from their advantage. It is an act of recognition that there remains a problem.
So do it. Imagine you have grown up, and live, as a woman in the world. And then tell me whether there's still a need for feminism in Australia.
Tomorrow night I'm going along to Cherchez la femme. It's the first of a monthly series my excellent friend Karen has organised as a soiree to discuss feminist issues, and I am very proud of her for having the chutzpah to get something like this started.
I'm not quite sure what to expect. So many of my attempts to participate in a feminist dialogue end in disillusionment and frustration, and yes anger, at the dogma that can often dominate these discourses. But here's what I'm hoping for tomorrow:
I'm hoping to meet assertive intelligent women.
I'm hoping there'll be lots of men there. I know so many men that I would call progressive, and would call themselves progressive, but I honestly don't know how many would be likely to opt to spend their Tuesday nights participating in the issues directly in this kind of forum. I'm guessing not many.
I'm hoping that there'll be genuine heterogeny, a vast difference of experience and opinion, and that the only thing people are agreeing on is the fundamental drive for equality of opportunity for women, with all the nuances that can entail.
How good has the sky been lately? ALERT: RHETORICAL; IT'S BEEN AMAZING.
Admittedly this freaking heat wave has got me all bejiggedy, and so far I've managed to refrain from running around with my hands flailing above my head, screaming "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!". But only just.
But I can forgive the world for a late April that has me dripping with sweat as I ride to work, because of the ridiculous Renaissance skies. They're all fierce blues and shards of glaring sunlight and clouds! Clouds like we haven't seen in 13 years of drought. Big, voluptous, bucolic clouds. Clouds in every single kind of grey, piled and heaped and teetering on top of one another. Clouds that streak across the sky like they have somewhere else to be. Clouds that pouffe about and mosey along as though they been blown from the hookah of Lewis Carroll's caterpillar.
And deep charcoal clouds, laden with rain and bombastic with lightening. My only sadness is that too few of the storms have unleashed themselves over central Melbourne. But it is wonderful to wake every day to these glorious, ever-changing, magnificent skies. Nice one, Autumn.
About a month ago I moved in with Leith to an apartment in Parkville. There have been lots of good things about this move, and some adjustments to living in such close proximity to others, but one aspect I'm particularly enjoying is The Lobby Romance.
The Lobby Romance is between a young Asian woman and a young Asian man. They might be late teens or about 20 or so. Young Asian woman (let's call her YAW) clearly lives in the building, but I'm not sure where. I suspect she lives with her parents. YAM is her gentleman caller, and is pretty clearly not allowed upstairs or into her apartment.
To the casual observer they are incredibly sweet.
Before I moved in here I would sometimes arrive at around 10pm-ish and pass The Lobby Romance on my way up. It wouldn't happen often but it would usually consist of one of two scenes: Scene 1 - YAW and YAM are sitting on the ground at the edge of the path leading to the door to the building, having one of those quiet, intense, couple-y conversations.
Scene 2 - YAM is outside the building up leaning against the glass and YAW is seated inside leaning against the lobby wall, and they are having a quiet, intense, couple-y conversation over their mobiles. Once I came in and they were both seated on the ground inside the lobby, side by side, talking and I had to skirt around them to get to the stairs. But they are never slobbery and gropey, they just talk long into the night.
They are oblivious to the world around them and I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Leith tells me that The Lobby Romance has been going on some two years now, and has its share of ups and downs.
Since I've moved in I've only seen them once or twice, but in the last few days there has definitely been drama afoot.
On Tuesday we got home from the gym, sweaty and sore, and came up to witness The Lobby Romance in a moment of crisis. YAW and YAM were in scenario 2, she inside and he out, talking on their phones. Only she had tears streaming down her face and he was literally pressed up to the glass, looking shattered. Despite it being quite awkward for Leith and I to barge into this in our sweaty shorts , I felt terribly rude just being there in the midst of this scene, since it's perfectly obvious they have nowhere else to go.
We executed a very quick change upstairs and headed back out in search of food. I had commented to Leith that it looked like they were breaking up, but he assured me that they just went through these phases from time to time. It was funny, because we'd never acknowledged The Lobby Romance to one another before, although we were both abreast of the latest details. At a glance it appeared that she was calling the whole situation off.
Anyway, we headed back downstairs and passed through the lobby as quickly as we could. The scene was basically the same but maybe a little bit worse and more heart-rending even than before. And then tonight we came home at about 11:30 and YAW and YAM were embracing on the stairs, in one of those 'home from the war' embraces. Not bent over or tonguing or anything, just holding each other very close and stroking hair and nuzzling into necks and so on. And there was a few tears and a palpable air of relief. We just edged past them on the stairs as silently as we could.
And internally I did a little high five to the world, because I didn't want them to break up. These two people who I've never even made direct eye contact with, let alone spoken to - I really really want them to be happy! They are putting in the hard yards, let me tell you.
So it would appear that The Lobby Romance will continue, same time tomorrow (I hope)...
So I remained completely sober through Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and most of Thursday (until about 7pm). And let's not forget that I didn't drink on the previous Saturday or Sunday either.
There were both positives and negatives, as follows:
Positives Slept well Exercised more Saved some money
Negatives Had a shocking headache all week that felt like dehydration despite guzzling water Skin went berserko
On Thursday I had a couple of beers with dinner, and yesterday I had some decent Chianti with lunch, and beer and wine with dinner plus a post-comedy show whiskey. Didn't feel any different to the other days. I think I got a bit high on sichuan peppers, but that's another issue. The only other comments I'd make are that not drinking didn't affect my enjoyment of being out at night with friends at all. No difference. I could note that I didn't stay out late so this wasn't really tested, but in fairness, I don't really stay out past midnight anyway these days. Now where did I put that blanket? My legs are getting a chill.
On a seperate note... I've been getting some, er, interesting commenters in recent weeks, and so have decided to begin moderating the comments for purely pragmatic reasons. I don't intend to censor anything that is actually relating to the content of the posts, just the links to the porn sites. Sorry about that folks.
Here is the idea: I drink less. But wait, let me elaborate...
So I drink pretty regularly. This is not a news flash. It's just true. I like booze, especially wine.
Early last year my love of wine induced me to buy Leith a position in a beginner's wine appreciation course, and to go along with him myself (super generous of me, huh). I found the course incredibly stimulating, and not just because I was drinking six wines a night, although that was an obvious perk. I found I not only liked wine, but was interested in it too, and the more I was understood it, the better it tasted. Older wine is gooder wine and so on. Partly I think the intrigue I have developed is due to the fact that wine, and particularly the range of factors that deliver the attributes of a given wine, is complex. So knowing why a certain wine tastes the way it does feels a bit like solving a puzzle. Only more delicious. Yes, I am basically one of those wankers from Sideways. Sorry folks.
So anyway, wouldn't you just know it, this course gave me a taste for a lot of relatively expensive wines. I'm not talking Grange Hermitage or anything. But $30 bottles, and including styles that are only ever imported. I can get more pleasure from 'browsing' in a decent wine cellar (at this point I would like to give a shoutout to Rathdowne Cellars, which is bloody brilliant) than I do in a shoe store. Just this afternoon I impulse bought a Petit Chablis with no intention of drinking it today or at any anticipated occassion, simply because it was good value and I like Chablis. I buy wine. As I bought it, I considered what else I might have bought if I'd splurged that money on some other thing, and the wine seemed like a pretty sound purchase.
And yet at the same time as this, I still participate in my typical weekly shindigs involving events (dinners, bands, theatre, comedy, birthdays, movies etc etc) most nights of the week, when I'm not working like a demon. This week was just such a routine, with me having slightly more festive (read: late (read: midnight *gasp*)) nights out than usual, and having them daily. And drinking at all of them. Not guzzling it down then walking into a lamp-post drinking. Just festive, social drinking with dinner and maybe one or two after, and then failing to get up for a run AGAIN the following morning and devouring cheesymite scrolls at my desk the next day a little more than I should.
And so, by Saturday morning, following yet another night that didn't go later than midnight but still involved beer and wine and tequila and beer, I felt a little crappy. Not blistering hangover crappy. More a feeling that all my internal organs were a bit grey and shrivelled, and the spot on my back where I imagine my liver to be was actually a bit tender. A bit gross you say? Agreed.
So this weekend I had one of those bleary-eyed couple of days where I didn't do much at all. I didn't sleep in, but I did read the papers whilst in bed, I drank tea, read books, watched movies. Went for a long walk, cooked quite a bit of food, drank craploads of water and exercised rather vigorously both days. Not out of piousness, just because it was genuinely what I felt like doing. And, I had my idea.
Now before I tell you what it is, let me just say that I'm not signing up to it right now or anything. I'm not a convert. I'm just twirling it around in my brain, letting the 'light' (ie sluggish mental reflection) catch it from various angles, seeing how it looks. Right now it doesn't look stupid, but then I've been sober for two days.
Ok. So. I'm thinking that I should conserve the value of my overall investment in alcohol, let's say on a weekly basis, BUT convert quantity for quality. So no drinking pots from unclean taps in shitty pubs. No drinking the house red (unless I'm in a genuinely decent bar). And in fact, to help with all this, limited weekday drinking in general (I'd settle for 3 AFDs a week). And the other times, crack open a really nice Cotes du Rhone with dinner. Just because. Buy aged reisling and drink it in the sun on Sunday afternoon whilst reading my book. On my own if necessary. And so on.
At the moment, after a dry weekend, and still feeling more run down than I should, I think it sounds alright. I plan to road test it this weekend, and will report back on the state of my wallet, my sanity and my liver in due course.
On Saturday night Mel and I had a Will Ferrell movie night slash sleepover. Leith joined us for movies number 2 and 3, and Marcus rocked up after work for the second half of proceedings too.
Mel and I were both hella excited. While it's awesome that we have a spare room and so Mel was able to actually stay on a mattress in a room to herself, a part of me wished she and I were lying on the living room floor in sleeping bags like sleepovers of yore. We would eat sherberty lollies and cake-decorating sugar flowers stolen from the cupboard, in order to stay up all night giggling and doing arithmetic games to determine who we would one day marry.
We watched Old School, Blades of Glory and Talladega Nights. We were going to watch Anchorman but we all got too sleepy. Leith really wanted to see Stranger Than Fiction, but we agreed that it was too different a kind of movie (though also awesome) to fit within the marathon we'd planned. I also have a hankering to see Step Brothers, and it remains high on the list.
Prior to Saturday I would have ranked these movies thus (favourite to least favourite): Anchorman Talladega Nights Blades of Glory Old School After Saturday my rankings have shifted somewhat, to this:
Anchorman Blades of Glory Talladega Nights Old School
Anchorman is the undisputed Gold Standard. Leith and Marcus both felt that Old School is one of the best of the bunch, and I have to agree that it remains hilarious over repeated viewings. However, I feel it falls down compared to Anchorman for two reasons.
Reason one is that Old School has no strong, or even particularly interesting female protagonist. Christina Applegate in Anchorman provides some of the biggest laughs, and I enjoyed her character's powerlust and exquisite breasts enormously. Reason two is that while Anchorman sports an impressive ensemble cast who ensure that every line is a doozy, Old School is really carried, in my opinion, by Ferrell. Vince Vaughan plays Vince Vaughan extremely well, and Luke Wilson does his adorable self proud as well, but it's Ferrell who is non-stop hilarious from start to finish.
Talladega Nights really slipped in my opinion. I hadn't seen it in years, and while the moments of sheer ridiculous were still there (cougar in the car, the endless shake and bake, the obligitary Ferrell nudie streaking scene) I felt that the shape of the movie wasn't as good as it could have been. Specifically, the first 20 to 30 minutes of exposition feels drawn out and too long. Additionally, the initially very funny 'poke fun at rednecks' theme actually waned for me on this viewing. I'm not sure, but I suspect that greater exposure to what my mother might refer to as The Great Unwashed made me recoil more and laugh less at these characters. Also telling is that the best five minutes of Talladega Nights is the closing credits where Ferrell and John C. Reilly are simply riffing to camera. It's tea-comes-out-of-your-nose funny.
On the other hand, Blades of Glory improved in my estimation on this viewing. Originally I'd found it very funny but had felt that Jon Heder's character wasn't strong enough against Ferrell. I also found the film a bit (I can't believe I'm writing this) two-dimensional. However, in the wake of the recent Winter Olympics and some of the delightful skating personalities it exposed us to, I found it utterly enthralling and silly and ten kinds of wonderful. So I moved it up the charts.
Before my chart can really be completed, I feel I have to see Step Brothers, and this is a viewing burden I am most happy to bear.
So I watched Step Brothers. It was pretty bad. It goes to the bottom of the list.
Work has been destroying me lately. Mostly targeting my sanity. A range of circumstances, unforeseen and somewhat distressing, have resulted in an inordinately large pile of highly sensitive work, with ridiculous deadlines, landing in my lap. And I've been going like the clappers, to borrow the extremely unfortunate phrase. People who I've actually spent time with lately (which isn't many) deserve many props, not least gentleman caller (soon I will have to call him gentleman roommate - eeek) who has been stoic, pragmatic, and a reliable provider of nourishing meals through all this.
So I'm having a February that I wouldn't wish to repeat, that involves 8-12 hour days 7 days a week, minding a cat that chooses to defecate in the living room more often than not, and ridiculous and zany (though not fun) mood swings of a type that could well be termed 'histrionic'.
However, tonight I managed to have rather a pleasant night, in the midst of all this. Here's how I did it:
Step 1: Work late, but not too late.
I worked until 7:30, which is late enough to feel that I've achieved a large amount (especially given my 7am start) but still early enough to be able to salvage my evening.
Step 2: Have delicious leftovers ready and waiting for dinner.
My leftovers were purple and black eggplants that I'd sauteed with shallots and bell peppers, then stirred through with sliced Adelaide and Black Russian tomatoes, sprinkled with sumac and topped with a tahini/yoghurt/lemon juice/garlic dressing. Mixed with parsely and pearl couscous. NOM, I TELL YOU.
Step 3: Acquire additional comforting treats on the walk home.
Treats this evening constituted The Best Chips In The World (you may also know them as Red Rock Deli Potato Chips with Sea Salt) and a Bounty Bar. Hey, I'm a simple girl. All this is very important, as it means that you can leave work, and indeed stay late at work, safe in the knowledge that pleasantness awaits.
Step 4: I can give you more Meet entertainment needs
I signed up at the Blockbuster Videos that is one block from the office and half a block from the house, so that I could rent a movie without having to ride my bike the several small blocks to the Video Ezy on St Georges Rd. I know, I know. But that's just how it was today.
The lady made me fill in several forms, and gave me a hard time about not having a bill with proof of residence on it. And in my head I was all "hehe, jokes on you lady I'm only house sitting and I'll be GONE in a few weeks anyway!" but in reality feigned humility and pretended I still lived at Dudley St and several minutes later came away with Julie & Julia. This was something of a victory, as whilst in the office I'd been pondering the need for some pure feel-good escapism and the best I'd come up with was Mamma Mia. I know, I know. And so, still keeping with Meryl, I feel I really triumphed at the Blockbuster this evening. Julie & Julia was something I'd had every intention of seeing at the cinema. But as with so many movies, I had completely failed to get there. Also, if you don't know me/are a dimwit, I am mildly food obsessed, which is to say, I'm happy to think, talk, read, hear about food anywhere anytime. Also to eat. This is very important.
Step 5: Get home to a piss and shit free house
The madly defecating cat seems to calm down her frenzied excretions in direct correlation to time I spend at home. I was here last night and this morning, and thus, by miracle and demented cat logic, there was no shit this evening. Hallelujah.
Step 6: Talk to my family
Yes, this makes me one of those people that other people who don't get along with their families think is a schmuck. But I haven't had a proper conversation with my Mum or my Dad (divorced) in weeks. And there have been some broader family-related things going on. And it was very grounding to speak to both of them. And to be able to blurt out how manic I've been feeling, to a non-judgemental audience (Christ, just writing that makes me realise how lucky I am with my hardly-perfect-but-extremely-otherwise-functional parents).
Step 7: Crack a bottle of wine
I had a 2008 Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris in the fridge, and it complemented my dinner perfectly.
Step 8: Watch entire movie
I curled up, cat nuzzling my knee, and ate my way through the chips, more wine, and then the bounty, watching Julie & Julia. And it was thoroughly delightful. It featured relatable women: smart, funny, with unutterably amazing partners, but who were perhaps a little lost. Oh yes, and who were food obsessed. I realise that every woman aged 30 who has seen this film has probably also thought this, but c'mon you guys, this was shouting out to me.
Obviously* I had a little cry during parts of the movie, and that was nice too.
Step 9: Write on blog
It has been ages since I've had any dedicated brain capacity for anything that isn't work related. And as it's most likely boring and definitely completely inappropriate to write about work on this blog, I haven't written at all. It's good to write.
Step 10: Go to bed
This is the step I'm most looking forward to! Little poo-bum cat will come and curl up in the crook of my knee, the breeze from the open window will waft around the room , and my head will sink into the cool darkness of the squishy pillows until my alarm tells me it's time to go for a run, at sparrows' fart tomorrow.
Thoughts on Julia Childs' French cooking.
Obviously, it looked magnificent. And I am in complete agreement with her thoughts on butter (ie you can never have too much). But it didn't make me salivate the way that Mediterrainean or Middle Eastern or South East Asian cooking can. It was all meat and potatoes and European flavours. It screamed STODGE. Which is not to deny that any of the dishes would be anything but exquisite. But for a whole year?!
But I did love her intrigue with the science of cooking - that will make a souffle rise or a sauce emulsify or a combination of flavours explode. And the extravagance of some of the recipes were awe inspiring in themselves. I also really enjoyed the demented perseverance of Julie Powell, who must have been a sleep deprived loon for the love of cooking. And while the movie focussed on her job and her culinary feats, all I could think was "and she's still managing to writer her blog every day!" . That's a dedication to writing that is clearly well beyond me and I have to admire.
And so, with these thoughts, I wish you Bon Appetite, and good night.
* I cry in everything. EVERYTHING. Like Terminator Salvation, and RSPCA commercials and terrible rom coms. I'm beyond shame, it's who I am, and I've learnt to live with it. And the movie was quite touching in places. Although it should probably also be noted that in the last few weeks I've been (not)dealing with this sudden burden of stress at work by being basically on the verge of tears a good 90% of the time, and spazzing out in more ways than one. So.
I have been to the movies twice this week. Twice! High-fives for holidays, people!...and so on. The first time was for cheap at the Nova on Monday to see Fantastic Mister Fox. The second was at Hoyts Victoria Gardens to see the Princess and the Frog.
At both these cinema experiences I have done what any self-respecting movie goer would do, and purchased a chop-top, and now I am doing what behoves any self-regarding blogger to do, and publicly comparing them.
It's sad news for the Nova and their 'home-made' choc-tops, because their choc-top performed very poorly indeed. Here's everything that was bad about it:
The only available flavour was Vanilla. I realise Monday's are busy days at the Nova. Surely their managers realise this too, and would have extra stock available? But no. Vanilla.
It was pretty small.
The ice-cream had that icy quality of having been thawed and refrozen a few times, and was not very nice.
There was a massive air pocket between the chocolate and the ice-cream, ie. not much ice-cream at all.
The cone was pretty stale.
It was over-priced (in the tradition of all cinema snacks).
Here's what was good about it:
It was covered in chocolate.
The cone was a waffle cone (but remember, a stale one)
By comparison, the Hoyt's choc-top performed very well. Here's what was good about it:
When informing us that not all flavours were available, the staff member apologised politely for the reduced choice. Apologised! Take that, coolsie Nova staff!
The reduced choice still left us with three delicious flavours to choose from - chocolate, banana and boysenberry. I had boysenberry. Yummo.
It was pretty big.
The ice-cream filled the cone and the entire chocolate dome.
The ice-cream was really creamy and tasty.
The cone was a waffle cone and really fresh, crunchy and sweet.
Here's what was bad about it:
It too was over-priced.
Frankly, the exotically flavoured home-made choc-tops were to me the only real perk of the Nova, because the screens are tiny, the seats tiny, the other cinemagoers are too often wankers, and the queues ridiculous. The failure of their choc-tops is a death knell for the Nova in my internal list of preferred Melbourne cinemas. Victoria Gardens on the other hand is large, cool, is conveniently located near Minh Minh for a meal adjacent to the movie, and has boysenberry choc-tops even on a busy day. Decision: made.
I was hoping to discuss the subject of soy milk. Hasn't the Bonsoy crisis just been terrible? And all you wonderful cafes who purchase Bonsoy despite its extremely high cost, appeasing your bourgie soy-drinking customers, such as myself, are suffering.
However the crisis shows no sign of ending. In fact,just 20 minutes ago I enquired at one of you as to whether you knew when Bonsoy would be back, and you said you didn't know!
But here's the thing. I still want to drink nice espresso coffee. And I still don't want to drink it with dairy milk. In short, I appeal to you all, lovely cafes with your commitment to first-rate produce and products, to please for the love of God buy some other kind of soy milk. Just in the interim. I know your regular supplier probably doesn't have it. You may even have to send a staff member to the supermarket for it. But surely this is the kind of flexibility and innovation that small businesses thrive upon.May I also add: For fuck's sake.
I'm getting pretty good at doing nothing. I'm particularly good at doing nothing whilst asleep. At the moment, I'm racking up huge swathes of nothing at a time this way.
I'm doing pretty well at riding my bike around without a particular purpose, my aimless pedalling enhanced by some mild sunshine and a nonchalant breeze.
I'm great at doing nothing in front of a screen - be it at home or in a cinema. I sit, and the entertainment simply filters through to me.
I'm less good at doing nothing at dinner time. I've been rubbing fish fillets in spices, and slicing a huge range of vegetables, and then eating them slowly with a glass of wine. Eating slowly is the triumph of those with little or nothing to do. I haven't rushed anywhere in five days. I checked my work email yesterday, but didn't reply to any of them.
Sometimes I just walk along, looking at things. I think my brain is melting.