a little east of reality

Sunday, July 31, 2005

bang bang, my baby shot me down

I've never had much affection for Tarantino, despite his reputation. Not that he isn't a mad genius...but his movies are just hard to watch if you're squeamish. I haven't seen Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, and until tonight, I'd never seen Kill Bill, volume 1 or 2. For some reason there was no squeam in me tonight and I knew this was the right moment to watch a bunch of people 'get brekkup' as my father would say.

Wow. And again. Wow.

Yeah, yeah...way too violent. So don't show it to your kids. I doubt they were ever the target audience anyway. I did spend many moments wondering what on Earth else they could think of to do to each other. Some of the characters were amazing. David Carradine was perfect in the role of Bill with his quiet, sandpapery voice and calm expression (ever notice that? the best murderous characters all speak softly). Darryl Hannah floored me - I didn't know she had it in her. Uma Thurman just plain rocked. I can't count the number of totally cool things she did in this movie.

Of course the movie had its flaws. I know this project was a good chance for Tarantino to give a nod of respect to any number of old films, actors and directors...and he did, but Gordon Liu was (in my opinion) totally overdone as Pai Mei, stroking his long, white, beard under his bushy, white and very stupid-looking eyebrows and laughing that fake, mocking kung-fu movie laugh until you wanted to drive the damn sword through him yourself. (Though having said that, the move where he jumps up in the air to avoid the Bride's thrusting move and ends up standing on her sword was totally cool.) I also found it disappointing when Uma Thurman, playing an American, spoke with a better Japanese accent than Lucy Liu, whose character had supposedly been raised in Japan and was the head of the Tokyo underworld. Blood spurting in fountains from every sword wound was picturesque, but seemed more theatrical than interesting after the third or so spurtfest.

That said, so much was good. The animated scene that chronicled O-ren Ishii's parents' death and her own beginning as a killer was perfect. The fight scene between Beatrice and Elle was phenomenal; brought a whole new meaning to the words 'kickass babe'. The ending was riveting. Not only was it mesmerising to finally hear the remaining pieces of the story, but also Bill's very unpredictable nature created a tension that had me on the edge of my own couch. And wisely so.

What did amaze me was how soothing her relentless revenge was. It might have had something to do with the soundtrack, several songs of which reminded me of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds-style death ballads. But there was also something delicate in the precision of the martial arts, especially the sword fighting, that caressed the mind...something quietly satisfying in her oneness of mind and willingness to suffer to bring justice to the situation. Most of all, what I found utterly compelling was the fact that the Bride's all-consuming rage ~ her unwillingness to give in, her ferocity ~ came in great part from her mother-child instinct. We tend to think of mothers merely as 'nuturing' and rarely see movies that show how fierce that protective instinct can be, and how much rage a mother can show, given the chance, for those who harm her child.

I can't recommend Tarantino except on a case-by-case basis. Some people just aren't ever going to be up for his specific brand of movie-making. (I was astounded to find out afterwards that my parents saw both movies in the cinema and enjoyed them...would never have guessed that!) But for those in the mood for something a little dark and direct: 5 stars. I leave you with the vocal stylings (really starting to wish I had audio...must investigate) of Nancy Sinatra from the Kill Bill (did I mention excellent?) soundtrack:

Bang bang you shot me down.
Bang bang I hit the ground.
Bang bang that awful sound.
Bang bang...my baby shot me down.

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

excitement and emptiness

"You know how I said I'd been wanting to go to Sydney to meet someone?"


"Well she's free this weekend, and she's coming here...now."

"Now? When will she get here?"

"In about three hours." He moves restlessly, looking into the distance like thoughts are rushing through his mind. "Suddenly I'm nervous."

"Is this the first time you've met her."

"Yeah, but I've been chatting to her a long time. We've made plans to meet but it's never panned out." He starts thinking too much, as you do in these situations. "Is this shirt okay, do you think?...I wish I'd gotten my hair cut."

Two hours of incessant nervous chatter later:

"I'm sorry, I know I'm keeping you from your movie."

"It's okay. I have no romance of my own, you see."

(laughs) "So you're going to live vicariously through mine?"

(also laughing) "Yeah I guess so."

No, actually what I'm going to do is exit to the kitchen just as she knocks on the front door, to give you guys some space, make myself a hot chocolate, and escape to my room to the internet to chat with Roofshadow about how over-rated reality feels when someone is living your fantasy life down the hall. Or even when they aren't.

That sounds a little bitter, doesn't it? Truth is that the last two hours have been incredibly cute. I haven't seen the boy all jittery before and it was endearing. But now that I'm here in my own room...alone...I'm letting myself acknowledge that sometimes other people's happiness, even if you would never take it from them, still serves to bring your own loneliness into sharp relief. I promise I'll be all cheerful again by the time I meet the girl tomorrow over lunch. Until told different I'm assuming they'll be sleeping late. ^_^

signs point to not a chance in hell ^^

Phi and I did the rounds of the Saturday garage sales this morning. I firmly busted his pre-conceived notions about the navigation skills of females, which was satisfying after his skeptical look when I announced I was a good navigator. And I am!

We'd hoped for some treasure, as you do, but ended up with some pretty minor bounty. I did happen upon a magic 8-ball, which I've wanted forever. We passed the driving time asking it questions. Phi's been desperate to get his car back, but the mechanic had to get hold of one more part last week. Twice we asked the magic 8-ball if he's getting his car on Monday and it said 'don't count on it'. However it's certain he'll have it on Tuesday, so that's good news. ^^

Me: Magic 8-ball, will I ever get to drive Phi's car?

Phi: (scoffing) Unlikely.

[M8B: Signs point to yes.]

Me: It says 'signs point to yes'.

Phi: Pfft. That's what it thinks!


Friday, July 29, 2005

oral fix-ain't-tions

Setting the Scene:

A is mid-30s, dating a guy in his mid-20s. B is her male friend, same age as the boyfriend. The conversation has been on sex for some time at this point.

The (slightly paraphrased) conversation continues:

B: What about oral?
A: No, he doesn’t do that.
B: Not at all?
A: No.
B: How come?
A: I don’t know. He just thinks that because he’s got a big cock, he doesn’t have to do anything else.
B: Well that’s just lazy.

I nearly snorted my cornflakes. Times like this I wish I had an audio blog feature.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

dude, that's just not playing fair

I'm a firm believer that guys and girls can be friends. Even if I absolutely adore a guy and think he's sexy as all hell, if he's a just a friend (and should stay that way, eg not single) I can usually keep my (romantic) emotional distance pretty well. After all, if I'm really his friend, why would I think about stuff that, if it happened in reality, would screw up meaningful relationships in his life? That's not what a friend does.

But can I just say that there are some moments in life where you just have to stop and say, 'damn that's a nice ass!' and at least acknowledge, if only to yourself, that you so wish you were allowed to reach out and grab its sexy goodness.

I think I have an appointment with a cold shower...later.

damn, not again...

Wow. I just woke up...at work. I worked late (unusual for me) till about 8pm and at that time each night the lights go out. There's an after hours timer that you have to press to get 2 more hours of light, but I kept working for a little while in the dark, as the screen is visible. Finally the darkness worked its magic and I fell asleep.

This is a really common occurrence for me, falling asleep in my chair. I've always been able to sleep pretty much anywhere if I had to, but lately it's becoming my M.O. Usually I'm at home where I can wake up, complain silently about my neck muscles and then drag myself onto a soft, forgiving pillow to get a few hours of better sleep. Now, however, I find myself at work at 2.30am, still not having had dinner and with no good place to rest my head.

The upside: plenty of time to catch up on my blogging and email before even the early birds in my branch wander in at 8am. Dinner was solved by raiding the microwave porridge packets I keep in my desk for the rare days when I remember I missed breakfast.

I've been trying to put together a new blog - and by 'put together' I mean fooling with the template. It's always an adventure when chosha attempts to figure out html, oh yes. This blog (that you're reading right now) was relatively easy because I liked the layout and all I was really doing was fooling with the colours. The only thing I had to figure out was which part of the template corresponded to which part of the blog. But with the new one I am trying to shift boxes and alter pictures and styles and all manner of stuff. Can you spell nightmare? Yes I can. It's H-T-M-L. Jojo's been helpful, but I'm trying to only ask him things I have failed to figure out on my own after some trying. If I asked Jojo every question I had for him we would never get to talk about anything interesting.

And why am I creating a new blog? I'm always finding interesting shit, and moreso now that I've discovered the wonderful world of podcasting. There are SO MANY interesting shows out there. (Soon I will write a post on my discoveries in podcast land.) But when you mix personal stories with funny crap with serious politics with movie reviews, it just seems too jumbled. I decided I wanted a place to put all this thought-provoking stuff I keep finding but which doesn't really gel with the rest of my blog. I'll let you know when the html nightmare is over and it's ready to go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

movie review: the island

##the part without any spoilers##

Monday I won tickets to see a preview session of The Island...that night. A super fast phone call to Little Drummer Girl (who lately prefers Gangsta Girl) got me a taker of the other ticket, and we raced into the city after work (school) to check it out.

When interviewed about The Island, Scarlett Johansson said that best of all she liked the simple love story...and the explosions. ^_^ This is a pretty good sum-up of the surface details of the movie. A little innocent love, a little mystery to solve, a few absolutely 'not for the squeamish' injuries (think: nail gun), and a damn fine car chase (except in this case the cars are a Mack truck and a jet-powered motorbike). The casting is great, including the support cast, featuring Steve Buscemi, who always plays a surly wise-cracker with style and Michael Clarke Duncan, who appears briefly but tears your heart out (ironically) with his gut-wrenching performance.

And did I mention explosions?

The beauty of the movie though, is that there is so much to think about. Though I'd rather go into more detail in the spoiler section below, I love the fact that you can go watch this film as an action flick (with added romance) and then come out and spend the next two (five, ten) hours talking about really deep and interesting moral and ethical dilemmas involving power, science, authority, and about the value and meaning of life (in both the literal and figurative sense). To me this takes the movie up a level or two and makes it one I'll probably own one day.

4 stars: enjoy it at face value, but plan a coffee shop visit afterwards for all the ideas that'll be spinning through your mind.

##the part WITH SPOILERS##

Movies like this have been done before: the world is not as we perceive it to be (Dark City, The Matrix, 13th Floor, Existenz)...and you know something is up the moment you realise that everyone's name is an alpha-numeric code (Lincoln Six-Echo, Jordan Two-Delta). But this movie is not really about the creation of an artificial existence, except in the (Gattica-like) details. It's really about a myriad of issues concerning the value of human life and what consitutes a human life. Is a cloned human really human? If so, is its life worth the same amount as a non-manufactured human's life? What would we do if our life, or our youth, or our beauty, could be bought with another person's life? No self-defence claims here - just a simple equation: you can have this, if you allow another to die...and it's legal (kind of...at least you won't be held accountable for it). What do you do?

It's even about what we do with power over other sentient beings. If something is deemed non-human, what are our responsibilities toward it, if any? What to we owe to things we create? What is it about power over others that brings out the worst in people? And there are plenty more questions where they came from. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

let it go

Monday, July 25, 2005

What book am I?

One of those quizzy things.

You're A Theory of Justice!
by John Rawls

Okay, so the blurb that went with this result was superlatively dumb, but I loved the result, so I replaced the blurb and posted the result anyway. I love this book. Rawls is one of my top 3 favourite political philosophers (Mill also rocks...not sure who I'd put third, hmmm).

Actually I love political philosophy in general. I stumbled upon it by accident when I looking for a semester course to fill a gap in my uni schedule after I decided to drop
third year Japanese. I ended up taking a course with the best Pol Phil lecturer ever. He has the most ordered mind; he even makes Nietzsche comprehensible, which is quite a feat. I became so enthralled by the concept of defining and creating a just society that I had to take his course the next semester, something I hadn't planned on.

Even better, the next year I went on to the Honours course, which included a course of study on Justice. Discussing Justice, just society and just international politics with an entire class of people who actually like to study and care about the subject is an amazing thing. Not that we all agreed with each other, but that was part of the fun.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

who loves ya baby?

88% Of The Internet Loves Me!
I am loved by 88% of the population, including:
27273 people who love feminists
35591 people who love teachers
60665 people who love night people
In return, I love 81% of the population, including:
67358 young people
4517 physicists
9211 vampires
show the love at spacefem.com

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mr Curly suggests rest

Here's that Curly Pyjama letter I promised to post. (The emphases are as per the original.)

(From Mr Curly to Vasco Pyjama)

Dear Vasco,
In response to your question, "What is worth doing and what is worth having?" I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause, you must rest Vasco - otherwise you will become RESTLESS!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged, ongoing state of fatigue, to which our world seems to be rapidly adapting, is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must HAVE that feeling and you must act upon it sensibly - you MUST rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity - cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly - so cruel and meaningless - so utterly graceless - and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this.

And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied - they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy. So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat - learn to curl up and rest - feel your noble tiredness - learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat: it's worth doing nothing and having a rest.
Yours sleepily, Mr Curly xxx

I've kept a photocopy of this for a long time now, because I think it's so wise. Even in Western societies we treat exhausting ourselves as a virtue and pat people on the back all the time for soldiering on when they should be stopping, resting, relaxing, recovering, sleeping. But it was in Japan that I learned how this looks when all of society embraces it as a motto to live by. You see it when you are on a train coming home at 11pm and the seats are full of sleeping businessmen who haven't seen their kids on a weekday for months. You hear it when a 15-year-old student describes their schedule to you: 6am get up, 7.30am get to school to practice musical instrument, 8.30am school, 3.30pm club meeting (clubs meet every day usually including weekends), 6pm part time job, 10pm homework, 12.30am sleep. You feel it when the only time a Japanese friend can meet you is for breakfast or every fourth Sunday because they are working in a restaurant 10am - 10pm six days a week. People who exist on caffeine and stress don't have a lot of fun.

For me the problem isn't work. I'm not expected to put in impossible hours at breakneck speed like some people are. But my work suffers from my inability to let myself rest. If I have time I feel like I should be using it for something. Something other than sleeping, that is. I don't feel driven; it's not about that. I'm certainly not always productive, but I'm always doing something. I often forget that sleeping is necessary - I tend to see it as a waste of time. I always have. When I was a kid there were just too many other good things to be doing, but as an adult it's too often about getting something done, having too many hobbies and wanting more from myself than the amount of sleep I'm getting can provide.

Friday, July 22, 2005

adventures in narcolepsy

My errant holidays caught up with me this week. Most days I get up psycho early to teach a class of sleepy teenagers. This forces me to go to bed early-ish because they are rabid dog style grumpy if they haul their butts out of bed and I am running late (I have discovered). So during school holidays I tend to go to sleep later and later because I know that if I roll out of bed by 8.30am I can still make it to work by 9.

This is a very bad idea.

You see, I can get to work by 9am. What I can't do is stay awake all day until 5pm. And if I prop myself up with caffeine (Coke that is, not coffee) I still can't really function. In particular reading is impossible - I immediately start drifting, nodding - I cannot stay awake.

This week I'm back to pre-dawn rise, but I just couldn't get myself back into the swing of being in bed early. Four nights in a row I fell asleep in my chair in front of the computer, waking up early but with my neck muscles crying out for mercy. Three days this week I took myself to the sick room at lunchtime and fell asleep, each time slinking back to my desk around 2.30-3pm hoping that everyone assumed that I was working in the room where I do web work, or had gone to a meeting. On one embarrassing occasion I actually managed to fall asleep in a meeting for a few minutes. That was fun. o_O

What is it that makes going to bed so unappealing? It's like the bed and I are two oppositely charged magnets. I want to get enough sleep but I just can't lay down.

Actually this topic reminds me of a fabulous Curly Pyjama letter I have filed away somewhere, all about resting. (I want that linked book so bad now! haha...I had no idea the Curly Pyjama letters had been compiled in a book - I was just looking for a picture.) I'll see if I can find it and post it tomorrow. Given the week I've just had, I think I need to revisit the concept of 'rest as a positive thing' again. Maybe twice.

Anyway, it's Friday night now and I'm off to a video night with the girls, so getting to sleep early is not going to start tonight.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bagdad Burning

This from River, an Iraqi girl who writes a blog about living in occupied Iraq:

We did not have Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the war. We didn’t know that sort of extremism. We didn’t have beheadings or the abduction of foreigners or
religious intolerance. We actually pitied America and Americans when the Twin Towers went down and when news began leaking out about it being Muslim fundamentalists- possibly Arabs- we were outraged.

Now 9/11 is getting old. Now, 100,000+ Iraqi lives and 1700+ American lives later, it’s becoming difficult to summon up the same sort of sympathy as before. How does the death of 3,000 Americans and the fall of two towers somehow justify the horrors in Iraq when not one of the people involved with the attack was Iraqi?

Bush said:
“We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who exploded car bombs along a busy shopping street in Baghdad, including one outside a mosque. We see the nature of the enemy in terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul…”

Yes. And Bush is extremely concerned with the mosques. He might ask the occupation forces in Iraq to quit attacking mosques and detaining the worshipers inside- to stop raiding them and bombing them and using them as shelters for American snipers in places like Falluja and Samarra. And the terrorists who sent a suicide bomber to a teaching hospital in Mosul? Maybe they got their cue from the American troops who attacked the only functioning hospital in Falluja.

“We continued our efforts to help them rebuild their country. Rebuilding a country after three decades of tyranny is hard and rebuilding while a country is at war is even harder."

Three decades of tyranny isn’t what bombed and burned buildings to the ground. It isn’t three decades of tyranny that destroyed the infrastructure with such things as “Shock and Awe” and various other tactics. Though he fails to mention it, prior to the war, we didn’t have sewage overflowing in the streets like we do now, and water cut off for days and days at a time. We certainly had more than the 8 hours of electricity daily. In several areas they aren’t even getting that much.

“They are doing that by building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal justice under law.”

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces. As to Iraqi forces…There was too much to quote on the new Iraqi forces. He failed to mention that many of their members were formerly part of militias, and that many of them contributed to the looting and burning that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for weeks.

“The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day.”

Indeed they are. The forte of the new Iraqi National Guard? Raids and mass detentions. They have been learning well from the coalition. They sweep into areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass the females in the household and detain the men. The Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him in the head as his car drove away.

He kept babbling about a “free Iraq” but he mentioned nothing about when the American forces might actually depart and the occupation would end, leaving a “free Iraq”.Why aren’t the Americans setting a timetable for withdrawal? Iraqis are constantly wondering why nothing is being done to accelerate the end of the occupation.

Do the Americans continue to believe such speeches? I couldn’t help but wonder.

I know enough to not believe all the propaganda that Bush releases, but I had honestly imagined Iraq under Saddam Hussein to be oppressive and violent, even in the every day - like living in Chechnya or somewhere similar. It's interesting to hear it from the other side of the border.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

bass boy's birthday

Break out the birthday candles...Bass Boy has turned fourteen. His birthday money takes him inches from the bass of his dreams, so his jaw dropped in surprise when his 'rents handed him another two presents.

1) clothes
But not just any clothes. A couple of weeks ago BB's mum took him shopping at a huge Westco sale. He found four excellent items that he absolutely loved. He put the bag down for a second...and it was gone. All four perfect pieces of clothing stolen. His mum went back to the Westco staff and they looked all over the country for Westco stores that still had those four pieces in his size. So on his birthday, he got all his cool clothes back.

and 2) a new Nokia 5510 mobile phone that is also an mp3 player and radio, and has a little querty keyboard for fast texting.

I got him some magazines: Total Guitar and a couple of car mags. Happy birthday, BB!!

loneliness bites woman

I'm tired. Life is wearing me down like sandpaper. Not fine-grained paper smoothing rough edges, but harsh, course-grained stuff scraping at my skin, making it painful to the touch.

Does that sound melodramatic? Yeah, probably. Things often do when you aren't the one going through it. But from here it just feels like the truth, and a truth that makes me want to crawl under my quilt and pretend that its warmth and darkness are all I need to think about. Of course life isn't like that, so I work, I see a movie, I blog, I meet friends, I read, I shop, I cook. But lately life feels like I'm just ticking off a 'to do' list. And that's what's wearing me thin.

There's a scene in the movie Threesome. Alex has just been rejected (sexually) by her friend Eddie - not because he doesn't love her, but simply because he is gay. She is trying to express her hurt and frustration and it comes out as need.
Oh, I am so sick of this shit, it's not NORMAL!...I am so sick of falling for guys who don't give a fuck about me! I need help! I need a facial! I need to go on a diet! I need money! I need new shoes! Oh, God, just do something!
This is just how I feel. The situation is different (and if you've seen the movie, you'll agree that's a good thing) yet really it's not at all. I could write you a list of needs just as superficial as the ones she gave, but I'd really be saying the very thing she really wants to say. I need someone who loves me. I need someone who will let me love them. I need to feel beautiful. I need to know that there's someone who doesn't just see me as another meaningless human, in all ways replaceable and interchangeable with countless others. This is what's making me tired. I'm tired of not having it. More importantly, I'm tired of wanting it.

When I express this out loud to friends they always feed me the same seemingly kind line.
You never know what's around the corner, chosha! You don't know what the future holds.
This is supposed to give me hope. Excuse me while I chuckle quietly at how very opposite the consequences of such advice is to their intention. No, I don't know what the future holds, but isn't that just the fucking point? What then do I have to go on? That's right, the past. Given how many years have gone by now without relevent change, I have no good reason to look into the future and imagine it is going to miraculously bring me all that I want. Yeah, I know, it could happen. So what? If it not happening is just as (or more) likely, then what does that matter?

In the end I had to put this picture in just to make myself laugh. I mean it's all such a sad cliche - so much so that I almost never post about it, and rarely bring it up in real life. Wow, a woman in her 30s is looking for someone to love...call the press! Or not. It's like that journalism saying: "Dog bites man: no story. Man bites dog: story!" This is not a 'man bites dog' kinda story. If it were, all those romance novelists and internet dating sites would be out of business. But it doesn't feel like a cliche when you're living it. It just hurts.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

phi's beast

Phi's car looks just like this one, right down to the colour and the trim. It was imported from Japan with most of the special features that were on offer. Pretty sporty, ne? When he moved in a couple of months ago, the car was having a problem with its diff, or something else. Oil was leaking anyway...never a good sign...and the Toyota people just couldn't seem to get it right. So he was driving it as little as possible. It's a high performance car and finally he gave in and took it to a guy that is well known for fixing high performance cars well. The problem with the diff's been worked out, but now they are waiting on parts to come from interstate before it can be fixed and come home.

What does this mean? It means the boy has lived at my place for over two months and I still have not experienced this sweet ride. Oh sure, I've heard stories about how awesome it is on the long winding road outside Canberra that was apparently built especially for people who like feeling the wind in their hair (yes, I also heard the motorbike version of the story). I've been taunted by the passionate retelling of how extremely cool it is to drive it out of the city at night and view the stars through the open top. But I have not as yet caressed its leathery seats, or admired (without leaving fingerprints) its glossy shine close up.

Okay, okay, I'm mocking...a little. But really it's secret envy, haha. I drive a Toyota, too, but not the junior Batmobile featured above. I drive this one to the right: a 1984 Corona, sky blue. This car has not spent several weeks in the shop waiting for parts to arrive. It doesn't leak oil. In fact it's been a lovely little car, getting me from A to B even after the Canberra winter kicked in and I started having to thaw the ice on the windshield before leaving in the morning. I should be glad to have such a reliable little cracker of a car, even if it is old...with no CD player...and a broken door handle...and...*sigh*...sky blue. And I am. No really, I am.

Anyway, the moment that beastie is back on board I want to take a cruise in its uber-sleekness. One day I might ask for a drive, but I don't think the boy is ready for that question yet. It'd be like the first time a new mother leaves her baby with a babysitter and rings home every 15min just to make sure everything's okay. (Yeah fine, except that the ringing phone wakes the baby up every 15min...) He might be in the passenger seat, but in his mind he would be watching me swing his baby out over a lagoon full of toothy crocodiles. And that wouldn't be good. ^_^

Any suggestions for a five-letter personalised number plate will be gratefully received. Something that says, 'this car is hot' without saying, "and I'm so up myself that I'm assuming that you will have sex with me as a result." We've been trying to think of something good, but no luck yet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

whoa...they did it

Okay, I'm officially flabbergasted. I know it's not the whole goal and I am not under the impression that the world just changed overnight, but....

Not only did they agree to double aid to Africa. In addition, the leaders endorsed a deal struck by their finance ministers last month to forgive the debts owed to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank by 18 poor countries, 14 of them African.

They also pledged to set a date for ending the billions in subsidies for agricultural exports, reiterating a commitment previously made at World Trade Organization meetings. Such subsidies are widely blamed for lowering the prices of products sold by poor countries on world markets.

"It is in the nature of politics that you do not achieve absolutely everything you want to achieve," said Blair, who acknowledged that he had wanted the G-8 to set a date for ending farm subsidies rather than just promising to do so. "We do not simply by this communique make poverty history," he said. "But we do show how it can be done. And we do signify the political will to do it."

Blair noted that the rich countries now had to ensure that the money pledged was actually disbursed, and that Africans had to use the funds wisely: "In the end it is only vibrant African leadership, capable of giving good governance to its people, that will ultimately make the difference."

I think I'm going to take a break from being disillusioned with the world and spend today chasing rainbows and believing in unicorns.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Today my boss gave me two Authority papers to write, one due in August, the other in September.

Don't know what the heck I'm talking about?

Imagine you work for a big corporation and have to write a speech that the CEO will give at an international forum meeting. Imagine you are a reporter and your chief editor gives you your first feature to write, adding as she does, 'don't screw it up'.

Imagine...and this is what I'm actually doing...that you have to write a paper to the ruling board of your organisation convincing them to request that the Minister change the Radiocommunications Act. Well, for one of the papers anyway. The other one will not change much in the real world - wish that made it easier to write.

The point is, this is the biggest thing I've been handed to date, and I have to write two of them.


Monday, July 11, 2005

sylvia plath

I finished The Bell Jar today. I'd heard that Sylvia Plath, or at least her poetry, was pretty dark, so when I spotted this book with its vaguely familiar title, I sat in Canty's comfy armchair for about 20min, reading to see if it was also dark. No...quite light and interesting, a little quirky even. So I bought it and took it home...and then discovered that it is a rather dark tale after all.

In the first part of the book Esther is a young, talented student, in New York on a month's work experience at a fashion magazine and starting to question the career plan she had previously laid out before herself. She is also in the midst of an unsatisfying relationship, and thinks a lot over men and women. It's very interesting to read about such basic topics - work, love, sex, human relationships, from a woman writing in the 1960s. Though Plath is unusually honest for her time, there is also so much that is well-known or common now that was not common knowledge, or not spoken about, in the 60s.

Then the book takes a sharp turn, and the fact that her fears and insecurities have been slowly overwhelming her becomes clear. Suddenly the fact that Esther could not stop crying over the electric chair execution of two criminals and other sad aspects of the world becomes terribly relevent. On page 121, she can't sleep. By page 138 she is experiencing shock treatment for the first time at the hands of a real bastard of a doctor. For about the next 40 pages she tries to figure out how to kill herself, and makes at least one pretty good attempt at it with sleeping pills. From there the book gets intensely interesting. It's then that she not only gets a good psychiatrist, but also really starts to be able to understand, or at least articulate, her depression.

By the end of the book Esther has escaped 'the bell jar' - the way she describes the feeling depression gives her of being shut off from the rest of the world, unable to feel or express emotion, untouched by the world outside the jar - but is wondering if one day it will descend on her again. Given that Plath committed suicide, I guess the answer, for Sylvia if not for Esther, was 'yes'.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

technology we take for granted

I found this interesting:
Kenyan journalist John Kamau is in Scotland for the G8 summit and is writing about his experiences for the BBC News website. In Kenya he works as a senior reporter on the Sunday Standard newspaper.

He writes:
When stories like this break, what amazes me is the level of technology that the Western colleagues have.
They can send pictures and sound instantly while I have come here armed only with the basic tools of my trade - a pen and paper. For today I had to phone through my copy.
Some have camped here with broadcasting vans the like of which I have never seen in my career. What if we had access to this kind of kit in Africa? Wouldn't it help information get out faster?
Wouldn't it help information get in faster, too? I think most people assume that the internet is everywhere. I should know better. After all, it was only last year that I researched spectrum auctions in Nigeria. In Africa mobile telecommunication services are spreading rapidly because they're so much easier to roll out than traditional land lines. Rather than getting land lines first as we did, they are going straight to mobile. Similarly, they will likely have wireless broadband before any other. Still, these things are only just being rolled out in the last few years, and being without a phone at all is still the norm in much of the continent.

I'm lost if I'm without my computer even for a few days. The first thing I do when I travel to a new place is figure out where the nearest internet cafe is. And I take it for granted there will be one to find. This Kamau guy is a working journalist on an international assignment and he doesn't even have a laptop. He's not emailing his copy - he's phoning it in. When I read this I was immediately transported back in the dim recesses of my past to a time when carbons were still used instead of photocopiers, and edits had to be retyped from scratch, every time. I can barely remember it. It's like the moment faster, easier things took their place I simply erased them from my mind like a bad memory.

It's amazing actually how easy it is to forget. I think of Japan as the place where I had super fast broadband and uncapped download, and where the mobiles that cost hundreds now in Australia (with colour screen, camera, net access, email, games, etc) came free with my $30 plan. Yet that was only in my last year there. Only a few years earlier when I arrived, Japan was a technological wasteland (mobiles excluded...they were always cool). No ADSL and timed local calls meant that internet was almost non-existent - dial-up simply cost too much. I had to travel into the city for the privilege of paying an exorbidant fee to hurriedly email home. Many Japanese I knew had no home computer and certainly no internet. At school 60 or so teachers shared 4 hours per month of internet time. Broadband changed everything.

And that was Japan. Obviously Africa is still waiting.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


I can’t help but be a little disappointed over the G8 summit and the end result of what the Live8 protesters have been trying to achieve in asking the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations to actively strike at poverty by releasing the debts of the poorest nations on Earth, in exchange for agreements that will see the money being spent instead on schools, medical care, etc. There is so much support for this move and yet, of course, as expected, it didn't pan out.

I know, I know, they doubled aid to Africa and I should be glad about that...yet the debts remain - loan these countries never get rid of because they can only afford to pay the interest, not the capital- and foreign aid is spent by the First World business that win tenders, so yeah, I don't think we've quite crossed the line into not being self-serving, even if some of that aid reaches the right people in the right way.

I can’t envision the G8 summit ever coming to any such kind of agreement. When will this change? When is it that we finally turn around to the rest of the world on whose backs we have made our wealth and say, ‘you know what? We actually do care about you.’ What’s wrong with us being the first to say that greed is not good, no matter what Reagan thought?

Friday, July 08, 2005

envy the rain: a book review

Envy The Rain by Jamie Boud

Synopsis: Drew’s life is left in a disillusioned spin after his discovery of Andie’s affair ends their relationship. This book tells the story of his efforts to reconfigure his perspective (read: deal) and of the people he meets as he travels (literally and figuratively) through his new life without Andie.

Okay, so obscure unexplained titles aside, Envy The Rain is a hell of a book. I waited so long to get it (credit card shamozzle) that I really didn’t want to read it all in a day, so I deliberately waited to take it on my Sydney trip. This meant I was reading it in short blocks…a little on the bus ride before the motion of the bus made me too sleepy to read, a couple of chapters on each of my train rides to and from the city to Werrington where I was staying, several pages over lunch trying very hard to eat negi ramen without making any drips on the pages, more pages at night and over breakfast. Even with so much to do these last few days, I still finished it in 3 days. It sat in my bag constantly, and claimed all of my spare moments.

From what I’ve read of Jamie’s storytelling previously, I expected the story to be character-driven, and it was. As is always the case with his writing, this is its greatest strength. I saw these people in front of me like I was watching a movie. At times it felt like a gritty art house movie, and at other times more like the kind of offbeat film John Cusack might star in. And continuing on the movie theme, I have to say the transitions to the flashback scenes are perfect. The flashbacks themselves are also right on the money. They come at the right time, and we learn what we need to about Andie, and about what has gone before, in the right amount, at the right moment in the story. This is extraordinarily hard to do and it was seamless.

What struck me most about Drew, the main character, is his inertia. It’s like once he finds out, not so much about the affair, but about the fact that it’s been going on for 3 years (hey, it’s not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb on the back of the book) he just has no way to know how to handle what’s happened, and what continues to happen from then on. He’s lost a sense of trust in his ability to see reality and know what to do with it. Consequently a lot of the action in the book comes from the people he encounters and his response to them, rather than from the character himself. The degree to which this is true changes over the course of the book and maybe is a bit of a gauge of how far he has progressed at regaining a hold on his life and his ability to be happy. That’s my impression anyway – I’ll test the theory the next time I read it.

This kind of story is rarely told from a guy’s perspective. If I had to pick a word to sum it up with, I’d use ‘honest’. Drew isn’t a hero in the traditional sense. He makes good and bad choices; he spends a lot of the book feeling inept, or uncertain, or defeated. But in the end there’s more to him than that, and he finds it. It’s a sad story – often stark – but no less beautiful for that. What stood out in the end was the human element. It’s not my world he’s describing. I know almost nothing about strippers. I don’t drink, I’ve never used drugs. I don’t meet people in bars and wake up the next morning in their bed. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. There wasn’t a single feeling described in this book that I couldn’t relate to in some way. I’ve loved, I’ve been hurt, I’ve felt confused and betrayed and wondered where the hell my life is going. I’ve needed to escape, and occasionally done so. People are people. Life is hard; sometimes it’s good.

It’s a great book. I reached the end wishing there was more. I hope you take a chance on it. I’m looking forward to whatever he writes next.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

london calling

I got a random text message late tonight from Gio telling me that Baps was safe. I immediately messaged back, ‘what reason would I have for thinking she wasn’t?’ His reply was my introduction to the terrorist bombings in London.

I didn’t know what to think. In some ways I’ve become immune to this kind of news. In some ways bombings in London are no different to the war news we are hearing every second day coming out of Iraq or the Israeli/Palestine conflict. But there is something about this kind of random violence against civilians that never ceases to be shocking. And the fact that I still have one friend and one cousin in London unaccounted for makes the whole thing play on my mind even more. What if they are dead, only because someone wanted to make a statement? And a statement to what purpose, if all they are expressing is rage, with no concrete demands and no clear sense of what it is they want changed?

Similarly, if I am outraged, what place does that rage have to go? How can I really express it without simultaneously feeling completely helpless to do a single thing to change the situation? Where will that rage go in London, where thousands of good, peaceful Muslims are no doubt about to be abused by their fellow citizens (as happened after the bombings in Madrid)? I mean we’re talking about a place where people kick the shit out of each other over soccer. If I was a Muslim in London, I’d be cowering in my locked house right now hoping that my neighbours do not forget our friendships in their need to express rage over this terrible bombing. Is that fair?

On days like this the world just makes me weary.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

ahh sydney

Once again I’ve made my escape and headed off to Sydney, this time to see Rove’s first stand up tour in five years, which was tonight. Very funny as expected. My sister, who shall be referred to in my mind as ‘that wretched woman’ for a little while, piked out at the last minute in favour of the State of Origin decider match. (She ditched Rove for rugby? What crack is she smoking?) Anyway, Scorsese was free and glad for the invite, so sucks to her.

I think the comedy did him good, missing Baps as he is. Of course she’s missing him too, and a plan is already underway for her to come back to Sydney in November. It’s all very cute and corny.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

just a little...bewitched

Bewitched: a Movie Review

Remember Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail? She was the naive, genuine-hearted bookstore owner who fought the corporate devils and lost, dissolving into a puddle of disillusionment before emerging stronger and rather forgiving of the (as it turned out, not such a) bastard who put her out of business. She looked at the world with a kind of innocent wonder and shook her head from side to side in confusion over the ways of the world (like Meg does in, oooh, pretty much every movie she’s in).

That's pretty much how Nicole Kidman plays Isabel: never quite clued-up on the real world, not getting why anyone would lie or be mean, and shaking her head in a cute, naive way every time something confused her. In contrast, the first thing we see her do is manipulate the world five times in a row to be the way she wants it. Whose was that house she conveniently planted a ‘for rent’ sign on? Did she even know?

But I digress…

The movie was okay. It was funny, occasionally hilarious (eg, the scene where Jack is hexed). The characters were pretty two-dimensional, but I wasn’t expecting any different. Nicole was sweet. I do wish she’d gotten a little more…’witchy’ at times. The movie could have used a little more of the black humour provided in small doses by a few of the supporting characters. Will Ferrell performed way above my expectations, which were not very high. The movie as a whole though, just never quite seemed to go as far as it could’ve. But hey, it made me laugh. If someone asked me to watch it again, I wouldn’t cringe. So 3 stars. One for Nicole; one for the studio assistant (who coincidentally worked in Meg Ryan’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail); and one for the afore-mentioned hex scene.

Gotta feel sorry for the blonde who’s one line in the movie was, “Hi, I’ve got hepatitis C”, a line that, by the way, the movie makers are now catching some heat over. Reminds me of the Friends episode where Joey does some photos, only to discover they are being used for a VD ad.