a little east of reality

Friday, March 31, 2006

conversation snippet #23

This actually happened back on the 19th. I was writing a reply comment on this post, and couldn't remember if the French phrase was menage e trois, or menage a trois. I've seen both, and I'm not sure what the difference is, but either way I couldn't remember. The following conversation was then called out between his room and mine:
me: Phi, is the little word in the middle of menage a trois an 'a' or an 'e'?
phi: The little word?
me: Yeah, the one in the middle.
phi: I thought it was two words.
me: No, it's three, and the middle one's only one letter. I just can't remember which letter.

/small pause while the smart ass section of his brain kicks into gear/

phi: Are you writing a new profile?
me: No, I'm not! /grin/
phi: ... 'to do' list?
me, tongue in cheek: Yes, that's right. Just adding it to my '50 things to do before I die' list.
phi: Okay.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

there is no gene for the human spirit

I've been thinking about inherited conditions this week. Sniper was talking about his new son and he mentioned that the baby's mother had to undergo tests throughout her life, because her dad died from after effects of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. She of course knew about her dad's exposure, and her own risks, but the pregnancy wasn't planned, so she didn't ever make the decision to pass on those risks. Sniper sometimes worries (as new parents always worry) that his son may develop cancers and the like as a result of this genetic heritage, but he knows there's nothing he can do about it and is just determined to do all he can for his son if the challenges come.

A few years ago, a friend of mine found out that she had a genetic disorder that would manifest itself in various ways later in life. She faces not only an uncertain future herself, but also the upsetting knowledge that she may have passed this genetic time bomb on to her kids (she had her kids before finding out - any examples of it in her ancestry had been explained in other ways and her kids will not be tested for several more years). She said she would accept the worst potential scenario for herself if only it would mean that her kids were free of it. Sadly that isn't her decision, and only time will tell the kids' genetic fate.

A third friend accepted a sperm donation from a friend, only to end up with a child who has textbook ADD plus OCD and Asberger tendancies. None of those are fun. I don't think she would have asked him to help her in this way if she'd known his genetic makeup. But her situation is completely different. She was not in love with this guy, had no intention of raising the child with him, and his part in the process could have been fulfilled by any healthy functioning man alive. But what about when you are deeply in love with someone and no-one else, genetically more sound or not, could ever take their place in your heart? For a goodly portion of the population, feelings like that leads to wanting to have children together. How do you make that decision? Is it fair to have children you know are seriously at risk?

I've thought about this before - it's been an issue to address in every abortion debate I've ever been a part of: should you abort a child if you find out it has a serious and debilitating condition? (And should you make that decision based on the effect on the child, or on the effect of the child's condition on the parents' lives? - I've seen both argued). We've also seen the question of whether it's right to judge the quality of a person by their genetics played out in movies like Gattaca (the tag line of which I've used for my title). But the drive to produce genetically perfect children is not what this is about.

This is more about whether people should go ahead and have children, knowing that they are very likely going to pass on serious genetic disorders (think cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, or SCID). I wonder how a person goes about making a decision like that. How do you weigh up the very natural desire to have children with the very real risks (to the children) of doing so?

There's a little-known movie called Tiptoes that also asks this question. It tells the story of Carol and her boyfriend Steve who, even though they've been serious for quite some time, never seems to get around to introducing her to his family. Carol finds out that this is because her tall, handsome, buff boyfriend (played by Matthew McConaughy) is genetically a dwarf...just around the same time that she discovers she is pregnant with his child. He freaks out, not because he has a problem with little people, but because he is torn up emotionally at the thought of passing on dwarfism to his child. He's never had to deal with it himself, but has watched his brother's difficult life from the sidelines for years.

This set up brings us to the real heart of the movie. Carol has a huge decision to make about whether or not to have the baby, particularly with the baby's father not dealing with the situation well. She doesn't know anything about little people, so she embarks on a bit of a tour of discovery, to meet some little people and talk to them about how they made decisions about whether or not to have kids and why they chose one way or another. The most important answer she got (in my opinion) was both simple and profound:
This doesn't stop us from being happy.
What do you think? Is it worth taking the chance? Do you know what you'd do if you were in that situation?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

movie review: æon flux

My part of this will be short and sweet and only about the movie as a stand-alone creation. After my review, I've got some other information regarding the transition of the original Æon Flux from animation to film.

My review:
If I hadn't seen The Matrix, The Island, and about six other futuristic 'society is not what we imagine it to be' type movies in the last several years, I might have found Æon Flux fascinating. Sadly that wasn't the case. Despite adequate acting, decent action/fighting scenes and some innovative details (a character with hands for feet, an amusing little visual play on words featuring some blades of grass that were actually blades, things like that), there was mostly a sense that you'd seen it all before.

Having said all that, kudos to Cherlize Theron for her kickass babe skills and thrills. She was quite amazing at times, and that low crouching run/crawl must have taken some time to perfect. She also looked uber cool, as you can see from the pictures (click to enlarge...you'll be glad you did). Characters like that make me want to work out. At least they made her prettier than the original comic book character, who was a bit of a mutant. (Actually come to think of it, she may literally have been a mutant...)

Conclusion: Worth a look, but maybe just when it's a weekly at your local DVD rental place: 3 stars

Now let me quote a couple of things that clearly show the real problem with this movie (I believe the phrase that best captures it is "lack of nerve"). Firstly, here's a comparison of the two worlds as depicted in the animated TV series and the recent movie, quoted from the Wiki entry on Æon Flux:

The worlds of Æon Flux vary between the original MTV series and the film adaption.

Television Series
Television versions of Æon Flux depict the two separate countries of Bregna and Monica, adjacent to each other and separated by a wall (although very small). Citizens of Bregna are not permitted to cross through the wall, which is protected by a range of cruel traps. Trevor Goodchild is not the original ruler of Bregna, instead taking control in "Utopia or Deuteranopia". According to The Herodotus File graphic novel, Bregna and Monica were originally a single nation called Berognica. When the separation occurred, memories of Berognica were erased among the Breen citizens. However, the graphic novel suggests, Monican citizens launched the Relical, an airship containing artifacts proving the existence of Berognica. It should be noted the TV series makes no reference to any of this, and it is not known if The Herodotus File is considered canon.

Hollywood Adaptation
In the Æon Flux film, Monica is not a separate country. Instead, Monicans are a group of political rebels who live in secret among the citizens of Bregna. Whereas the television series saw Trevor Goodchild seize command of Bregna from a previous ruler, the Bregna of the Hollywood film is established by the Goodchild family, after they cured the industrial virus. Instead of a barren, desolate landscape (although some vegetation is featured in the TV series) Bregna is constricted by an aggressive, regenerating jungle. The walls of Bregna frequently spray a chemical acid to keep the jungle from moving in and destroying the city. Additionally, the Relical is also featured, however it was created by the rulers of Bregna and for an entirely different purpose.

Why, you ask, would the movie makers veer so sharply from the original (and in many more ways than this, including plot and characterisation)?

Some insight can be gleaned from this answer given by Peter Chung in an interview he did for the Monica Spies community on LiveJournal:

Q: How do you REALLY feel about the movie Æon Flux? Considering it couldn't really ever touch upon how effective the cartoon is.

A: With apologies to both Phil and Matt - who have publicly been effusive in their praise for the show - the movie is a travesty. I was unhappy when I read the script four years ago; seeing it projected larger than life in a crowded theatre made me feel helpless, humiliated and sad. I know it's bad form for me to voice my disapproval in a public forum, but it's silly for me, of all people, to continue playing dumb, considering most of the critics have voiced their disapproval using every mocking and condescending expression possible. I know that the studio made a lot of cuts against the wishes of the writers and director. Most of the cuts concerned further development of the secondary characters. Since my main problems are with the portrayal of Æon and Trevor, I doubt that I'd have liked the longer version much better. I didn't when I read the script, and there are definitely some things I'm glad WERE cut-- like Catherine's pregnancy.

Maybe the makers didn't understand the source material and thought they were being true to it; or they understood it, but didn't think it would appeal to a wide enough audience and altered it to suit their presumed target. They claim to love the original version; yet they do not extend that faith to their audience. No, they will soften it for the public, which isn't hip enough to appreciate the raw, pure, unadulterated source like they do. The argument for the Catherine Goodchild movie is that an accurate live-action version of the Æon Flux would have been too inaccessible for a mainstream audience. It would not have made money, ergo there's no impetus for the studio to make it. It's a circular argument which attempts to shift responsibility away from the individuals who make the film to the presumed audience. Presuming to know what an audience wants to see and tailoring the product to fit is a method that sucks all the drive I'd have to ever create anything. It's self-defeating disingenuous.

I'm not naive about the realities of making unconventional films in the arena of "mass entertainment". It's possible to make good unconventional films; it's also very hard. In any case, if you're going to risk failure, I say do it boldly, with conviction. The problem with the movie is its failure of nerve.

The fact that Catherine decided to disobey her orders and investigate the source of her feelings for Trevor is offered by viewers as a sign of her independence. Is that how little some fans are willing to settle for? Æon never took orders from anyone, never went into a mission without understanding her motives.

The original impetus behind the Æon Flux "Pilot" was a critique of the manipulation of sympathy in Hollywood movies. That method is most transparent in the action genre. Æon Flux was never an action vehicle. The only two episodes in which Æon does much physical fighting are the shorts Pilot and War -- in which her violent actions are portrayed as preposterous and futile. Not heroic. How can anyone watching those shorts NOT GET IT?

Interesting, no? Now of course I must rush off to my favourite bittorrent site to see if the TV series is available. It sounds awesome.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

whimpering at the machine

From time to time Rage has a guest host who programs the playlist and introduces several of the songs throughout the show. Tonight it's Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.

Consequently while blogging and reading tonight I have been treated to a slew of folkie, falsetto-ish 'we're goth on the inside' singers/bands (eg, Augie March, Jeff Buckley, Sigur Ros, Bright Eyes, The Elected) with film clips (Americans read: music videos) featuring spooky-looking children, tweed-wearing oldies walking around fishing villages, and in a recent Sigur Ros clip, teenagers with Down's Syndrome dressed up as angels prancing in a field. Fields are prevelent actually, as are bad alternative fashion and deceptively simple lyrics.

Suffice it to say, it's been an interesting and angsty four hours. And now to bed.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Today I finally met my cousin's daughter. She's six, but for most of her life I've lived overseas or interstate. She's a nice enough kid, quite fun when she warms up and gets a little less shy. One thing I found strange is that she had almost no conversation with me of her accord. A very weird phenomenon it is, when you're used to the very outspoken bairns I know and love, to have every thing a child says to you be preceded by either her father or grandmother's promptings:
father: tell chosha what you do on Saturdays.
pale girl: Gymnastics.
chosha: Do you use the beam and bars, or is it mostly floor at your
pale girl: /looks at father/
father: Which of those do you use?
pale girl: We do floor and bars and beam.
chosha: Oh, okay, all of them. Which is your favourite?
pale girl: /looks at grandmother/
grandmother: Which is your favourite?
pale girl: I like the bars the best.

I'm hoping it was just nerves because I was a new person, but I did find it a bit odd. I did find it interesting to see my cousin as the doting dad. He has a rep for being a bit rough in our extended family history, but he's slowly become a more full and mellow person over the years. He drinks a heck of a lot less than he used to, thanks to his slightly bossy wife, which is wonderful (his dad and granddad both drank themselves into an early grave). Soon they'll have a new baby and being a father to Pale Girl has been so good for him I'm guessing things will just get better.

As I posted the other day, another cousin has a four-month-old son, and his brother is just about to become a father, too. Then my sister and I will be the only two of this group of cousins to not have had children. I don't know if I'll end up with any, but she might - she's several years younger than me, so she has some time to spare.

Strange to see us all reaching this stage of life, where even the party people are becoming mellow and middle-aged. One day we'll watch each other become grandparents.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

a little east of reality turns 1

I can't believe it!! My blogiversary (spelling??) was on March 17 and I completely missed it!!!

One year on and it seems like not much has changed: The colour of the sky in Canberra still fascinates me, Gloomy is still sitting on my shelf at work, and I'm once again due for my pre-winter flu vaccination.

But they're just surface details. Since March last year, I've gotten two new flatmates/boarders, changed jobs at work, and I've stopped teaching seminary (read: sad, but totally okay with no longer waking before dawn).

My own personal blogosphere has changed a little, too. The number of blogs I regularly read has gone from about 10 to around 90, and I've almost completely stopped listening to podcasts, which at one point I was really into (I listen to about four on a regular basis, that's all). This year had its low points, but overall it's been a good year.

So here's to a year in the Blogosphere!

To random link-hopping and interesting memes; to commenters that steady you, and those that crack you up; to bloggers who tell it like it is, those who wax hypothetical and those who make it all up as they go along; and lastly to all those who don't mind occasionally being...a little east of reality.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

it ain't just a river in egypt

I was a little frustrated today. Okay maybe more than a little. Mum constantly tells me how much she wants to get her house organised/decluttered. If ever I ask about how this project is going, I get stories of the most recent way she has worked "really hard" towards this goal (latest example before I left to come here: putting a few years worth of old bills through the shredder).

Now I am here in a house that looks pretty much exactly as it did the last time I was here. The problem: she can't bear to throw anything out. Over and over again I am trying to help her pack a box with items whose boxes are coated thick with dust, so long has she owned them without even opening, let alone using, them. Every time the claim is the same: "no, I'm going to use that". And so it goes on. "I'll want to read that one day." "I just need the space to work on that." "Someone could use that."

Grrrr. HOW can someone else ever use it, if YOU never let it go? How will you get the space to work on anything, if you can't part with any of the stuff causing the clutter in the first place? Why do you keep telling yourself you will use/read/organise things when it is SO CLEAR that you won't?

By the end of the day I was through. I refuse to argue with someone who is so clearly in denial. Work out your issues and get back to me. You want to pack that box with unwanted items? I'll take it to the car for you. I'll even drive it to the Salvos for you. But until you pack it, I'm reading/sleeping/visiting/watching the Commonwealth Games. Holiday time is too precious.

There's the water - I can't make you drink it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

homeward bound

Yesterday I spent a leisurely day packing, fussing around trying to find my mp3 player (which was in the boot of my car), dropping off bits and pieces to Sky & Rev, and giving out last minute tips to Silent Bob, who will be making his first attempt at cooking while I'm away. He's also promised to keep my small herb garden alive while I'm gone. I hope he does, because I love the smell of the herbs in the kitchen, and they're the only plants I've kept alive in a long time.

Phi came to airport. He's been in a very good mood the last two days - hopefully not because I'm going to be away ten days. (!) The flight was only saved from total boredom by the presence of Jasmine, the 18-month-old who sat directly across from me. She was clinging to her mother all through the takeoff, but once the flight was underway she got more bold and went on little adventures to check out all the people around her row of seats, including me. Poor thing of course when the plane descended - her ears were hurting and she's too little to know why or how to do anything about it. Her mother tried, but most of the descent was pretty miserable for her.

Today I had lunch with my mum and two of my aunts at Charlie's, and all-you-can-eat place with a weird combination of mostly Thai and Italian food. Then I went to visit my favourite cousin, Sniper, to see his new baby - so sweet! After such a "gruelling" day I was glad to get back to my folks' house - the moment I sat still, I fell asleep.

Hey, I'm on holiday, I can do stuff like that. ^_~

Sunday, March 19, 2006

for those about to pray...

Have I ever asked you to pray for anyone, ever?? Well okay I might have suggested that a few words uttered in the hope of me winning a car wouldn't go astray, but that of course was a frivalous material item and this is something really, really important! So if you're of the praying persuasion, and I know some of you are, please include a stranger in your prayers today.

I have a friend who's had a rough year. She's a really good teacher, working three jobs, one in particular at a disheartening, exhausting school. She's also right in the middle of a divorce process. On Monday she has a job interview for a job that would literally change her life. Not only would she earn enough to work just one job, but it's at a school where she can truly put into practice all her ideas and goals for teaching. Working one job would also give her the spare time to reconnect with her friends and the world in general.

She's qualified, she has the right experience. All I'll be praying for is that she get a fair chance to let her qualities shine through...no crazy weather to rain on her interview outfit, no unexpected car breakdowns making her late, no printers refusing to produce a beautiful resume, no silly nerves just because she wants it so much, and the interviewers being in a good mood. If these small planets align, I think she's a shoe-in. I actually believe in prayer, and in its power to affect our lives. She's worked hard for this chance, and if prayer can help give her the strength and opportunity to bring it to fruition, that's what I'll be doing. I hope you'll find a moment to add the strength of your prayers to mine.

Friday, March 17, 2006

relief society birthday party

Okay so Sky and I were dragging our feet, reluctantly heading off for the annual Relief Society birthday party at our local chapel. (RS is basically made up of all adult women in my church, for those who don't know what I'm talking about.) We have an awesome trio of women running the Relief Society for our ward and they were the reason we were going at all (to support the night). Because in spite of their (this trio's) general excellent-ness, RS birthday celebrations in general can be reeeeeeeeally boring. Why? Because anything founded in 1842 is going to have some long, tedious historical tale attached to it, and there's always some dear sweet lady who feels compelled to retell the whole tale, every single year. /yawn/

Well we were wrong! One of the most important founding objectives of RS is to serve - to give aid where it's needed, to comfort, to literally give relief from life's hardships. They decided to take us right back to basics and make this the theme of the night. They did this in three seperately decorated rooms.

Room 1: International Level
This room's walls were covered in colourful items from all over the world, as well as posters full of information about people doing great things overseas and how we could contribute to their efforts. Here's one example: Dr Catherine Hamlin, who has spent nearly 50 years of her career providing free reconstructive surgery to thousands of young African girls and women suffering from fistulas suffered during difficult childbirths.

Room 2: Community Level
This room had another huge display of wonderful programs being run right now in our local community and, again, gave information on how we could become involved. These included literacy programs, blood donation, Meals on Wheels, and many more. While we were there she provided pen and paper for us to write to anyone we wanted to that we knew was going through a hard time and could use some encouragement. I liked it as an activity for a night like that, because it was so simple and direct.

Room 3: Family level
This room was decorated with family photographs of the women in our ward (which they'd requested several weeks before) displayed in frames. At the long table set up in the middle we learned how to make a simple tag album, something easy that can be used to display family photos. This part didn't focus so much on service, which I thought was a shame, because often we look outside the home when we want to do good and forget about doing good to the people who live inside the walls with us. But it was a nice wind down and chance to chat with everyone else while we made our tag albums.

Then we headed back to the main room for a large screen powerpoint presentation of women in our RS and their families (whatever that meant to each woman providing a photo) set to a song called Women at the Well (a song about seeking Christ). It was a really interesting night, focussed on important opportunities to do something real to help other people. (I used to do volunteer literacy training about ten years ago. Maybe now's a good time to start that again.)

Oh, did I mention they gave us cookies and/or lollies at each stage? That didn't hurt. ^_^

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

if you fail to plan...

We had our Branch Planning Days yesterday and today. Yesterday was a huge day. A bus took us from work at 9am to a little town outside Canberra called Bungendore. We spent the whole day at the Carrington, a quaint little pub/restaurant that also hosts small conferences and other functions. They fed us at regular intervals and kept the temperamental coffee machine working.

Our branch manager facilitated the first day and he wasn't particularly prepared. We spent half the morning deciding what we were going to do. Still, once everyone got into it we had quite a productive day. Usually these things are a bit of a wank, but we've just been through a huge merger and restructuring process, and these planning sessions are going to rearrange the teams we work on, so everyone has a vested interest in them working out well. Our group came up with a branch structure that we think might work well, and it looks like they might be going with it. The actual formation of the teams hasn't been finalised yet, but we contributed to that discussion, too. I like the feeling that I'm actually having some input into my own work environment. I do hope, though, that I end up with my same supervisor. She's pretty good.

Bungendore is a nice little town. One of its attractions is the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, featuring furniture (chairs, tables, desks, beds), homewares, art works and small gifts. The stuff was fabulous (though well out of my price range) and I had a great time looking. My favourite things were the sushi sets and the lattice bowls. I wish I had a close up of the lattice bowl so you could see the workmanship and the beauty of the woodgrain. My least favourite thing was a big, ugly, huntsman spider who was perched above one of the artworks. /shudder/ We had an hour for lunch, so I also looked around the leather shop, a small art gallery and a secondhand bookstore. It was good to walk around and clear my head before heading back for another full-on session in the afternoon. We finally wrapped things up at 6pm.

After our sumptuous dinner (3 courses, free drinks...Aussie tax dollars hard at work!) we all piled back on the bus and snoozed our way home. The bus arrived back at work about 10pm. I let the cool night air wake me up, drove home, and then fell on my bed and slept. Dragging myself out of that bed 8 hours later was much harder, but we were starting at 9am and our little group presentation was being done again for the Division Manager, so I had to get to work early to transform our scribbled whiteboard design into a lovely printed handout he could refer to. I didn't do the presentation, sadly - I quite like that sort of stuff. But no big deal. The day went well and now it's up to the execs to figure out the details.

Here's our proposed structure, by the way (click to enlarge). The main change is the fluid project teams. At the moment the team with the most relevent expertise gets the project, but sometimes there are staff in other teams they have to keep asking for advice because they know one aspect better than the members of the team that are running it. Fluid teams for projects that don't fit neatly into one area make sense. It's also a good chance for staff development, because you can put an inexperienced person into a project teams without their team having responsibility for the whole project. We occasionally use teams like this for inter-branch projects, but have never used them within the branch before. If you're wondering 'why have settled teams at all?' it's because we need established lines of reporting for things like applying for leave and performance reviews.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The latest poll on MSN today news:

(The final results were similar, about 80,000 to 3,000.)

We don't have a tipping culture in Australia, and quite frankly I can't believe that anyone would be so stupid as to suggest that we introduce one. I am often horrified by stories on Waiter Rant that imply that people who don't tip (in the US) are scummy tightwads who don't deserve decent service. But at least in the States there's a reason for this attitude. Wait staff are paid ridiculously low wages and the cost of giving them a proper living is foisted onto the customer via tips. No matter how unreasonable that is (expenses, including a fair wage for your staff, should be charged up front, on the menu, in the cost of the food), at least you know the situation and understand why 20% is being added automatically to your bill.

In Australia that idea is ludicrous. The hourly award wage for a basic waiter is over $13/hr. And that’s a fulltime wage. Casual workers earn even more per hour.

Last year my friend Sky had an American couple staying with her. She and her husband took them out to a restaurant. At the end of the meal her guests were a little shocked that they planned to leave no tip. One exclaimed, “but they need it!” Sky being the bold sorter of misconceptions, called the waitress over and asked her politely to reveal her hour wage, then asked:
Sky: So, you don’t rely on tips for your pay, do you?
Waitress: No, not at all. I mean, it’s nice to get one, because it’s like a bonus, but we don’t need them to survive or anything.
We tip for exceptional service – what a tip was originally intended to be before unscrupulous US restaurant owners decided to shaft their own workers and make them reliant on customers’ goodwill (and spare cash). As a voluntary extra, I enjoy tipping. It feels good to reward someone for great service. As a compulsory payment that is expected even if the service is crap, I hate tipping. It’s like paying tax on your meal.

No compulsory tipping, Australia!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

u2 update

U2 set to return in November

"There was a lot of distress and angst and (the) good news is ... I can announce tonight we are coming back, looks like November and that's a great relief for me."

Bono, who arrived in Australia last week with his wife Ali Hewson and their sons Elijah, 6, and John, 4, admitted he was happy the gigs had been rescheduled.

"I didn't want to leave Australia without having that hammered down," he said. "But (we are) just about that much away from being able to give you the dates so maybe even tomorrow I'll be able to do that."

November. I can live with that. Plenty of time to get another cheapo air flight and not bad timing for another visit home. It's a little close to Christmas, but I'll work that out. I don't mind seeing the Olds an extra time this year. They aren't going to be around forever.

things that make you go hmmm...

Now here's a person going straight to hell.

Bwaaahhhhahahahahahaha!!!! I love Post Secret!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

emotional credit ratings

Some people are weird. The moment you let them know they mean something to you, they get nervous. They don't know what it means, even when it means nothing. They worry about what your expectations are, even when you don't have any. They act as if you've done something wrong just for valuing who they are.

That reaction hurts. And you miss them when they aren't around as much. But after a while, if you have any self-esteem, that attitude starts to make you mad instead. You realise that you shouldn't have to apologise for liking someone, and that you really don't need the job of carrying their emotional baggage around. Eventually, when it all gets a little old, you stop liking them. Who they are isn't what you thought it was, and you have better things to invest your time and emotions in. Eventually their avoidance is convenient, because you just don't care any more.

And the moment you don't, there they are - back again and wanting your time and attention. They talk about their life, the things that have them smiling and the things making them scowl, and you try to be attentive. Some of it interests you; most doesn't. But you try to make listening noises, and part of you wants to revive the care you felt rather than the defensiveness. But in the back of your head there's a little voice saying:
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
And you just know that in the end, they aren't worth it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


/chosha's mobile phone rings. It's China Girl, her BFF from Adelaide./

China Girl: Hi, how are you?
Chosha: Yeah, good thanks.
China Girl: Ah. You haven't heard the news, have you?
Chosha: Which, um, news would that be?

U2 forced to postpone Australian tour
Thursday Mar 9
Irish rock band U2 has been forced to postpone the Australian leg of its Vertigo tour. An immediate family member of one of the band is ill, forcing the delay.

"Any fan of U2 will realise that this decision has not been taken lightly," said tour spokesman Arthur Fogel in a brief statement.

"We will announce further details as soon as we have them."

Upcoming dates in New Zealand, Japan and Hawaii have also been postponed. U2 was to kick off the Australian leg of its world tour in Brisbane on March 21, before playing Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. All shows were sold out, except Adelaide, where additional tickets had been put on sale.

It would have been eight years since Bono and the boys played on Australian shores.
Yes, eight years since they last toured Australia, and the first time I've ever had a ticket. I know this "family member" can't help being sick, but still, it's so disappointing.

But that's not the worst part. Instead of trying to secure impossible-to-get Sydney tickets, I decided to go for Adelaide. This gave me a chance to plan a trip home around the concert date. Now I have my flights booked and paid for, and no concert to go to. I don't mind the trip home for its own sake, but if the band ends up coming back too soon, I won't be able to afford a new pair of plane tickets. I can sell the ticket, but I'd rather go to the concert. I guess I just have to wait and see what happens.

Which sucks.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

movie review: brokeback mountain

I've always liked Heath and Jake. 10 Things I Hate About You & Donnie Darko are two of my favourite movies. But I have to say I couldn't quite imagine them as cowboys. Well, not that wiry, hard-edged type that can sleep on a mountain living on coffee and beans for a whole summer anyway. Jake looked more like the cowboys you see at square dances in movies, a good ole boy (not that there's anything wrong with that). ;) Heath, however, really surprised me. While he was silent, it was just the same old Heath, but once his character started to talk more, I was seriously impressed. His voice, his facial expressions, the way he stood and walked ~ everything ~ it was as if he was completely transformed into another person. I've never seen him acting more convincingly, and if Philip Seymour Hoffman had not done such an incredible transformation himself in Capote, I'm sure that Heath would have picked up the Oscar for Best Actor.

His character, Ennis Del Mar, was a very closed man, shy and secretive. He'd had a hard childhood, and it seemed like he spent his entire adult life hiding his real self ~ not just his homosexuality, but because of that, his need for love, contact, connection. Yet no matter how hard he hid from the world, he still felt like everyone was watching him and could see through his pretense. The very valid reasons for his ever-present fears are made clear in the movie.

This is a sad movie overall. I felt like it was a good reminder of how violently (literally) some people react to those who are different to them in a way they can't understand. Lately it seems like we're in the middle of a gay culture explosion. Gay is new black, and our screens are filled with gay shows (QAF, The L Word, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy), gay characters on other TV shows (Will & Grace's Will & Jack) and a host of new movies featuring gay culture or characters. People change slowly and I sometimes fear that this inundation is going to bring a reaction ~ some kind of ugly backlash from people not ready for the world as they know it to change quite so fundamentally. For that reason, I thought this movie had come at a good time to ask us if we want to be the kind of world where we respond to difference with hatred and violence. It wasn't a pretty sight. For fear of his life, Ennis lived a lie. And in doing so he deeply hurt his wife, the man he loved, and kept hurtfully distant from his children, though he loved them.

Whether or not you have an opinion on homosexuality, I think this movie is worth seeing. The philosophy behind it applies to other differences that people try to hide from others for fear of their hateful reaction. I know for example that one of my students in Japan was ostracised and ridiculed by not just children but adult neighbours, too, after her parents got divorced. I knew that divorce still carried a much heavier stigma in Japan than it does here in Australia, but it wasn't until I got to know her that I realised this extended even to the children affected by the divorce. It was an ugly thing to witness how hard this child's life was made just because people had found out that her mother was raising her and her sister alone. Another student revealed to me (only after he was living in Australia and I had returned there) that he was of Korean heritage, another difference to the norm that is socially punished in Japanese society. His parents had never told him to keep it a secret, yet he knew, by listening to others talk in elementary school, and later by seeing the mistreatment of his more open cousins, that this was something he must never reveal. Now, in Australia, he's learned to accept and even love this difference in himself. Yet even now he's still asked me not to tell anyone in Japan who knows him. He's not strong enough yet to handle the reaction he's been watching other people suffer for years.

Worth seeing, and worth talking about afterwards: 4 stars

Sunday, March 05, 2006

hello my name is chosha and I'm a single adult

Tonight I went to my first ever Single Adult activity. Now I realise there are a whole bunch of non-LDS people out there who have no idea just how much horror that statement should inspire, so let me explain...

At church social life when you're single tends to match up with your age group. Once you turn 18, you become a Young Single Adult (not a particularly imaginative name, but accurate). This group is made up of 18-30 year olds: activities are held, it's mostly fun and games, and generally no-one loses an eye. (If you want to understand this phenomenon, watch a movie called The Singles Ward. It's really funny, but I warn you now that if you aren't LDS, a few of the in-jokes may be a little over your head. Still, it really nails the whole church singles scene; I loved it.)

The thing is, this is the age range where most people get married. So as you get older, and don't, the number of YSAs around your age decreases. Eventually you start to feel a bit weird hanging with the kids (under-20s: so cute you want to pinch their cheeks...and then kill them) and tend to socialise with groups of friends more than at all the organised activities.

And then you turn 30.

The next age range is over 30s: Single Adults. Here we have not only singles who've never married, but also some divorced people (some with kids, some without) and widows/widowers, (some of whom are getting on in years). That's the fun part about SAs: there is no upper age limit. Now, I have friends of all ages; that's not the issue. But your social crowd is also where you look for romance, and I have to say that hooking up with six women (two elderly), and one (often but not always weird) guy, does not necessarily add up to a rocking night out. Which is why I've pretty much avoided SAs like the plague since the day I turned 30.

Until now.

So why did I go to my first SA activity tonight? Because I finally reached a point where I'm mad at myself for not just getting out and meeting some people. Given how mixed a group my friends already are, why should I give a rat's a$$ if the SAs are a mixed bag too? Do I really need to act just like every other stupid person on Earth who thinks that people who are older and single must be weird in some way? As if there's something wrong with you if you aren't hooked up? Well stuff that for a joke! I've never believed that, and I shouldn't act like I do.

So off I went to discover Singles. Tonight was low-key ~ pot luck dinner, planning some outings for the coming months. I was surprised to find that I already knew 3 out of the 9 people there. And they were nice, welcoming, funny. It was a good night. Two weeks from now they're meeting on Saturday morning at the park next to some dam for breakfast.

And I'll be there. :)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

plunged into darkness ~ oh no!!

Possibly the best Onion article I have ever read.

Despite the high potential for danger and decreased visibility, scientists say they are unable to do anything to restore light to the continent at this time.

"Vast gravitational forces have rotated the planet Earth on an axis drawn through its north and south poles," said Dr. Elena Bilkins of the National Weather Service. "The Earth is in actuality spinning uncontrollably through space."
I just know we're next! I better go find some candles just in case...

Friday, March 03, 2006

too much of a good thing

Today sucked and I achieved nothing. But I knew tonight was going to make up for it, because this was the night I'd been waiting for since November...Billy Connelly was in town, and I had seats in the dead centre of the fifth row. Great, huh?! Couldn't possibly be a bad thing to have such fabulous seats to see one of the funniest men on the planet, could it?

/cue Alanis Morrisette/
life has a funny way
of sneaking up on you when you think everything's okay
and everything blows up in your face
How could this good fortune be too fortunate, too much of a good thing? Try arriving ten minutes into the show.

Yes, that's right. Due to a weird combination of circumstances, I arrived late to the show, and there was no supporting act. Suddenly those fabulous tickets have me trying to sneak in late, edging along the fifth row, past about nine people, right in front of one of the most caustic comedians in the world. He mimicked my shuffling progress, he made faces. The crowd, including Phi (bastard! ^_~) thought it was hilarious. Me...not so much. Then he quipped:
Ahh it's a hard thing coming in late when there's a bastard like me on the stage!
Well, yes actually. I looked up then in mute apology, and I think my bad day must have been evident in my eyes, because he cut me a break after that and went on with the show. 恥ずかしかったよ。(So embarrassing!)

The good news is that is was an awesome show. He swears like a sailor, I know, and he swaps subjects like a talk show host on speed, but the guy just tells a great story! He told us all about how his wife somehow convinced him to buy a big yacht on which she was living it up off the coast of Queensland (beautiful one day, perfect the next) while he was on tour. On the subject of being lonely without her he said in a voice all forlorn:
I shaved one of my legs last night, just to give myself the feeling of being in bed with a woman...
*LOL* He described scuba diving and seeing a stone fish (stepping on one is said to be the worst pain known to man) and an enormous but non-man-eating shark. I best like his stories of when he was growing up and first started out in show business. He had a rough life in parts, but he tells it with such richness and of course humour that it becomes a wonderful tale that you can't get enough of. He even did a bit on Mormons (though he got all the information wrong)! Good fun all round.

Phi has his biography; the one his wife (Pamela Stephenson) wrote. I must make time to read it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


<--- click to enlarge

This week I've had no less than two meetings every day, most days three. Yesterday we had a branch meeting in the video conference room. Our branch has just been restructured and the new executive manager (EM) wanted to introduce us to the Melbourne component of our branch. So we all introduce ourselves (the screen is too small for us to see anyone well enough to remember their names). Then the EM starts waffling on for 30min about the branch and our future directions and the challenges ahead, blah blah blah - all of which will be discussed again at our branch planning day in two weeks. I literally had to fight to stay awake.

Today we had a more casual meeting with the new Chair. This was semi-exciting, as we've had an acting Chair for months now, and been waiting to see who the Minister would pick as our fearless leader. But then the guy gave us his entire work history. Luckily there was celebratory nibbles at this one, so I lurked in the back with my snacks and just caught the occasional sentence or two.

I'm interested to meet the Melbourne people and work with them. I have a passing interest in who leads the organisation, though I'll rarely work with him directly. But those meetings were completely useless. To top it off, every unscheduled moment I've had this week has been filled with unexpected and urgent requests for website maintenance. We have a public consultation going at the moment and consequently nothing can go wrong with the website; otherwise we are sending people to our site only to have them not be able to access the information they need to participate. I've done more web work in the last week than I did in the six months preceeding.

My supervisor wants me to update her tomorrow on my progress with a discussion paper I'm writing, and all I've done all week is attend mostly pointless meetings and fiddle around with html. I know looking busy and achieving nothing is typical of the public service, but ARGH!!!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

gender & living outside the box

My last post about gender prompted some interesting comments, and Darlene brought up the story of David Reimer, whose penis was severely burned in a surgical accident when he was eight months old. The doctor advised his parents to have him reassigned as female and be raised as a girl. His case (and the doctor was very happy to discover that he had a built in control for his experiment with "Brenda" being an identical twin to his brother Brian) was used to "prove" that gender was learned behaviour. In the "nature vs nurture" debate, nurture was deemed to have won, and this theory was the basis for reassignment of many, many children. (David's case was the first of reassignment of a child born with normal genitals.) When David learned that, he was so concerned for the sake of these children that he finally came out into the open to tell his story. There is a lot of information out there on the case, but this is a good summary of the important facts.

This post is in response to Q's comment:

David's story touches on some of the same issues Chosha has raised. He felt male and he couldn't accept who he was even though he had been raised as a girl. Does this undermine Chosha's argument, that it doesn't matter which sex we feel like?
Actually, that's not quite the argument I'm making. What I'm saying is that for a boy, "feeling like a girl" may simply be, in reality, feeling drawn to things outside your stereotype. If someone asked me whether or not I feel like a woman, I would have to ask them to first define what they mean by that. It's an easy question for me to answer if I don't care to understand what they think I'm agreeing to, but I think that question would always prompt me to ask, because there isn't one definition of "woman" that I know for sure they must be referring to. (And it would irritate me if they believed there was!)

Consider this quote from the link above:

The transformation became internationally renowned as "the John/Joan case." Dr. Money’s research was offered as proof positive that sexual identity was learned behavior. He declared, "The child's behaviour is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother."

...Behind the scenes, Reimer's mother told Money that Brenda ripped off dresses, rejected dolls, insisted on standing up to urinate, and asked to shave like her father. Nevertheless, Money’s 1972 book Man and Woman, Boy and Girl declared the experiment to be a success.
What I am arguing is that ripping off dresses and rejecting dolls doesn't make you a boy. It's easy to argue in David's case that this was his inherent 'boyishness', because he was biologically born a boy. But where does that leave girls who rebel against girlie stuff? If "Brenda" had been born a girl, these things would not have proved she was "really a boy inside". The urinating standing up I can't comment on (not all men do it, and this boy had no penis to urinate with, so I can't imagine why it seemed more comfortable), but the shaving incident doesn't surprise me at all. David was 22 months old when he was reassigned as a girl. Up until then his parents had treated him and his brother exactly the same. After the surgery they consciously 'treated him like a girl', including behaviours like telling him to not get dirty, or expecting better manners from him, giving him "girls' toys". He might not have been old enough to really comprehend the boy/girl switch, but he was certainly old enough to sense that he was suddenly being treated very differently to his twin. Brian was allowed, encouraged even, to mimic his father shaving, while 'Brenda' was told no, girls didn't do that. Of course he was upset and wanted to shave - not because it was a 'boy' thing to do, but because he was being excluded in a way he had not been before.

Just the other day I read another story of a man living as a woman and the same pattern was there. He likes dolls, but was denied them, even to play with temporarily at child care. At school the girls coloured a butterfly, the boys a sports figure, and again he was not allowed to choose the "girls' picture". Many incidents like this occurred. Throughout school he was bullied and teased for liking things like unicorns, babies, etc. He was also ridiculed for not having a strong upper body. Basically his friends were all girls, the only adults who supported him were women, and the boys at school and at church beat him up pretty much constantly throughout his school years. Everything he enjoyed was denied, and he was constantly expected to fill roles he felt uncomfortable with. When a childhood friend explained that she would grow up to be a woman, and he would grow up to be a man "like her father" all he could think about was that her father deserted his family periodically and was known to hit them.

Is it really any wonder that this boy started to fantasize about being a girl? If he had been a girl it would have been expected for him to act as he did, want the things he wanted. Other people would have treated him as he wanted to be treated, responded to him and his personality as if it were normal, expected. But this should already be the case! In a world where rigid gender roles were not mistaken for gender, it would already be acceptable (or at least more tolerated), and people would have the flexibility to respond to such pronounced difference from 'the norm' with little more than surprise.

I find it interesting that people more and more are starting to have a 'whatever floats your boat' attitude towards the gay community, yet are still so rigid about straights breaking down gender roles. It's as if being gay provides an acceptable reason for their non-stereotypical behaviour in regard to gender roles. Why remain so uptight about gender in general? Are they worried about their own sense of identity and how much of it is defined by the gender roles they fulfill?

(In case anyone is wondering, the girl with the basketball is a singer called ToMBoy, and the pretty man in the red dress is a Japanese rocker named Mana.)