a little east of reality

Sunday, December 31, 2006

hear ye hear ye haiku

2006, the year of the scrawny shaved crotch?

(I will eventually write a better post to end the year, but first a cleansing rant.)

Seriously, I thought it was skanky enough when Britney decided that the best way to get some free publicity was to NOT bother to wear undies, even after being snapped on camera without them. But it wasn't until I was reading an entertainment sum-up for 2006 that I realised that Britney was just adding her TMI to a long, skanky list of TMI crotch pics. Apparently in 2006, the whole anti-panties brigade ~ Paris, Nicky, Lindsay and then Britney ~ have managed to flash the camera with their bare crotches at some point, and Britney was not the only one to do so three times (Lindsay revealed three times that the cracks Paris' buddy made about freckles on her nether regions were just not so...like we cared, L). This post will definitely NOT be accompanied by pictures. The world has seen enough.

When, when, when are these worthless excuses for womanhood going to stop taking up our valuable air? Paris in particular makes me so angry. There she is, pretty-ish, intelligent (or so the claim goes, that her dumb-girl act is just marketing), rich and having some influence in the world; and yet she leads a completely useless, utterly forgettable existence - achieving nothing except fleeting notoriety, doing no good, leaving nothing of worth behind to remember her by.

And so many teenage and pre-teen girls out there wishing they could be just like her Laguna Beach Barbie self. Fabulous.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

shepherds, not sheep

I love this story from the Washington Post that was posted on Aaron's blog about 10 friends who made a compact to not buy anything new for a year. Obviously there are exceptions ~ food being a rather important one ~ but for the most part they've been amazingly successful at being reusers/recyclers and not consumers.
We didn't do this to save the world. We did this to improve the quality of our own lives. And what we learned is that we all have a lot of more stuff than you think, and that you can get along on a lot less stuff than you can imagine.
I wouldn't have embraced a challenge like that three years ago. I was new to Canberra and most of my household items were back in Japan. I needed some basics and in a hurry. I'm not saying I couldn't have followed their example, just that I was too impatient to set up house to really consider the idea. Though to be fair to myself, it is really only the electrical goods and the kitchenware in my house that are new. My lounge suite, dining table and the rug under it, chairs, beds and wardrobes were all bought secondhand. And I'm cool with that.

What I have bought without much self-control are the smaller things in the house and the general clutter of life. And now I feel like my house is full of stuff I don't really need. A little new year's resolution to halt the buying process might be very good for me. I've been aquisitive in the past, and then I wasn't for a long time. It was a welcome change. Lately I find myself back in an old habit of browsing catalogues to see what I might want to buy. I'm still in the early stages, where I am mostly seeing something cool and then saying 'but I don't need it' and move on, but that could so easily change.

One thing that didn't surprise me in the article was the anger these people have experienced from others at their decision to stop buying just for the sake of buying, and to use their creativity instead of their credit card.

Some have called the Compactors un-American, anti-capitalist, eco-freak poseurs whose defiant act of not-consuming, if it caught on, would destroy the economy and our way of life.

"We're just rarefied middle-class San Francisco greenies having a conversation about consumption and sustainability," says John Perry, a marketing executive with a high-tech firm, and one of the founding Compactors. "But suddenly, we decide we're not going to buy a bunch of new stuff for a year? And that's international news? Doesn't that say something?"

"I think it upsets people because it seems like we're making a value judgment about them," says Rosenmoss, who has two children. "When we're simply trying to bring less . . . into our house."

This idea that we have to spend money in stores to make the world a better place is killing our planet, keeping families in debt and really benefitting the few much more than the many. The benefits of money circulating through the economy would be effected much more efficiently by fair wages and a few more companies deciding not to move offshore with their factories. These same companies (read the plot synopsis) scream 'buy! buy! buy!' the loudest and do the least to change things for anyone's benefit but their own. (See: the Coles/Myer group if you're Australian and Walmart if you're in the US.) The scary thing is that regular people support this bad behaviour when they tell people they are hurting others when they don't buy.

I think these 'Compacters' should be applauded and emulated - how fantastic to have friends that get together to make such a great goal and then support each other in achieving it all year long. They've really made me think, and I'm not the only one.
Their user group on Yahoo has grown to 1,800 registered members, representing SubCompact cells operating across the country (including Washington), and around the planet.

The online Compact community ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thecompact) spends enormous amounts of typing-time discussing things most Americans probably do not. Such as how to make soap. Or whether a mousetrap counts as a safety necessity. Or how to explain to your children that Santa Claus traffics in used toys.
I think more than any other kind of news I enjoy stories about people who realise that 'the system' is not working for them and seek a better and happier way to live. Shepherds, not sheep. I am one of these in theory, but I need to be one more often in practice.

dying to see photos of this wedding

Okay, Undercover Angel definitely had the funnest theme wedding I've ever heard of. I was bummed to see I'd missed the window for viewing her wedding photos, but then I scrolled to the next post down where she described the wedding and now I'm REAALLY wishing I could see the photos!

Edit: have now seen the photos and they are great. If you want to check them out follow UA's instructions in the comments.

for the person who has everything

This is why I love The Quotable Neil. Neil's blog and numerous interviews have been around a lot longer than I've been a fan and RRNN gathers quotes together on a theme each post, which is jolly convenient. Sometimes I am simply entertained, and other times I stumble across something cool I would otherwise have missed.

Like today for example: as you might know, I am not a stuffed animal fan. Not at all. But today I'm wishing I was, because today I have discovered the Unfortunate Animal of the Month Club. Yes, you too can be the proud owner of a both cute and disturbing monthly offering from Windy Lewis' morbid mind and crafty hands.

Windy's been making these...creative...critters for a while, but it was Neil who asked her to start a Bunny-of-the-Month Club with him the first member, so let's finish with a quote from him:
The last one to arrive, about ten days ago, was a Bunny-skin Rug. The one the month before that had two heads.

"Oh," said my wife. "Finally one that isn't disturbing. Two heads. Well, compared to most of the bunnies she sends, that's kind of sweet."

"Yes," said Maddy, happily, who had seen what I had seen immediately. "And look, one of the heads is dead!"

(Neil Gaiman 06/18/03)

Friday, December 29, 2006

happy christmas, even if christmas is not your thing

Did I neglect to wish you all a joyous holiday season? Why yes, I believe I did. Whatever you do or don't celebrate at this time of year, I hope you and yours are happy and well.

For me it's Christmas, and in spite of rather secular family lunches, Christmas does infuse my heart with a certain joy. This was a strange Christmas for me. I did few of the typical Christmas things-to-do ~ no carolling or baking of treats, no tree up and few Christmas cards sent. What did happen this Christmas is that I reflected long and hard on how grateful I am for the things I believe and the difference they make in my life. I thought a lot about how much I do or don't bless other people's lives. The Gospel is supposed to expand our love and compassion for others, to push us in the best way possible to be the best person we can be and to let the happiness in that best self spill out and make a difference in the world.

To everyone I read regularly: there's a reason I spend my time doing so. Thank you for letting me understand you a little better. Thanks for the humour, the book recommendations, the photographs that qualify as art (and the actual art). Thanks for the comments that let me know that my voice, insignificant as it is, doesn't just echo in the mist and disappear. Thanks for it all and more. It feels scarily corny to say so, but I really do love you all. Merry Christmas.

not sure how wise this was in the days of no electricity, but anyway...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

new toy

Some time ago jojo totally floored me by sending me a Wacom graphic tablet, partly for my joy and partly I'm sure so he didn't have to listen to me whine any more about how frustrating it is to try and draw any halfway decent design using Microsoft Paint and a mouse.

This Christmas he gave me a fun new toy to use with the tablet. It's called ArtRage2. It has such an easy set-up. The picture below (click to see it larger) shows just a few of the features I like best so far. I'm looking forward to exploring its functionality properly.

I love new toys!!

Monday, December 25, 2006

god bless us, every one

Yeah so I'm posting this late but it's my Christmas post so I'm still using 25th December. Merry Christmas! My presents were all posted/delivered on time this year ~ a real improvement on the last few years ~ but my Christmas cards either went out late or not at all. Piss-poor organisation, I know, but hey the presents went out, so I'm not beating myself up over it.

Christmas Day was surprisingly relaxing, in spite of helping my sister make lunch. She did most of it ~ she knows the result she's after and I suspect she only gave me tasks she didn't think I could screw up. Lots of faith in me, my sister has, yep. She drove me a little nuts by making slightly sarcastic, mock cheerful comments whenever something wasn't quite happening the way she wanted and giving me answers (read: instructions) I didn't need to questions I hadn't asked her. But hey, she did put on a lovely lunch and was generally pleasant most of the day, so it was all good in the end.

Present at Christmas lunch were my Mum, Dad, one Aunt, my sister and me. My brother didn't show, which may have been wise on his part as he recently argued with my mother on the phone and made her cry. Now here is one topic that my sister and I agree on one hundred per cent ~ our mother is an angel fallen from heaven and anyone who makes her cry should be nailed to a fence and set on fire ~ and therefore my brother was definitely risking life and limb if he turned up pre-apology. But he didn't so he, and the fence, were saved.

As you can plainly see, a deeply spiritual reflection on the Saviour's birth was had by all. Or not. I actually spent a goodly portion of the day reading a novel and catching up on episodes of 'So You Think You Can Dance?' But I did go see The Nativity Story with my parents another day, and that definitely had the Spirit of Christmas (not the one you put in eggnog, the other one) lurking about for a while. It is fair to say, however, that the greatest moment of family togetherness experienced in the last four days was not brought about by Christmas per se, but by our collective inability to listen to Boney M's Christmas album without singing along.

for a moment the world was aglow all the bells rang out, there were tears of joy and laughter people shouted let ev'ryone know there is hope for all to find peace

Wouldn't that be nice.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

christmas meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper. I like ribbons and bows and stuff, but rarely get around to using them.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Artificial. The smell of a real one is divine, but I kinda like leaving them in the ground.

3. When do you put up the tree?
December 1st.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After Christmas day, before January 1st.

5. Do you like eggnog?
Love it, as long as it's non-alcoholic.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Books. I got lots of other cool crap, but I was a bonafide bookworm, so yeah, books.

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes. Ceramic. It's simple and pretty and I like it, but I haven't found the perfect one yet.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Dad, hands down.

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Keyboard Kid. I see him every week and he talks constantly about whatever he happens to be into at the time.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Both. Mail is nice thoughj.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Something lame like scented talcum powder. That's a gift for a granny. A granny you don't know very well.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
Miracle on 34th Street (either version, though the original is lovely), Mr Krueger's Christmas, and from now on, The Nativity Story.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Around October I start getting ideas. From then on if I happen to see something right for a particular person, I'll get it. The bulk of the shopping gets done early December.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Maybe, but can't remember for sure. Why not, if I won't use it and someone else will?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Too many to pick one. Good King Wenceslus, Little Drummer Boy, O Holy Night, Mary's Boy Child, etc, etc. I know for sure that I like Christmas carols way better than Christmas songs like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, or Chestnuts Roasting.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Oh yes I can! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (notice that his name is NOT Donner? You know who you are...) Blitzen. *sigh* and Rudolph, the interloper.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas Day, after lunch.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The absence of Christ from Christmas. A particular friend rambling on about every stupid faddy toy their kids just have to have, even though said kids will have broken the toys and moved on to the next thing that TV commercials preach to them within weeks of receiving the gifts. It's like their house is running a crash course for kids on how to be materialistic and ungrateful.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
No one theme, though I love silver things. I am drawn to beautiful stars and nativity sets.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
We tend to focus on traditional West Indian foods at Christmas. It's a a leftover tradition from the days when the whole extended family still got together and we had foods we didn't get all year round because maybe they're not so common in Australia. Now they seem like Christmas foods.

25. Leave cookies & milk for Santa?
Nope. Maybe if I had kids and we did the whole Santa thing I would.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Recently I've been defining my downloading ethics and this is what I've come up with. I've realised that for me it's mostly about whether or not I am getting something for free that I could not have gotten for free by some other means AND depriving someone of their rightful income in the process.

1. If it was shown on free-to-air TV, I can download it. That's just convenient scheduling.

2. Generally I don't download movies (any more) but I make an exception if it's a Japanese movie that I can't easily get hold of, and particularly for fansubbed versions of movies that didn't come with English subtitles on the DVD, because if I couldn't have understood it, chances are I wouldn't have bought it.

3. I can download any album/audiofile I want to hear, because that's no different to me standing in a music store listening to the song, but if I like it enough to listen to it more than twice, I owe the artist their income and should buy it. And I mostly do. The area where I really fall down here is in comedy. At some point I really need to buy Eddy Izzard and Jeff Foxworthy's complete CD/DVD collections, because I own not a one and I have listened to all of them at least three times each, so far. Good stand-up comedy just plain makes my life happier.

4. I can download any song no longer available for sale, because I can't get it any other way and the artist didn't lose a sale. This comes up with indies bands mostly. Their early stuff is usually released in limited numbers and at some point becomes difficult or impossible to buy.

It's been said that file sharing doesn't significantly decrease sales (the estimate is around 5%), because in most cases people would rather forego the music they download than pay for it. They listen to it only because they can do so for free. That makes sense to me, but on a personal level it's irrelevent. At a certain point I always know whether I like something enough that it has become something I should buy.

I'm comfortable with those rules of downloading and I do stick to them. The one thing I'm not sure about yet is the fact that I share files knowing full well that I have no control over how the people downloading them use them. I can say they are shared for evaluation purposes, ask them to support the artist by buying the CD if they like the music, and tell myself that the ethics of the matter are up to them after that point. But I haven't quite decided if actually true or just a way of excusing myself. Anyway, downloading shared files without sharing is scummy, so as long as I'm downloading anything, I'll always be sharing something as well, even if it's just in the form of leaving that same file in the system for a while after it downloads (as with BitTorrent).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

better watch out for the skin deep

but I think I saw a brand new light coming over the horizon
brighter than any other, and it says
all men are brothers
all women are sisters
we're all related, under the skin

All these years of scientific and medical research and they still can't find any genetic determiner of race. There are differences between the races, superficial ones like skin colour, but nothing to prove in any conclusive way that we haven't all emerged from a common ancestor. Most genetic variation occurs within races, not between them.

Not that I'm surprised. I'm one of those crazy types who actually believe that Adam and Eve were more than a metaphor and that the whole human family is actually related. In fact, I've always felt that people trying to prove that the races are in some other way inherently different are ignoring really obvious clues about how we came to look so different. I mean, whose ancestors are the blondest, palest people? Hmmm...could that be those people living in all those icy cold countries that don't see much sun all year? And is it really so weird to think that people who happened to have more pigmentation than others lived and survived more easily in hot, tropical places like Africa?

Yes, yes, I'm being simplistic. If you actually want a more detailed, correct and interesting explanation of why our perception of 'race' is ill-conceived, check out the information on this website, but my point is: do we still need someone to tell us that racial differences are superficial? Who out there still hasn't figured out that if you cut us we all bleed, and the blood is the same colour?

I understand why people a thousand years ago didn't get this. At that time physicians didn't know things about the human body that we now teach children in basic biology classes. The average, and even the not-so-average, person didn't travel or have access to information about people in other places. When the whole of your understanding of human diversity is contained to your own personal experience within one small geographical region, of course you are going to think that someone who looks completely different IS different ~ there's nowhere to slot them into your paradigm and it takes time to learn enough to know that your paradigm is inadequate. People today are so information rich in comparison, it seems impossible that anyone could still be ignorant of the fact that racial differences are literally skin deep.

Which begs the question: when ARE we going to stop fixating on superficial differences and internalise this reality that race has only that significance which we give it? We can't ignore history, we can't erase the how our world has been shaped by what humans have done to other humans in the name of racial difference. But we can refuse to keep perpetuating the myth that these differences are anything more than misinformation and social construct. And we can stop treating our cultures like static forms, sacrosanct and unchangeable, and often linked in our minds to the colour of our skin. We can't change our skins, but everything else is negotiable.

Human beings made this mess. We can unmake it, too. Bring on the paradigm shift because I am REA-DY. I am s.o. .t.i.r.e.d of 'celebrating diversity', because sometimes it just feels like another excuse for pointing out difference. Yes, we're diverse. Yes, that can be cool. But can we stop dancing the haka long enough to have a chat about how similar we are? Seriously, when do we start celebrating that? I tried to look up an antonym for 'diversity'. I found words like uniformity, homogeny, standardization - negative, soulless words. The only positive word I saw along the way was equality and it's a pretty poor antonym for diversity anyway. I want to celebrate connection and whatever word it is that encapsulates the idea of commonality of human experience, even if it isn't yet in my theasaurus. Any suggestions?

back at last

It's been a few weeks and no LB I'm not on holiday, just neglecting the blog. Anyway, I'm back at the keyboard and brimming with things to write, so here we go...