a little east of reality

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

xkcd: parking

I wish I could have been one of these bystanders (mentioned in the rollover text). That would have been a day not easily forgotten.

Oh, and this video has been posted twenty other places, but just in case you haven't yet seen it, here is Oren Lavie's video for his song 'Her Morning Elegance'. It's wonderful.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 30, 2009


Saturday night I saw Adam Hills' new stand up show, Inflatable. His comedy is so positive: builds people up rather than tearing them down; laughing with them, not at them. I can appreciate the snarky stuff, but it's nice to take a break from it, too.

I was five minutes late and yes, paid for it (as always with a comedy show) but he didn't give us too hard a time. And I had just gotten back from Adelaide. A friend picked me up from the airport and then I drove back into the city so I had a way to get home. The person I went with lives on the other side of the city to me so we met there rather than travelling together.

I stayed around to say 'hi' after the show and got an enormous purple helium-filled balloon for my troubles (about 20 of them decorated the stage). I almost couldn't squeeze it into the back seat of the car. It's now happying up one corner of the dining room. While we were still at the venue one balloon escaped its owner and was hovering with its string just out of reach, so Adam retrieved it. I don't usually remember particularly that he has an artificial right foot, but it certainly came to mind as I watched him nimbly hop onto another guy's shoulders so he could reach the balloon string. He wanted to hop onto a cocktail table at first, but the venue staff weren't having that. ^_^ (Another few funny stories about his foot.)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 28, 2009

you can't go home

At least you can't go home and expect everything to be as you remember it, which is the real point of that saying. Things change, people move in and out, children get older, businesses close.

But in spite of all this (and sometimes because of it) it has been so, so wonderful to be home this last week. In Canberra I'm often looking around for people who want to go out, see a show, etc. I've made friends there but everyone is busy with work and family. But in Adelaide there are friends that consider me family. I feel so freaking loved here. If I could get a similar job as the one I do in Canberra I'd seriously consider moving back.

But for now I'm packing to head back. I've got to pick up some froggy cakes ~ the best Adelaide おみやげ ~ on the way to the airport. Tonight I'm going with a(n Adelaide) friend to see Adam Hills at the Canberra Theatre. Tomorrow is writing group. Life in the cold capital isn't all bad. :)

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 27, 2009

theories in parenting

If you think that non-parents have no right to discuss parenting, stop reading now. Come back when I'm writing about something else. Because today I'm boldly telling parents something I think is important. And that fact that most of the parents that regularly read this blog probably aren't the ones that need this advice is neither here nor there. I feel the need to say it, especially because offline I usually have to bite my tongue while watching people destroy their children's lives. On the blog I get to be Ranty McRanty. So here we go...

While reading the comments on this post from Nemesis several days ago, I was thinking about the question posed to Audra - how do you get your kids not to be picky eaters? Now while Audra had some excellent gameplay tactics to suggest, there's an underlying principle she's employing that I think any parent (or child carer) needs to learn and stick to. So, as a person without kids but who has helped raise many, let me just say: be consistent.

It's that simple and that not-simple-at-all. Because the theory of being consistent anyone can understand and agree with - you are providing structure that your child can recognise and rely upon ~ but practicing that principle is challenging.

Tips and theories on being consistent

1. Don't change the rules according to your mood. A kid shouldn't be let off with a warning for not completing their chores one week and then grounded for not doing them the next, just because the first time you had a great day at work and the second time you just got a parking fine.

2. Be fair, be reasonable. Kids can handle boundaries and rules and responsibilities that are fair and reasonable. I'm not saying the child needs to believe at that time that everything you consistentently expect of them is fair (they often won't). I'm saying make sure yourself that what you ask is fair, so that you can confidently enforce and explain the rules you create.

For example, say you have a rule that everyone has to take a turn washing dishes (from a certain age) . The concept behind this is that in a family everyone (regardless of work, school, interests, sport or social commitments) needs to contribute to the running of the household. (It also teaches kids how to be adults that other people can bear to live with, but anyway...) So when one kid argues that his younger sister should do the dishes more often because he gets more homework than she does, you immediately know that his logic isn't sound, because there are certain basic responsibilities in life that can't be shunned, and (non-monetary) contribution to the home you live in is one of them.

3. An exception to the rule should be, well, an exception. If this is the fifth time this month that you've made 'an' exception, then newsflash ~ you're just being inconsistent. And a pushover. Which brings me to my next point.

4. Understand that children are GIFTED when it comes to emotional manipulation. This is not, I repeat NOT, because children are evil. They learn to be emotionally manipulative when they are babies, because this is how babies SURVIVE. They can't walk to you or explain what's wrong, so they cry to bring you to them and to prompt you to find out what they need. They have to do this. But as children become older they should learn that manipulating people emotionally is no longer okay, especially when they are not in need, but simply want something.

All a child knows is that it works, until you make it clear that it doesn't. This is your job, not theirs. A child, especially a small child, can't learn this by themselves, because this is a survival skill that, for a good portion of their existence, was the right and appropriate way to act. Which is why you, as the parent:
1. should see it for what it is (and what it isn't), and

2. must never, ever...did I say it enough?...ever, give in to it. The pleading puppy-dog eyes, the sudden tears, the begging, the 'please, please, please,' the 'but I love you daddy', the feigned (and even the real) anger, the 'I hate you' (they never do), the 'you're mean', the bargaining, the silent treatment, the sulking. These are tools of their trade and if you let them use those, they will never pick up new tools and try them out and build their new skills.
What new skills, you ask? Negotiation, communication, reasoning, accountability, understanding of action and consequence, patience, moderation, courtesy. All that good stuff you hope they will acquire by the time they are happy, responsible adults. It doesn't happen by accident and it is a thousand times easier to learn when you are young.

5. When they succeed at learning new and better ways to earn or negotiate the things they want, reward them with trust and freedoms. Don't make rules their prison. Pair the rules and responsibilities that can't be broken or forgotten with freedoms they can exercise. There are a myriad of choices they should be able to make for themselves throughout their lives - hobbies, jewellery, most fashion, part-time jobs, educational choices, careers, (non-druggie, non-gang member) friends. Reward responsible behaviour with trust and don't apologise for withdrawing your trust if they act in ways that mean you can no longer extend it - this applies at any age. But generally, recognise when they are old enough to take on certain choices for themselves. Some parents are so risk averse that they use arbitrary rules to keep their kids from imagined (and even real, but limited) dangers. That can't happen forever. Risks are how we learn. But this is sounding like a new topic, so...

6. Lastly, your kids don't hate you, and get enough sleep. No really, no matter how vehemently they say it, it's not true, and you have to be able to hear it and not be gutted, and not change your mind. Because they don't mean it, even if they sound convincing, even if they think they mean it at that moment. They love you, so much you can't conceive it. I know. I'm the aunt. I'm the babysitter. I'm the teacher. They tell me stuff like that, sometimes in words, sometimes in artwork, sometimes in actions. They reveal it even when they are mad at you. They love you. Trust me on this.

And get enough sleep. Everything I've just climbed onto my soapbox to declare is way, way more difficult to do if you are tired. That's when people give in to nagging. That's when they are led by their moods. That's when they forget why it was they made these rules in the first place. Every single parent I know who is bossed around and harrassed by their kids got to that place via two (sometimes intersecting) paths: they were either two tired to be consistent, or they just couldn't bear for their kids to not like them. Do your kids a massive favour and deal with it. It's fantastic if you can establish a strong friendship with your kids, but in the end you are their parent, and you will always have to make decisions that friends never have to make. So make them. And find a way to get enough sleep.

Ranty McRanty, signing off. Future 'stuff parents need to know' post titles will include:
~ It doesn't matter what colour their hair is.
~ Why you need a lock on your bedroom door.
~ Stop teaching girls that being cute is more important that being smart and strong.
~ Those cigarettes are ALWAYS theirs, no matter what they claim.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 26, 2009

the illusion of intimacy

Celebrity is a strange business. There's such a false sense that you know a person, when really all you know is photographs or trivia or some story they chose to share with Letterman. I always enjoy the Inside the Actors Studio interviews, because it's often obvious that James Lipton's research has rooted out some things the actor didn't expect, but even then we're hearing the response they choose to give.

The first time I felt this false sense of closeness to a celebrity was when I was fourteen years old and thought I knew everything about David Bowie. I found it amusing that he and his (first) wife had met because they were dating the same guy. I was fascinated that he only slept four hours a night, and I read his lyrics like I was reading his diary and felt like I understood him (which if you've read his early lyrics is a testimony to the depth of the teenage imagination - I'd be surprised if even Bowie knew what they all meant: "I got eyes in my backside. That see electric tomatoes. On credit card rye bread.")

From then to now there have probably been less than half a dozen celebrities I thought I understood or knew this way. This is probably because I'm rarely sufficiently interested in a person's work to launch into the intensive waste of time that is researching the details of a celebrity's life. Most recently I feel this false closeness to Neil Gaiman, as evidenced I'm sure many times in this blog. But Neil makes it easy. At readings he is generous with anecdotes and almost every day on his blog he shares details of how his work in progressing, significant events in his personal life and great stories of other artists and others he has been lucky enough to work with or meet. The fact that I've watched many, many interviews with him on Youtube also helps. He's an entertaining person who's had an interesting life ~ not a boring E! special life with riches and burnouts: a real life full of creative work and family he loves.

But recently I had an experience that made me realise just how false this sense of friendly intimacy is. A few weeks ago Neil's father died. Neil is really kind when he meets you ~ as generous with his attention to the 500th person in a line at a book signing as he was to the first ~ and it engenders a reciprocal care. Reading that his father had died immediately made me wish that I could do something, anything, to make this less painful for him. I felt that helpless feeling you feel when you want to reach out to a friend and comfort them, but (for whatever reason...distance, etc) can't.

But I'm NOT Neil's friend. It was sobering to realise that even if I had had the resources to jump on a plane to wherever he was, or to actually wangle the time with him to express my condolences or support, me doing that would have been more of an intrusion than a comfort. (NB: he was comforted by the presence of his fans on the day he found out, but I think it might have been a very different experience if they had known what was happening.) He chose to share the news with us, but then also announced that he would take a break from the blog to be with his family. As he should. There are just some things we, as fans, have no right to share. Even if we want to.

This is something I wish the people of the paparazzi industry could grasp. Because we are hungry for information doesn't mean we should always get it. It's not our right to know things these people would not have chosen to share, and the whole theory that a public figure has no right to privacy is terrible. Of course they have a right to privacy; as do their children. The public makes them famous by being interested in them, and there is an understanding that this comes at the price of needing to give something back 'to the fans'. But this gets blown out of all proportion when we treat them like a bug under our microscope and feel like it's okay to dissect and observe even the most minute details of their lives. In truth the relationship between a celebrity and their fans should be more like when a butterfly lands on your shoulder. It's a beautiful and touching experience to get close to something you usually only see from afar, but it should still be free to fly away, too. Even butterflies have a life to live. Celebs, too.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

dream weaver

Last night I dreamt that I was walking down the street and came across a friend of mine sitting in a line of people who had clearly been waiting through the night. I asked her what the line was for and she said, 'to buy Led Zeppelin tickets'. I was surprised, because I hadn't heard they were touring, and she offered to buy me a ticket. I woke up just when I was hurrying off to the ATM to get the money for the ticket. I wish I'd dreamt the concert, too. :)

I think this dream may have been the result of my boss telling me that she needed to leave early because, and I quote:

I have to go pick up my daughter. My partner is driving Chris Isaak around while he's in town and Chris is having dinner with Eric Clapton and so he's driving him over there.
Nice work if you can get it.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

me and the blog

I've been asked before why I blog. It's a good question, but one that is hard to answer. I like to write, but there's a difference between writing for fun or relaxation or to comment on political or social issues or just life, and writing as a craft. I might work for weeks on a 400-word story or a poem, but that isn't going to happen with a blog post. And it shouldn't. It's more natural to just write and only edit for correctness. It's like the difference between snapshots and paintings, and the blog is more like a photo album than an art gallery.

Because of this, I sometimes worry that what I write on the blog is largely superficial. That isn't to say that I don't ever write about issues that are meaningful to me, but most of the time they are issues that are out there in the world and not about me personally and my own life. Some of the reason for that is that the most personal things (worth writing about) are hard things and it's difficult to open yourself to the vulnerability writing about them entails.

I don't write very often about things like the deep lonliness I sometimes feel, or how frustrating it is to feel like I have this immense capacity for loving that I never get to express (at least haven't for a long time). I haven't been in that many serious relationships, but those few were pretty good. I was good at loving them (obscure Christian Slater movie reference anyone?) I hope I get that chance again with someone I like and respect.

I've spent my whole adult life caring for, teaching, supporting and generally emotionally investing in other people's children and it's painful to realise that I may never get the chance to raise kids that I get to keep instead of give back. To be honest I've never even really cared whether or not I gave birth - I hate it when people say you have to bear a child to be a mother, because it isn't true. But the difference is that when you do give birth, you really have to screw up for someone to take that child away. When you don't, you have to wait for someone to allow you the privilege of raising a child, and that's rare. A couple of years ago a close friend of mine and her partner were basically just given a baby. I wish it were that easy for me. If someone dropped a child off on my doorstep, I'd have to change my entire life to accomodate them, yet it would be an easy decision to make.

These are the things that I don't often say, because they are ever-present and if I blogged about them all the time it would be a very angsty blog indeed. Generally speaking, my life isn't so angsty. It's busy and challenging and sometimes lovely. And sometimes not.

The other reason I don't blog about personal things a lot is that I'm (perhaps too) aware of my audience ~ both the known and the unknown. In my life offline I have a few friends that I talk to about pretty much anything, but only a few. I've connected with some awesome people through the blogosphere, some of them people I think I could be friends with for real if we lived close enough to each other for that to be viable. So part of me wants to just be one of those bloggers who writes without concern for who reads, because I've had good experiences with people who read and comment.

But the internet is a weird place and I find it more sensible to assume that everyone I know reads the blog, because then hopefully I won't write anything that hurts someone, or that exposes me or someone I know to stupid gossip, or reveal even good things that they regard as too personal for the internet. One of my closest friends found and read the blog for a while before telling me that they were doing so. What they thought they might read while I was unaware I do not know. But it's one of the things that makes me cautious, because this is a person who probably knows anything I'm likely to write here anyway. I don't know if it's truly possible to be anonymous on the net, and I'm not even sure I want to be completely so ~ but if not, then what I write will always be tempered by an imagined audience. It's just the way it is.

Anyway, the point of this post is really that I hope I can open up a bit more in the future about myself, even if there will always be a line that I don't want to cross. During my short break I read some of my earlier posts and it felt like I had more to say. I still have things to say. I hope some of you will stick around to read them.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

if you don't use bT...

don't bother trying to understand this xkcd strip. If you do use it, you're about to laugh your ass off.

Don't forget to roll the mouse over the strip - the rollover text on this one is great!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

taking a break

[Edit: because I just realised this makes me sound pretty depressed. Which I was...for about two days. Then I started my new topic, 'Poetry & the Imagination' and distracted myself from my own thoughts long enough for my natural resilience to kick back in. Which is usually the way it goes. :) I will continue with the break a little longer because it's been useful to focus on studies (uni and also the lent thing) for a while.]

I probably won't be posting for a while. I'm a bit weary of it all. Thinking. Writing. Being me. I'm not going to bore you with the reasons why. I probably won't comment much either, so don't think I've abandoned reading your blog if you don't see an input from me. I'll be back in the blogosphere at some point soon. Right now I just need a break. And as I can't take a break from work or my one subject at university, I'm taking a break from everything else.

Be good, love you guys.

Labels: ,