Sunday, 26 December 2010

Resolution Dissolution

Ah, once again my friends we find ourselves here.

New arbitrary chopping of time into bite-size-chunks assessment of things done or undone time.

And once again I've managed 2 out of 3 of my resolutions.

I watched a swag of lovely new movies and I donated some blood.

Unfortunately it wasn't as much blood as I was intending to donate - as my body is somewhat possessive of the red stuff and threatened to take my consciousness away if we continued - but I tried.

I didn't get around to crochet because, oddly enough, I got distracted by knitting. I found a sad, abandoned unfinished scarf I had begun somewhere in my early teens and began adding rows to it*.

So here we sit at the start of a new year and I'm racking my brain for some new resolutions and I am coming up with bubkis.

There are plenty of things I want to do** but none that I want to resolve to do.

Nothing seems big enough or focused enough or specific enough.

So I figure... stuff it!

I'll probably set myself little challenges and goals throughout the year but if I can't come up with any big projects, I'm not going to force myself to manufacture some now because that would just feel artificial and would get annoying pretty quickly.

This year I'm just going to do... things.

I'm kinda looking forward to it.



*I also aggravatingly began adding stitches because I was holding the yarn wrong at the end of the needle but I think I've stopped myself from doing that now...

**Draw more often, keep up with the knitting, continue with my Italian, cooks some new things

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Knot What You're Used To

When it was first explained to me that I wasn't going to be growing a big old beard when I grew up I was incredibly put out.

Beards looked cool.

If you got sick of them you could slim them down into all sorts of moustache configurations.

If you stuck with it you could end up with face fuzz long enough to braid.

None of the female landscaping I found out about later seemed anywhere near as versatile or interesting.

And God help you if you suggested to young Ricochet that shoes, clothes or accessories were on the same level as something you could grow yourself for free and use to disguise yourself when you were on the run from the law.

I've never had peener envy or any of the other associated psychological complexes but I did feel ripped off about beards.

Also ties.

I remember being in primary school and having a friend explain to me with all the confidence of an eight year old that girls get to wear ties as part of their uniform until they finish high school but then after that they don't get to wear ties any more.

That also seemed stupid and unfair.

Ties can look business-like and impressive or you can loosen them at the end of the day to indicate 'THAT'S IT! I'M DONE!'

You can knot them around your forehead if you're going into battle, use them to choke people in exciting urban combat situations, use them to tie things when a length of cord-like material is needed for survival, wear them to work I guess...

And I took my friend's word for it.

You didn't see many ladies on TV wearing ties in office dramas or cop shows; it was all open necked shirts and discreet blouses or tough, no-nonsense, ballsy long-sleeve numbers.

After a while I forgot about it.

Then when I was in university and going through my pretentious stage*, I went into a particularly mismatched kitschy looking cafe and the girl who brought me my giant latte was wearing a tie.

She wasn't just wearing the tie, she was rocking the tie.

Short sleeve button up shirt with ragged sleeves, knee length black skirt, distressed stockings, lovely scuffed berry coloured boots and a tie.

A tie!

Just hangin' there, as natural as can be.

I had a jealous.

And then I had a revelation!

If she could do it, then I could damn well do it!

When I went home I dug out my old school tie, stared at it blankly for a bit and tried to remember how it worked**, flopped it over my neck and then after a few false starts made it look not like a turkey barfing up its own head.

And I never looked back.

I may never grow a truly awesome beard but I will enjoy every minute I'm flaunting a tie.

Because some things are just fun for no particular reason and those are the ones you should make a point to enjoy for themselves in all their unexplained glory.

Even if there was an explanation how could it be better than plain old 'I just feel damn fancy'?



*Well, entering my pretentious stage, I've never really left.

**My memory is very efficient at clearing out anything it deems no longer necessary. If I changed my phone number today I can almost guarantee you that it would be gone in less than a month from the meat storage slot it currently occupies in my long-term memory.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Empty Space

I can get kind of obsessed by little things.

Something will occur to me once and if the wind is blowing in the right direction, the stars are aligned just right or I've consumed exactly the right amount of sugar it'll stay with me.

Not as a constant presence but as a recurring association.

The most enduring example of which was born when I first watched Inspector Gadget.

Sure I enjoyed the show, but at the back of my mind was one persistent and ever-present question.

WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO PENNY'S PARENTS?

Why was she living with her uncle at all? Were they out of the country? Did they die in a car crash? Were they locked in an insane asylum? Did he find her in a box somewhere and forget to turn her in? Were they mad scientists? Was that where the computer book came from?

Even at a young age I could understand that having a niece meant that Inspector could have a young relative following him around with his best interests at heart without having him look like a bad parent.

Later on I also realised it meant the viewer wasn't confronted with the idea of him having Go-Go-Gadget-Sex.

No matter my age, I couldn't shake the question. Where did these missing relatives go and why weren't we told?

That particular focus then transferred itself to the next obvious target: Disney movies.

What happened to Ariel's mother? Did she get caught in a tuna net? Did she get eaten by a shark? Did she squirt out one cloud of eggs too many and fade away?

Did Belle's mother get caught in an invention explosion? Leave her no good, dreamer husband to strike out on her own? Die in childbirth trying to deliver Belle's somewhat less aesthetically pleasing and ultimately doomed sibling?

How did Snow White's mother die? When did her father cark it? Where was the Grand Vizier when you needed someone to point out to the king that maybe this woman was a bit off in the brain-pan and that the king should instead look at this hypnotically glinting jewel?

The only two Disney films I can think of off the top of my head where the protagonist had both parents are The Lion King* and Mulan.

I know there are others, Sleeping Beauty for instance, where the parents exist but are removed to let the kids run around doing their own thing in a watered down sugar-coated bildungsroman.

Because apparently Disney didn't think that having your parents save you is as awesome as having some random dude do it.

To which I have a one word rebuttal: Taken**.

I know these characters are left out or side-lined to make the story simpler and make it somewhat more believable that the protagonist would end up running around by themselves but unfortunately for me, it hasn't worked.

I will spend my entire life watching the characters who don't appear in movies.

Which is OK.

Some of the missing pieces have an interest all of there own.



*Well, at least for a while. Depressing...

**Oh, also The Mummy Returns***

***Shut up, you loved it****.

****And by you, I mean me******.

******So shut up!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Body As A Tyrant

This is ridiculous.

Did you know that if you start feeding your body breakfast first thing after a lifetime of getting around to food in the mid-morning it starts DEMANDING food all the time?

It wants morning tea.

It wants lunch super early.

It wants AFTERNOON tea!

It wants dinner before 8pm.

It wakes you up in the morning demanding MORE breakfast.

And if you start drinking the recommended amount of water and stick it out until it stops feeling like you're trying to drown yourself and then you forget to keep your intake up for just ONE DAY, you wake up the next morning feeling like you're heavily hung over.

I'm talking several litres of beer hung over.

So the lesson here is that you can muddle along for years treating your body kind of decent and it'll accept that but if you start treating it right the dang thing will get used to it and refuse to go back to your previous ways without a fight.

Uppity corporeal form.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Digital Deserter

Digitus annularis sinistra, we need to talk.

Have I done something to upset you recently?

I know you get left out of making obscene gestures but I include you every single metal concert I attend, my right hand has no monopoly in throwing up the horns.

Sure, you don't get to do any of the handwriting but that's going the way of the dinosaurs and you are a vital and valued member of Team Touch-typing.

I haven't bashed you, beaten you, broken you, crushed you, landed on you or jammed you in anything so why, WHY have you spent most of this month puffed up to twice your normal size, aching and refusing to bend?

Was it something I said?

We don't play sports and I've never played that stab-the-spaces-between-your-fingers-really-fast game, and do you know why?

Because we're buddies.

Because I would never endanger you like that.

Having two working hands is pretty awesome.

Which is why our current situation is so disconcerting.

Driving is difficult, touch-typing impossible, I keep bonking you on things because you're stuck out on a weird angle, and the other night I rolled onto you in my sleep and almost bit my tongue off because it hurt so much.

I've taken you to the doctor which proves not only am I taking you seriously but I'm willing to commit to working things out between us, so won't you meet me halfway?

About halfway between extended flat and fully curled against the palm?

So we do all those things we used to do together like hold stuff and open jars by ourselves.

Please let me know.

I love you.

Sincerely yours,

Ricochet

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Reluctant Reunion

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh!

Here we go.

After a lot of waiting, rumours, hiccups and hold-ups, our workplace is finally in the process of being amalgamated into one building now that enough office space has opened up in the main building to incorporate the staff from the smaller building.

This is good for communications, cutting down on shilly-shallying with resources and not having to hire a private detective to work out how to work out who has what stationery and why we never have any post-its.

This is bad for the sheer amount of drama it has stirred up.

As citizens of the smaller building, my coworkers and I have enjoyed a series of small separated offices complete with doors that close, a lunch area, better parking and a good half hour's warning before any of the higher ups turn up at our door.

Moving to the larger building we'll be working in an open plan office with our big building cousins, we'll have to share facilities and the battle lines are already being drawn.

Sides have been chosen and whining is in full effect.

How we're* going to arrange our desks.

How much space we get.

What we're going to do to those dirty big building-ers if they try to use our communal fridge.
It isn't our fault that our fridge is bigger than theirs and damned if we'll be giving up our glorious fridge space when we've already had to sacrifice our privacy blah blah blah blah.

Of course, it hasn't all been solidarity and morale-boosting group planning. The existing factions, sub-factions and incestuous semi-factions in our mini-splinter-workplace have continued their scheming against each other even as they've participated in the collective scheming to make sure we aren't done wrong by the outlanders**!

I have decided to take the high road*** and hope that everything eventually settles down.

If this manages to happen before a particular group - who don't seem to have realised that they've left high school way behind them and sound ridiculous bickering like teenagers - kill each other... Well that would be great.

Yes, I'm going to miss being able to close my door, especially when one particularly racist/homophobic/reality TV loving coworker gets going, but I've still got a job I enjoy and will NOT be joining the 'this is an outrage, we're being treated so poorly' self-indulgence of the drama llama crew.

Losing a water cooler isn't a contravention of any human rights treaties, you nitwits!

All that having been said... Please let this be over soon *sigh*.



*They take it as read that I am part of the 'we' collective, I am too apathetic to be an 'us' or a 'them'. I am the Switzerland of not giving a toss about office politics.

**Wait, we're the outlanders! What does that make the other guys? Inlanders just makes them sound like tax officials.

***Translation: wear headphones all the time and ignore everyone

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Throwing Out My Alarm Clock

A while ago *coff three months ago* my alarm clock stopped working.

This caused a minor problem because when I don't need to get out of bed in order to turn my alarm off, I don't tend to get out of bed.

Which means getting out of bed late, skipping breakfast and flinging myself half-dressed out of the door in a panic to get to work on time.

So I pro-actively got right on that.

Last week.

But I really shouldn't have bothered.

Because the cats have come up with a new game.

A game called 'let's knock everything off the bottom shelf of Ricochet's bookcase'.

They like to play it at 5:30am in the morning and then wrestle on the resultant pile of books.

I'm not used to being awake at that hour.

And chasing a pair of furry bastards off a stack of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and assorted murder mysteries isn't my idea of a gentle awakening.

So I surrendered the bottom shelf, redistributed the books, and settled back to enjoy a restful night's sleep punctuated at a seemly hour by the trilling of my new alarm clock.

Except the early morning wrassling has relocated itself to the foot of my bed.

There are two conclusions to be drawn from this.

One. Cats are the annoying, energetic, morning people of the animal world. You know, joggers.

Two. Procrastination is nature's way of telling you not to bother spending money on things that you'll never get around to using anyway.

So I might as well throw out the alarm clock.

I'll get right on that.

Eventually.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Things I Am Looking Forward To When I Get My Braces Off

  • Spending 90% less time wondering if there is something caught in my teeth.
  • Nougat
  • Being able to bite directly into things
  • Nougat
  • People over 60 not assuming I'm 15*
  • Nougat
  • Not getting the odd bit of cheek caught on the odd bit of metal
  • Nougat
  • Being able to floss my teeth without needing guiding apparatus
  • Nougat
  • Not suddenly realising I've been making weirdo faces at people as I absent-mindedly probe my braces with my tongue
  • Nougat
  • ...
I am going to eat the hell out of some Europe bars...





*The braids I've been sporting of late may have been contributing to this particular misconception

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Puncture Panic Paranoia

Darn frobishing kerning trammelling heck!*

Luxuriating the in warm weather I decided to go for a lordly stroll about my rented domain.

Clad in the finest of boxers and singlets I meandered through the flat, out onto the sheltered back balcony from where I can survey all that I don't own but could hit with spit balls from behind some handy lattice screening if the mood takes me.

I considered having a bit of a sweep, tidying up the ancient retro bar and evicting the resident spiders to make way for possible frivolities this summer.

I took a step backwards to take in the scope of said task.

I took another step backwards and felt a sharp pinch on my left heel.

I aborted the 'lower foot' process, reversed the motion and looked down.

I'd stepped on a cack-spackling rusty nail!

Some rampaging flag-noggin had - at a point in the past - decided that the best way to secure one of the floor boards was to hammer a back-up series of nails in from the crawl space below.

Having never pranced about on the back balcony shoeless before this was the first time I'd noticed the little death-march of rusty stupid nails and boy did I notice them now.

I knew I'd had a tetanus shot at some point but damned if I could remember when.

All my hazy memories of immunisations and boosters seemed to feature my school uniform which didn't bode well for currency.

So in the grip of a mild bout of panic, wondering how long it took for tetanus and lock-jaw to set in, I began staggering around the house like a pirate with a peg leg, trying to remember where I kept things like disinfectant and bandages and my clothes.

I thought about ringing my GP - I remembered it was 8pm at night.

I decided to look up tetanus online - I wished I hadn't.

I called my aunt who is a nurse - she told me I had a 72 hour window in which to get a tetanus jab and to calm down.

I looked up the address of the local hospital, made a note of their phone number and then curled up on the couch under a blanket to await my impending doom, moving my jaw every now and then to see if my body was an overachiever which was going to seize up days or weeks ahead of schedule.

I considered popping along to the hospital for an injection - I remembered it was a Thursday night and all the just-got-paid-gonna-drink-my-week's-wages brigade would be turning up in the emergency room soon. Or driving the streets under the influence.

I reconsidered.

This kind of malarky is exactly why it's a good thing I'm so easily distracted and so very lazy.

If I were a more focused person I would be a full blown hypochondriac.

At various times in my life I have been briefly convinced - until diverted by something shiny - that I had the various ailments:
  • sore wrist = early onset arthritis
  • sleep away the weekend = chronic fatigue syndrome
  • rash = meningococcal (it wasn't a rash, it was red ink from a pen)
  • blue-green marks on wrist = varicose veins (it was vertigris from the work key I had clipped to my watch)
  • forgetfulness = early onset Alzheimer's

It's counterproductive and pointless to get myself all in a tizzy over almost unfounded imaginary ailments - especially since I'm planning to die of twitchy old age atop a pile of money and be ceremonially eaten by my squadron of highly trained attack cats - but every time I fall into the same pattern of runaway speculation.

In this case what I had to fight off the knowledge of my impending grisly doom by applying a healthy dose of the original Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy radio play for long enough to get to sleep so I could make two important stops the next morning.

The hospital for a tetanus jab.

And the hardware store for a hammer.

Those nails are going down.



*Yes, yes, words made up or used out of context but you get the point.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Self-control Stockpile

I have a tonne of self-control.

Scads of it.

Mostly because I never use it.

I'm saving it up for something important.

Or at least that has been my line for the last 10 odd years.

But what began as a fun, glib throw-away answer to infuriate various relatives or nosy parkers has left me in a somewhat annoying position now.

It used to be something I said to keep myself from saying something far more biting to people who thought that because I was doing something different, I should be called on it; and because I was called on it, I should stop it.

I didn't stop.

I kept reading in trees.

Getting about in comfortable gear.

Finishing my meals at formal school functions* and enjoying good food without saying things like 'oh I shouldn't be eating this!'.

Enjoying competition for itself and winning at things I'm good at and blowing off things I'm not interested in.

And for the most part it has served me well.

Helping me take opportunities and chances that worrying about the opinions of others may have dissuaded me from taking; helping me make the most of things.

Until now.

Recently more often than not I've found myself using the same tactics, techniques and arguments in order to take the path of least resistance.

To put off effort in the short term that would pay off in the long term in order to do things that I don't particularly value.

This makes me cross.

I've never liked being told what to do so when people tried to tell me how to live/act/feel I immediately turned my back and did the opposite.

This doesn't work so well when I'm the person holding both sides of the argument.

Especially when it becomes apparent that something I used to use to assert and protect my independence and personality is now being turned against me - by myself! - to limit myself.

There's refusing to be ordered about and there's sheer bloody-minded petulance.

I'm afraid I've slipped into the second.

Time to become my own drill sergeant.

When I catch myself saying 'I'll do it later' or 'I'll just do this for a little bit...' or even 'Oh it's Monday, I have the rest of the week to do that', it'll be time to draw on my vast reserves of self-control, flick myself behind the ear and get on with what I want to do.

Because I refuse to be told what to do.

By anybody.

Especially myself.

Uppity bastard.



*Apparently NOT acceptable to other teen girls!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Assimilation Complete

I resisted I really did.

When my landlord's niece left her skitty cat and its kitten with him in March because she couldn't keep them any more I remained calm and dignified.

When they wouldn't let any other humans but me anywhere near them I was only patting them to help them get used to people so they would move into my landlord's flat out of the cold.

When I dosed them with flea gel and worming paste it was only because nobody likes having fleas or worms.

When I started applying white zinc cream to their ears and noses every morning so they wouldn't get white kitty skin cancer it was only because I had this white zinc I wasn't using.

When they started sleeping inside my flat every night since June it was only because they somehow got inside and it seemed cruel to kick them out when they were asleep on my bed.

When I finally asked my landlord if I could keep them this week it was only because I was in denial and have been pretending I haven't technically been owned by them all year.

So, yeah, now I own two cats.

And am either really good at rationalising or really bad at reality.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

European Masters Exhibition

Well, I made it!

I left it until the last week of the exhibition but I made it to the European Masters at the National Gallery of Victoria!

And it was glorious [exclamation mark]

My Dad got a little excited and hired the audio tour for us all so he, Mum and I got to toddle around in a broken out-of-sync flow with all the other audio tourists listening to William McInnes murmuring soothing things about the lives of the artists, various artistic movements and historical events.

William McInnes did a very good job and I hardly spent any of the time thinking about him with his shirt off at all.

I am one of the most annoying people to go to galleries with because I go into little staring coma-like reveries and can stay on my feet long after other people would have opted for amputation or at least sitting down but luckily the trait is inherited and my parents survived intact.

Here's a little sample of my favourites from the exhibition, though of course they don't do the real paintings any justice.

Max Beckmann - The Synagogue in Frankfurt Am Main


Johan Christian Dahl - The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in December 1820


Alfred Sisley - Banks of the Seine in Autumn


Max Beckmann - Double Portrait


Franz Marc - Dog Lying in the Snow


Edvard Munch - In the Bar


Lovis Corinth - Walchensee in Winter


Henry Rousseau - The Avenue in the Park of Saint-Cloud


Gustave Courbet - Village Road in Winter


Edgar Degas - Orchestra Musicians


Paul Meyerheim - The Jealous Lioness

Two other paintings worth mentioning were Eugenie Bandell's beautiful 'Japanese Dolls with Apples' (I couldn't find a copy but it was a lovely thing, all vibrant but soft colours, lots of angles blended together) and Fernand Khnopff's 'The Gamekeeper' which you can see here.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Farewell, I Guess...

Well.

This was unexpected.

I've just been told that Diane - the landlady of the sharehouse I lived in during my last year at university - has died from cancer.

And I'm not sure what to feel.

When I first moved into the sharehouse Diane was living in Thailand so it was just me, another Australian girl, a Norwegian girl and a German girl living in the house studying, sharing food and generally having a good time.

I had been a little bit thrown by the 10 page double-sided list of house rules that Diane had left for all new housemates to acquaint themselves with but after having a bit of a snort - and assuming they were for people who had up until now been living in the mouth of a mine - I'd forgotten about them.

Then the university year ended, our international housemates finished their exchange years and went home for Christmas.

And Diane came home.

At first she seemed lovely.

Well-read, well-travelled, easy to talk to, with one of those slightly plummy more-English-than-English accents some Australians over 50 develop.

But gradually things started to go wrong.

If you didn't do the vacuuming at the appointed time (according to the house roster) you were 'reducing your housemates to living in squalor'.

If you left your cooking things in the sink whilst you ate your meal instead of cleaning them first you were being 'terribly inconsiderate'.

She would, with a gentle smile, say things like 'your mother never really taught you how to scrub, did she dear?'

You would slowly realise that she had this weird 'noble savage' view of the Thai people whom she claimed to love so much, whose language she was learning but whom she patronised with every word she spoke about them.

And just when you were ready to throw your hands up, pack your bags and get out of there, she'd crack open a bottle of wine and spend an entire evening talking to you about Australian troops in the Great War or her time travelling in Asia and completely discombobulate you all over again.

The most frustrating thing about her was that she was Never Wrong.

Not literally, she just would never take anyone else's arguments on board.

She wouldn't deviate from her beliefs and if you had given into the urge to start arguing with her about this, swearing or raise your voice this would have just confirmed her view that you hadn't been raised properly.

I spent the last 6 months hiding in my room, not wanting to interact with her and unwilling to bring friends home when they were left with no doubt that they were fundamentally unwelcome.

Finally, she kicked me out of the house.

A week before Christmas.

Literally seconds after I'd just read the most upsetting part of Harry Pottter And The Half-Blood Prince. Which is neither here nor there but was terrible timing as far as I was concerned.

She'd been dropping hints that I'd completely missed for weeks along the lines of 'Gosh that's a lot of groceries, will you need that much?' and 'Well, I'm feeling quite nostalgic, this is the last time you'll pay rent!'.

She had told me that the next year she wanted the house to be 'a student household again' and as I wasn't studying any more I expect this was as good a reason as any to kick me out and get in her preferred boarder - international students, preferably Asian girls who are too nervous about being in another country to speak back.

So I assumed I had until late February or early March to find a new place before the new semester started. I hadn't even started looking yet when she knocked on the door and told me that she'd need me out before Boxing Day so she could paint and redecorate.

No problem, I said numbly, that would be fine.

So I packed up all my things, bunged them into the back of my Dad's car and went home for Christmas.

I then spent all of January living in my Uncle's house - while he and my cousins were out of town - so I'd be close enough to the city for work and to look for a new place to live.

My self-esteem was in the trash.

I spent a whole month getting squiffy every night and as someone who hadn't started drinking until she was 19 and had never got drunk until she met Diane, guess who I blamed?

I moved into a new sharehouse with an easy laid back group and after about 3 months I had managed to relax properly and stopped drinking so damn much.

But I couldn't forget Diane.

It drove me crazy that she got to keep thinking about me.

Being wrong about me.

Being patronising about me.

Then years later when she'd finally drifted from my mind I found out she'd had an operation and chemotherapy but was in remission.

For a second I thought 'serve's her right' and then felt terrible.

I knew from little comments she'd let drop that she'd had a truly awful childhood and it was fairly clear even to someone as self-absorbed as I was at the time that her entire personality had been constructed as a way to distance herself from that and protect herself from the world.

I still didn't think it was fair on me or any of the other people who came into her sphere of influence.

And now I've heard again from the only housemate to stay in contact with her that Diane has died.

And that she was so estranged from her family that she left strict instructions that they weren't to be informed of her death until after her estate had been settled and her ashes scattered.

She was a very lonely but stubborn woman.

And I don't know how to feel that she doesn't get to keep thinking about me anymore.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Calm And Confusion

Where am I?

Who are you people?

What are you doing in my room?

Good GOD, what happened to my hair!?

Oh, right... right... Yesterday was my sister's wedding...

You'll have to excuse me, what with yesterday's ceremony and my friend Awesome's nuptials I've spent most of this year preparing for and planning weddings and I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do now.

I... remember free time but can't quite wrap my head around how it applies to me.

After the months of phone calls, running home mid-week to try on shoes and dresses and pick jewellery and have make-up trials and bombard my sister with reminders of her appointments and to-do items... it's over.

The day itself went flawlessly, almost spookily well.

My mates Awesome and Eep chauffeured us from the hairdresser to the beauty salon to the other bridesmaid's house where we had to get ourselves and my sister dressed without undoing our hair or wiping off our make-up like the klutzes we usually are.

My Dad turned up and managed to restrain himself from making too many jokes as he drove us to the ceremony and then suddenly it was The Wedding.

My baby sister and her fella standing in front of all their friends and family, blue sky, soft breeze, lush garden, vows, readings, no-one faceplanting or stuttering, signings, photos, driving, more photos, reception, someone pushing a welcome glass of wine into my hand, speeches, crying, food, cake, more photos, fetching cars, packing gifts, kisses, collapsing into heaps.

My sister is married to a man who loves her and makes her happy and who we have long since assimilated and added his distinctiveness to our own.

You cannot believe the relief.

Now I think it is time for something a little different.

I might sit in a café and read a book, or take the dogs for a walk, or ignore all those plans and have a snooze, or get all these pins out of my hair and wash out the layers of hairspray.

Yes, that last one.

Then maybe the others, if I can be bothered.

Oh the freedom!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Planning Hermit

I'm going to blame the fact that my sister and her fiancé are currently building a house.

And that two of my friends and their partners are at different stages of building their own homes.

And the really nice suburbs I drive through with my Dad when we decide the petrol price can go hang and take the scenic route home from Italian.

I can blame whoever I like but the truth is this: I've caught myself planning my perfect house.

I didn't cotton on to it at first that this was what I was doing.

It started with looking at the plans that various people were considering for their future abodes and the ones they'd researched and binned due to how patently crappy and impractical they were.

Then I was paying attention to architectural features of different buildings and houses as I passed.

So when whilst watching Grand Designs I caught myself thinking 'ooh, I'm definitely getting one of those' and realisation dawned.

Of course, when I say planned I'm not talking about a cohesive and structurally sound schematic, just a higgeldy piggeldy collection of 'things wot I like' put together like Door's house in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.

For your browsing pleasure and possible bemusement I've gathered a few of them together here.











Now if I can just win the lottery and find a builder willing to tackle a project likely to be rife with such helpful phrases as 'kind of like this but not quite and of course congruent with the rest of the aspects discussed so far...' then I'll be set.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Truth Of It All

I think I'm getting a cold.

This is a nuisance and a bother.

So I'm treating this the same way I do most worrying developments in my life.

With sleep.

Great, long, coddling, soothing bouts of surrendering to somnolence.

I feel the same way about sleep as Odin does in Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul:
Sleeping was a very important activity for him. He liked to sleep for longish periods, great swathes of time. Merely sleeping overnight was not taking the business seriously. He enjoyed a good night's sleep and wouldn't miss one for the world, but he didn't regard it as anything even half approaching enough.
Of course, seeing as I'm not actually an immortal - unfortunately - I am occasionally rocked by the frantic knowledge that I am frittering chunks of my mortal life away in this fashion.

But usually I'm just rock-a-bye-baby'd.

This is one of the things that has convinced me that I'm not a TRUE ARTIST as a TRUE ARTIST would be gripped by self-loathing and whipped into a frenzy by the need to create and the idea that they are wasting prime creating time.

Mostly I'm gripped by blankets.

When I wake up I will create.

But for now...

...Zzzzzzz...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Shamening! (Not To Be Confused With The Shamaning)

Oh dearie dearie me.

I knew I'd been slack of late but it wasn't until the lovely Erin Palette applied a judicious kick to my saddlery regions with a stylish boot that I realised it had been two months* since I posted anything!

SHAME!

So as a form of penance and blog-self-flagellation I am going to look back through my notes for things I intended to post but didn't and my planner to see what I was doing at the time and I am going to fill in the gaps.

This week.

Possibly today.

Because when you are slightly sleep-deprived, a little bit hung-over and having a hair of the dog it is the perfect time to make grand promises and to write.

So that means... 10 posts! Oh for the love of... I mean, excellent, I relish a challenge!

So here we go.

Operation STOP BEING A LAZY ASS has commenced!



*TWO MONTHS!!!

The Chicken Party

My sister is getting married this year.

This month actually.

This is a thought that I feel should be making my brain boggle but she and brother-in-law-to-be have been together for so long and are so absurdly suited to each other it seems more a formality than anything else.

At this stage all we need to remember to do is turn up in the right dresses and shoes and we will be set.

The one thing we did need to get done and done properly before the big day was her hen's party.

I could give you a run down of what we got up to but a) that'd be a bit anecdotal and 'hey I went to a party that you weren't at' and b) it was a private party for my sister and none of your beeswax so instead I'm going to talk about something else.

There's a lot of build-up around what's supposed to happen at hen's parties since they attracted the hivemind's attention so I've decided to use this post to make one particular point, one that I think isn't made enough.

If it is your hen's party you can do WHATEVER YOU DAMN WELL WANT.

This includes telling people who are trying to tell you what you HAVE to do to take their suggestions and jam them up their jacksies.

If you want to get rowdy and take it to the streets that's fine, if that's how you like to play you'll have a ball.

If you're usually a quiet person, like doing things differently or just don't think it's the business of everyone in the damn town/suburb/city that you're getting married you don't HAVE to go out and do specific things and nobody is allowed to tell you that you should.

If you want to go paintballing - Go!

If you want to go to a day spa - Go!

If you want to have a BBQ, get drunk and play Rock Band - Do!

Karaoke bar!

Burlesque show!

Bowling night!

Movie night!

Costume party!

Bake off!

Beach party!

High tea!

1950s glamour pin-up photoshoot!

There is no limit to what you can do for your party, pick whatever you're happiest with and do that.

It is a party to celebrate your life so far, your friendships with the people you invite and the life you have ahead of you - there is no rule that says it has to be just one thing.

You shouldn't have a particular hen's party because you think it's expected of you any more than you should have a particular wedding because that's what you think is expected of you.

Do what makes you happy.


PS. In case you were wondering, no we didn't get a stripper. Just in case instead of Hugh Jackman...


...we got Har Mar Superstar*....


...who does indeed strip with confidence and alacrity but not to the same reception.



*Or someone I went to school with. I don't know why I'm so convinced lately that someone I went to school with will one day take their clothes off in front of me for money.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Tangled Up In Plaid

Well, not necessarily plaid but hopefully some sort of patterning. Once I get going.

Remember my wild and cray-zay New Year's Resolutions?

Remember the one about learning to crochet?

Well, I'm edging closer!

After having bought a beginners' guide months ago and then forgetting to go back to the store for the yarn* or hooks I have joined Ravelry to get extra inspired with patterns and the like and will soon begin trawling YouTube for lovely little 'how to' videos so I know what all the short-hand in the patterns means.

I also now need to learn how to knit because the internet has patterns for Jayne Cobb's hat...

... and I want one.

Because it's Jayne Cobb's hat and he's the hero of Canton don't cha know!

I want one so badly I can almost taste it!**

I expect my first project will be an almost unbearably sad-lookin' scarf that I'll not want to wear but we've all got to start somewhere and my fumble-fingers will have to learn discipline in cruddy scarf boot camp before they get a shot at crocheting little squiddies or vampires or knitting bad-ass space cowboy beanies.
You have to earn a hat like that and seeing as I was born too early to join the Browncoats in their struggle or have a hand in the liberation of Canton, I'll have to earn it the other way - through arts and crafts!



*well, cotton yarn substitute... stupid allergy to wool.

**it tastes fluffy

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Crawling Out Of The Comfort Zone

I avoid certain movies like the plague.

War movies because they're always emotionally crushing and visually jarring.

Certain romantic comedies because they always feel so false and oversimplified.

Horror movies of a certain calibre because my brain doesn't need any more help imagining strange things lurking the in shadows thank you so very much.

And that was all well and good and I felt fairly OK with that.

But then I started avoiding a lot of other movies and when I tried to work out why, I was embarrassed to find that the explanation that popped up in my head was that they were 'too much work'.

"How much work can it be to sit on your ass and watch a movie?" a person would be justified in asking.

I didn't mean 'work' work but emotional and mental work.

I'd been rewatching old movies in a half-arsed way that allowed the familiar scenes and dialogue to wash over and past me whilst I tried to do other things (eg. write, draw, email).

The problem was I was doing those things half-arsed as well.

Instead of devoting two hours to really paying attention to a movie or really paying attention to a piece of writing or drawing, I was spending two hours not really paying attention to either and coming away feeling irritated and not at all like I had accomplished anything.

Instead of multi-tasking I was multi-tanking.

So as recorded in my New Year's Resolutions I have banned myself from watching movies I have already seen and am only watching new movies.
This has led to a sharp decrease in amount of movies actually watched but the associated sharp decrease in hours staring goggle-eyed and useless at a square of moving colours has been a welcome side effect.

And the movies I have watched so far have already made the experience worth it.

Not all have them have been quality but they've been fresh, they've got my brain moving again and I'm being less of a movie and cinema wuss about the 'hard work' movies.

My brain needs more hard work, it has been slacking off for years.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Silver Screen Surfer

I don't often have a lot of luck getting out to see movies when they're playing at the cinema.

Either I'll agree to see them with someone and we can never go on the same day or I lose track of time and by the time I get around to it the local cinema has stopped playing the film in question.

This isn't always exclusively down to my poor organisational skills or vague grip on temporal reality, the local cinema can be a bit of a moody bugger when it comes to screening runs.
The Karate Kid (aka The Kung-Fu Kid) has been screening for over a month but Predators ran for a maximum of two weeks before they gave it the boot.

So when a swag of movies I was interested in all came around at once I decided that I was damned if I was being cheated again and I went - to put it quite bluntly - completely nuts*.

~~~

FRIDAY 9:10pm - SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

Synopsis: Scott Pilgrim is a 20-something slacker who finds himself having to battle 7 evil exes in order to be able to date the girl of his dreams. Scott Pilgrim is accompanied in this quest by a selection of amusing and sometimes unsympathetic friends in a world that blends regular reality and computer game tropes in a way that messes your brain up fun times.

Ricochet's Bonus Blather: I was already going out with friends for a farewell dinner (for one of them) so when they said 'Hey you wanna go see Scott Pilgrim after?' I cursed them out for being the dirty temptresses they are and immediately said yes. This clashed with my Nerdy Senses which were tingling and saying things like 'But you haven't read Volume 6 yet, you fiend!' but I shouted them down, assuming correctly that I would be able to hold the movie separate in my mind from the graphic novels.
I loved the film for it's timing, the use of effects to simulate comic panels and for Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells - the whole thing was very well cast.
Of course there is no way you can make a feature length film from six graphic novels without having to cut out and compress a lot of the story telling, so if you haven't read the graphic novels you might come away a wee bit confused.
I had avoided reading Scott Pilgrim for ages as the whole premise of a man having to fight a girl's ex-boyfriends in order to date her seemed so... misogynist but on the urgings of a Canadian friend I gave them a go and found it hard to see them as such when reading them. I still think Ramona should have just told them all to go to hell and given them a good frying-panning to the face but the exchanges and actions were so entertaining and the 'computer game reality' so removed from regular life you couldn't take it entirely seriously on that level.

~~~

SATURDAY 9:00pm - INCEPTION

Synopsis: In a near future which has developed the technology to access people's dreams as a means of removing information, a skilled practitioner of this art is given a chance of redemption if he can achieve what is thought impossible - to place an idea within the mind of another.

Ricochet's Bonus Blather: I had decided to see Inception today but hadn't gotten around to it by the time I went out to dinner with my parents, so I decided that not only was I still going to see it, I was going to carjack my parents and take them with me. And I did.
It was astoundingly good.
Astoundingly.
Good.
And honestly if it had just been 2+ hours of Cillian Murphy looking vulnerable and Joseph Gordon-Levitt being tipped off chairs I would have been perfectly happy but it also had a plot!
The depiction of the movement of time and the mouldable reality and how it reacted were very engaging and it didn't hurt that pretty much all the dudes in it were fairly easy on the eyes.
For all the people who were complaining that they found it hard to follow or confusing I'm going to assume you spent the whole movie picking your nose and molding the resultant finds into a miniature statue of the Venus of Willendorf because my mother - who usually has to be reminded who people are part way through murder mysteries - followed it easily**.

~~~

SUNDAY 11:00am - THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

Synopsis: A disgraced journalist and an antisocial hacker are brought together as the investigation of the 40 year old disappearance of a young girl leads to evidence of crimes more wide-reaching and recent than anyone suspected.

Ricochet's Bonus Blather: The books have divided some people as they couldn't get past the 'Fellowship of the Rings' style character infodump at the start of the first book but I found that those sections helped me get a better idea of the society/culture they take place in and it gave me a context in which to see everything else.
The movie was a fantastic realisation of the book and managed to fit most of the important scenes and themes in without having to alter too much of the story, apart from tweaks to the time-line and some reduction in the roles of some characters.
Having read the books I was able to brace myself for the more confronting scenes but think they would have been equally if not more effective if I hadn't known they were coming.
One of the things I liked best about this screening was that apart from me, the audience was almost exclusively ladies in their 60s (and over) in home-knitted cardies, nodding in appreciation any time Lisbeth smacked anyone or tattooed anything on anyone. As we were walking out I heard one lady remark to her friend "I would have been tattooing it a damn sight lower, I can tell you that!"

~~~

SUNDAY 7:00pm - THE EXPENDABLES

Synopsis: A bunch of mercenaries suddenly get a conscience about one of the messed up countries they're asked to do a job in and go completely banza crazy setting shit right yo!

Ricochet's Bonus Blather: I'm sorry, I couldn't write a 'serious' synopsis for this one. Mostly because it doesn't really have one. It was enjoyable as a collection of quips and cliches from people we're used to seeing quip cliches at us but it was so over the top that it was a send-up of its own genre which I assume was the aim. Well, I hope it was.
The banter between the characters was so exaggeratedly familiar it seemed like a polyamorous commune of old married men.
One thing I did like was the fact that the characters spent a bit of time reflecting on how that sort of lifestyle can really mess you up, that you can't just brush it off and that maybe some of their number should get some counselling.
I took along my friend Awesome with whom I watch all the most explodingest movies and we did enjoy it as a complete break from reality with extra violence sauce but I couldn't help but think that part of the reason for that is we've been conditioned to enjoy these sorts of tales.
Of course it is quite possible I am just feeling super pretentious after having seen three very good movies in quick succession just before this one***.

~~~

And somehow, despite the fact I spent almost the entire weekend sitting on my ass, at the end of it all I came away with a sense of productivity****!

Whee!



* That is 'nuts for a person who usually seems a maximum of 3 movies a year at the cinema'.

** Of course, it probably helps that at the cinemas you can't wonder off to put a load of washing on or make a cup of tea and come back after something very important has happened but really all you had to do was watch the screen.

*** But honestly, it is in no way a clever movie. Amusing but no surprises.

**** I guess it did count towards my New Year's Resolution to watch at least 52 new movies this year...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Den of Ink and Long Island Ice Tea

My memory is terrible.

I can't remember how I heard about Molly Crabapple, her art, her wish to make figure drawing more accessible and enjoyable and less intimidating but I certainly won't be forgetting the first session of Dr Sketchy's that I attended.

Dr Sketchy's is an Anti-Art School. Not anti-art but anti-'art school'.
It poo poos the idea that to be good at art you have to have spent years before the easel man-and-boy or that you should feel anything less than joy when creating at whatever level you can.

Dr Sketchy's is a figure drawing session with a significant difference.

All the models are burlesque and/or circus performers.

And they are fabulous.

All you need to attend Dr Sketchy's is enough in your pocket to cover the modest entry fee, something to draw on and something to draw with.
The music is light and quirky, the costumes are divine, the drinks are plentiful and the mood is fantastic.

It's like attending a party where all the other guests are madly trying to capture their fellow revellers' likenesses because they forgot their cameras and nobody minds a jot.
The performers perform as well as pose, the MC has a wicked tongue and the sheer beauty of the tattoos that I've seen would melt your eyeballs out of your head.
Also quite a lot of feathers, satin and shimmering sequined nipple pasties.

I've never had the guts to attend a 'proper' art class, worried that I'd either be completely bewildered if they started too quickly or bored silly if they started too slow* but each session of Dr Sketchy's that I've made it to has been a breeze.
So breezy in fact that the three hours are over before you know it.

You can search for local branches on the website which I would heartily recommend.
They're a warm, welcoming lot, art nerds.

I might have a way to go with my technical skills but I'm certainly going to enjoy the journey!



*Or that I'd laugh if the life model farted. Or that I would have attended school with the life model...

Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Glimpse Of Gorgeousness

I could lie to you and say that I'm going to try and present an accurate and balanced account of the evening.

I could claim that what is to follow will be eloquent and illuminating sharing of my experience but...


I SAW STEPHEN FRY GIVING A TALK AND STEPHEN FRY WAS TALKING AND I WAS THERE AND I HEARD HIM TALKING AND HE WAS SAYING BIG WORDS IN HIS BEAUTIFUL, FLUFFY, PINK AND MOIST AND MELLIFLUOUS BRITISH ACCENTED VOICE, RAKING HIS HAIR OUT OF HIS EYES AND WE WERE IN THE SAME ROOM AND OK IT WAS A BIG ROOM AND HE COULDN'T SEE ME BUT I COULD SEE HIM AND HE WAS STEPHEN FRY AND I WAS ME WATCHING STEPHEN FRY AND...

*GASP*

I saw Stephen Fry.


He told us about his travels and his writing and how he met some of the magnificent people with whom he has collaborated with over the years and he did a Hugh Laurie impression which sent my friends and I (and everybody else in the theatre) into glee raptures and a Patrick Stewart impression that almost killed us and I'm going to be geeking out for the rest of my life that I got to see one of my favourite actors just being charming and random and wandering about a stage going over time and just generally being marvellous.

I now have a list of books and movies to follow up on and want to know much much more about Oscar Wilde.

Because I saw Stephen Fry.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Baldy And The Beast

Whilst I may never have the money or inclination to see all the performances I regularly vow that I'm going to attend I have been seeing steadily more of them in the last few years, mainly by distracting certain parts of my brain with bright colours and sparkling lights until I've already made the bookings and it's too late for them to back out.

It isn't that I don't enjoy live performances and live music - I adore them - but for some reason there's always been a little bit of me that seems to spend all its time checking its watch and wondering when it can get back to doing nothing much or being nowhere in particular.
It is a part of myself that usually makes me quite quite cross and which I am determined not to let rule my life.

So in my latest bout of 'Shut The Heck Up Stupid Pedestrian Loser Lobe' I bought tickets to take my parents to see Bill Bailey and to take my sister and her fiance to see a theatre production of The King and I.

Bill Bailey - Monday 19th of July
No matter how many times I see Bill Bailey*, he always manages to surprise me. He always has fresh material, he revels in audience participation (even when it goes terribly, terribly wrong) and he is a genuine genius with music. He performed Gary Numan's cars on a series of bike horns, his spiderweb like cape of hair flying along behind him as he honked energetically in a way that required both my parents to take their glasses off to wipe away tears of laughter.
Some comedians you get the feeling that secretly they'd quite like you get piss off and that if you don't laugh at an adequate volume they're wishing cancer upon you.
Not only does Bill Bailey not exude a cancer cursing aura, he enjoys himself, he's honest without giving too much of himself away and he constantly plays with you, letting you see that he's smarter than you suspected before lulling you easily back into a goofy grinning daze.
One of the wonderful things about people with multiple genuine passions is that it gives them a lot of material to work with and they're eager to share things with you, sometimes things you'd wish they'd kept to themselves but which you just can't stay angry with them about.
If you get the chance go see him, he's a joy**.


The King & I - Saturday 24th of July
My sister and I have always loved this movie - and admittedly get a little bit starry eyed about Yul Brenner and his flashy impressive wardrobe*** - so when we found out that there was going to be a performance in Melbourne the tickets almost bought themselves. Brother-in-law-to-be knows that marrying my sister bring with it certain responsibilities and is also a bit of a musical chap himself so he was happy to come along.
The amount they manage to do in the confined space of a stage and with props and sets that can be easily moved between and sometimes during scenes will always excite me about the theatre. It doesn't take away from the illusion, it reinforces the creativity and fun of the thing.
Strangely enough I think the one thing they did stay absolutely true to were the King's outfits for each scene which was a nice touch. You don't want people trying to rigidly impersonate a movie to perfection, if you wanted to see that you'd just watch the movie again.
As usual with stage performances based on films****, there were a few songs added to give some of the minor characters more time on stage and to give a bit of a different interpretation. This all had a couple of old dears sitting near us muttering - not as quietly as they thought - "I don't remember this from the movie!" and "They're just funning around, you know directors,".
I have of course had the songs stuck in head for days now but it was worth it.



*OK, this is only the second time live but DVDs and televised comedy showcases count too...

**I was going to write 'cracker' here (an English/Australian term that means good'un, in the same vein as some older folk would use the description 'cracking good time' but have been reliably informed that in the US this is a racial slur that means 'white people' and whilst that is perfectly accurate it might have been a bit confusing that I was insisting it was a reason to attend his performance.

***And washboard abs.

****And suddenly Disney films, now I come to think of it... Stop messing with a classic Disney! Nobody wants to hear 'Human Again'! There's a reason it was left out of the original cut!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Nerdiest Thing

I've always known I was kind of lazy.

And I've always known I was kind of nerdy.

But it wasn't until I decided to buy a new bed way back when that my laziness met my nerdiness to form a perfect storm.

I was trying to decide whether I should buy the mattress I'd chosen in the double bed size or go all out and get the queen bed size.

I knew I'd have to work out whether I could fit a queen-sized bed into my bedroom and what I would have to do with the rest of my furniture once it was in there.

I couldn't be bothered actually moving my furniture.

So I measured the room and the furniture.

And did this...






And it all made sense at the time...

And it did work...

But...

There's a level of self-knowledge that you don't necessarily need to achieve...

From which there is no going back...

Will it encourage me to be a more efficient nerd?

Or a lazier person?

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A Balanced Diet: In Which Ricochet Overworks A Metaphor And Shouts A Bit

As I was leafing languidly through a recipe book I discovered something startling.
You can put hazelnut oil on salad.
I didn't even know they MADE hazelnut oil.
I wanted to try it.
Right now!
Delicious hazelnut oil infused French salad on my table, on my fork, in my tummy!
So I trotted down to the supermarket and... they didn't have it.
Neither did the other local supermarket.
Apart from being miffed it got me thinking.
If I hadn't read about these recipes and these items I wouldn't have known to look.
Obviously I haven't memorised the contents of the supermarket but gradually there has been a smaller variety of products on offer and then less choice of brands of those products available.
And strange as it may seem all I can think of is the internet and the proposed Australian internet filter.

Yes, I know once again I sound crazy but I'll explain myself. At great length.

If you haven't heard of it you can find an in-depth explanation of the filter here but the basic story is that the Australian government is using 'think of the children!' to propose banning the access to any webpages they find distasteful.
For the whole country.

Considering child pornography is already illegal and not just available to all and sundry who know how to use a search engine, this is a bunch of bull-twang, especially when they start listing other things to ban 'just in case the kiddies see them' including certain types of fetish pornography and pages discussing euthanasia, abortion, rape and video games.
Without context.

A test run of the filter, as it is now, resulted in the blanket banning of all sites that mentioned rape or child molestation including those which offered support and legal advice to victims.
All this is being offered instead of expecting parents to take responsibility for their children and said children's net use.
As the banned sites are to exist on a secret blacklist that isn't to be disclosed to the public it leaves the option open for the government to block pretty much whatever they like, including blogs or sites that post political protest material or criticism just in case this promotes riots, dissent or a change in government which is clearly not good for the kiddies.

So with that brief summary before you, let us return to my crazy-ass theory.

You go to the supermarket, you pick up all your corporation-approved and provided essentials and every now and then you'll spot something you haven't tried before or something you've not heard of, you have a look at the suggestions on the label and you think 'yes, I'll give this a go'.
Now imagine this supermarket is a metaphor for the internet.
They've decided that, oh I don't know, peanut oil should not be offered for sale because some people are allergic to peanuts and might accidentally be offered something cooked in peanut oil by some irresponsible or ignorant member of the public.
So they type 'no nut oil' into their ordering system and in one fell swoop knock half a dozen oils off the selection including macadamia nut oil and other such products.
People who used to buy this oil now can't find it and the supermarket uses the fact that these people are now forced to purchase other alternatives and aren't protesting this lack or requesting it en masse as a rationale to keep the discontinued products off the shelves.
People who have never heard of peanut or macadamia or hazelnut oil never get the chance to try them or even consider trying them.

Now let's imagine the person in charge of fruit and veg ordering is a weirdo prude who decides that any long, cylindrical vegetables may be too phallic to be offered to minors or unsuspecting virgin diners by lecherous chefs or dinner party enthusiasts who might be secretly getting off on it.
So all these fruits and vegetables are knocked off the system in favour of less arousing tubers and so on.

Seeing as many people these days use the supermarket (internet) as their only source of produce (information) and might not have the inclination, opportunity or awareness to visit farmers' markets (read books/newspapers or listen to radio stations) or are worried that produce (inforrrrrrmation!) from specialist stores might be out-of-date or dangerous to their health (if it isn't on the internet it might be behind the times or *gasp* biased!) the consumer is - to summarise - screwed.

I'll drop the metaphor to conclude lest I write any more torturously long sentences but my point is this:

No, of course I'm not advocating the availability of child pornography or pornographic material that is composed of the real-life assault of unwilling participants. That material infringes human rights and is rightly illegal.

But on the other hand, whilst I'm not personally interested in many varieties of legally produced pornography performed by consenting adults that cater to people with specific tastes that doesn't mean that I think it should be made inaccessible to the adults who do find it arousing if it is used in private with other consenting adults.

I do not think the government should be allowed to block access to websites discussing the ethics of euthanasia or even instructions and advice on how to help administer or self-administer euthanasia just because it isn't legal in this country and/or the legislators find the concept personally reprehensible.

I do not think a government should be able to have a secret list of banned material, or that the only criterion offered for a site being added to this list is that the material is 'distasteful'.
Who gets to decide?
What do they think will happen if the general public has access to this material?

The internet is a vast and sprawling cluster-hug* of data, some of which I never EVER want to see, but I do not under any circumstances want the government to tell me that I'm not ALLOWED to see it.
If the material is illegal or criminal then they have ability to prosecute, to contact the ISPs concerned and have the websites shut down.
Anything else is censorship which implies that people aren't intelligent enough to be capable of distinguishing reality from recreational fantasy or to make their own judgements on the validity of information presented to them or their own decisions concerning how to live their lives or whether/when to end them and enforces a narrow band of morality that is decided for the many by a select few.

If you're worried about the children, hold the government accountable to provide a good education system, adequate funding for hospitals and GP training and actually spend some time with the new people you saw fit to bring into the world.
Make some personal effort to make sure the world you're leaving them is a better place than when you entered it.
Don't expect the government to do it for you and for the love of all that is, don't give them an open mandate to do whatever they want under the claim that they're doing just that.


PS. I still want my goddamn hazelnut oil salad, dammit!



*Yeah, I'm still not swearing on my blog for funsies. You can now start replaying Grandpa Simpson's anecdote about tickling fluffy bunnies into their cuddle-bunkers if you so desire.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Evolution Revolution

I've never quite been able to wrap my head around why some religious folks are so dead-set against the concept of evolution.
Every time it pops up in the news cycle, causes controversy in regards to schooling or is cited as a source of conflict between community members or different communities, I get all scrunchy face-level baffled.
Why can't science and spirituality be considered together?
As if it isn't possible to believe in both the slow unfolding of the cosmos and all that follows AND a supreme being?

The spontaneous creation of a universe and a world with a fully functioning ecosystem would be an impressive display of power and has formed an important part of the Judaeo-Christian story (amongst others) but there are so many ways to look at it.

The religious texts say that God created the world in six days and the orthodox faithful refuse to accept any alternatives but consider this usage of a time-frame.
In the beginning there was no time, no temporal units in the dense new matter, who is to say how long the 'days' mentioned actually lasted? They could have each spanned millennia, hundreds of millennia, after all 'a day' is a human concept based on how long it takes one particular planet to make a full revolution as it makes its slow way around one particular star.

Some argue that insisting that life evolved from the most basic common components into gradually more complex and diverse organisms as a reaction to their environment, food stuffs and predators/competitors disrespects or denies the involvement of a deity but that doesn't have to be the case.
Why wouldn't a being of infinite wisdom and compassion also be a being of infinite curiosity?
If you've got nothing but time and a whole universe to yourself why wouldn't you nudge things and wait to see what happens next?
Why wouldn't the slow playing out of consequences be as fascinating and satisfying to a divine being as to anyone who has ever taken a chance and made something new under their own power, from artisan to scientist to chef?

At its most essential, the idea that God created the universe in order to create the Earth purely to put human beings on it seems very self-centred and egotistical on behalf of humanity, and seems to glorify humans more than their creator.
If you allow yourself to contemplate the possibility that human beings were not the intended end product of creation it doesn't automatically follow that there is no power outside ourselves and that it might not care for us.
Just because a parent doesn't know how their child will turn out, can't anticipate their exact physical characteristics or personality or future actions doesn't mean they can't rejoice at their birth and revel in their accomplishments.
Just because everything might not have sprung fully formed into being doesn't mean that its existence is not a point of wonder - consider the scope of the whole.

I'm not saying that atheists or agnostics have to believe that there is a God or a pantheon of gods.
I'm not saying religiously observant people have to accept everything that science has to offer or believe that we'll ever be able to explain everything that makes up our reality.
Just to all have a think about it and accept that whether you are looking at the universe through an analytical or spiritual lens, it is a miraculous construct.

We've come a long way as a species in the centuries since the current dominant religious dialogues were founded, we're now able to understand much more complex ideas and maybe that includes being able to grasp a more intricate explanation of existence no matter how you're framing it.

To the religious: Give God credit for possibly being a more inquisitive and creative being and for the creation story we began with maybe being the most complicated explanation fallible human beings were capable of dealing with at the time.

To the scientific: Seeing as even our best guesses concerning the beginning of the universe essentially boil down to 'there was nothing and then it blew up' try not to discount or dismiss other people's beliefs out of hand even if you don't share them.

To everyone: The fact that we exist at all is pretty freaking amazing, enjoy it and if you hold your beliefs dear then you shouldn't worry or feel threatened when other people don't share them as long as nobody tries to force you to accept their view against your will. Allow everyone the chance to make up their own minds on the matter.

For myself, well, as Nick Cave says, "I don't believe in an interventionist God, but I know darlin' that [some of] you do..."
Doesn't mean we can't all get along and acknowledge that no matter how it came into being, the universe is a mind-boggling and marvellous thing.

The discovery that the sun revolves around the Earth instead of vice versa didn't cause the Earth to be rent asunder, scientific discovery need not be seen as a reductive or destructive force.
With everything new we learn, it increases not decreases our ability to appreciate and marvel at the intricacy of our wider environment and of our own physical beings.
That has to count for something.



Disclaimer time: I was raised in an Irish-Italian family which, whilst fairly laid back about observing religion and very tolerant of all religious and non-religious views, allowed me a front seat view on Catholic dogma and communities.
I tell you this so that if you read this and feel that my soul might need saving or think that I would benefit from a deeper knowledge of Christianity you can rest easy that I am fairly familiar with the material. Please do not try to convert or convince me as I'll not be changing my views for any reasons that are not my own.
I also tell you this so that if you read this and you are non-religious or follow a religion not encompassed by this post you don't feel that I am trying to convert you, disrespect your beliefs or lecture you. My own beliefs are a composite of many strains of both scientific and spiritual discussion and I won't be turning this blog into any form of evangelical podium.
I am at heart a bit of a hippie who believes that as long as you do no harm to others as far as this is possible and do what you can to lead a fulfilling life and live up to your full potential that whatever you believe is your own business.
Sorry for the big rambling explanation but seeing as I don't usually cover topics quite so contentious here I thought I should make sure I made myself clear.
In the event any insulting or close-minded comments appear rest assured they'll disappear shortly after.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Everybody Should Learn A Second Language

I don't care if you live in the most land-locked, single-language culture ever evolved by war, politics, economy and commodity, you should learn at least one foreign language.

Here's why.

It helps you with your own language.

It can make you more sympathetic to your fellow human beings.

It opens up experiences and encounters that you may not have had otherwise.

Let me explain further.

I had a decent education but the truth is that schools now spend far less time hammering the building blocks of grammar and language into the impressionable young minds of their students than they did previously*.
When you learn another language you become VERY aware what the different components of language are called, especially verbs, putting names and explanations to things you've only known instinctively before.
You have a better appreciation of how these components work together, especially when you're comparing how they work in your native tongue to how they work in your newly embraced language.
If you're a bit of a word nerd it affects how you see language in general and improves your use of it no matter which language you're speaking.

If you have the opportunity to travel to a country where your new language is spoken exclusively, take it.
You will never understand the immigrant experience better than you will the day you immerse yourself in a community where you can hopefully make yourself understood but cannot understand effortlessly.
It is impossible to overestimate just how alienated and claustrophobic you can feel when you can't understand the chatter of people on the train or when shopkeepers look at you patiently (or impatiently), waiting for you to make sense or to answer simple questions.
If you hear someone speaking in your first language you are overwhelmed with homesickness and you will approach strangers in a way you might never do at home just for the joy of unhindered, eloquent speech, no matter how banal the conversation topics.
But you pick up new words and tenses much more quickly and the simple pleasure of managing an everyday exchange is intoxicating, even if you know you sound like the instructions in a manual that has been translated from one language into another via a third, just making enough sense to get an answer or give one fills you with a sense of accomplishment.

Speaking a second language can allow you to meet people you might never have met, go places you might never have gone, form connections with people who you might not have bonded with without a key event or shared incident, offer help to people who feel as lost as you now know it is possible to feel, ask for help from people who (well-intentioned as they might be would have been unable to understand the tearful pleas).

It will make you re-evaluate the way you see other people and yourself.

It will make you a better person if you take full advantage of it.

Y'know, unless you just use it to pick up people of your preferred gender(s) and swear at people without them knowing it.
It can be used for that too, I guess.


*Also don't ask me about geography, I don't know anything about it worth a damn.