Monday, March 31, 2003

Ten step program

If dropping round to a scarce-known acquaintance’s garage sale on a whim proves you can talk for three uninterrupted hours, there might be a spark.

If your insides lurch when they confesses to having feelings for someone, and that someone isn’t you, you have a crush on them.

If, when you hear their newly-realised affections were spurned, and are sorry for their pain - but secretly hopeful - you definitely have a crush on them.

If in the course of hanging out with them on a moving day, they suggest a plan to see a musical, a plan which rapidly escalates into a pact to see it Gold Class and with wine - maybe there’s hope after all. (Especially if you then talk for around ten hours and consume two meals together.)

Look out for half unslept (but secretly happy) nights spent trying to wrestle that hope into submission.

If you can consume wine with them ’til all hours, and have them beat you soundly at Scrabble and not care, let that hope breathe a little.

If they respond to a flirtatious SMS with “*swoon*”, there’s a chance.

Twelve or more e-mails exchanged each way in a day should confirm that.

So maybe it should not be a complete surprise when, after drinks and dinner, you find yourself taking them by both their hands and leading them to a hesitant kiss.

There will be moments of doubt, seemingly impossible uncertainties, times when life may offer choices at odds with your feelings, things will find their small points of tension - but when there is someone always ready to greet you with a kiss, someone who wants to call you when they’ve had a bad day or a triumph, someone who refers to you as “the boyf” – you’ll feel richly rewarded for nurturing the little hope that brought you here.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Damn and bugger

Changing my comments system has lost me all comments posted so far this week, despite the fact I thought they were archived. I knew I should have held off until a new archiving week started.

Sorry all. Your gems of comedy and dictionary advice may be lost forever ...

All the old archived weeks' comments are unaffected and should remain so, provided I don't accidentally republish them with the new template.

I did save today's comments on today's blog and will repost them shortly on behalf of commenters. Hopefully the new system will be worth this small loss, particularly if it brings an end to that irritating 400 character limit malarkey.

Read on for today's blog ...

Thursday, March 27, 2003

A polite and suited rebellion

I went to the “lawyers against war” rally yesterday. I have to admit it was the kind of protest I’ve been holding out for – some considered, well-articulated legal opinion about the current war. Unfortunately, other than local television, it appears to have attracted no media coverage. Possibly because there were no scuffles with police that could be turned into an emotional cliché-ridden beat-up.

This rally was, unmistakeably, a congregation of lawyers. Organisers reminded us we were standing at the Supreme Court steps and people might need to get in or out, so could we not obstruct the steps, please? Could we also remember it was a public pavement and others had a right to pass?

We spilled out onto the street, as far back from the as the tram-tracks and several people deep the full length of the Court building. I’d guess there were around 300 lawyers there at least.

We were heckled a little by some driving by, largely incomprehensibly.

I did catch: “Bob Brown, Saddam’s clown!” Which had a nice ring to it, even if it would better have been directed to a protest, y’know, featuring the Senator himself.

For reasons of space, I’m going to restrict this report to the first three speakers. The fourth was the Slater and Gordon partner derided by Janet Albrectsen for accepting a brief to monitor any Australian complicity in any US war crimes that might be committed in Iraq. (See the excellent coverage of that issue in fridaysixpm’s “Even during wartime, lawyers are the scum of the earth”.) The final speaker was the head of the community justice network in Victoria.

Of the speeches that caught my attention, Professor Gillian Triggs kicked off with a couple of simple axioms about international law that I’ll paraphrase as best I can.

First, the UN charter contains a ban on the use of force in international affairs. That ban admits only two exceptions: where the Security Council authorises action to preserve international peace and security, and self-defence.

Self defence, at international law, must be in response to an armed attack or an imminent threat of an attack. Iraq, contained as it is, provides neither.

She gave her opinion on the 14 UNSCRs outstanding against Iraq – saying that on the fairest reading she could give them there was nothing authorising the present action. (Thus it appears Professor Triggs would agree with Colin Powell’s (pre-war) view that UNSCR 1441 contained no “hidden triggers” for war.)

Her answer to the question, “what happens when permanent members prevents any resolution passing?” was one of utter probity. That situation calls for law reform, not breaking the law. These are the international legal structures in place and we are pledged to abide by them. That is what the rule of law means: working with the system, not arbitrarily abandoning it.

Chris Maxwell QC, former president of Liberty Victoria, spoke next. I’ve seen Mr Maxwell’s work in court and he has a great, punchy oratorical style.

He applauded the courage of both senior legal advisers to the Blair government who have fulfilled their professional ethical obligation to stand for the rule of law by resigning over the British position that the war is legal, and of Australian academics who have come out against the war, given – in his phrase – the present government’s “vindictive” approach to university funding.

He also made the point that – despite public opinion – the government has now irretrievably implicated Australia in this war. We therefore have a moral obligation to contribute to reconstruction, but as yet the government has pledged no funds for it.

Reverend Tim Costello, about the only Australian religious commentator whose views I can not only stomach, but admire, delivered a brief excoriation of the Christian theory of redemptive violence (that violence itself is neutral and assumes its character from whether it is used by moral or evil people), a theory he decried as “madness”. (He did not have to join the dots to the ideological-religious views of the man in the White House.)

He also spoke of the “rule of law” as the great bulwark against human insecurity, and the fear of random violence. A fear that most of the world has always lived with, and that the US has lived with since 11 September. He was very clear that he did not blame the American people for feeling that insecurity, and he did not deny that the national psyche has been deeply traumatised – but almost uniquely among western powers the US has never suffered casualties or an attack on its mainland prior to the 11 September tragedy. From that perspective, the Bush administration’s response is understandable – but entirely short-sighted. He neatly summarised the dangers of a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes with the hypothetical, “What if China feels threatened by Taiwan?”

He also referred to the appalling piece of legislation passed by the US congress pre-authorising an invasion of the Hague and a commando “extraction” of any US soldiers ever tried before the new International Criminal Court. This despite the fact that under the ICC statute the first and preferred option is that war crimes trials be conducted by the country of the alleged offender’s nationality and the ICC has jurisdiction only when a nation is “unable or unwilling” to prosecute its own. (For a semi-satirical response to this obscenity, see this site and its call for a civilian militia units to defend the Court from any US invasion.)

Anyway, Costello had picked up on the central theme put forward by Maxwell and Triggs that was sure-fire seller with this audience: the rule of law. The basic point being, of course, that if we can’t persuade the world’s weaker powers that there is a stable, rules-based system governing international affairs capable of restraining the world’s dominant powers – why would they bother participating at all?

Pre-emptive, unilateral intervention provides a clear threat to the security of weaker powers, who will respond by arming themselves with the most devastating weapons they can afford. The example already set by India and Pakistan’s efforts to join the “club” of nuclear powers. This war is meant to provide a more stable, secure world, but its unilateral, arbitrary nature promotes exactly the opposite.

What the rule of law has to offer, if abided by and promoted, is stability and some security. It will never be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better that the rule of force.

I hope to have better comments installed in time for (yet again) a blog next week on reconstruction and humanitarian issues in Iraq.

The inability to idiot-proof your life

Irritating as other people are occasionally, nothing beats my own incompetence for driving me crazy.

One thing I hate is having to shake out my laundry because I forgot to empty my pockets of paper, tissues or small bits of cardboard before putting the load on.

I hate that moment a lot more when I realise that the cardboard mess was my two-day-old weekly rail pass ...

What's the dumbest thing you've put through a wash cycle?

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Kick of your Thursday with some freshly squeezed pulp noir

The week's new Naylor is up.

"We stayed that way a moment, as frozen as awkward teenagers."

A thank you to missjenjen, your comments from last week have now been incorporated. (Marissa and Jason, hope to work on some of your suggested revisions for installment 6 today or tomorrow.)

Regular blogging later, I'm off to squeeze oranges in the office kitchenette ...

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Hot air balloons!

Yesterday was a good day, other than some truly disastrous commuting. Not that that has ever happened to me before on a Tuesday.

This morning was the opposite, I woke late in a panic – and managed to bolt through my morning routine in record time. Fortunately, I’d made lunch the night before and only needed to be wearing casual clothes. Further, I’d left my oranges for fresh squeezed juice at the office (I went to the Victoria Markets yesterday at lunch). So I threw my stainless-steel hand juicer in my bag and ran for the door.

I was aiming for the 8.40 am train, and I made the 8.27 am – which from a late start made me feel terribly efficient.

I should wake up late more often. Yesterday I was up an hour earlier, but managed to take longer to get to my office only ten minutes earlier. Disaster Tuesday.

However, the subject of real excitement for an ex-Canberran was that it was a grey, not entirely cold morning, with louring periwinkle-dark clouds, and low in the cloudy sky there were -

hot air balloons!

Just bobbing around in the sky like colourful, upside-down pears. Admittedly, the ones I saw were kinda mist-shrouded and a dullish green. Still, I had two good views on the drive to the station, including a good glance at one that seemed to be landing nearby. (Landing a hot air balloon must be a damn tricky business … “Hmm, just aiming for that school oval over there, don’t worry this’ll be fine!”)

Apparently some basic rule of physics about hot air rising has the consequence that the best time to go ballooning is a winter morning, when it’s really cold. Between dawn and 9ish many winter mornings in the ‘Berra the sky seems thick with colourful balloons – and it’s an insanely cheerful thing to drive beneath on your way to work.

While sharing a flat with Marissa I used to drive to uni (or my part-time librarianship job) over the cotter dam and around the lake foreshore into the university precinct. It’s a pleasant, calm, windy sort of a road that was, until the recent fires, flanked with plantation pines. One winter morning, there was the most gorgeous collection of balloons hanging, it seemed, just above the road. Really perked me up, and this morning was an echo of that.

Apparently, though, balloon rides are really expensive.

So, who’s done it? Was it worth the moolah? Who just wants to try it anyway? I used to be too scared of heights, but I think I’d get a kick out of it these days.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Open in case of emergency

Every now and then it happens. It happened last Monday, it happened yesterday. I seem especially vulnerable at the start of the week. I arrive at work, get to my desk and realisation strikes.

Oh no, I can’t have … I have …

Then it’s just a matter of desperate fumbling and trusting to my contingency planning.

I’ll back up.

Most law firms now have “casual Friday”, which means women can wear almost whatever the heck they want (provided they paid too much for it) and men can wear tan slacks, a blue collared shirt and polished shoes (regardless of how little they paid for it).

My present workplace has a simpler policy: if you’re not in Court, there’s no need to wear a suit.

Well, not so much a policy. More a collective, unstated act of civil disobedience that has become a convention.

This is great. Except sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re going to be in court.


Late week before last a five day trial settled at the eleventh hour: no need to sit in court listening to barristers for a full working week. (The novelty of this can wear off quickly. A day in court as a solicitor is the equivalent of having a 2.5 hour meeting before and after lunch, where all you get to do is listen, frantically take notes and pass documents to and fro occasionally. Also "trial", in my experience, seldom means exciting criminal work or people yelling: "You can't handle the truth!")

So I rock up to work last Monday casually dressed, having forgotten - in my relief at getting out of a five day hearing - a ten minute directions hearing scheduled for 10.15 am.

Similar deal yesterday.

What does a young lawyer do in such a situation, panicky, casually dressed and due in court? He reaches for his Emergency Suit.


My oldest suit lives in a cupboard near my desk along with three ties. Even on casual days I always wear a shirt with collar and business shoes. This has saved my bacon more often than I’d like to admit.

It’s changing in the men’s room that strips an otherwise brilliant back-up plan of some of its flair and dignity …

Emergency Pants, anyone? You never know when Evil may strike.

PS Thanks Marcus - I feel better informed about our team now.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Morning, Melbourne

Doug: Well, hello to another working week. Good morning, Melbourne.

Melbourne: Good morning, Doug.

Um, right, I wasn’t entirely expecting you to answer back.

Well, anyway, what have you got planned for the day?

Thought I’d go with a crisp, cold autumnal morning and then crank it right up to a late-summer 24 degrees. I flirted with the idea of a re-run of Wednesday’s dust storm, or Saturday’s unpredictable rainy squalls, but I hate repeating myself.

The dust storm was a nice touch. Reminded me of my Broken Hill childhood. Still, I like a city with a decent winter.

I noticed. You do realise it’s still not quite cold enough to be going to work in a vest and overcoat? Not everyone is as enamoured of your Giles first-season Buffy fashion statements as you, you know.

Feeling good about Monday, though?

Little tired. Big weekend. In the words of Homer J Simpson: “stupid liver”.

I’ve also missed three yoga sessions in the last eight days. Wednesday night is going to hurt.

Well you did promise yourself that moving down here was a lifestyle choice.

Which has paid off handsomely. As I was saying to people, even months ago, I’ve never been happier with a change I’ve made. I like my job, my boss, my work colleagues, my landlord the gentleman academic and the pittance he charges me in rent, the friends I knew from other cities who I’ve managed to set up the Book Club of Intestinal Fortitude with.

Things were pretty much rocking along before I got into blogging.

And blogging’s been working for you?

Has it ever! Blogging has been fantastic to me. The principal pay-off is the discipline of writing daily and the self-esteem boost that comes with being read daily. Gaining enough technical competence to install a comments system and site meter, as well as tidy up my formatting a smidgin has been good too.

Launching “Naylor’s Canberra” as a blog too was a good idea. I’ll actually have to finish the project now or fail in a terribly public forum – and people are beginning to feel free to leave constructive criticism.

And socially?

I really didn’t expect the additions blogging has made to my social life. It was a big weekend for blogging. Friday night I was treated to pasta alla pixelkitty when I went to dinner at Natalie and Mark’s place with missjenjen – though I was, cumulatively, the worst scoring scrabble player present on missjenjen’s new scrabble deluxe board.

You do feel old, though, when at the working week’s end three games of scrabble and some wine is enough to wipe you out completely. Still had a really great night, it must’ve been the company as it sure as hell wasn’t the quality of my game.

(How does Mark always get out first, darn him?)

Saturday kicked off with providing wheels for a shopping posse: Jen, Ange and Ms Erin were off to hunt in A Secret Factory Outlet in Abbortsford. I dropped them in some non-descript location and went off to brunch and burn CDs with Beth and her fab (“I call it a ‘laser’ …”) flatmate. Not before Erin leant me a sampler CD of the magnificent Brad Mehldau, though – a modern US jazz pianist of the first rank I’d never heard of before. The seven minute non-album track, a piano only interpretation of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”, is magnificent. (I like Erin’s style.)

Saturday night, though, was the blog-based killer. The culmination of JenFest 2003: missjenjen’s birthday drinks at the Black Pearl on Brunswick Street. (Also Marcus’ birthday drinks of course, but it was a Designated JenFest! Event.) Great 70s burnt-orange and brown, mood-lit, loungey atmosphere – Deane Martin coulda swanned in sporting a tux at any moment.

And the cocktails?

You know my weaknesses, you hussy, and you’ve designed this town as one big Doug-trap. Yes, there were great $12 cocktails. Yes, I put my card behind the bar. Yes, I had a least four cocktails after a gin and tonic kick-start.

Oh dear. But the company was good?

Of course it was! I walked Jen over, birthday-boy Marcus arrived next and Beth and Andrew of Monkey Puzzle weren’t far behind. The Pixelkittys were there, and Erin and her husband Simon – who is just as charming as Erin, which is altogether more charm than one couple should be allocated. Oh, there was Hot Soup Girl and Gulfstream as well – lots of cool people including several I didn’t really speak to, and whose URLs I didn’t collect, dammit. And the “civilians” were also great value: yes, I still talk to people who don’t blog. How the evening ended anyway other than face down on paving stones in my dinner jacket and Chinese-print black waistcoat is beyond me.

So you were really hung over Sunday, right?

No, my policy of sticking to clear spirits pays dividends.

Very tired, though.

Very tired.

Thanks for that cool afternoon and not too much harsh sunlight though, nice touch.

Nice quiet, non-blogging start to your week, then? Well deserved liver-cleansing night in?

Actually, I’m going for a beer with Marcus. I need someone to initiate me into the ways of the Bulldogs, my newly and accidentally adopted local team. Beth may join us, too.

Wait ... 'accidentally adopted'?

Um, I said I’d supported the Bulldogs in primary school. I actually meant Canterbury. Wrong football code, apparently. But now I’ve declared a team, I’m stuck. Nothing worse than a Melbournite who changes teams.

Well, at least you’ve learned something about my mysteries …

I’m working on it. Now I just need to see more live music.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Joe Millionaire and the triumph of the West

Okay, I did not attend yesterday’s peace rally, unlike thousands of others, though I did attend the first rally.

I have to admit, like many bloggers, I just have war fatigue at the moment.

So I skipped the march and went to watch “Joe Millionaire” at missjenjen’s – I laughed, I howled, I hooted and swore, I recalled all the joys of exuberantly bad television. (And he clearly should have picked Mojo, but let’s leave that to one side.) I hold to my previous opinion that this kind of programming heralds the apocalypse, but its utterly manipulative use of everyone involved in the final episode was just too tawdry not to get aboard with. (Don’t tell me those “spontaneous” speeches weren’t heavily coached and scripted – the bad editing so gave away that there were takes and touch-ups.)

And of course, that saccharine moment – making an ordinary man who has just confessed to lying an on-the-spot minimum-entry-level millionaire. Consumer culture comes up with the goods once more.

Am I indulging in fashionable western self-hatred? Possibly. Despite the wonderful distractions of “Joe Millionaire”, it’s hard to avoid the war at present. So, here are my thoughts for the moment on the war.

The legality or otherwise of this war is now a moot point. Though I think Hillary Charlesworth’s analysis (and if there were rock-idol pin-ups in public international law, she’d be mine) of why the war is illegal trumps the “yes” case. In short, there is no realistic case for piggy-backing this war onto the 12-year old authorisation for the use of force in Resolution 678, which was about Iraq leaving Kuwait. Even most “yes” lawyers are forced to concede justifying the present war involves radical re-interpretation of the notion of “self-defence” under the UN Charter. Iraq is at the far spectrum of any immediate threat to anyone. Containment has already been successful.

Also, the humanitarian intervention justification here is weak. Hussein is undoubtedly a nasty, cruel and vicious ruler. None will mourn his passing, least of all his own people. However, this is not the NATO intervention in the Balkans– the best recent “model” for humanitarian intervention without UN Security Council authorisation: clear, present, wide scale and systematic human rights violations and population displacement as the trigger; and a response that had international legitimacy, if not formal legality, because it was backed by a broad coalition of nations. The coalition of the willing is the US, Britain and (a token contingent from) Australia – and 42 other nations providing moral support, 15 of which will not be named publicly.

The notion that this is anything but an exercise in Anglo-American foreign policy by other means is wearing increasingly thin.

Frighteningly, some conservative commentators are now dropping any pretence that this is not the case.

The call to Empire in the Spectator is an example of what scares me:

“Slowly, obscurely, enunciated with difficulty in thick Texan accents, a new doctrine of international order is emerging, of which the imminent war is a crucial outing. It is the doctrine of humanitarian intervention — or, to give it its proper name, neo-colonialism. This doctrine is driven by the firm belief — uncluttered by relativist self-loathing — in the universal principles of liberty and justice. It gives expression to our sense that everyone, not just the West, has a right to live in a decent country — and that the West has a duty to help them do so.”

Yes, other nations deserve democracy. But believing an Empire can just graft it on without any fashionably “relativistic” deference to local culture? Pakistan, anyone?

Anyway, the debate for international law is moving on. The next testing ground is whether Iraq is a precedent. That will depend not on new legal criteria justifying a new doctrine of pre-emptive and tepidly humanitarian military intervention - but the results in a reconstructed Iraq.

Comparisons with reconstruction in Japan or West Germany are stunningly naive. Japan and Germany were unitary states, the product of the age of nationalism. Nationalism in Iraq is a myth. Like so much of the Middle East it is a country defined only by lines in a map left by the imperial powers of another century. Cultural, religious or ethnic unity is an illusion. The Kurds have solidarity with each other, across borders, not with the illusion of a nation-state. Much the same could be said for other local ethnic and religious groups.

Further, will “the West” have the stomach to stay in for long years of reconstruction once its officials start to be assassinated by various local factions (including, potentially, Islamic extremists who do not believe in secular nations but only the world-wide rule of theocracy)? Or will we retreat to leave the ungrateful natives to their savagery, having spurned the gifts of our civilisation?

I’ve beaten this drum before. I’ll be quiet now, I promise.

Hallelujah! Mah sight has bin reee-staw’d!

After two months of trudging about looking for glasses frames to replace the glasses I lost on New Year’s Eve, I have finally found a pair that don’t make my face look unnecessarily skinny, square or like a blue-rinse matron off to play Canasta (cue the “Seinfeld” episode). My old frames were kinda oval and a light metallic red, so I’ve decided on a daring change.

My new frames are slightly square – but kinda oval and a light metallic red.

And they come with clip-on polarized lenses.

Alright, so I find something I like and stick to it. Quit shouting.

A jovial optometrist has declared me no blinder than I was 2.5 years ago. (I had the optometrists at the ANU fax through my last prescription this morning.) However, I only just – with squinting – meet local driver’s license requirements for a license without glasses. But I still only really need glasses for movies and night driving – which is safe enough without them, in terms of avoiding other people and cars, and seeing traffic lights and road signs, but navigation where I have to read street signs was getting almost impossible.

Mainly, I was getting sick of avoiding movies because I’d hafta sit right up front.

Upside: I made use of my last set of long-distance glasses responsibly and did not encourage any more “learned” deterioration. Downside: if I’d not lost my old glasses, I could still be wearing them for a perfect correction.

May I just say “yay” for Australian Medicare and my private health insurance. Bulk-billed optometrist’s check up cost me nothing; and the generous Teacher’s Health Fund gave me $160 back towards my lenses and frames. (I strongly recommend having a teacher as a parent and buying your own plan when they kick you off the family plan at 25. It took me two years to have the money to do it, but I’m glad I did. Mostly for peace of mind, rather than the few claims I've so far made.) I’m still out of pocket for most of the cost of the frames, though, so losing the glasses remains dumb – though a marker of a damn good night out.

Still, with a swipey reader-thing my health insurance claim was made instantly (I like technology!) – and my new glasses will be ready by tomorrow. I could have collected them this afternoon, but tomorrow lunch will do nicely.

The whole process was much simpler than I expected, and one of my life admin issues has now been conquered. Hurrah, I say.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Another Thursday, another thousand words

The week's new Elliot Naylor is now up. Enjoy.

“Without Eva, there was just the tape deck for company. I slipped the Lester Young Trio on, Nat Cole’s piano trickling in ahead of Young’s mellow, drawling sax, Buddy Rich just brushing the drums in the back, and after that – even with the windscreen fogging up, and my wiper blades flapping like old shoe-soles – I just enjoyed the drive.”

I may write a more usual blog later in the day, it was the blogger meet-up last night, after all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Arundhati Roy, “The God of Small Things”

This is a simply extraordinary book. I have seldom had such an intensely pleasurable reading experience. I’d agree with reviewers who say that to summarise or comment on the plot is simply to do violence to the work.

Alright, the simple obvious stuff for those who don’t know. This is the story of a family, from the outset evidently afflicted by tragedy. The book slowly spirals between present and past, echoes of the ramifications and later meaning of events colouring things as they unfold. It is told in the way memory or oral history works, past and present are not really separate, they interweave and hold common meanings in a dance around the meaning already assigned events by the storyteller – circling about an important, pivotal truth.

Thematically, the book is brilliantly wide-ranging, yet entirely understated. In the relatively compressed cast of an upper-middle class family of Anglophile Indians and a few members of their township, there is quite enough material to explore ideas of the divisions within people and their cultures. India’s tense, in some ways perhaps self-annihilating, relationship with English culture and the colonial legacy. The subversion of tradition by tourism. The idea of History. Class and caste and race, with their attendant economic and cultural conflict. The significance in a poly-lingual society of when one uses what language to whom for what purpose. How as adults, we are shaped by who we were as children.

The engine of the book, however, is the idea of “the laws that lay down who should be loved, and how” and how much. Transgressions cause catastrophes. Most significantly, the malevolent spite that causes so much of the suffering in the book, stems from a woman who never managed to forgive and release an unrequited love – and by clinging to it, made it a source of evil in her life and the lives of others.

It’s greatest triumph, for me, however, is its prose. Every single page sings with an extraordinary effusion of detail. Roy’s ability, in particular, to capture the language and perspective of children is extraordinary: the friendly local Bar Nowl, the horrifying Afternoon Gnap, the terrors of punishment delayed until Lay Ter. Every smallest detail is described with such love for the characters and the world they move in:

“Pressed against the coldness of a cheek, wet with shattered rain.”

As someone said of Chandler: “a kind of lightning strikes on every page.” Her tropes and repeated phrases are not an affectation, they are a private language drawing the reader in.

I know people who have cried over the ending, it doesn’t surprise me in the least. Such a mixture of pain and beauty is compelling.

Monday, March 17, 2003

The poetry of commuting

I know some people really loathe public transport. There are times when I feel, awkward and wrong-shaped and dangerously visible: usually when I step into a late-night or weekend train carriage full of braying rapper-wear clad adolescents sprawling everywhere – or drunk guys, the unshaven, loud type. Outcrops of masculinity I just don’t fit in around. People being loud on public transport really rattles me for some reason.

The morning suited tide of commuters, though, that I really enjoy. Being a morning person, I have an unfair edge. Everyone else seems more soft-focussed and vulnerable, I’m more often than not sharp and switched-on. And while most of the people on my morning train will have office or city jobs, there’s still a surprising diversity.

I’m learning to recognise a few characters. The little blonde girl with amazing Rastafarian dreadlocks and baggy shorts on her way to school. The evening train gentle giant, the big guy who’s rather simple and seems to ride trains between the city and Clifton Hill, looking at people or striking up half-conversations.

And once, just once, on a morning train when I was running very late, I found myself sitting to a poet whose stuff I rather like. I saw him at the Balmain Writer’s Festival – in fact, I’ve only ever heard him read. Fabulous, husky Canadian voice. His readings are all a bit sex and death (and tend to equate evil with sexual impotence), but have a visceral power. Ian McBryde. Didn’t have the courage to speak to him. He looked rather different out of the reading context, not in his arty black and with the addition of scuffed shoes and glasses. He was thumbing a paperback that looked to have something to do with his current interest in the Second World War. I suppose a poet normally moves about with an expectation of anonymity, and I didn’t want to pierce that. And what would I have said?

I also hand out, mentally, various awards during the morning commute. Best Male Business Shirt. Most Interesting Female Face. Most Touching Expression. Most Unnecessary Fashion Statement. Whatever I can make up.

This morning’s Most Touching Expression went to a sad round face, belonging to a sad round girl. She looked as though her job was being the mournful clown in the Commedia dell’Arte. Quite wrenching. My heart always goes out to people who look just a little left-out, as though someone has kept them out of the schoolyard games with the cool kids half their life. It’s patronising I know, but there it is.

Most Interesting Female Face of this morning’s train went to a woman who also scored Most Unnecessarily Dramatic Pose (slouched across a bench to lean on taking up over two seats, then looking surly when someone asked her to move up). She had the broadest, squarest cheeks I’ve seen, coupled with a long, strong jaw-line. Still a feminine jaw, but powerful-looking. Add her slight pallor, jet-black hair and pale green eyes she had a – I don’t know – slightly predatory look. Rather than stare at her like she was a vampire in daylight I went back to my book.

So this is how I amuse myself when I’m tired, get to the train late and feel less like reading on the way to work.

Hope to review “God of Small Things” tomorrow.

Oh and a big happy birthday to Marcus and the delightful Missjenjen!

I choose to cackle maniacally now ...

What Type of Villain are You? /

The link I stole from rae who found it through someone else ...

What do you mean? Of course I'm a mad-planning evil genius, or at least a damn fine second-in-command.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

“Federation Squad”

So Friday night I got to play ticket collector at the indie piece of satirical theatre, “Federation Squad”. (Or as one friend put it to me, “You were a door bitch?”)

The show picks up the controversy surrounding Melbourne’s new arts precinct and tells a (fictitious, scurrilous) story of the crack team of self-obsessed artistic egotists commissioned to design it and stage an opening event. There’s a right-wing arts bureaucrat, an androgynous alcoholic architect, a congenitally cheerful journalist, a German video artist (who also plays leaf-blower in kraut-pop band), a dancer – sorry, “interpretative movement artist” – who can only respond creatively to the early works of Madison Avenue, and a costume designer straight from Sylvania Waters.

Though I missed the first 15 minutes, and it took me a little while to warm to it, I really had fun. The humour is unapologetically leftie, sick and delightfully tasteless. (I had, in fact, expected the September 11 material to come across as much more questionable than it did. In fact, it was pretty funny and managed to acknowledge it’s own lack of taste. It was more the “genital abnormality” riff towards the end I had trouble –um – responding to?) I suppose poking fun at arts bureaucracy, the occasional tokenism of Australia’s multicultural society and deliberately obscure performance and new-media artists is not that hard. There were some uneven moments to the production, but I certainly left the performance feeling I’d had a good time.

The show had two principal problems. The first was a lack of audience. Friday was apparently the worst night of the show’s first week – a terribly, terribly small crowd, and part of the fun of live comedy is joining in that sort of audience pack-mentality that emerges where laughter sets off laughter. The laughs are a little more timid when you have a sprinkling of people through a number of empty seats. I think that the limited audience probably didn’t help the cast either – the rhythm of comedy doesn’t work so well if there isn’t a certain amount of energy coming from the audience, which is hard to draw from a small house.

The second is that Horti Hall is not a great venue for this kind of show. It’s a large, echoing space which isn’t easy for spoken word stuff: anyone delivering their own lines too fast tends to come across as a little muddy, competing with their own faint echoes.

(Also, while “Federation Squad” has a (light, comic) storyline it feels a lot more like a review, and I wasn’t entirely convinced the final sequence of revelations and reflections really came off – though rounding off a script this off-the-wall was clearly going to be a challenge.)

These are all minor reservations. As I said, I had a fun night.

My favourite moment was the interpretative movement artist’s (re)presentation of a death by animal mauling. I laughed myself silly. The video presentations, including the media-artists “recreation” of the Federation Square opening event were also really rather funny.

This is a good indie comedy and well worth supporting. With a good-sized audience the show could go off. When attending, though, be prepared to be very silly and get tasteless.

Tickets are available at the door, and some are available through half-tix.

Federation Squad: the shady cultural operatives brought together to subtly mould your ideas about Twin Shards, Fallen Arches and the National Interest.”

Featuring: Robin Garden, Michael Parry, Monique Schaffer, Emma Richards, Jane Thomson, Elise Hearst and Anita Dow.

Material Contributed by: Richard Higgins and Hilary Harper Produced by: Nichole Weinrich

Season Wed-Sat, 13-28 March , 8pm.
Horti Hall, Victoria Parade, Melbourne
(across from Trades Hall, Carlton).
Parking Available in Mackenzie Street. Latecomers welcome.

Tickets: $18/$14.
Bookings on 9387 2690.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Six degrees of workplace humiliation

We’ve all had them, or seen them. Here are my top six ways (from personal experience or geninune urban legend) to destroy all workplace credibility:

1. Non-work related printer use. I was once, in my days as a law-firm assistant librarian, caught out printing a theme-party invite with a hip-hop flayvah and as I (I thought discreetly) collected it from the printer I had two secretaries smile at me and say “word up?”

2. Inappropriate snail-mail sent to a work address. At my big Sydney firm, one of the partners once had someone sign them up to a porn catalogue snail-mail mailing list. You know, as a prank. Or because they thought they'd like it. I dunno. Anyway, the discreet brown envelope arrived on his desk with a long slit in the paper and a cheery stamp from the mailroom reading “Opened in error”. Mmmm ... credibility in the mailroom, with the mail delivery boy, with your secretary ... strangest part of all, he told this story freely to the junior solicitors.

3. Christmas party madness. After a few drinks I’ll sometimes poke my tongue out and stick my face right in a camera. Blurry, crazy me. Didn’t realise it was the “official” camera. All photos posted to the office intranet. Ouch. (Doesn’t compare though to the urban legend of a Sydney firm Christmas party where a summer clerk snuck a boy backstage so she could kiss him in *ahem* a special way, until that is the curtain went up on what proved a rather special opening to the evening’s entertainment.)

4. E-mail. A law grad at my old firm had a bottle of wine plundered from the fridge. She sent a desperately complaining e-mail around, but instead of “all Sydney” she selected “all Firm” and got answers pleading ignorance of stealing her wine from Sydney ... and Canberra, Brisbane, Perth, Melbourne, London and Hong Kong. Lawyers can be cruel people - and way to look good in front of the partners (on a truly international scale).

5. The phone. Being caught in the middle of long, involved family or personal calls by a boss in a hurry …

6. Workplace relationships. Again, at my old firm, the year of summer clerks before mine had one particular summer-clerk romance. They decided to get hot and heavy on a pinball machine a partner had in his office. Shame he came back to collect some papers late that evening …

Stories, anyone?

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Weirder and weirder ...

I've mentioned below a lawyer arrested in the US for wearing a "give peace a chance" t-shirt. As only the web could, his written indictment is available here.

It's a scary, scary world. That said, a friend in Washington DC reports that any rumoured death of free speech has been greatly exagerrated and anti-War protest is alive and well in the nation's captial. (Apparently people there are wearing pink as an anti-war pride colour?)

Meanwhile, in our nation's capital, people are also getting into t-shirt trouble, it seems with a ban on wearing political slogans into Parliament House. I don't know where to begin on this one ...

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

War and the cultural cringe
(or, is President Bartlet losing his Sheen?)

Okay, so I may feel belittled and marginalised by the Australian in my views on Iraq. But at least no-one’s arrested me for the peaceful expression of an anti-war view – by wearing a t-shirt in a mall.

Nor has anyone suggested that expressing my views as a private citizen are irresponsible and unpatriotic, though I’m not a celebrity protester – which might be why.

(And if US celebrities have vast personal power and are capable of abusing it by commenting on the war – why are they having so much trouble placing their ads on commercial networks?)

And when it comes to plain weird cultural gestures, banning that universal high point of “French” cusine, French fries is clearly the way to go – and certainly not as silly or petty as the “hamburgering” of French cars that went on in Australia during French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

As one Congressman has said over the introduction of “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom toast” to the Capitol’s cafeteria:

"Making Congress look even sillier than it sometimes looks would not be high on my priority list."

But he’s just some wimpy New England democrat like President Bartlet.

(See Beth over at fridaysixpm on the nature of language in this, and Neil Gaiman on why the English have dibs on being mindlessly snooty to the French.)

No, I am not peddling a line that the American people are mindless super-patriots. I think I have consistently tried to keep separate my views on Bush and my views on the American people. And, as I’ve noted, Australians behaved pretty stupidly during French nuclear testing. In fact, loss of trade cost me my job as a “French” waiter during first-year uni. People are just jumping aboard the zeitgeist in insecure times. (And the imperial, triumphalist tone of Australia's neo-conservatives and its breathtaking ability to ignore or marginalise dissent hardly makes Australia a model free-thinking society at present.)

But let's face it, war is always a great time for satirists, so full of inanity and contradiction.

So, get a serving of blog-dissent from the USA here. Strange how anti-war commentators are funnier …

There's those who understand progress is an illusion, Towlie; and those who resist by expressing thier views firmly, but fairly.

And of course, there’s always The Onion.
Thursday is Naylor Day

There was an uneasy taste in my mouth, not the dregs of my third coffee, but the growing tang of hypocrisy: coming over to Daphne all kind family concern, when the impetus was all David’s money. Either way, I now had obligations to both of Marina’s parents.

Newly posted Naylor's Canberra here. Thanks again to readers and commenters.

Regular blogging to follow shortly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Copycat reviewing: “Chicago”

Missjenjen’s done it.

Erin, I hear tell, in Paris’s done it.

Let’s do it - let’s review Chicago.

Though really, lame Cole Porter gags aside, what could I have to add? (Other than that, I too, had the benefit of seeing it with excellent company and had an absolute ball. As Jonathon Franzen put it, there are few ego-pleasures that beat conversation with someone who agrees with you. Next is seeing a comedy with someone with a synchronised sense of humour. When you’re the only people in the cinema audibly groaning through the trailer for “What a Girl Wants” and then the only ones giggling long after the pathetic humour of trailer for the new Steve Martin vehicle, you know the feature will be a hoot.) I suppose this site has an established rapport with musical comedy, so I should just get on with it.

Chicago. It’s glitzy, it’s glamorous, it’s great - I thoroughly endorse as a plan seeing it under Gold Class conditions or in any other manner which can involve wine and cheese. Look for it in next year’s open-air cinema program. It is so fluffy and over-the-top in its cynicism, and in both it’s seediness and glamour that one could easily tear one’s eyes away to cut cheese or refill a wine glass without losing anything much.

Zeta-Jones is rather impressive, and the only one who can really really dance. Richard Gere is charmingly seedy as the utterly mercenary criminal lawyer. Queen Latifa is just damn saucy and all woman. And Renee Zelwegger - well, yes, she could stand to gain a little weight: she kinda falls into the Kylie Minogue mould here. She knows all her shape is in her cheeks (yes, all four) and they are what she keeps pointed at the camera. Competent, wickedly pouting fun, but overshone by Zeta-Jones’ supporting role.

And, I have to say, I liked it’s cynicism. Yes, viewed cold, the idea of murderesses escaping the gallows and becoming celebrities merely because they could find an expensive lawyer’s fee is odious. But who cares? The joy of satire is seeing exaggeratedly a recognisable version of the way things are. The cattiness, the lack of honour among thieves, the way the laws of fame and publicity are seen to be just as vital (and as fickle) in the show-business of a murder trial as in a life on the stage. As one site says of the play’s origins, it is:

“Based on Maurine Watkin's newspaper reports of two actual Chicago women, Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner, who murdered their lovers and parlayed their crimes into fame and stardom, Chicago suggests, in its own hilariously cynical way, that a world of crooked lawyers, famous murderers, and a public who loves violence is just as frightening as the crimes themselves, and that prohibition had caused the public to lose all respect for the law to the point that the "Merry Murderesses" were only slightly outside the mainstream.”

And I did like the idea of the musical numbers being supra-real, a commentary on real events, the more glamorous, meaningful world that exists in the characters’ imaginings. Coz really, don’t we all live a little like that on a good day?
And in other news - rejection sucks: a further nail in the coffin of foreign study hopes …

Another day another scholarship foundation’s rejection letter. Dammit, this was the only Australian-administered program that saw fit to interview me.

Realistically, not the end of the show yet. There’s still an application before an outfit in Edinburgh - in fact, the guys who turned me down recommended specifically that I also apply to Edinburgh, so that may be a good sign. Of sorts.

Also, there’s the direct funding application to put in to my first-choice uni. Still, I may not hear back from any UK based funding body until, apparently, September - and that would be for a 7 October start.

Which means: (a) I have to put my back into this last burst of applications NOW; and then, (b) get on with preparing my life in Australia on the assumption I will be here after the end of my present contract on October 15; but (c) come up with an accommodation option for the post July my-landlord-is-selling-my-dream-rental-from-under-me period sufficiently flexible that I can just walk out on it if I say, find myself moving to England on two week’s notice.


All for the simple life my arse.

At least this rejection wasn’t that painful. I had the full set of palpitations the last time this scholarship body sent me a letter. (They only send letters to reject you …) In fact, the letter I melted down while opening was only a letter apologising for the delay in the process (glitches with getting their budget approved) and recommending I also apply to their sister-organisation in Edinburgh. Made opening a real rejection a complete anti-climax.

Still, perhaps not as bad as Melbourne-Erin’s being rejected for something for which you had not applied …

Monday, March 10, 2003

No, I am not dead - but I am working on it

Okay, so I didn’t post yesterday. My first missed weekday. In my defence it was a public holiday in Victoria - so I wasn’t at work and my local library and internet café were closed. (I like a public holiday atmosphere - all the shops are closed, all the cafes are full. It seems even more relaxed than late Sunday afternoon.)

Anyway, I’m busy wondering who died and left me their social life. Tonight will be my first night with nothing social/after work/out of the house in literally two weeks. I have been out every night for the last thirteen running if you count yoga and the “Joe Millionaire“ Canberra-lawyer-diaspora dinner held by my hosts in Sydney. Earliest time I arrived home was 8.30 pm, latest was 1.45 am.

This is getting to be more than I can handle.

So, I should finish of the tale of my time in Sydney. Friday night Mad Rob and I walked the entire length of the Sydney CBD twice in search of a mythical discount outlet with $2 polo tops for golf. This from a man with expensive taste in suits and business shirts ...

Still, he’s Mad Rob for a reason. (No offence, buddy.) My revenge was to drag him to a dinner of cheap burgers before we caught up the corporate hos at a new suit bar upstairs at the Chifley Plaza food court. The “hostesses“ were - um - buxom, really, really noticeably so. I mean, alarmingly.

But that’s Sydney for you: "in your face" overt.

Anyway, I wound up at Martin Place bar, again, but avoided cocktails for gin and tonic. The rest of the posse were aiming to get ruined, which they apparently did in grand style. Rob and I had a few quiet drinks and snuck off to binge on easter chocolate and Invader Zim episodes at the Coogee flat.

Falling asleep at midnight was a fantastic move. The next morning was a textbook Coogee summer day and we got to the beach relatively early. It was gloriously warm, the water was lovely, Coogee’s baby-waves were at their body-surfable best and there weren’t even any visible flabby, pallid, hung-over backpackers. Everyone was all beach-pretty and summer-perfect.

There were a few dark clouds in the sky, but none as passed the sun. A few waves were, by Coogee’s standards, towering dumpers wanting nothing more than to give the unwary a decent sand-scouring along the bottom - and there was one kinda disturbing homeless guy who wandered into the surf fully clad.

However, for the young, the employed, and those kicking off a long weekend - it simply couldn’t have been better. I had a mediocre café brunch and went back to the flat to nap while Rob went to a golf lesson, awaking in plenty of time to get myself to the airport.

I opted to travel in Coogee-perfect thick green silk, short-sleeved shirt, my tan cargo shorts and sandals. On arrival in Melbourne there was squalling wind and flailing rain lashing the airport terminal.

Welcome home big fella, I thought, rain lashing my ankles.

Saturday night I got even more Sydney action, catching up with Beth of fridaysixpm, her fabulous flatmate, and Beth’s houseguests - a pair of old, mutual ANU friends now resident in Sydney and working as - wait for it - lawyers. I’d seen one of them, in fact, regularly through the week as she works in the Sydney office. (They were up for the Grand Prix, which was made pretty eventful by the wet conditions.) We all went for cocktails and Mexican on Chapel Street.

The rest of the weekend passed in fine form, and now I’m looking forward to work as a break from socialising.

Though it seems Friday night I’m doing front of house for a small-budget political satire show. I get a free show, but have to miss the first 20 minutes to let latecomers in …

Visit Naylor's Canberra

“Daphne,” I asked quietly, “was there something wrong between David and Marina? Did they fight before she left?”

She exhaled and gave me a simple, unguarded look. We were back on old terms, when she had thought of me, with some fond approval, as a prospective son-in-law.

Fresh Naylor here.

Regular blogging to follow shortly.

Thursday, March 6, 2003

He is the very model of a modern metrosexual

I was watching “Joe Millionaire” last night with four members of the Canberra diaspora in Sydney.

The end of civilisation is clearly at hand.

Anyway, they were down to three women and white-trash gum-chewing girl got the boot. (Yawn.)

The most bizarre part is that this guy can pass as a millionaire at all. Cretinous just about begins to cover the territory.

“Did you get that dr - breast in Paris?” he asks one date, staring down her tube top.

Another moment, a date comments: “You seem a really regular guy. Like you don’t have a lot on your mind.”

Friend on the couch: “Or a lot in his mind.”

“What do you look for in a woman?” white-trash asks.

“Legs,” he replies. “That’s who I am.”

Actually, who he is - is an underwear model. Well, his hands and feet are certainly huge.

It all put me in mind of Odalisk’s recent entry on the mixed messages of pop culture about materialism/capitalism: yeah, sure it’s bad – but don’t worry, everyone can aspire to be materially successful. Our culture makes some token condemnation of materialism’s evils, while remaining utterly in the thrall of its values.

So in this show, knowing the cruel comeuppance that this guy hasn’t a cent, we get to smugly deride these women for being mercenary and him for being a liar – yet the producers will engineer a happy ending by giving him a million dollars and creating (a much smaller scale) millionaire. Sure, this is no worse a final plot back-flip than the average Gilbert and Sullivan musical – but meanwhile the show sails on with the sexual politics of the middle ages: men need to be well-endowed providers with the profile of a Disney hero, and women should make no threatening intellectual conversation and just flirt and put out to get their man.

But wait - some media icons are challenging the gender mould, apparently. Ian Thorpe “loves Armani, is seen just as often near a catwalk as competing in sport, confesses an adulation for Kylie Minogue, even designs his own jewellery. But he's not gay” proclaims the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Men - of all sexualities - are taking a greater interest in their appearance. They go to hairdressers rather than barbers, avoid using soap because it's too harsh on their skin, visit the gym instead of playing sport and even have difficulty deciding what to wear. They're spending their time differently - not only occupying more of it in front of the mirror but also shopping at boutique stores, drinking at bars rather than pubs, enjoying a dance at a nightclub and going to beauty salons. Cosmetics brands such as Ella Bache say men make up as much as 40 per cent of their salon customers in some areas.”

And the Brit Tabloid term for these modern men? “Metrosexuals”.

I’m not gay, I just shop that way.

Again, what frightens me about this article is it is not about social choices or gender structures – it is about consumerism. Everyone interviewed is a retail-chain purchaser or an advertising guru. We are not the sum of our choices, but the sum of our purchases. Modern sexual equality means making men beauty-obsessed consumers and sexual objects also. Hurrah. (Still it is only the Sydney Morning Herald, analysis or insightful social journalism would be a little much to ask.)

“Joe Millionaire” is also a constructed product, a consumer good, not just to those of us watching – but the women throwing themselves at him. He is a brand name, a status-good, a big wodge of purchasing power. In a grim kind of final equality, we are all consumers now. But, of course, some consumers are more equal than others …

Anyway, you’ll have to excuse me now. There are rumours of 60% off brand name business shirts at a store in Martin Place.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Confessions of a former skanky corporate ho

Being back in Sydney has been interesting. Much less of the nostalgia-mixed-with-fear semi panic-attack of my last trip through the CBD. Feeling a bit tired though, which I imagine is the socialising and tearing round trying to catch up with people rather than the eminently reasonable office hours I’ve been keeping.

Last night was good. Went with a few work colleagues down to the Lord Nelson in the Rocks (Australia’s oldest pub), then walked round circular quay to the Opera Bar on the lower concourse. Gorgeous night view of the Harbour Bridge, the ferries, the giant ocean-liner “The World”, the city scape and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Some fine sounds too: Mosaic Sonique were playing, a two-man lounge-jazz/techno-funk sort of combo. Not much more than chill-out music, but it set the mood nicely. Ah, Sydney Harbour at night and in summer. I miss that.

That said, I am also remembering why I got desperate to leave a large commercial firm and the Sydney-corporate environment (“the world of corporate-whoredom” as a number of my friends used to refer to it. In this set confessions as to ludicrously excessive stints at work would be greeted with an admiringly-disparaging “you ho!” This reaction greeted my marathon thirty-two hour stretch in the office … admittedly an office with harbour view, but sometimes dawn just isn’t that exciting …)

Anyway, no-one I know here can leave the office before 6.30 pm at the earliest. If they can, they can manage one drink and then need to go back afterwards. Pressure of work means you always have to accept people might not be able to make any given commitment: indeed, many who were hoping they might be able to see me Tuesday night got caught back at the office.

Which was just fine, I knew from personal experience that that might well happen. But the scariest of my Tuesday messages from those who couldn’t make it was the text message I received at 11.20 pm reading: “Just left the office! Sorry to miss you, are you around for the weekend?”

Also on Tuesday, one of my hosts stopped by the bar where I was drinking (perhaps too many) cocktails with Rob to announce: “Yay, I’m so proud – it’s eight o’clock and I’ve left the office! … I’m going home.”

Then there was the poor chap who couldn’t meet me for a drink last night before 9 pm, then missed by minutes his ferry from North Sydney to Circular Quay where I was hanging out with the gang at Opera Bar …

Anyway, I have nothing but admiration for the people who can sustain the pace as lawyers up here (let alone that pace and successful relationships with other lawyers, and I know half-a-dozen couples in this category) – but I’m just not one of them anymore.

Morning coffee with Elliot anyone?

New Naylor today, the fourth installment and beginning of the second chapter!

"When I don’t know what I’m doing, the only thing to do is speak to Eva, the world’s best flatmate. Besides, I needed to scour Sarah’s hippy tea out of my mouth with something black, bitter, and teeth-rattlingly sharp."

New readers still have plent of time to get aboard, as I'm only posting 1000 - 1200 words once or twice a week.

Thanks to those who are supporting the project by reading or with comments!

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Potentially un-Australian, and a threat to our way of life

I must admit to having a somewhat hypocritical outlook on this one. I disapprove of them, yet have accepted their growing role in daily life. After reality television, I think they’re doing more to hasten the collapse of civilisation than just about any other aspect of modernity.

I’m talking about mobile phones. (“Cell phones” to those operating on US-standard English).

I was inspired to think about this by missjenjen’s reflections on modern manners yesterday. Here’s my top five ways in which mobiles are destroying our way of life:

1. The total collapse of privacy/dignity inherent in people having intensely personal conversations (at the top of their voices) wherever they happen to be. This is the big public transport no-no. I do not want to know about your relationship problems. Nor do I want to be stuck on a bus for several hours while you test two-dozen new ring tones, you freak.

2. A false sense of safety. No you morons, going hiking in wilderness with no emergency equipment other than a mobile is irresponsible and the rest of the public should not really have to pay for you to be rescued – that is if you don’t die for lack of warm clothing before anyone gets to you. Also, lady, it is not cool for your five-year old to be wandering the streets unsupervised just because you can call him and check he got to the movies OK.

3. Hideous lack of manners. If you are having dinner or a drink with me, you’re having it with ME. Not anyone who phones to shoot the breeze. Switch it to silent, check who your missed calls are from once if you must, then ASK the people you’re with if it’s cool to quickly return a call. Do not leave someone socially stranded and sitting at a table drumming their fingers while you ignore them to talk with someone who hasn’t made the effort to come and meet you.

4. The end of social planning and the rise of plans-to-have-plans. Just because people can be contacted at the last minute is no excuse for leaving arrangements loose until the last minute and then having to run around like mad things. “I’ll call you on the weekend” creates much more stress than “how about brunch Sunday?”

5. Rude last-minute cancellation. If you have a mobile people feel entirely free to either not commit to an event until the last minute, or cancel as you arrive at the venue. For genuinely unexpected circumstances that stop you turning up, fine. However, a last-minute decision that you don’t feel like going out is just not cool. If you’re going to cancel, try and call when people are still at home.

Mobiles are also, apparently, destroying our literacy.

That said, I am absolutely, hypocritically addicted to mine and doubt I would have a functional social life without it … and given how often I move it’s the only stable contact detail I have.

Anyone want to speak in their defence now?

Monday, March 3, 2003

The one-eared beagles of insomnia

Since I started writing again on a daily basis my psuedo-insomnia has returned. It’s as if now my imagination has woken up, turning it off at night’s a challenge.

I’ve always taken quite a while to get to sleep though. Most human beings take less than six minutes to fall asleep, if that. I often take over half an hour. In that six minutes, most people spend less than a minute in a hypnagogic state – that floating not-sleeping not-waking consciousness. I can spend quite a while there. I rather like it, until I have to face the next day realising I never dropped into deep sleep.

All that to say, on top of taking a while to drift off, I wake up during the night a good deal as well. I’m a light sleeper.

At the moment, while in Sydney, I’m sleeping on a particularly comfy single bed owned by some friends in Edgecliff. It folds down out of the wall near the front door at the top of their stairs. It's cubby-house cozy. My friends are both lawyers and other than renting in a fab little inner-city suburb they have one other conspicuous consumption item: Russel the Six Million Dollar Beagle. Russel is sweet, quiet dog who is allergic to most of Sydney. His most recent trip to the vet, yesterday, involved removing some sort of cist from his left ear, giving him sixteen doggy-sized stitches and bandaging the ear back to his head for two weeks.

He now looks like a slightly mournful canine Van Gogh.

As a special treat, he got to sleep indoors last night, in the downstairs area. While having a little waking moment at 1 am (when my body had decided I was too hot and rearranging all my bedding was in order), I heard a pam-pam! rattle! pam! rattle! pam-pam!

Russel was asking to go out onto the downstairs rear balcony and pawing at the loose, but not open door. I padded downstairs and let him out for a drink of water. I left the door open and went back upstairs to bed.

Shortly thereafter I heard a skritter-skritter on the stairs, and some sonorous canine breathing.

“Russel?” I asked.

I stuck my head under the bed and was greeted by moist canine jowls. It appeared I’d made a friend.

There’s something reassuring about the sound of a dog breathing while you fall asleep.

Up until the snoring started.

Then I had to coax Van Gogh back down the stairs and into his basket. From a distant room, his snoring was, once more, kind of reassuring.

I miss having a dog, but my lifestyle at the moment is too peripatetic to justify even keeping my lovely wardrobe, let alone dragging a living creature around in my wake.

Sunday, March 2, 2003

Weekend in Canberra, working week in Sydney: Donnie Darko

I was having drinks and dinner in one of the suburban centres of Canberra, Woden, on Friday and had another weird experience of adolescent mall culture. There was, basically, a promenade of fifteen year old girls (if that) walking to and fro at half hour intervals on the pavement outside the cinema. (We were in a good position to observe, spending some four and half hours eating and drinking - mostly drinking - at the outdoor seating of a nearby bar/café.)

Unlike Christina Aguelira they still had the crotch in their jeans, so I guess that was a start – but the average fashion statement for tweens and teens appeared to be “ho”.

There comes a point when you realise you really are getting older: it’s the moment when you realise teenagers are utterly incomprehensible – their clothes, music, speech, the works. Given what a generally ghastly, self-obsessed and conformist experience being a teenager is, this should come as something of a relief.

So watching “Donnie Darko” on Saturday at Marissa’s – it is at least set in the relatively familiar landscape of being an eighties teenager. (Imaginatively familiar really, I began high school in ’88.) However, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” it is not. It is weird, at times surreal and working out if the protagonist is mad or not occupies a good part of one’s concentration during the film. It also has the most sinister bunny suit I have ever seen in cinema. It’s great strength is in not revealing what the hell was really going on, and leaving you to theorise. The soundtrack is brilliant, and the small Drew Barrymore role is refreshingly good.

Anyway, in Sydney for work today and the rest of the week. Forgot how hot and humid this town is. Not really a city that is good for suits. Monday morning, at work, nursing a dehydration nosebleed … still, the working day can only improve, right?