November 2008

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The world

There's not a lot of good news coming out of... well... anywhere today.

 

I'm spending today doing little jobs that have been annoying me for a long time, and as a result of this, I've had a lot of time to check the internet every half hour for an update on Mumbai, Thailand, aeroplane crashes, and the other, actual, news items that have replaced "MADONNA'S DIVORCE SHOCK".

 

Days like today bring out the worst in the media (for example a description on CNN of the "scene of mayhem", over a picture of a woman on a mobile phone, or, say, an article in The Age online today with - I presume - a copy editor's comments all through it) and it brings out the worst in people (some of the comments being posted on websites today are sickening). So there is a lot to be repulsed by.

And there is no antidote to it, and nor should there be. Things like this happen all the time and we don't know about most of it because there weren't four Australians involved. The power of the media is amazing, though, isn't it, because it does ink a few images onto your mind, and you carry them with you, while you post letters and write emails and do the odd jobs you were supposed to do months ago.

 

You carry them with you and you think about how one thing stands between you and these horrible events: dumb luck.

 

I hope these things end soon, and I hope I have the commitment to keep myself informed through news outlets like The Real News during the times when my local and national newspapers are obsessing about a chef from England who swears a lot and may or may not have been shagging somebody who is not his wife.

Annoying

 

 

Doesn't everything and everyone just sometimes conspire to add up to the most infuriating collection of circumstances in the universe, ever invented?

Weather the weather

I like to blame it on the fact that I juggle a writing life with a real life, but whatever the reason: if I were a website, I'd be lastminute.com

 

I'm quite good at planning actually. I do it in my Law Talking Job and I do it when we put on a show. Trouble is, if I know I've got enough time NOT to plan, I don't.

 

In Melbourne at the moment, it's raining. In November. This is not usual. In fact, in recent memory, rain is not usual. We here in Australia are in what is known as a drought. People, everywhere, are looking furiously at the sky and forgetting their umbrellas.

 

A couple of my friends have mentioned how annoying it is to have to change over winter wardrobe to summer wardrobe and then break into the winter one again. As in, actually unpack their wardrobes and put them in... vacuum packed bags? Outerspace? The toaster? I don't know. Point is, they're organised. They take umbrellas to work in the winter and pack them the night before.

 

SO GUESS WHAT THAT MEANS?

 

I TOTALLY WIN!

 

Days like this, weeks like this, when everything's unpredictable and the sky is likely to wee on you at the last second just when you aren't expecting it? THAT IS EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE!

 

HUZZAH! I AM BETTER AT LIFE THAN EVERYONE ELSE FOR A DAY! IN YOUR FACE!

Reading

 

You know what I was saying about writers reading?

 

You know how I was saying writers should read?

 

Writers should not read Ian McEwan. At least not if they're me.

 

 

Just thought I should provide that small caveat to my wholesome advice. As Nick Hornby says, if you don't like a book, do yourself and everyone else a favour and stop reading it, because there is no "right" or "wrong" when reading. You're always right. It's the pure selfish joy of reading. You get to put the book down.

 

By the way, for the record: the book is Saturday, and what I don't like is long, slow description of a man stumbling numbling through a right wing perspective he just feels wash over him like instinct. McEwan is smarter than that and should stop pretending he's not actually representing a more considered perspective. I didn't like this when Flannagan did it with the terrorist book and I don't like it when Helen Garner does it. Smart writers making their characters stupid and innocent thereby depriving them of the eloquence to defend the perspective they are invented to represent. It seems to be to be weak or dishonest. I think I'll go back to the young adult fiction. Immediately.

 

 

 

Writing and reading

They say if you write, you should also read. Trouble is, you're always writing so you've got no time to read, right?

 

Right.

 

Well I've found something called readernaut.com, which you need to be "invited" to join because it's in the early stages but it's a good way of realising, yet again, how little I've read and how large the holes are that need fixing in my lopsided but enthusiastic reading history. It's also a great way to look at what you liked and be reminded about what you don't like.

 

I like plays. I love reading them. Actually, and I know this is counterproductive for someone working in theatre, but I don't so much love watching them, unless they're excellent.

 

Speaking of which, here's a tip. If you're sick of going to mainstream theatre and seeing a sea of grey-haired dentists snoozing gently and wishing David Williamson was still writing, get ye to Avast I and Avast II, at the Malthouse of all places.

 

These guys rocked my very surprised and delighted socks a few years ago when they did Avast II at Smith Street (they're doing the sequel, Avast I alongside it now. Of course they are).

 

This is the theatre show I tell people about. I literally felt different as I came away from the theatre. There were dudes in washing machines putting ochre into their pants while arguing about blind adopted brothers, there was opera, there was monologue and dialogue, and there was, on the night I went, a guy reading all the Nobel Prize acceptance speeches in a row (he didn't get very far, but he had them in his hand and hell, the guy could bellow).

 

Anyway. That's all you need to know. Be prepared to be surprised out of yourself. Oh, and in case it makes any difference: I don't know these people. I know one of them, distantly, from years ago. He used to wear gloves. I called him Gloveboy. That's the extent of things, bias-wise.

 

Also, you may have noticed, you still can't comment on these posts. We're working on it. By which I mean, someone smarter than I am has a solution that involves something I don't understand, which hasn't happened yet. Comments through the CONTACT US page will reach us.

 

 

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

I am on a health kick. A serious health kick. I haven't had pasta for a month. A MONTH! For those of you who don't know me, the only thing I eat more than pasta is twinings earl grey tea, which, should I decide to stop consuming that as well as pasta, would be under the control of administrators and making serious-faced announcement in news conferences about closing factories worldwide within a week.

 

I am on a health kick because I used to:

 

1. Ride my bike everywhere.

2. Walk everywhere else.

3. Go to gym at least four nights a week.

4. Throw a frisbee at least once a week right through summer.

5. Play mixed soccer with my hilarious friends every Sunday.

6. Be vegetarian and therefore eat very well due to the constant (sometimes infuriated) concern of others that I might die of scurvy/iron deficiency/B12 poisoning/grout or similar. Use of pasta in vegetarian diet = necessary for survival.

 

Given the insanity of the above routine, I slowed down somewhat at some point. I now:

1. Walk everywhere and once read somewhere that it's great exercise ergo it justifies the consumption of vast quantities of pasta and Cascade Green beer (it's sustainable! it's organic! it probabaly cures cancer!).

2. Have Foxtel.

3. Donate to my local gym so that other people can enjoy it in luxurious privacy.

4. Have become so particular about how I throw a frisbee that I don't like playing with people who aren't my Dad or my sister, both of whom have, you know, lives.

5. Think back on the soccer playing days with longing, even though I am no longer speaking to half the players on the team (there is no i in team, but watch out for freaks, is all I'm saying). The other half? The good half? Well, turns out, they have, you know, lives (in Paris, mostly, I'm looking at YOU MELANIE HOWLETT).

6. Am no longer vegetarian. This is not something I am proud of. Also, it is not something I monitored very well. Thus on top of my well-considered vegetarian diet I added meat. So basically I went: meat goes well with pasta. How delightful!

 

Anyway. So. The health kick begins.

 

On Monday, Stew and I went to what is known, disturbingly, as a "pump class", wherein we were both rendered incapable of movement except in short increments similar in appearance to slow motion replays of the Olympic Walking events. This physical disability was a condition, cruelly, only curable by doing more exercise. We are, therefore, on an exercise bender, fending off the inevitable crippled exhaustion of an unfitness hangover, which should probably kick in some time during the weekend. At which point I plan to have a Cascade Green beer. No, they do not sponsor this website, although they should feel welcome to.

 

So what does this have to do with writing? And Standing There Productions? Well, everything actually, since you can't write without a clear head. You can't write if you're distracted or you broke up with someone or you've got a hangover or your foot hurts. You have to be clear and sharp. Which is why I'm doing the health kick in the first place.

 

It was a great idea. And I do feel kind of zingy. Trouble is, I keep dropping off to sleep. And I can't move. Healthy body, healthy mind might be a maxim backed up by science, but what they forgot to tell me is: health kick to the body = roundhouse kick to the head. A roundhouse kick is a gym term, by the way, like "clean and jerk", which I personally think should be used in other contexts (see earlier discussion of soccer team).

 

I sit in the State Library, I feel the muscles that did not know they existed before this morning's swim, and I hope the healthy body comes soon because the healthy mind is kind of missing the lazy and relaxed peace of knowing it remains superior.

Speaking of which, it's going to this tonight at the State Library. Poetry me up, world!

Things I Wouldn't Know Without My Day Job

Okay so here are some things you might not know if you didn't work writing about things you previously didn't know about during your day job. Today's subject is "Wangaratta", a town, by the way, that requires regional legal education programs, the research into and reportage on which I am paid, irregularly but with enormous goodwill, to undertake.

 

The Victorian Tree Climbing Championships take place in Wangaratta this weekend. Don't miss the Friday evening gear check at the CWA hall. Volunteers welcome. Tree climbing events for children included.

 

Their tagline is excellent.

 

"Everyone welcome for an enjoyable in the park!"

 

There's also the Speedway (tagline: Get Your Backside Trackside) and the Wangaratta Show, which includes the Beaut Ute competition and a performance by ABBA tribute band, ABBARATION.

 

I've been to Wangaratta. It's a great place. The air is fresh, there's art, there's music, there's a cinema. I just had no idea it was THIS GOOD.

 

By the way, in terms of Standing There Productions news, Rita is still in Sydney working with interesting people on interesting films, Lorin is slowly re-learning like an accident victim how to use Final Cut Pro to cut together some Bundanon videos, and Stew is bossing us into doing something new before our public liability insurance lapses.

 

By the way, I know I've said it before but I mean come on! A CAT? PLAYING THE PIANO?

Why "I'm not really political" is never true for a writer.

As a writer, regardless of how much you actually write about politics, it's generally a good idea to know what's going on in the world and know what you think about it. Even if you write kids's books or comedy skits or instruction manuals. If you know how to use language and make observations, you're making choices all the time. Choices are decisions. Decisions are based on beliefs or desires or circumstances. Beliefs, desires and circumstances are what politics are all about.

 

As the entire world now knows, America has a new President-elect.

 

And now we try to figure out what that means, what it changes, and in what ways it is good, bad, interesting or hilarious.There are jokes going around about how, once again, a black man has been given America's worst job, cleaning up after white people. There are tongue-in-cheek predictions he'll paint the white house black. There are exciting campaign photographs that bring a lump to the throat of the most cynical and the least interested. At the very least, the crowd numbers are impressive.

 

Now, nobody in the universe completely understands the US election process. Basically: lots of people voted for Obama, including some old people and many young people. CNN did a graph - they've got a graph for everything - showing how as the voters got older, they were less likely to vote for Obama. Somewhere around 66% of young voters voted for him, which is, to use a technical term, totally unheard of.

 

Something particularly difficult to understand about the American voting process is the concept that more than one thing is being decided at the one time. For instance, if you were voting in California, yesterday, you voted on - among other things - Proposition 8. The result of the Proposition 8 vote is why a lot of people who would be happy in America today, are not. The same goes for Florida and Arizona apparently, although you wouldn't know it from media reports. It's a shame that on a day that will be remembered for bringing different races and creeds together in a spirit of multicultural understanding, it's feeling to some like another battle: between race and sexuality.

 

All of this is interesting, even if men in suits talking about politics bore the pants off you, because there are a whole lot of young Americans for whom the pants - at least at the moment - are not bored anywhere at all. And all the way over here, in Australia, it feels like we've got a new President.

 

9 years ago, when I was on exchange in America, Noam Chomsky spoke passionately at my college (Boston College) about the role America had as the world's policeman. This was before 9/11 and before the war. It was a week after the Timorese voted for their independence, with murderous results, which is why we were discussing the world policeman thing.

 

I put my hand up and asked Chomsky why America As World Policeman wasn't the same as American Imperialism. Since then, I've learned the subtle differences by virtue of the fact that my worst fears have been demonstrated time and time again. Several times, I've wished the rest of the world could vote in the American election. I think it changes lots of things. Not "just politics" but lots of things.

 

The day after John Howard was voted out in Australia, I heard the word "multiculturalism" being used on television by an elected official. I was shocked. Previously, the word rendered any subsequent argument obsolete. I actually have to admit to being a bit embarrassed to hear it being used. It had become such a dirty word, such a softie-left-bleeding-heart thing to say, that I wanted the speaker (I can't remember who it was) to qualify it, lest the argument be dismissed. Of course, there was no qualification, and it seems silly now. It's subtle, but language changes because of politics, and vice versa. In fact, language, the right to use it, and the right to be a writer, are all elements of society that people in less liberal societies cannot afford to take for granted. I think it's good to remember that.

 

By the way, in case those aren't enough links for you: be grateful your job doesn't extend to every aspect of your private life, as this guy's does. Yeesh. All the best to those kids, that's all I can say.

 

 

Why "I'm not really political" is never true for a writer.

As a writer, regardless of how much you actually write about politics, it's generally a good idea to know what's going on in the world and know what you think about it. Even if you write kids's books or comedy skits or instruction manuals. If you know how to use language and make observations, you're making choices all the time. Choices are decisions. Decisions are based on beliefs or desires or circumstances. Beliefs, desires and circumstances are what politics are all about.

 

As the entire world now knows, America has a new President-elect.

 

And now we try to figure out what that means, what it changes, and in what ways it is good, bad, interesting or hilarious.There are jokes going around about how, once again, a black man has been given America's worst job, cleaning up after white people. There are tongue-in-cheek predictions he'll paint the white house black. There are exciting campaign photographs that bring a lump to the throat of the most cynical and the least interested. At the very least, the crowd numbers are impressive.

 

Now, nobody in the universe completely understands the US election process. Basically: lots of people voted for Obama, including some old people and many young people. CNN did a graph - they've got a graph for everything - showing how as the voters got older, they were less likely to vote for Obama. Somewhere around 66% of young voters voted for him, which is, to use a technical term, totally unheard of.

 

Something particularly difficult to understand about the American voting process is the concept that more than one thing is being decided at the one time. For instance, if you were voting in California, yesterday, you voted on - among other things - Proposition 8. The result of the Proposition 8 vote is why a lot of people who would be happy in America today, are not. The same goes for Florida and Arizona apparently, although you wouldn't know it from media reports. It's a shame that on a day that will be remembered for bringing different races and creeds together in a spirit of multicultural understanding, it's feeling to some like another battle: between race and sexuality.

 

All of this is interesting, even if men in suits talking about politics bore the pants off you, because there are a whole lot of young Americans for whom the pants - at least at the moment - are not bored anywhere at all. And all the way over here, in Australia, it feels like we've got a new President.

 

9 years ago, when I was on exchange in America, Noam Chomsky spoke passionately at my college (Boston College) about the role America had as the world's policeman. This was before 9/11 and before the war. It was a week after the Timorese voted for their independence, with murderous results, which is why we were discussing the world policeman thing.

 

I put my hand up and asked Chomsky why America As World Policeman wasn't the same as American Imperialism. Since then, I've learned the subtle differences by vurtue of the fact that my worst fears have been demonstrated time and time again. Several times, I've wished the rest of the world could vote in the American election. I think it changes lots of things. Not "just politics" but lots of things.

 

The day after John Howard was voted out in Australia, I heard the word "multiculturalism" being used on television by an elected official. I was shocked. Previously, the word rendered any subsequent argument obsolete. I actually have to admit to being a bit embarrassed to hear it being used. It had become such a dirty word, such a softie-left-bleeding-heart thing to say, that I wanted the speaker (I can't remember who it was) to qualify it, lest the argument be dismissed. Of course, there was no qualification, and it seems silly now. It's subtle, but language changes because of politics, and vice versa. In fact, language, the right to use it, and the right to be a writer, are all elements of society that people in less liberal societies cannot afford to take for granted. I think it's good to remember that.

 

By the way, in case those aren't enough links for you: be grateful your job doesn't extend to every aspect of your private life, as this guy's does. Yeesh. All the best to those kids, that's all I can say.

 

 

 

Can't talk, election-obsessing

All the information you need to know about the American election: go here.

 

By the way, you can comment on posts for this site by registering apparently. Give it a burl!