Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What a difference a day makes...

I'm going to tell you a story.  It seems fitting somehow that it's being told via social media.  January the 26th is Australia Day.  I don't really know how I feel about Australia day.  Clare Bowditch tweeted that 'Australia Day confuses me'.  And then I saw this tweet from Catherine Deveny 'I never consider myself Australian. I think of myself as a Melbournian'.  This is more how I feel.  I decided to post something on my facebook page.  Here's a transcript of what happened.

Me: "I don't really understand Australia Day. I don't wave flags and I hate the word 'Unaustralian'. Catherine Deveny tweeted this morning that she feels more Melbournian than Australian. I understand this feeling. So here's a song that is very Melbourne. Love the shots of the Nylex clock in the clip. Thanks Paul. [I put a link to Paul Kelly's song, Leaps and Bounds]".

Person 1It's about feeling patriotic to this wonderful country we live in there's absolutely nothing wrong with that

MeI don't do patriotism [Person 1]. I know how lucky I am. I love living here. But I think flag waving and people with southern cross tattoos reek more of things like the cronulla riots, racism and exclusion. 
It's sad that this is what I see. I blame the Bogans!

Person 2That reeks of snobbery. Happy Australia day.

MeIt's not meant to sound snobbish [Person 2]. Australia Day is complex. I know it means different things to different people. I am moved each year when I see people on the news at the citizenship ceremonies, happily making a new home here. I love that spirit of welcoming. Offering people a sense of belonging. I've just walked from Coburg lake where the united nations were all having picnics and BBQs, enjoying time together. Freaken ACE! But indigenous australians have a hard time on this day as it's a symbol of white settlement. The fact is, people will choose to see this day as many different things. As a first generation Australian, I feel as connected to this country as I do England. My parents were some of the first 'boat people' - 10 quid poms. They were welcome here. I just wish we as a nation would treat refugees with the same respect and understanding. Yes - I'm a bleeding heart leftie. Out and proud. And perhaps that's why it's makes me laugh to see people commenting here: http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23unAustraliaDay I feel much more like these guys - diggin' the diversity of this country, and having a stir at what it means to be Australian. There's nothing more Australian than taking the piss.

Person 1We could argue forever about this day but at the end of it after visiting Ireland my dads homeland and seeing how proud they are of their heritage and how they celebrate it so passionately on the 17th March it makes me a bit sad that some Australians find the 26th January a little bit of an embarrassment . When you think of every country in this world they have all had an invasion at some time but they don't mark it as such as we seem to.

Person 3I don't quite know what my heritage is, or what to celebrate. If it's multiculturalism and acceptance, then i'm right on board. If it's celebrating a heritage that clings to a mythologized sense of "mateship" and a "fair go" whist forcibly detaining those in dire need of a fair go - well yes I am embarrassed.

MeThis isn't meant as an argument. But our discussions have beautifully highlighted the complexity. Yep - england for centuries has been invaded and done it's own invading. I guess when you've had so many people forcefully try to claim your land over such a long time you can't cling to one single date. And that's the issue for Australia. I've noticed a movement to highlight the 26th as Survival Day for the aboriginals. I think this is a step in the right direction. It would be great to use the day as part of the reconciliation process and respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners. But also celebrate the diversity. Some scars take a long time to heal. Imagine if Northern Ireland were told to 'celebrate' british rule on Bloody Sunday? Unthinkable. And rightly so. I would love nothing more than to rejoice on the 26th and not feel the embarrassment. But my original comment on flag waving was targeted at this type of action http://www.theage.com.au/national/hogg-caught-out-on-religious-slur-20120126-1qjyk.html There are people who hide behind the flag to justify racism. And this makes me sad, because we're better than this. We shouldn't tolerate hate. We should be proud, and respectful and inclusive. I think discussing this is awkward and confusing, but it leads to greater understanding for all. I hope you had a great day yesterday [Person 1 & 2] : )

OK - so there you have it.  In reality I hadn't expected it.  I'm really shit at debates and find this sort of thing incredibly stressful. At high school I would be holding back tears, as I was never able to argue without feelings.  At work, shyness has made me hold my tongue and prey someone else spoke up instead.  But, as I've mentioned before, one of the good things about getting older is becoming more comfortable with yourself and learning to speak in front of people.  And as I get older again, I'm learning to speak from the heart and with truth.  Standing up for things is important.  I just wish I didn't get the stress and cold sores from having to do it (yep, they popped up the next morning after the facebook post).

SBS has screened two amazing shows in the last six months.  Firstly, 'Go back to where you came from', where six Australians (five of which were quite outwardly racist or unsupportive of refugees) met locally settled refugees and then were sent back to learn about the conditions that these people had left.  Amazing and heartbreaking.  It made me wonder why we as a country had lost our empathy and compassion for other human beings.  Secondly, 'Once upon a time in Cabramatta' showed what happened when Australia changed it's political policy and accepted Vietnamese people fleeing the war and persecution. Through watching this show I was reminded about the White Australia Policy on immigration.  And even though this policy was beginning to change in the 60s and 70s, there was footage of Pauline Hanson in her maiden speech in parliament in 1996 where she said about Asians "They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united".

It has been this kind of thinking that lead to people running around with 'Fuck off, we're full' on their tshirt while draped in the Australian flag.  Unfortunately it is this kind of behaviour that has me feel repelled by any show of nationalism.  I don't know when or how we became a nation of flag wavers.  I have to say, words like patriotism seem more American than Australian.  And then I read this blog by John Birmingham and knew I was not alone in my thoughts.  Why can't we be quiet and respectful and tolerant?  What's with the Aussier-than-thou mentality?  Why should I fly a flag on my car?  What does that prove?  You're better if you love your country more?  I have to say that kind of nationalism scares me.

Peter and I recently went to an exhibition at the NGV called the Mad Square.  It showcased German art in the tumultuous historic period including both World Wars.  There was a timeline showing what was going on socially and politically while these artists tried to highlight life around them.  War scenes, propaganda, design schools, social realism, the depression and photography all highlighted different aspects and reactions to what life had become.  The Bauhaus school of design moved to three different cities until it was eventually closed by the Nazi's.  Many of the plaques told tales of artists either dying in the war, fleeing to places like America, or sadly dying in the concentration camps.  It's unthinkable that artists could be seen as a threat to the Nazi vision and culture.  It was branded as 'Degenerate Art' and it makes me wonder how any works survived at all.  It was a reminder of what has been done in the past in the name of nationalistic pride.

Similarly, the footage recently of Kim Jong Il's funeral, showing public grief and hysteria at the death of their leader seemed too bizarre for words.  Everyone was asking themselves - were these people for real?  It seemed so over the top.  But perhaps that's what you get when you cut your country off from the outside world, give them your perspective of everything and keep them hungry.  Again, it's nationalism to the extreme.  Not to be outdone, footage of American's celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, with chants of 'U.S.A.' and flying flags made me grieve for humanity and sick to the stomach.  Two wrongs don't make a right, and although I guess Osama had it coming, I think the end of the 9/11 ordeal should be met with contemplation, respect and sadness of all that lost their lives.  Not in-your-face patriotic pride.

Seeing the political and social extremes of nationalism, I'm happy to be more from the John Birmingham or Catherine Deveny school of thinking.  There are so many issues involved in our 'National Day of Celebration', and I hope we as a country learn over time to be respectful and apologetic to the traditional owners, inclusive and accepting of those seeking a safe haven, and quietly proud of our behaviour as individuals that make up a community.  Perhaps I should start a campaign.  'Australia Day: have a beer, chill out and do whatever the fuck you want - just don't hurt anyone *'.
*NB- no need to bring your flags.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Let's talk about...

SEX.  Yep, that's right folks.  Now I have your attention, you might want to tune out if it's going to freak out any newcomers or work mates tuning in.  It's been my philosophy with this blog to write openly and honestly about whatever is on my mind.  And the topic de jour is sex.

It seems to be something on a lot of people's minds at the moment.  No, I'm not talking about the media or society.  Just amongst my friends.  I guess what triggered writing about it is, that a couple I've known for years, who had been together for 20 years, broke up recently.  One of the factors in their breakup was sex, and one partners desire to...um...how shall I put this...shag other people.  At least he was honest.

It got me thinking.  How important is sex in a relationship?  Do things change as you get older, or can you keep things alive in the passion department when you're in a relationship for the long haul?  Is all of this a deal breaker?  Compared to everything else you get in a relationship, can sex be the deciding vote on longevity?  In talking to some friends recently, I guess it's an individual thing.

I was a late bloomer by today's standards, and although I met my first boyfriend when I was 15 (he was 20), we waited a couple of years until we had sex.  I was 17 and had finished school.  We were together for nearly 10 years, and in that time had fun together.  Young and both living at home, invention and opportunity were the hallmark of our intimacy.  Stolen moments, empty houses or the great outdoors were typical for us.  There was a high element of risk of being discovered, but this was not through choice.  Physically, we hit it off quite well and as an introduction, I have it say it wasn't bad.  But I was still very much a shy girl riddled with insecurities about my body.

My next relationship started out ok, but over time we became like house mates.  Friends.  There was affection, but over the 13 years, perhaps the influence of life pressures, work, family and the fact I was dealing with periods of grief meant that sex seemed like a stranger.  I put on weight and looking back realise there were periods of depression.  The relationship itself was triggering anxiety and being physical was the last thing on my mind.  When I'd go out drinking with friends (a groups of girls) we'd end up chatting about sex and relationships.  I dodged talking about my life, by being the person asking questions.  Aha - like being the person holding the camera to avoid being in photos, I had figured out a way to deflect light off myself.

And then I met Peter.  He tread gently and carefully, as my emotional state was a bit fragile after the break up of my last relationship.  There is a place where my head rests on his chest, that is safe.  It feels like home.  The feel of his skin is divine.  I am happiest when I am curled up in his arms.  We click.  And even at the ripe old age of forty one, and after our first year of marriage, we're more like twenty year olds.  I've put on a bit more weight, but I'm more confident with who I am.  I still have issues, but I'm with someone I trust completely and who makes me feel amazing.  It's kinda great.

So in thinking about sex being a deal breaker it's hard to say.  I know of friends who have differing sex drives to their partners.  Sometimes it's an issue and sometimes it's not.  I was chatting to my friend Denise about this.  She said how sad it would be to not have a great physical relationship.  It's more than fun, pleasure and endorphins.  It can highlight the connection and closeness you have with another person.  I guess, when intimacy is great between you, it's not an issue.  It's part of the whole that makes the relationship.  But maybe when things go wrong, it can sometimes be symptomatic of other issues.  These are just musings, and come from my own experience.

One question that keeps floating around my head is : 'Can we have it all'?  Do we get the great relationship, great house, great job, good money, kids, great sex and happiness and fulfillment?  If we tick most of those boxes is that enough?  As I said at the beginning, perhaps it's an individual choice about what can be the deal breaker, or what is enough to sustain a relationship.  I also know the pull and weight of different issues changes over the years.  Keeping love and passion alive over the long haul is a challenge.  But worth it.  I'd love to hear your outlook on this topic.  And here's some trashy, inspiring music while you think.  Enjoy.    : )

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Happy New Year!  2012 has started off pretty well (extreme hot weather aside).  Peter and I have been catching up on movies we've wanted to see, and on the 2nd of January we caught our first gig of the year.    On the blisteringly hot evening, when it had been 40 degrees, we went out and saw the almost ironically named, Arctic Monkeys at the Palace.

I've had a soft spot for the band for quite some time.  I love Alex's song writing and his turn of phrase.  I took my camera along and got a few good snaps.  I've provided one below.  I love a memento, and I especially love to capture places I've been.  I find my memory is helped along by these pixelled reminders.  After the gig we walked to the tram stop and I was beaming.  They'd played a great set, mixing songs from all four albums, and it was nice to see them in a smaller venue.  Peter posted a photo he'd taken on his phone to Twitter and Instagram (a photo sharing social network).  The next morning we arose to find someone had commented on his image.  A girl said how the Monkeys henchmen had left her crying all night and ruined her evening.  We hadn't seen any trouble at the gig and were scratching our heads at her comment.  She elaborated, saying she'd waited 2 hours after the gig to try to meet them out the back.  She didn't get a glimpse.  She then went to the bar they were drinking at, and their 'henchmen' shielded them from unwanted visitors.  As a fan, she was crushed. 'Never meet your idols' she conceded.

To see it from another perspective, four young guys from Sheffield who after one single in 2005 suddenly had the world watching them, might just be wanting to have time to themselves and party with their friends.  I'm not being an apologist, but I think that famous people have a right to privacy.  Perhaps in this age on online social networks where you can follow the daily thoughts of people on facebook, twitter or blogs we feel closer to them.  I have loved music for as long as I can remember.  I used to grab the Abba posters out of TV Week to adorn my bedroom walls.  In my early teens my bedroom was completely covered, floor to ceiling, with posters from Smash Hits of my favourite band, Duran Duran.  By my late teens, my ear had changed and I'd discovered The Beatles and was listening to more alternative music like the Smiths, the Housemartins, the Hoodoo Gurus and the Cult.  I have always been one for collecting magazines and clippings of people who I admire.  Music was my social life, with every weekend spent stuck to carpets in Melbourne's grungy pubs and there was a song for every mood.

Through a weird series of events I have found myself close to idols a couple of times.  I was once at a warehouse party in North Melbourne, and Sonic Youth were there.  OMG.  Like the coolest people on the planet breathed the same air as me!  They didn't stay long, because no one apart from the hosts had the balls to talk to them.  Another even weirder series of events, found my friend Denise and I after a gig, in the hotel room of Evan Dando.  Don't be too impressed.  There was a number of people, and we sat awkwardly in the corner.  How had we gotten there, and now what would we do?  Shyness had rendered me mute and dumbstruck.  We managed, after a while to just excuse ourselves and leave.  In more recent years, I've gone to CD and book signings.  Through this, I have managed to get David Sedaris to sign my book, all be it, still rather awkwardly.  I did muster a comment to Catherine Deveny, saying 'I guess you hear this all the time...but, love your work'.  She smiled and responded 'I'm always happy to have smoke blown up my arse' and happily signed my book.  Hilarious.

Even though I love her writing (read this piece for an example of her best work), I have found following her on Twitter confronting at times.  I don't understand her views on marriage (against heterosexual, pro gay), as I think everyone should have a choice, regardless of gender or beliefs.  To me the word 'gay' in front of marriage would be like identifying 'gay driving' or 'gay voting'.  Sexual orientation shouldn't define the experience, and people should have equality and choices.  But enough about that...  There are times when she's dogmatic and belligerent...and my admiration is tarnished somewhat.  Never meet your idols?

I'm pleased to report that there are many 'celebs' I follow on twitter, who are a joy.  As funny and endearing as you imagine.  They can be silly at times, or talk about things that bore me senseless, but it's an interesting insight into the person away from the spotlight.  (For those of you who are curious: Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg, Nigella, Louis Theroux, Neil Finn, Chris O'dowd, Bill Bailey, Rob Brydon, Stuart Murdoch, Lee Ranaldo, Kate Nash, Patience Hodgson, Virginia Trioli, Benjamin Law, Sue Perkins, Giles Coren, Alain de Botton and many others)

I've been reading Marieke Hardy's book 'You'll be sorry when I'm dead', and in it she talks about meeting her literary idol - Bob Ellis. Cantankerous and lecherous, she forgives his foibles for the joy of his written word.  She recalls the times she did meet him, and the anxiety and awkwardness associated with meeting someone you would name your dog after.  Never meet your idols?  Perhaps.  She suggests it can be fraught, as the moment we make them idols they are placed on a pedestal.  Iconic.  Elevated from the human condition of having faults.  Social media has connected us with people, and perhaps we expect to be able to get closer in person too.  I have an element of not wanting to meet people I admire, except to ask them to sign something and politely tell them how they or something they have written or recorded has influenced me or brought me joy.  But mostly I will continue to 'love their work' and allow them the right to be human, and as flawed as I am.