Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sex snobs

Last night we went to hear Elisabeth Gilbert talk at our local theatre. It was a full house, about 1,100 capacity. That's a lot of women gathered in one place! The pre-show buzz was in a higher octave than usual.

You could count the number of men. One was beside me. A woman about our age suddenly sat down next to M (hub) and started up a conversation:

'Well I must say it's nice to see this is not a woman's-only event'.

Hmmm... she was definitely hitting on him. 'My wife's a writer', M said, as quickly as civility allowed, before the conversation got too personal, 'so she's here in a professional capacity' (only partly), he added, with a dash of pride, I thought. The woman drew in her chin and suddenly remembered her daughter on the other side. There's definitely a shortage of men willing to listen to Elisabeth Gilbert.

And the truth of the matter is that I suggested we go see Gilbert in part because we go to so many live events by men, other than the writers' festival, which is slightly more female than male. But we've been to see Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, separately, as well as Lenny Henry, Eddie Izzard and Danny Boy, Billy Connelly, Eric Clapton and the Flight of the Concords. We've also seen Clive James live and a play about two gay Kiwi cooks, Hudson and Halls. We've heard Thomas Keneally talk and U2 sing. For all these performances the audiences were like real life: 50/50 male/female.

On the female performance front it's rather bleaker. Apart from Liz Gilbert we've seen French and Saunders - their last performance ever as French and Saunders, in fact - Melissa Etheridge and, briefly, Sandi Toksvig, the new QI host, at a writers' festival gig. We've also been to hear Julia Gillard (former Australian PM) talk, but we've attended various political talks by men, many actually, so we cant really count Julia.

So that's it for the women! Three to four live gigs.

In all of these performances by women, the audience was so female-dominated you felt there were no men there at all. It was even more so than at the ballet, which we have also seen, though mostly I have taken our daughter, and there are men in those performances anyway. But at Gilbert's talk, you could pick the men out in the audience like you pick out red heads - well, I don't, but some do. There were a maximum of 20 in the auditorium, I reckoned, based on the three in my wide vision, four including the one sat next to me. 20 out of 1,100 is less than 2%.

And she was great, Liz Gilbert. 'Funny!' M said, slightly surprised. She's a born story-teller so she told us a great story about her German book tour, with all the suspense, drama and humour of a classic good story. She's a natural and an original entertainer, both valuable and rare qualities, but somehow men generally don't care to know more about her or women like that. They don't read their books and they don't go to hear their talks.

Men are sex snobs, in short, and that rhymes (with talks), so it must be true.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Suffer not the suffragettes

Go Te Papa!  (Check out the link).

Our national museum, Te Papa, has just bought, for $40,000, the bravery (valour) medal awarded to Frances Mary Parker who was the Kiwi-born leader of the Scottish suffragette movement.

Parker was imprisoned and force-fed many times. She was in the 'militant' arm of the movement, prepared to risk her life and go to prison to see the beginnings of equal rights for women.

She was a hero in the proper sense.

Te Papa says there is no other medal like this known to have survived. Te Papa believes the medal is unique and has a unique historical significance for New Zealand, as Parker moved from New Zealand to London and Scotland where she remained, just before the vote for women was introduced in New Zealand.

Te Papa believes it likely that Parker was inspired by that change and used that inspiration to push for change in Scotland.

So brava Frances Mary Parker, and bravo Te Papa Tongarewa (the keeper of treasures).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cold, sweet, soft.

spoon tenses up.

Spoon statue.

half-scoop of
cold, sweet, soft.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What is it? III

What is this maze? 

       Why the kinks? 

             Is it a puzzle to play with? 

                    Is it made out of cotton or wood or what, do you think?

                           Is it edible?

                                  Can it fly?
                                         Will it take me sky high?

                                                   Can it kill?


1) A practical pattern. 2) All the better to catch fish with. 3) Not really. 4) Cotton and some steel 5) No, although maybe, if you're starving. 6) Yes and no. 7) No, though it did make me turn sky high. 8) Yes, but indirectly and with help.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Two first class feminists versus the pro-penis Paglia

Clinton (HR) and Steinem versus Paglia 

Camille Paglia writes here: 'It's not about sexism', referring to the Clinton versus Sanders battle, and refers to herself as a 'pro-sex feminist'...

My Life on the Road (2015)
Brilliant! She's done everything - all for the cause.
... but it IS about sexism. If you've read as much feminist literature as I have (I have a PhD in justice for battered women defendants), then you know, without any equivocation or doubt, that the battle for the first female president of the United States is fundamentally about overcoming sexism.

And the fact that young men are leaping for this alternative to the first woman is evidence of this sexism alive and well in modern day America. The fact that young women are, 50 to 30, leaning in towards Sanders and against Clinton, is a sign of the same, with the 'I don't want to be labelled a feminist (the first F-word), I don't want to be reduced to a female' age-old cry added for extra umph. The wild swing support for Sanders proves exactly what he counts on proving doesn't exist and isn't important: sexism. Sexism opposition to Hillary Clinton.

Provided she's not a Maggie Thatcher trying to prove she's a man by cutting spending, introducing new taxes and starting a war (in other words, a right-wing woman), then the election of any woman to the top political job in any country, never mind a politically experienced woman like Hillary, is a major move towards gender equality and justice for girls and women, and a major obstacle to the continuation of the systemic oppressions of patriarchal sexism perpetuated through the church, state and family. If you don't support that, you are not a feminist. That's the new definition of what a feminist is.

Paglia is no feminist.

So yes it IS about sexism. What else is not allowing women to be president until now, and maybe not even now, about if not sexism? What is more important than sending an unambiguous and unprecedented signal to the world that women are the equal of men and given the chance, can rule effectively as well as if not better than any man? Nothing is more important. Our own Helen Clark here in New Zealand, has already proven just that. But ours is a small country.

If Sanders wants a revolution, he can find one right here. But no. He wants a different kind of revolution - of the people. Sure he does, just not of those people who think sexism matters and, moreover, that sexism can be substantially fought, unlike the battles of capitalism, by changing the constant symbol of male rule by electing Hillary Clinton to rule the United States. Sanders is an idealist, exactly like my father. He is not going to start shit.

Paglia envies Sander's dick, essentially. She likes what his dick symbolises, power and invention - to her, and much of he world - even if it also symbolised once the burning at the stake of women who spoke out against the authorities, most of whom were probably lesbian, certainly women, like her.

Paglia derides Gloria Steinem (whose brilliant book I've just finished, a birthday gift from my daughter) as the "crafty, childless, dowager empress of feminism". Dowager? What an old word.

"Dowager: A widow with a title or property derived from her late husband" (OED).

So a crafty, clich├ęd, sponge then. Perfect. Steinem was never married and worked all her life as a serious, underpaid because she was a woman, journalist and activist. She almost single-handedly started the women's liberation movement in America. She founded Ms magazine. She did not have children because the cause never sleeps.

Paglia blames Steinem for doing more than any other person to drive away potential feminists with her activism on women's reproduction rights. Paglia claims that the she turned away from feminism all the religious women who have a genuine 'moral' objection to abortion. But women who have a moral objection to abortion are not feminists, by definition. End of story. We don't want you. Those who object to abortion rights for women lose their feminist privileges - should they want them, which is Paglia's dubious, finger-pointing, claim.

If you're in any doubt about Hillary v. Sanders, read Steinem's latest book. It's almost a pity that she - backed by Hillary -  didn't stand for president against Sanders. Steinem versus Sanders, it has a ring to it. The battle would be openly about sexism then and there'd be no Clinton (mostly Bill) baggage to get in her way. Though she is older than Sanders, so perhaps not. The world would never elect an older woman over a younger man to rule.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Start with the drama (a shortish story)

It was time to return to my regular lapping after an extended break in Australia commemorating my 50th birthday. Any excuse. On the way I have to post off two advance copies of my soon-to-be published memoir on the publisher’s urging. They are promoting in Australia; I have to do what I can here in New Zealand. I would rather do this important task after I swim, when I can relax into it and make sure it’s done right. But I wear goggles swimming that leave deep red gouges around my eyes that make me look like I've been punched - twice. Also, if I don’t get home fast after swimming my hair will look like it’s just been released from a rubber cap for the next three days, until I wash it again. I don’t like washing my hair every day. Life’s too short. So the posting must be done first.

It’s raining lightly so there are fewer people shopping in Takapuna high street than usual. One good thing. Last time I posted something off I had to park illegally round the back of the bulky business buildings and make a run for it, uphill. This time I get a neat park almost right outside the post office (now part of a bank), but it’s only short-term – five minutes. It should be enough to post two books; they don’t check the cars every five minutes, surely.

A moustachioed man in a high-up yellow truck stopped in traffic going the other way watches me reverse into the tight park, apparently enjoying the struggle. I do struggle, but mostly because he’s watching. Perhaps he knows that. But the park, not perfect, a little bum stuck out, will do for a rushed job. My bottom is relatively small.

An overweight woman with a painfully bored face, in a dark-green uniform, marks the tire of the car in front of me. When I see her, knowing she will mark mine next, I panic and think: should I tell her I've just arrived and am going to the post-office to mail two books to potential promoters, a process that might take fractionally longer than five minutes but is surely the very reason why these five-minute parks exist in the first place?

As I wonder this I am rushing towards the zebra crossing and away from the woman, whose bored-to-death face gives me my answer: I shouldn't alert her to my situation, the drama might wake her up. She might get out her stop-watch. Besides, there’s no time to hesitate; I only have five minutes!

In the post-office I run to the envelope rack, rip down two of the cheapest, no-bubbles-for-protection envelopes, and race to a spare desk to sit down on a backless chair that resides under the desk so must be pulled out – oddly like a child’s chair, my brain wastes time thinking – then begin to mark the envelopes in hand writing that is annoyingly rushed and messy. No time to attach a note either, which I had half planned to do. The book will have to speak for itself.

'That must be five minutes already!' my brain is saying, as I make a mistake with the addressing of one envelope, leaving the ‘company’ space bare so there's no room for writing the full university address and P.O. Box in the ‘address’ section, but I can’t change it now. This does not bode well.

At least the queue is short, just one person in front of me. Still, they must be mad if they think people can get their posting done in five minutes, including getting to and from the car! Are they that mad? I can’t quite decide. Probably.

The woman who is ready for me now says ‘oh dear’ straight off – just seeing me, it seems. She was hoping to send my parcels for the cheaper rate, but they are fractionally over the maximum weight, she says, with disingenuous regret. She sure got them onto the scales quick enough. The previous post woman last week who had assessed a copy of the book for posting, had passed it through the width measure and pronounced it slightly too thick to qualify for the cheaper rate, though it did technically fit through the width measure, as I saw with my own eyes. What was going on? Is my book too fat or too heavy? Make up your minds!

‘The other woman put it through the width measure and it fit’ I half lied to the new woman behind the counter, feeling I had nothing to lose. It had fit, just not to satisfy her. All the while I was thinking: ‘this is not helping my parking situation any.’

The woman took my book off the scales and ran it through the width measure. ‘No. It doesn't fit’ she pronounced, whilst sliding the book, without much difficulty, through the measure before my very eyes, exactly as the other woman had done.

A man standing behind the woman, busy with something, then turned and said ‘Is it going within New Zealand? ‘Yes!’ I ejaculated, rather too eagerly, and when the woman confirmed that it was indeed, he said‘$2.40’ which I knew was the cheaper rate. Hurrah! At least if I got a $60 dollar parking fine I could offset it against the $1.20, on each book, I had saved on postage.

Feeling lightened somewhat and obliged to appease the tension, I began explaining that the book-writing business is far from a lucrative one, with very little return for the amount of work put in. ‘Are you a writer?’ the woman, who looked a little like Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray Love fame, said, with a brightening countenance, and so I felt further obliged to explain. Indeed I was a writer and that was my book, I said pointing to one of the parcels still splayed rather sloppily on the desk with its flap open, awaiting a stamp of approval. 

‘I want to write a book’ the woman said, and my heart sank a little; everyone wants to write a book.

‘Then you should write a book’ I replied, against my better judgement, hoping that would end the matter so that I might get back to my car before next Christmas (it was February).

‘But I don’t know where to start’, the Gilbert woman added, and in my head I said: ‘At the beginning.’ I gave up on the car.

‘Make a plan’ I said, using my hands to indicate a large plan, then felt stupid for this. ‘I based my plan on my chapters,’ I added, trying to sound more professional, again indicating my good-sized book, but…’

‘It’s a children’s book, I have it all worked out already. It’s going to be many books’ the woman interrupted, clearly not listening to my words of wisdom, as her face and voice ran away with excitement and visions of J.K.greatness.

I recognised that face and voice; they were mine before I began in earnest the business of writing and trying to get published. They belong to a person who dismisses all such cautionary warnings for aspiring writers with the view that it doesn't apply to them. Their book is different; no publisher could possibly resist it (presuming it ever gets written). It’s the difference between the idea of war in the heads of those men who have never been, compared with the reality of war to those that have.

‘The writing of it is really the easy bit; the tip of the iceberg’ I say, mixing my metaphors annoyingly in my frustration. ‘There’s so much more to getting a book published than the writing’, I add, half thinking this is what she needs to hear and half frustrated that she said she wanted to write a book, which turns out to be several, and she claims to have it all planned out when she also said she doesn't know where to start. What about my car!

The Gilbert woman doesn't like this at all and replies with a glare. She abruptly hands me my stamped books and tells me to post them in the boxes ‘out there’, indicating the left when the post boxes turn out to be to the right; a long way to the right, beyond the bank. Some post people post your parcels for you, protectively secreting them away to a warm and secure box behind them. The other woman had done this, but then she had charged me more for the same book, and she wasn't an aspiring writer (I presume).

‘Good luck with your book, or rather books!’ I say over my shoulder, back to serious rushing mode now, my eyes hunting ahead for the post boxes that aren't anywhere obvious. ‘Good luck with yours!’ the woman shouts after me, following a small, calculated pause, which tells me I am not forgiven for underestimating her unwritten book(s).

I walk foolishly the wrong way first, looking in a vain panic for the post boxes, having to go back past the glass doors through which she is probably watching and laughing at me. A proper writer should know where to find the post boxes, surely. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

The thought of lapping after nearly a month off hits me then and weighs down on the feeling the fool, the writer's frustrations and fears aggravated by the Gilbert woman, and the rising panic about the car, like a sandwich I am forced to eat of all the things I don’t like: eggplant, liverwurst and blue cheese on dry rye.

There was no ticket on the car. The park limit was fifteen minutes, not five, as it turned out. The bored woman was nowhere in sight. The drama, after all, was mine in the making. Start with the drama, I should have told the Gilbert woman.   

Friday, February 12, 2016

In the flesh: publish or perish

I met my publishers in the flesh last week...
they made me lemon slice and big brown coconutty protein balls.
I said I'd make a mess of myself with those (indicating the balls).
They laughed and explained they are for the accountant - a part-time vegan.
Enough said.
I mentioned my daughter had recently turned vegan,
having been sugar-free for three years.
'Soon she'll be food free,' I said. They laughed again.
Everyone was nervous.

They apologised for the owner who couldn't make it
due to some last-minute eye condition erupting.
He was sorry not to meet me, they said.
I did my best to hide my disappointment that the reason was so mundane,
and knowing that my mother, waiting at home, would pounce,
with vitriolic anti-feminist scorn,
upon the fact that the people I'd met with were all women.
She had assumed my publishers, as all publishers, were men,
not believing women could be anything of note at all,
though she had quite liked Julia Gillard (former PM).

We talked about Saturday's storm.
I told them it took my mother's modem out
while we, my daughter and I, were driving up to the mountains
into the hard rain, dodging lighting forks and singing Mamma Mia -
I didn't tell them that last bit.
They got the picture (I was going to be off-line for a while).
They said they'd lost computer connection too;
I commiserated, wondering if they worked on Saturdays
and if so, what that said about the company.

We got down to business around a scratched, dining-room-type table,
the marketing person asking me about my brother and sister,
wanting to know how good they were likely to be at organising a Sydney launch.
I said, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, they would be a 1.
I regretted my sibling disloyalty and client non-cooperativeness immediately,
hastening to explain why, that one lives in the remote upper mountains,
and the other is very distracted with work (and her dog).

There was an awkward lull. I nibbled my lemon slice,
thinking; if there is one situation of all the situations in life when
slice is not a good idea, meeting with your publishers for the first time is it.

Then they showed me my book...

I don't know about you, but the sight of my book in the flesh
standing proud and published - well, almost (it was an advance copy, not quite finished) -
new and pristine upon that scratchy dining-room table,
like it has a right to be a book stood on a dining table as well as any other,
was enough to sweep away all doubts about slices, storms and scratches,
even siblings; even the battle of the sexes. Even my mother.
I smiled like a child, caressed my book like a lover,
and said, like a fool: 'Is this mine to keep?'

It wasn't mine to keep, as it turned out,
I had to send it forthwith to the most famous writer I knew
in attempt to get an endorsement for the New Zealand edition.
Never mind.
When I looked a little lost at the thought of letting it go,
three more copies were promptly added to the first,
making a pile. A pile of my book!
I don't remember what happened after that;
it's possible I committed to handing over 90% of my profits.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

My Big Bad Belated Birthday

BIG because it's 50
BAD because it's 50!!!!!
BELATED because it was two days ago, hence the blog hiatus (sorry)...

So. I'm fifty and two days old and I don't much like it, though on the other hand, it's better to be fifty than dead, which is about the only consolation.

That said, I think I am taking it quite well considering. For instance, I agreed to take my nearly-fifty-year-old bones many miles across the Ditch to attend a party that announced the sad occasion to the world, where others prefer to slip (sneak) more painlessly into the dreaded decade that signals, without any possibility for consoling equivocation, the end of youth for good (or bad, rather).

I may not have actually been young for a long time, but somehow the words and thought of being 'in my forties' supplied me with the pleasant delusion that I was not old - despite what my sons said to the contrary - a delusion that 50 shatters beyond all shadow of a doubt. People 'in their fifties' (groan) who say they're not old and harp on about fifty being the new forty, are just plain sad, in my view, though, somehow, they're less sad today than they were, say, three days ago. I'm not sure why that is exactly.

Happy Birthday! (I've got my eyes closed upon the impending doom)
My childhood home, Frenchs Forest, Feb 6, 2016