Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A shit (Brit) sandwich

You've got to hand it to the Aussies, they know how to deliver a pithy punch.

In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning,  Nick Miller, the paper's European correspondent in London, described the situation in Britain post the decision to leave the EU as ''a shit sandwich''.

While this might not exactly represent the ideal of impartial reportage, there's no mistaking the meaning. No sugar-coating the shit, which I appreciate, as there's nothing worse than shit dressed up as sugar. Just as savoury food with sugar added makes for a shit sandwich, too. Here I'm thinking particularly of peanut butter.

That said, it's hard to know how to eat a pure shit sandwich. And with some people centrally involved in the democratic process these days, you find yourself wishing there was a little bit of sugar added to their salt, preferably in the fashion of that fatal last after-dinner mint that tipped the scales and sorted the sugar shit quandary decisively.

But short of a fatal sweet mint disguised as a feisty fish, the answer to the shit Brit sandwich situation is far from obvious. Miller concludes with "Hooray for democracy'', which is not altogether helpful. I think even fish would rather live (and die) in a democracy than, say, in North Korea, where there's no mercy for fish at all -- or so I hear.

Of course, this shit is not funny. Indeed the main reason I decided against a career in politics is that it's all about as funny as fish, even less so if you consider fish like Nemo not to mention Dory -- the funniest fish in the sea.

Perhaps the trouble with politics is we tend, time and time again, to go in for fish like this big-mouthed, sharp-toothed brute, over well-meaning, if a tad forgetful and flibbertigibbet fish like Nemo and Dory.

I'm probably making too much of fish.

But things are certainly simpler in the sea, even if that is where we send most of our actual shit -- to get back to our original subject.

Now that I've solved the problems of the world, I think it's time for lunch: fish and shits, anyone?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blowing it

So here I am in the land Down Under that raised me up -- or at least tried to -- and it would seem I might have already blown it...

It's possible, I can't quite remember (trying to forget), that when being interviewed about my book for the local rag last Friday by a man who ended up confessing he was of a certain religious persuasion, I told him, prior to this confession, about my first piece of life-writing that was titled ''My first job'', a piece not about any regular kind of employment, though there were certain aspects to the ''job'' that were reminiscent of a number of employment situations -- namely, the positions of the man and woman involved.

I think now, with the benefit of sweet hindsight, that I did mention this ''job'' and his confession was an attempt at saving me from such situations in the future. Never mind that we were supposed to be discussing my childhood dance memoir and not the sexual proclivities of Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, the Australian election is imminent. Indeed we're in the last week of campaigning, which means the media is saturated with people blowing and sucking it up left and right -- as well as "pulling ahead'', as one headline had it this morning -- so that my timing could be just right. If my interview is published this week and includes mention of my first "job'', nobody is likely to bat an eye of disapproval. Phew.

On the other hand, with election day scheduled for Saturday, the day before the Sydney launch of my dance memoir, it could be more a case of nobody even opening an eye to read about some old ex-pat has-been dancer who can't stop talking about her first windy job.

It's hard to say which way the wind will blow. Either way, I'm not holding my breath. It's not an effective strategy for helping things go the way you want; I learnt that the hard way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The waves are always browner, too

The surprisingly named Wave Rock (Perth)
So tomorrow I'm heading back to Australia, that land where not only is the grass usually, if not always, browner, but now it would appear so are the waves. So much for my surfing plans.

Just when you thought you'd seen everything, Australia, the land of wonderful wrongness (see previous 'wonderfully wrong' post for the origins of the term https://onewomanswo.blogspot.co.nz/2015/05/wonderfully-wrong.html) delivers up this rock that must surely have been a wave in a previous life.

Who knew a wave could be turned into a rock as if zapped by the White Witch's stoning wand? I didn't, for one, at least not until now (thank you, Google).

Clearly I don't know everything there is to know about this wonderfully wrong country, which is a worry, as it's not only the country I was born and raised in, but the setting for my first (and wishfully planned third) book. It's also where I'm heading forthwith to be interviewed by the local media about said book.

Never mind; I'm sure the Australians will be wonderfully understanding about my ignorance of their (our) wonderfully wrong country, I just have to remember to emphasise the wonderful over the wrong. How hard can it be?

Don't answer that.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tall sperm

Twenty-three years ago today I gave birth to our first child.

Two years before that my husband and I had been told by the country's top fertility expert that we would never conceive a child naturally. A sperm donor was recommended.
According to this week's cover article in the NZ Listener from which this cartoon is taken, Danish sperm is the most sought after and exported sperm globally.

Why? Well, a good part of the explanation it seems is that the Danes are a tall lot. Indeed in Denmark where they make Danes they don't allow sperm donors who are less than a certain height, a height my husband does not reach.

But I, and as it turns out the majority of the single professional women in their thirties who now come looking for sperm donors in New Zealand (a country that doesn't impose a height minimum for sperm donors), are not so interested in tall sperm, nor sperm from donors with the other characteristics of the classic 'alpha' male -- extroversion, confidence, good looks, financial success, etc.

What they want first and foremost is kindness, integrity and reliability, the sort of qualities they have found much more difficult to come by in the dating marketplace.

And so it was with me. When told I'd never conceive a child naturally -- or at all -- with my husband, the kindest of the kind, the 'tallest' of the short, I did not think oh well, now I can get me some tall sperm.

I thought I had already found me the perfect sperm donor and the tall, good-looking alpha-type bloke delivering the earth-shattering news to us in a cool, confident manner, must be wrong and went in search of an alternative explanation and 'cure' for our apparent infertility, and found one.

And so our three, not so tall, children were conceived naturally.

Now I'm not saying there's not some very nice and reliable tall sperm out there, and vice versa for short sperm, just that an emphasis on height in choosing a mating partner and having a height minimum for your country's sperm bank donors is a potential recipe for tall but shallow off-spring.

Obama is tall, but he's not your classic alpha male. If you want an example of tall shallow sperm, you only have to look to Trump and just about every Republican presidential candidate before him.

Enough said.

So a tall and towering happy birthday to our not so tall firstborn, Conor James, a one time semi-finalist in New Zealand's Brainiest Kid -- a fairly tall feat.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

Drugs for mugs

I copied and pasted this list of possible side-effects for the drug I have just been prescribed. Below, I weigh up the pros and cons of taking the drug in light of said side-effects:

"Commonly reported side effects of (drug I've just been prescribed and paid for) - include: diarrhea, nausea, ejaculatory disorder, insomnia, headache, drowsiness, and delayed ejaculation. 
Other side effects include: constipation, dyspepsia, anorgasmia, dizziness, fatigue, xerostomia, decreased libido, and diaphoresis. 
See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects (emphasis added but should have been there for a bit of light relief).

For the Consumer: In addition to its needed effects, some unwanted effects may be caused by (drug I've just been prescribed and paid for). In the event that any of these side effects do occur, they may require medical attention.

Severity: Major

You should check with your doctor immediately if any of these side effects occur when taking (drug I've just been prescribed and paid for):
  • Coma 
  • confusion
  • convulsions
  • decreased urine output
  • dizziness
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • headache
  • increased thirst
  • muscle pain or cramps
  • nausea or vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the face, ankles, or hands
  • unusual tiredness or weakness

More common:

  • Constipation
  • decreased interest in sexual intercourse
  • diarrhoea
  • dry mouth
  • ejaculation delay
  • gas in the stomach
  • heartburn
  • inability to have or keep an erection
  • loss in sexual ability, desire, drive, or performance
  • sleepiness or unusual drowsiness
  • trouble sleeping

Less common: 

Bloated or full feeling, burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, "pins and needles", or tingling feelings. Chills, cough, decreased appetite, excess air or gas in the stomach or intestines. Fever, general feeling of discomfort or illness, increased sweating, joint pain, muscle aches and pains. 

Not able to have an orgasm, pain in the neck or shoulders, pain or tenderness around the eyes and cheekbones, passing gas, runny nose, shivering, sneezing, sore throat,stuffy nose, tightness of the chest, tooth problems,trouble breathing,unusual dreams,unusual drowsiness, dullness, tiredness, weakness or feeling of sluggishness, yawning..."

Reaction of consumer no. 5820000000000000000003 prior to taking said drug:

Yawning I think I can just about cope with, but not to the point of comatisation, though that would help with my insomnia. However, if I am in a coma I might need some assistance contacting my doctor, especially if I'm also confused (about being in a coma).

Inability to get or keep an erection shouldn't be too much of a problem, especially if I'm in a coma. 

Decreased appetite sounds promising, though not so much if it's because of tooth problems. And what are these 'tooth problems' exactly? Will my teeth fall out or just start rearranging themselves in my mouth? Will they go on strike and refuse to eat until I clean them thrice daily with Jiff? They could be a bit clearer on the tooth-problem front. You can't just tell a person they might suffer 'tooth problems' and leave it at that. 

Trouble breathing could be a problem but if I'm passing a lot more gas than usual it might be better not to breathe.

Xerostomia and diaphoresis are not a problem because I don't know what they are.

Inability to have an orgasm and 'perform' sexually; I can blame my husband for that.

Pain in the joints, muscles, eyes, cheekbones, neck and shoulders, well at least my hair won't be troubled.

Diarrhoea and constipation? I think this is drug company speak for don't blame us if you get in the shit. Clearly they want to have their cake and eat it too. They can eat my cake. 

Tightness of the chest? Cheaper than a boob job.

Itching, prickling, crawling, tingling, burning, bloated, dizzy, numb feeling? I grew up in Australia; you'll have to do better than that!

Unusual dreams. Are there any other kind?

Sleepiness and trouble sleeping. First world problem.

Dry mouth? Let it rain.

Runny nose? You can't have it all.

Convulsions? Get a grip.

Decreased urine output? I won't tell if you don't. 

Increased thirst? Any excuse.

Headache? No kidding. 

The thoughtful and thorough side-effects novelist then goes on to explain that the drug could cause increased depression in the short term, even bringing on suicidal thoughts, but stops short of listing death as a possible side-effect. 

So. Provided I'm not in a coma or dead, or stressing about my decreased urine output or troubled teeth, I'll get back to you in due course on the actual side-effects of said wonder drug on me, presuming I take it. I have to fly soon and the doctor, who failed to mention most of these possible side-effects, did say that the drug increases your risk of in-flight deep vein thrombosis, which is usually lethal.

I think I feel that increased thirst coming on...   


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to be a man

I've shared here Chuck Wendig's lengthy, 'comments closed', blog post in response to the latest mass shooting in the US, because it's the best piece of writing on the subject of men and guns and power and patriarchy I have ever read.

I want to add by a man because men almost never write on this subject and I've read (and perhaps written) so many well researched essays by women expressing the same basic sentiment that Chuck espouses: namely, that the problem of violence and men is essentially one of a world-wide, culturally corrupt ideal of masculinity that begins with the telling of men -- heterosexual and particularly white men -- that they are special and better, divinely ordained first beings. Chiefly, this superiority is positioned against women, the inferior second sex, and by extension gay men, who are denigrated for being 'like women': emotional, weak, 'deformed men', to use Aristotle's description of women.

But I'm not adding this because I appreciate that it is both more difficult and more important for a man from this privileged 'special' group to express this sentiment and say, both, that it is wrong and dangerous for men and women alike to assume that men are better, as well as right and empowering for men and women alike to admit that we - (white heterosexual) men - are not special.

God is not a heterosexual man, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or whatever other name and frame you give 'Him'. God is gay. God has a vagina. God has balls. God has fur and leaves. The one thing 'God' doesn't have is a gun or any other man-made macho weapon of destruction, including the fist clenched in anger.

All babies make fists. All babies cry. One action is not masculine, the other feminine, neither expresses strength or weakness. They are merely natural and equal ways that human beings express emotion. Ironically, perhaps, the baby fist tends to express insecurity and the baby tears frustration and anger, at least some of the time.

All babies smile and all loving parents celebrate that first smile which occurs very early on in life. The challenge is to sustain that celebration into adulthood.

We are all frustrated, angry and insecure and we are all capable of joy. Beyond our individual quirks of character, we humans are all essentially the same, and that which says we are essentially different corrupts, weakens, angers and ultimately destroys us all. If we are ever going to learn to live together without violence and hate we need to go back to the beginning and undo that first mistake of thinking one group of people more special than and fundamentally different to any other group.

Thank you Chuck for taking us back to the beginning and for not making this mass killing about religion or terrorism or even homophobia, but instead the cultural construction and corruption of masculinity. Awo-men to that.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

On endurance: It takes women longer

TIME: Twenty-three years ago
Did you know that female and male sperm behave quite differently, with endurance being the distinguishing trait of the female and speed the distinguishing trait of the male? Probably not, but you should, because it explains a hell of a lot.

Did you also know that in her 20s Hillary Rodham turned down repeated marriage proposals from Bill Clinton, worrying that she would lose her independent identity through marriage, and when she finally accepted him, kept her own name (not adding the 'Clinton' for more than a decade) against the wishes of both of their conservative families and the prevailing patriarchal culture of her country and world?

Or that she was raised by Republicans and turned Democrat when, in her early twenties, the 'veiled' racism of the Republican party became evident to her and she found them on the wrong side of the campaign to end the war in Vietnam?

Or that she was the first female partner of a top US law firm and earned far more than her husband for many years until, with her help and financial support, he made it to the White House; or that as First Lady in the 1990s she campaigned hard for healthcare reform along the lines of Obamacare (it was derogatorily dubbed Hillarycare) but failed to get it through a predominantly Democratic (male) House?

Probably not, because the media don't wan't you to know that this woman (or any woman), whose name should appear under the dictionary definition of 'Endurance', has been battling for women, for peace, for the poor, for racial equality and for justice for all before most of us knew what these battles were and, indeed, before her husband, who was more focused on the linear (classic male) race to political power.

Nor do the media or Bernie Sanders and people want you to know that this election battle is first and foremost a gender battle, a battle between endurance and speed and all their associated strengths and weaknesses, and that this is the longest battle ever fought and the most important for the world to win, because, as all happy lovers know: endurance trumps speed.

If Donald, who epitomises the male approach to life, 'love' and liberty: the first there at any cost wins and stuff the 'losers', wins this race against Hillary, who epitomises the female approach of perseverance, courage and the long-term (never-ending) fight for what's right, then we've only got ourselves to blame, especially those on the left who labelled Hillary a liar and made the contest between her and Bernie about anything but gender justice, all the while propping up the dominant gender and ethos.

I know this simplifies matters some, but a degree of simplification in politics is unavoidable and necessary for a functioning democracy. Plus, it's lunchtime and there are degrees of endurance amongst women and mine, for now, is up. But I'll be back...

In the meantime, check out this interesting article incorporating related themes: It's time to admit Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily talented politician.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Misery and Me: A Memoir

Why didn't I think of that for the title of my memoir: 'Misery and Me: A Memoir'? All those emmmmms! -- you know how I admire, accrue and alight upon alliteration.

In fact, I am thinking hard about writing a feminist memoir to the title: 'Misogyny and Me: A Mindfuck', but that doesn't quite have the same ring of recognition to it and at least one of those words probably wouldn't make it past the book-title censors (misogyny).

But no. There is a reason I didn't title my memoir 'Misery and Me', and that reason was made clearer to me on the weekend when the Sydney Morning Herald explained that my memoir is not a 'misery memoir', nor an 'inspirational memoir' indeed, but a memoir of 'ordinary events and aspirations' from a 'fairly typical' family and girl.

So there is that: my life is not, or at least was not when I was growing up, miserable. Nor was it inspirational, which is the word used for misery overcome. Rather, it was ordinary and typical.

So why do I (want to) feel so miserable then?

Well, there used to be a saying: it's better to be ugly than plain. Similarly, it might be said, it is better to be miserable than ordinary.

Except, no. Not quite.

I had my moments of misery growing up, don't you worry about that. Indeed my tears provided the main source of irrigation in our neighbourhood during the otherwise dry, brown-grass months. But I didn't want to burden you with those tears (the editors cut them out), in part, I now think, because before writing it, I had cried my way through writing a PhD thesis on a topic: domestic abuse and homicide, that is Miserable with a capital M and I'd had misery up to here (indicates the high sky) when I'd finally, after ten years of tears, finished it.

Indeed the thesis taught me, in oh so many ways, what true misery was and that my own happiness lay in finding a way to laugh at myself, and life, as therapy. It also taught me that I'm far too emotional to work as an effective academic. Never mind; better late than never.

So where Jeanette Winterson's deranged mother told her: Why be happy when you could be normal? which she turned into the title of her own brilliantly ironic 'misery memoir', my non-misery memoir might be alternatively titled: 'Why be miserable when you could be ordinary?' It's better to laugh than cry, indeed, just not quite so inspiring (or lucrative, I dare say). The miserable shall inherit the earth, and I guess, all said and done, that's fair enough.

SMH 4.6.16.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The last launch

Okay folks. This is my last hurrah on the book-promotion front, at least as far as my blog goes -- and only if I can help it, which I probably can't, because I'm not in charge any more, but I will try.

My Sydney launch (RSVP link here) has finally been set for a month from today and here is the invite, decorated with various pictures of me in my dancing days, mostly dressed as an animal. It's an indication of the wackiness of my young life and dancing career, all of which can be appreciated in much more depth and drama if you read the book itself. But you know that -- right? Right.

So... if there is anyone out there likely to be in the vicinity of Glebe Sydney on the third day of the seventh month and 16th year of the third millennium, I would be so marvellously moved if you would find your way to Gleebooks mid-afternoon to take part in my launch, I will offer you a free glass of wine -- or mineral water -- and even more generously, sign a copy, or several copies, of the book(s) you buy -- provided it is my book, that is; I don't think they'll let me sign other people's books. If they do, I will. Whatever it takes.

See you in Glebe!