Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tubular Hell

Recently I have spent quite a bit of time on airplanes. And, coincidently enough, until very recently I loved to fly.

Love, love, loved it. And now... eh.
I think my love may have died in the wee, wee hours of this morning as I sat sandwiched in a non-aisle, non-window seat between three crying babies (no... seriously - I have never wanted to take a hatchet to my fallopian tubes with such enthusiasm before) and a couple apparently in love (vomit), while being semi-pestered by a well intentioned but creepy steward who wanted to talk to me about Montaigne.

It was about then that I started to think about planes and how they are metaphors for life. It's the 'so much time and so little to do' thing I suppose. But don't worry, I'm not going to subject you to much of that crap because the theory falls down almost immediately. Because a plane, you see, is taking us somewhere. Somewhere exciting even. Somewhere we want to go. Planes have a destination and that doesn't usually mean crashing and burning into the scorched earth below. Life, meanwhile, is more like a plane with its wings cut off sitting on the runway: boring as fuck and going nowhere.
What is also taking us somewhere but (and this is the crucial point), generally, nowhere new or exciting and frequently somewhere we don't particularly care to go, is the London underground. And as far as life metaphors go this one holds up a lot better than the plane crap. This might come as a surprise because, in my opinion anyway, the underground system is mostly fantastic and only occassionally shit whereas life is the other way around, but please indulge me...
For a start the likelihood of you enjoying yourself on the tube is almost entirely dependent on your ability to make your own fun. I have whittled away many happy hours on the tube with my ipod and a good book but I have also wanted to commit hari kari in the two minutes it took me to travel between Bank and Holborn stations upon discovering my ipod's battery is dead and my book has been left at home on the bog.

At the same time, on the tube, you can do everything right and people will still fuck you over. Book? Check. Ipod? Check. Refreshing drink? Check and check. fifty sweaty people sans deoderant with exactly the same destination in mind as you? Er, check.

The most infuriating aspect of the entire operation is that there is no way to avoid it. If you need to get somewhere in London you pretty much need to catch the tube. Oh sure you can pussy around with buses and black cabs for a bit but that's just a cop out. A stop gap even. Sooner or later you'll be down in the tube, standing dutifully to the right of the escalator and wondering if you will enjoy a pleasantly seated 15 minute ride or an hour long death march.
It's just the same with life. We're not entirely enamoured with the trip but what's the alternative? Fuck all is what so quit your whining. Just stand to the right, don't make eye contact and hope that, today, the train will be empty, the seats will be free and you can make it to your stop without weeping bitterly onto your Oyster card and wishing imminent death on yourself and others.

Questions I had good reason to ask myself recently:

  • Why is there an egg-shaped lump on my head that really hurts when I push it?
  • Why is one of my knees red and swollen?
  • Why are my feet covered in a variety of incredibly unattractive blisters and weeping sores?
  • When exactly did I become a sleepwalking self harmer?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Unwanted Destinations

It is inevitable that on any holiday you will find yourself in places you really don't want to be. I'm not talking about the Czech town apparently populated entirely by prostitutes and unhelpful train ticket collectors in which you find yourself stuck for three hours while waiting for a train, nor even the dodgy Argentinean internet cafe which welcomes you with the sight of a small child pissing in the doorway, so much as I'm talking about...

You will realise you have entered this small, hopefully rarely-visited, locale when the possibility occurs to you that you might actually be about to die. This could happen, for instance, when you discover, while thousands of feet up in the air, that the air hostess demonstrating the safety procedures is very, very drunk. Concerns will be further raised by the sporadic ramblings of a madman that come over the PA at unpredictable intervals, offering contradictory advice or suggestions before falling back into silence mid sentence. If you don't know where you are by now try turning on the overhead light, listening to the radio or accessing the long promised but never received in-flight entertainment. You observe not only your light but that of your neighbour's flicker once and die while your radio is either non existent or offers only silence? Congratulations... you're in Shitting-Your-Pants-Ville.

Aw Fuck County
Aw Fuck County is always open for a quick stay, such as when you realise you are a day late not only for the flight you have just arrived to catch but for all subsequent connectingflights, or for a longer trip, such as when you discover your boyfriend has left his wallet in a plan somewhere between Washington DC and Argentina.

Ugly America
Ugly America is not, as you might suppose, a place populated by fat tourists with Texan accents who talk as though nobody around them could possibly understand them and whose 'Spanish' consists of speaking in an increasingly loud voice (apologies to MrHatch senior). Ugly America is when you discover that YOU are being viewed as the equivalent of the fatties with Texan accents. This may happen as you try desperately to speak bad Italian to a hostel clerk and, upon receiving his blank stare, complain "oh come on, they're practically the same language" or it may happen when, aftera highly confusing verbal exchange, your taxi driver turns to you and says "so you're American, right?"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Out of Office Reply

I’m sorry but I am busy jet-setting about and spending money I don’t have and cannot take your call today.

I will be back in town at the end of the month. If you need entertainment in the meantime please enjoy the luscious Gael Garcia Bernal above, check out the fine list of links on the right hand side of this page or send me an email, as I’m bound to be in and out of some of Argentina’s mustier internet cafes to keep up with all the business news that Perth has to offer (ahem).
Alternately you can leave me a message after the beep and I’ll get back to you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Damn you extra strength cold and flu meds - what have I become?

When I was younger my mother, bless her, once compared me to Jo from Louisa M. Alcott’s classic Little Women. This delighted me for two reasons. Firstly, of course, because, as far as I was concerned, Jo was the most awesome of the March sisters - far better than the whiny little martyr that was Beth or the stupid bitch that was Amy. Secondly because it infuriated my older sister who felt (perhaps rightly) that she was being cast as the older, dull and super sensible Meg. To this day I can still get a rise out of her by referring to her as “Megsie”.

Anyway the point (and I am getting there) is that part of me thought there was some validity to this comparison. Not because I’m like Jo in many ways but because she hated change and she just wanted everything to stay the same.

Now, unlike Jo, I would never have turned down Laurie for a snooty German wankhead but on this particular point I agree with her: change blows.

The end of this week, which has nearly arrived, promises to herald a fairly significant change for me as I change jobs. I will miss the work, which I love most of them when I’m not being cried at over the phone or yelled at by some crazed council watcher.

But more than that I will miss the people I have met here. Blame it on the cold and flu medication for making me all weepy but I’ve never worked in a place where I have met so many awesome people. Not all of them are still with the company or, indeed, work in the same office as me, but they are among the smartest, funniest and most right-on (hee sorry) people I’ve ever met. Soonish after starting here I was prattling on about this to my best friend, the lovely Ali and she said something like “wow, you don’t usually like people” or something to that effect. Completely true and yet I totally (vomit bags in place, please) fell in love with the CNG crew.

And I’ll miss them all terribly.

*Sniff* See you at the pub.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who contributed to both card and pressie. Love it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Congratulations... you're a c*nt

Now pass me my cane and shut up - granny's watching her stories.

How do you know you’re getting old? It’s got nothing to do with turning 25 and then having somebody say to you the very next day “Jeez you’re looking old” (As an aside: Fuck you, man. As far as I’m concerned I still have baby fat). It’s all about hearing yourself mumble that killer phrase “Ah the youth of today…”

Which I kinda did when I read this article in The Guardian about how much pocket money kids (English kids actually but who’s counting?) are getting these days. Up to a thousand pounds a year apparently.

Hmm. On the one hand: good work kids and who cares. But on the other hand… part of me vaguely resents this little development because I distinctly remember the Good Old Days when I received exactly a dollar a week in pocket money. A freaking dollar a freaking week. I can’t remember how old I was but I do recall once saving for two weeks to splurge and buy my sister a $1.50 piece of lace (I know, I know - the lace bit makes it sound like I grew up in the Depression but it’s what happened, ahh but they were simpler times).

To compensate for this kind of tough love approach I had to work a string of low-paying fairly crappy jobs from a pretty young age. Highlights include my very own paper route, working the fries at Hungry Jacks and my brief foray into the world of the sandwich deli where my boss chain-smoked and I nearly cut off my thumb with the industrial meat slicer.

And yet - and I say this filled with fear of getting too comfortable in my role as Wise Old Woman Reflecting On Her Past - I think it actually did me some good. These days I expect to have to work for it if I want something, I appreciate the slightly better-paying awesome job I have now and I’m mighty handy if you want your ham sliced up wafer thin. Even better if you want some human blood on the side.

And I’m not sure that I would have any of that if I’d had large cash sums dolled out to me by Ma n’ Pa Emery.

Then again, hoping down from my pedestal right about now I did just spend a crazy, crazy amount of money on a pair of ridiculously costly stockings which I had flown in from (ahem) London, and I have, now that I come to think of it, blown my savings on a whirlwind trip I can’t ‘technically’ afford.

Um what was I saying about life lessons learned? It’s all bunk. Damn you Mum and Dad - where was that silver spoon I was promised at birth?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Poetry Corner

"About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window
Or just walking dully along."
(W.H. Auden, Musee de Beaux Arts)

Things I do not want to hear:

  • I am the same age as Graham Greene when he published his first novel.
  • I am only a year younger than F.Scott Fitzgerald when he published The Beautiful and the Damned.
  • I am two years older than Ian Curtis was when he died (ok well maybe that one's ok).

Lemsip is the new booze

I think I may be in the middle of a bloody self fulfilling prophecy.

You see for the past few weeks I’ve felt, on and off, that I was on the cusp of becoming ill. I don’t know why but I seem to have had an inordinate number of sore throats/weary muscles/sneezy fits… fortunately without ever actually having any of them develop into a full blown stay-in-bed illness.

That’s all well and good but now that I’m about to jet set off at the weekend for a lovely overseas trip I’ve developed the fear that I will get sick. And now damn it if I don’t seem to be doing just that. Sore throat? Check. Weariness? Check. Stomach that feels like a teensy craft set adrift on stormy seas? Double check.

Of course the worst part is that the whole thing is probably bloody psychosomatic: I worry about getting sick and the stress not only makes me imagine symptoms but probably actually creates the little fuckers. I stress because I feel sick and I am sick because I am stressed. Pah. Stupid body and brain, can’t get it together.

However I’m determined to beat my mind or body or whatever at its own game. From now until, you know, the end of the week I will become one of those sickening bastards who takes Echinacea, eats shite like berries with natural yoghurt for breakfast and never drinks diet coke at 7am.

Hey, it’s three days - what’s the worst that could happen?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy Birthday to, um, me?

As a caveat to this blog I would like to mention that I have been out on a long and boozy birthday lunch, which has only just ended. Therefore nothing i say should be held against me. Aaaanyway...

Birthdays. Aren't they fucking fabulous?

At the big 25 I feel I am both getting getting older, getting younger and staying the same.

On the one hand I am obviously getting older. For instance on Saturday night while out with my lovely ol' school girls I looked at my watch at about 1.30am and though 'yeeeeah I'm ready for bed' and I was. And I went. Something I wouldn't have done five years ago. Maybe that doesn't seem like a particularly good thing but it's nice to feel that I can admit it when I'm ready to slope off. And to admit that maybe I'm not all about the clubs these days.

On the other hand I have a giant pimple. On my face. It is almost a second head. Ew. So I am still, technically, 16ish.

And on the er alternative (third?) hand, the song I chose as today's 'birthday song' (yeah I have too much free time on my hands, some might say) was a Belle and Sebastian classic, This is Just a Modern Rock Song. This is a long term favourite so, you know, the more things change blah blah blah.

There are too many people to thank for unexpected gifts/flowers/happy birthdays but thank you all - I have had a truly lovely day.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Exhibit A

So featuring hotties in two blogs in a row is sort of lazy - I know this. I also think it brings the incredibly intellectual tone down just a smidgen. And yet. If you haven't been watching the new series of Heroes or you missed the first season may I present exhibit A for why you should be watching it: the ever luscious Milo Ventimiglia. Without his shirt on. And although you cannot see it here I assure he was chained up. And sort of sweaty. *Ahem* Please excuse me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Cusp-of-the-weekend hottie

"There is nothing like desire for preventing the things one says from bearing any resemblance to what one has in mind." (Marcel Proust)
PLEASE NOTE: This photo was supposed to be a shot of a shirtless, shaved-headed and er (a moment of wooziness) chained up Milo Ventimiglia, courtesy last nights episode of Heroes. Sadly however my computer has shat itself and gone to sit in the corner with a stiff cup of tea and the photo will have to remain for my eyes only. Now if you don't mind I have some business to attend to. In other room.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

It was a dark and stormy night...

The opening line of a novel sets the tone of the whole thing. At least that’s the way I see it. The author knows it will be the first thing the reader reads, I reason, and they should try to make it the best line in the book. The theory follows on, then, that if the first line is crap the rest of the book will be crapper. Of course that isn’t always the case but it’s a nice rule of thumb and I always read the first couple of lines of any book I buy because the plunging disappointment of starting a new book and being immediately turned off in the first ten words is terrible.

By contrast the sensation of sitting down to read a brand new book and reading “Mother died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know” is a fabulous one. That particular start, from Albert Camus’ The Outsider, is a personal favourite of mine but there are plenty more.

What about Anthony Burgess’ Earthly Powers: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."

Or the wonderful “It was a pleasure to burn” from Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury).

Traditionalists who like that sort of thing might think the whole thing starts and ends with “Call me Ishmael” (Melville's Moby Dick of course) or think Dickens had it right with A Tale of Two Cities - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.

Certainly the latter is a mood setter but I prefer Steinbeck’s equally evocative opener from The Grapes of Wrath - “To the red country and party of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.” - Plath’s Bell Jar - "It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York” - or Orwell's 1984 “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen?”

But what do I know - I’m just one stupid reader. So I shall turn it over to you book readers out there - favourite opening line for a novel ever? There's no need to be shy...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Beautiful Losers

"[F[ind a little saint and fuck her over and over in some pleasant part of heaven, get right into her plastic altar, dwell in her silver medal, fuck her until she tinkles like a souvenir music box, until the memorial lights go on for free, find a little saintly faker like Teresa or Catherine Tekakwitha or Lesbia, whom prick never knew but who lay around all day in a chocolate poem, find one of those quant impossible cunts and fuck her for your life, coming all over the sky, fuck her on the moon with a steel hourglass up your hole, get tangled up in her airy robes, suck her nothing juices, lap, lap, lap, a dog in the ether, then climb down to this fat earth and slouch around the fat earth in your stone shoes, get clobbered by a runaway target, take the sensless blows again and again, a right to the mind, piledriver on the heart, kick in the scrotum, help!
help! It's my time, my second, my splinter of the shit glory tree, police, firemen! look at the traffic of happiness and crime, it's burning in crayon like the akropolis rose!"
I have just finished reading Leonard Cohen's Beautiful Losers and um, for reasons which may or may not be clear upon reading the above extract, I'm not entirely sure what to think.

You can read the full blog entry here.

Kill me please one more time

The existence of a celebrity sex tape generally amuses and bewilders me in relatively equal parts.

Mostly I tend to fixate on why, exactly, so many people want to watch themselves having sex?
That is to say that sex itself is good, great, whatever but I think we all know by now it’s not exactly like it is in the movies. I won’t pain you, dear readers, with much elaboration on my personal sex life but suffice it to say I’m not entirely sure it is anything I would like to see recreated on cinemascope.

Anyway if there is anything more frightening than a theoretical sex tape it is the news that Britney Spears is facing the release of a sex tape she didn’t know existed. According to incredibly authoritative source In Touch Weekly some random man filmed himself having an “intimate encounter” with the pop tart:

"The 28-year-old man was living in Hawaii at the time, a left his camera rolling without Britneys knowledge as they became intimate at a bungalow at the Four
Seasons hotel on the Kona-Kohala Coast on June 7. He met Britney in the bar at 1am and they ended up partying together in Spears' room. "It was just normal, we didn't do anything crazy. It was a little disappointing. It lasted for about 25 minutes and then we passed out."

More mystifying, even, than how Spears could not have noticed the video camera in the corner (“seriously baby that red blinking light is just the VCR - I’m recording Grey’s Anatomy so we can watch it afterwards”) is the idea that there could be a market for this thing. Personally the
mere existence of people who actually want to watch Spears having sex makes my soul die just a little.

Sure, sure slagging off Spears these days is about as controversial as saying you’re not all that sold on Pol Pot or you think George Dubya might be a bit incompetent but, short of a sex tape
starring PP and Bush is it possible to think of something less sexy than this hopefully-non-existent tape? I’m not saying she’s some kind of hideous creature – detractors aside I think
she looks quite pretty with some slap on her face and a bit of Vaseline on the camera lens and
after years of unintentional exposure to her video clips, various awards show performances
and up-skirt magazine snaps I think I have seen enough of her anatomy not to be too shocked at a presumably naked-Spears. What I really dread is seeing and listening to an uncensored Spears - the drunken ramblings of a bimbette stupid enough not only to support Bush but to sleep with Kevin Federline at least twice. I imagine - and fear - her inspid pillow talk and doubtless high school approach to Pleasing Your Man will be enough to make grown men vent their bowels and grown women vow never to venture beneath the sheets again - or at least learn to distruct that old chestnut about the blinking VCR light in the corner. I suppose the latter is about as close as we can expect to get to a silver lining in this sorry affair.

Quotable Quotes: Leonard Cohen

"I don't consider myself a pessimist.
I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain.
And I feel soaked to the skin."
(Leonard Cohen)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Birthday wishes for Graham Greene

George Orwell once said that Evelyn Waugh was "about as good a novelist as one can be while holding untenable opinions." Orwell, an atheist, was talking about Waugh's staunch Catholicism and he made a good point but I think the same could be said about Graham Greene, who would have celebrated his 103rd birthday today if he wasn't, you know, dead.

Although The Power and the Glory was probably his most famous novel and others like Brighton Rock or The Quiet American arguably his most celebrated it is The End of the Affair that has always done it for me. Part slushy romance, part war-time picture of London and part bitter, bitter cynicism this was the first Greene I ever read and still my favourite.

“I sat with the telephone receiver in my hand and I looked at hate like an ugly and foolish man whom one does not want to know. I dialled her number. I must have caught her before she had time to leave the telephone and said: ‘Sarah,tomorrow’s all right, I’d forgotten something. Same place. Same time. And sitting there, my fingers on the quiet instrument, with something to look forward to, I thought to myself: I remember. This is what hope feels like.”
I've prattled on about this book before over here so it's not my intention to do so again. But there are so many books being written and published every year that I frequently get caught up in panic that I can never 'catch up'. With this mentality it's easy to forget about a dead Catholic author and the books he wrote but if you've never had occasion to dip into a little Greene then his birthday seems as good a time to do it as any. And cross your fingers that Greene died happier than his protagonists ever seemed to end up.

"O God, You've done enough, You've robbed me of enough. I'm too tired and old to learn to love. Leave me alone forever."

Chan ban, thankyou man (yeah I know the puns are getting worse)

My love for Jackie Chan - forged in the fire of classics such as Young Master and Drunken Master II but sorely tested by the two minutes I saw of The Tuxedo and the tragedies that were Rush Hours 2 to 3 - has been partially restored by listening him slam the Rush Hour franchise.

Basically saying he only did the movies so he could fund projects that actually interested him, Chan said he was offered an “irresistible” amount of money for the work and only just stops short of saying the movies were a pile of shit:
"When we finished filming, I felt very disappointed because it was a movie I didn't appreciate and I did not like the action scenes involved. I felt the style of action was too Americanized and I didn't understand the American humor […] Nothing particularly exciting stood out that made this movie [Rush Hour 3] special for me ... I spent four months making this film and I still don't fully understand the humor.”
You can read the rest here or on Chan's blog.

My love for Chan will be completely restored if he now manages to pull out another Police Story or, what the hell, another Rumble in the Bronx. Frick it I'd pay just to see him chew up chillies and spit them into his opponent's face just one more time...

Monday, October 1, 2007

We have always been at war with Eastasia

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Condoms cause AIDs. Hmm.

The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has put another nail in the coffin of Catholicism and a few thousands more nails in the coffins of all the poor buggers he's probably sentenced to death with his quite astounding statements last week that he believes some European-made condoms (as well as HIV treatment drugs) are being deliberately infected with the HIV virus to get rid of African people.

Maputo Archbishop Francisco Chimoio claimed some anti-retroviral drugs were also infected "in order to finish quickly the African people". The Catholic Church formally opposes any use of condoms, advising fidelity within marriage or sexual abstinence[...] Archbishop Chimoio told our reporter that abstention, not condoms, was the best way to fight HIV/Aids[...] "Condoms are not sure because I know that there are two countries in Europe, they are making condoms with the virus on purpose," he alleged, refusing to name the countries. "They want to finish with the African people. This is the programme. They want to colonise until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century's time."
It's ridiculous, of course, and the kind of stupidly amusing story that gets passed around with a bit of a snicker. But it's also incredibly shocking, especially given that it's estimated 16.2 per cent of Mozambique's population are HIV positive. According to the BBC about 500 people in the country are infected daily. I was raised Catholic, baptised and confirmed and I don't have a huge problem if people want to believe some fictional story about a skinny dude with bad hair who died for them but when it leads to this kind of fucktardery it's hard to have any respect for these leaders. On the one hand I'd like to think that at least Chimoio believes this crap himself and is acting in best faith. On the other hand if that's the case why is such a moron the head of anything?
The result is the same, either way, of course. The ignorant and the poor and the people who trust their leaders get screwed while Chimoio just fucks altar boys in the back room and congratulates himself on whatever he thinks he's accomplished. Good work mate.

I've got some distance left to run.

Yesterday should have been my birthday. It was supposed to be. Almost 25 years ago I was expected to make an appearance on September 30, which would have meant sharing my birthday with my older brother. Luckily for both of us (who wants to share a birthday? Honestly - bad planning parentals and don't think I haven't realised it's exactly 9 months from New Years Eve) I dug my little claws into that womb lining and hung on for another week. This is great news, and not only because it means I get a birthday to myself. It's also great because it means I have a full week before I officially hit a quarter of a century and the downward slide into late 20s begins.

I'm not exactly where I would have imagined myself ten years ago. In many ways I'm better off (love the job, friends, boyfriend etc) and I'm generally a lot happier than I was ten years ago. But in other ways there are things I wish I'd done that I haven't. I haven't, for instance, written the awesome novel I assumed I would have churned out before now. I also haven't managed to acquire much in the way of physical assets. Unless you count my ridiculously expensive couch. Which I sort of do. I suppose, like most stupid kids, I assumed I would have a much better idea about how things worked and what I wanted to do with myself by now. Of course I don't and, with the gift of hindsight, it seems pretty fucking stupid to have expected that sort of wisdom by now.

But anyway, the real point of this post is because I'm going to use the next week extremely constructively to create some kind of awesome list of Things to Do Before I'm Thirty. Clearly, having five years up my sleeve, this might sound like a bit of wankery but I actuallly think this sort of thing works. I'm a big fan of lists - I love making them, crossing things off them and revising them when I realise I've been way optimistic, foolhardy or delusional. So, please, all suggestions are welcome. So far I've got Have Novel Published and Service The Car... No Really on the list and that's about it. What do you reckon?