Tuesday, November 30, 2004

NaNoWriMo.The End!

Finished! Champagne flowing in every direction... Thanks for your support, oh reader. It does make a difference. I'd be smiling now, except I've got a raging headache & am doped up to the eyeballs... Typical.

Okay, well the NaNoWriMo thing was strange and very strange and a very silly thing to do, and obviously it's not a novel, it's barely characters and a setting sketched in freewriting, but it's 50,000 words and it's finished. Smiling now. Thanks again.


It's the final day of NaNoWriMo and I've still got 8,500 words to go. Yes, it's the famous Leave It Till The Last Minute strategy. It's always served me well, apart from the fact I've never finished anything. This time, though (gritting teeth)...

There's either sweat or determination poring out of these pores (don't stand downwind), and I am plodding on. It's probably going to take about 5 hours of full-speed rubbish-writing. Rubbish-writing I can do. Five hours? ... Umm...

[A public announcement intended to shame me into finishing this bloody thing. Thank you. Over and out.]

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Remarkable Voiceless

[This is a Hopefully-Remarkable in my Remarkables series. I don't know anything more about this organisation than what appears below, but am willing to cheer in anticipation.]

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has an article* about an Australian animal-rights organisation called Voiceless, set up this year by Brian Sherman and Ondine Sherman to promote “a world in which animals are treated with respect and compassion”.

In a nice handshake between real life and fiction, Brian says he's moved by the words of a character in Elizabeth Costello, a book by Voiceless patron, J. M. Coetzee: "Animals have only their silence left with which to confront us".**

Voiceless will award grants to projects supporting animals. The first round of awards will be presented today by one of the judges, Hugo Weaving (who also has a rather famous day job).

*Sorry, the Sydney Morning Herald site requires you to register, and then treats you to a barrage of cookies. Not nice.

**I’d argue that animals are not silent at all, we humans just don’t listen; but I haven’t read the book, and maybe that was the point. And look, while I’m at it - we humans are animals too, aren’t we? I’m presuming the answer to this, but aren’t we just one species in a world of millions? The idea that other species are not communicating unless they use our particular forms of language - catering to our particular senses - is just ludicrous. Isn’t it?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Room to move

Do you ever have days when it feels like you’re being smothered by mess? And you want to yell, “Clean up your room!”, except that it’s your room? And everywhere you turn there’s more to do, and you’ll never get it done, and there’s stuff everywhere, and it’s all stuff? And you know you should just get rid of everything and start again, but that would just take longer, and when are you ever going to get around to that anyway? And the parallels between this and the stupid state of your life are too obvious to consider? Even on a bad day?

No? Oh, that’s good.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Once more with muscles

I know you’ll be dying to find out what’s going on with the mower. (Oh, shush. Humour me & I’ll go quickly.) I had to call in the big guns: Dad. This makes me feel like I’ve fallen into Helpless Woman Syndrome, but on the other hand, Dad does actually know what he’s doing, and it’s his bloody mower. The fact he’s just had a knee operation and should be at home recovering makes me look selfish and mean, so I won’t tell you that bit.

The story goes like this (and please keep in mind yesterday’s three bloody hours). The entire operation was successfully completed in just one hour, two minutes:

- Dad drives up to the farm (half an hour)
- looks at the mower
- bashes the universal joint back on with a hammer (two minutes)
- I say thanks very much; he says no problem, see you later
- Dad drives home (half an hour), possibly even whistling a happy tune.

Now, why didn’t I think of that? (Why? Why?) Bash things with a hammer! That’s the answer!

Full moon (tonight).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Once more with aggression

Right. This is what happened with the mower (and sorry, I forgot to say yesterday that it’s a half-size tractor, not a push mower). First I fixed it. Which only took... oh? ... three bloody hours! Tears, fury, swearing - it had it all. I won’t tell you the name of the mower:

but the designers had thoughtfully placed a sharp-edged thing right where it’s necessary to rest your wrist as you simultaneously:
a) hold up the universal joint (heavy, solid metal),
b) twist it around to find the correct fit with the bit it’s supposed to slide onto, and
c) push it forward to test the connection.

After trial and error (and I say again, three bloody hours...) eventually it worked, giving me the opportunity (sadly limited due to the designers’ placement of obstacles) to hit the joint home with a hammer. Ya-hah! Success. A quick bit of lunch and off to a few hours mowing.

Then it started again: the tapping at the foot pedal, the thwacking noise under the deck... Driving back to the house, the very part I had just reconnected disconnected itself, not only from the connection but also from the post it usually surrounds, tore through the rubber cover, and flew out onto the grass:

At first I thought the post had broken off, but after a cursory examination there doesn’t seem to be anything broken. What can I say without swearing?

The evil underworld.

Growing pains

Some of us race forward into new worlds, squealing with joy. And some of us repeat the pattern of our 5-year-old selves, facing the first day of school by refusing to leave the car, clinging to the driving wheel, and screaming. Yes. (My poor Mum is still recovering.)

Even now, all these years later, knowing that I have to get out into unknown territory, I still find myself sitting in the car and clinging to the wheel, and I just - don’t - want - to - go...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Once more with feeling

Lately the mower has been attacking me. Yesterday it was water in the fuel filter: I’m driving along and suddenly: phfft! No power. Today, the front yoke of the universal joint disconnected. Or something. (I’m not interested in learning the names of these things, because to do so would imply that I have respect for these bits of devil’s machinery. But I have no respect for them. I hate them. If they weren’t already inanimate I would kill them.) I was going to detail my tremendous feats in dealing with this latest catastrophe, but now I can’t be bothered. The mower won. I’ve retired in defeat. Beaten. Humiliated. Covered in grease, lungs filled with diesel fumes. Curse that metal ogre! Tomorrow, you fiend! I will have my revenge...

Passing it on, and on

The oxygen in the atmosphere comes from plants. It is carried by winds across the Earth. Every breath we take includes about a billion oxygen molecules that have been, at one time or another, in the lungs of every one of the fifty billion humans who have ever lived. The simple act of breathing links us in this curiously intimate way with every historical figure and the most obscure of our forebears in every epoch.
- Charles Birch, Regaining Compassion for Humanity and Nature (Kensington NSW: NSW Uni Press, 1993) p.120.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

My sisters are harridans**

You know how it is when you agonise about whether to tell your family about your blog, and then you decide to tell your sisters, and then they can't be bothered visiting anyway? Don'tcha just hate that?

(Yes, yes, I'm trying to flush 'em out if they're in here. You've spotted it, I know, but those girls are... well, shall we say they'd never win a Melbourne Cup? Ssshhh, please. Listen for the sound of wheezing.)

** and I bet they don't know what that word means.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Fine weather in a dry country:


... rain...

... more rain...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Eating the neighbours

Living on a farm, you can’t get away from death. I know it’s eventually coming for all of us (let me just put a dampener on your day, eh?) but that’s not what I mean. On this farm, there are cows, calves and a bull, and all of them will one day be dispatched to their deaths by humans. (Unless they die of natural causes beforehand, which - though painful - might be preferable). And in case you don’t know it, cattle do have families, friends and feelings. When a cow’s calf is sent away on a truck to the sales or the abattoir, that cow will stand where she last saw the calf, calling it. For three or four days. And it’s not a nice cartoon-cow noise: it’s a loud and rumbling bellow. Airy-fairy types such as myself think she is grieving, but others would say her udder is over-full and she’s telling the calf it’s time for a feed.

Either explanation means distress for her, though, and that’s the point. The production of meat & leather & dairy products (cows produce milk for their calves; you must remove the calf if you want to collect the milk) means a high price for cattle, and I don’t mean dollars. Though that is exactly the point from a farmer’s point of view, and a big buyer from Queensland (bless his socks) made farmers such as my father very happy recently, pushing the local price for vealers up to AUD$2.68 a kilo liveweight. (If you’re a farmer, that’ll impress you, apparently.)

If the picture I’m painting here reflects badly on farmers (including my parents), that would be a skewed view. Mum and Dad aren’t hideous people: they’re kind. They love the cattle. They don’t want to hurt them, and if they allowed themselves the indulgent soppiness that I wallow in, they’d go broke, whole industries would collapse, and eventually there’d be no more domestic livestock.

I don’t like the idea I might be eating someone I once knew, so I used to be vegetarian. But now I believe that life (your life, mine) feeds on death, and can’t do otherwise. It happens everywhere: animals killing and eating other animals, fresh growth rising from decaying plant matter, new technologies ransacking the old for parts. It’s a deep and ancient sorrow that we moderns don’t need to face - that we can’t live without killing - but hunters were always aware of it, and thanked the spirits of their prey for giving them life. Want to try it?

The meaning of meat.

Sky above, earth below

Blue sky & clouds.

Kikuyu grass & weathered timber.

Half a world away

There's snow on the Cuillin Hills, Isle of Skye. You can see it via the webcam in the sidebar if you're in the right timezone, or if it hasn't melted by tomorrow... (Lovely, hmm?)

Near the creek at my place.

(Whispering: Bought a camera yesterday... very excited... testing it out...)

The Remarkable Lewis & Clark

If you're ever looking for evidence that "Americans" aren't all loud, brash and egotistical**, you could find it in Florentine Films/Ken Burns' Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. I taped it from Australian TV several years ago (home use only, yes) and just watched some of it again. Every scene is gorgeous, but in a calm and quiet way. The music, a mix of "folk melodies and Native American tunes", is haunting and lovely. The voices of the narrator and actors are authentic, not dramatic.

And all this is just the context for the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which set out from St Louis USA in 1804, travelled up the Missouri River, crossed the Continental Divide and arrived - finally - at the Pacific. It was here on 24 November 1805 that the whole party voted about where to spend the winter. Every member had an equal vote, including York, a black slave, and Sacagawea, an American Indian woman. The film’s writer, Dayton Duncan, says of this occasion: “It was Lewis and Clark at their best. Which is America at its best.” And President Jefferson, back in the east, met a party of Chiefs who had assisted the expedition, telling them his hope was that “we may all live together, as one household”.

It’s a great story about real people, made by real people (really talented real people). And not a flashy, toothy pop-tart in sight. Whatever else America might get up to, “Americans” are as diverse as the rest of us.

**(Rolls eyes and acts dopey) Well, we don’t all think that... Well, okay, but we don’t all think that all the time...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Clouds clearing

Banff, Canada, 1990

Lately I’ve been just a little bit silly... There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have collapsed in a heap and wailed at the moon for ever, had anyone pointed to this silliness and said: “Look. Silliness.”

But a new day has dawned, and about time too. Here’s me, plodding on, not a wail in sight. It's nice to see the sun again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Weighing the options

I’ve been debating whether to reveal the existence of this blog to my family. What if they make stupid comments and embarrass me? (Ba-ba-boom! That’s for you, pets, if you’re ever making a future archive excursion.) I asked one of my sisters for advice - cannily showing the blog in the process - and her reply frightened me, and not just because she’s a terribly scary woman in her own right. The scariest bit was me: she thinks that online I'm different. And here was me thinking this is Me the Everyday. Which, if it comes down to a tussle, is the correct answer. This is Me the Everyday. Which then leads to the question: well, who is that dawdling creature out there in the world, then? What’s going on?

But the topic at hand: do I want my family reading this? At the moment the only projected scenario is that they’ll love it and we’ll all live happily ever after. But what if it leads to a minefield instead, and one day in the future I’ll be tiptoeing through, cursing the idiot I was back now? These people and I are stuck with each other. If I have to choose between them and a blog topic, I’ll choose them. (So it'd be better if they weren’t reading, and I could write about anything.) But I love doing this blog and it’d be good to share it with them. (So it'd be better if they were reading, and we'll have more conversations.)

Any advice, fellow blogger? There’s every chance you’re an intelligent, thoughtful person who knows the answer to everything. No, no, yes, it’s true.

Cold water only

I grew up in a house where an inscription in the dining room said:

Christ is the head of this house
the unseen guest at every meal
the silent listener to every conversation
I tell you this just to illustrate the bedrock nature of my religious faith as a kid, and the crater which was created later in life when I relinquished that childhood God. It felt like the foundation of everything disappeared. Nothing was sure, including me. And even while deciding God didn’t exist, I hoped He/She/It would spring into life and make everything true again. (I’m still hoping, years later, but nothing.) I missed the childhood certainty of knowing what the world was about and what I was supposed to do in it. Suddenly nothing was sure, and I didn’t like it.

Sometime during this turmoil I was watching the film Green Card, which I love, due principally to Gerard Depardieu’s Georges, Bronte’s apartment, and the music. Plus in the final scene Georges makes this tiny little expression with his face, and in it is written all he is trying to say: This is bad, don’t want to go, have to go, it’s not the end. (I don’t know how he gets all this into a tiny flicker across his face, but he does.) A choir then starts singing “Eyes on the Prize”. [*Later alteration: The choir is already singing. My memory of it was wrong, but since then I've checked. The "tiny flicker" on Georges' face isn't a tiny flicker, it's a little nod, after he & Whatshername have smooched at the end and just before he turns to go to the taxi... Not that I like details, or anything...] It’s beautiful, uplifting, heartening, and always makes me feel hopeful, so I decided to attach these feelings to something real and tangible so they’d be available whenever needed.

It was “Any port in a storm” time, and my saviour was a beanie: a knitted hat made of natural wool** which I could wear on my head or hold in my hands or sink my face into whenever necessary. It was soft and warm and had that country-air smell of lanolin. It made me feel that all was not lost. It was a physical representation of hopefulness.

And so what happened? (You knew something was going to happen, I can tell.) Let’s just say it involved a washing machine. And let’s just say there was a sudden end to the soft wool and the lovely smell. And the whole thing shrank so much I could nevermore get it back on my head.

I must have thrown that tiny beanie away - can’t remember - but now I wish I'd kept it. I seem to be coping without a god, but that little beanie was a heart-breaker.

**I was wearing the original-size beanie one day when someone said it looked like there was a dead animal wrapped around my head. (And that’s the look I was going for. Obviously.)

Monday, November 15, 2004


What’s the opposite of homelessness? I mean, what’s the term to describe having somewhere to live? Homefulness?

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Evacuate the area

This is in response to reading about a snake falling from the ceiling while some poor woman was having a shower (just can’t thank you enough for the horror of reading that article, Kent @ Dock of the Bay...)

I have an abiding fear of snakes, and already this summer season have seen three (venomous) brown snakes. There are also (venomous) black snakes around here, and we also have carpet snakes or pythons, a baby one of which I once found curled up here in this very room... (Please hum some ominous music now.)

I opened the cover of a lever-arch file which was sitting on the table, and there, coiled up into a 30cm wide circle on top of the papers, was a snake. I slammed the cover closed, stepped back and gulped out a "Hoh!" noise. I stood there hyperventilating for a while, trying to get my brain back into gear. A snake. In my folder. On the table. A snake. I started to wonder if I'd only imagined it. (Huh?) How could there be a snake in here? Surely there wasn’t. It was an hallucination or something. (Huh? I now say again. Talk about clutching at straws...) So I took a look under the cover from the side, but bad news: it was there. This is about the time I started with more of the “Hoh!”s, and shaking, and clutching at my chest in a very good parody of the classic lady-in-distress. What the hell was I going to do? It was late at night, no-one to call, it was Me versus the Snake, and there'd only be one winner. The snake wasn't moving, so I raced around to find two long barbeque tongs and a cardboard box. Then with 2-metre-long arms (they stretched as an emergency response) and the tongs, I picked up the folder, put it into the cardboard box, carried the whole thing onto the verandah and dumped it, and jumped back inside to peer through the screendoor. And nothing happened. No little face appeared. So I tiptoed out and pushed the box on its side, and jumped back behind the screendoor again. This time the snake had been raised from its slumber (and thank God it hadn't been before!) and it slowly moved across the verandah floor and dropped down onto the garden.

I still don’t know how the damn thing got into this room, though I suspect it might have fallen in through a gap around the woodstove chimney (which I promptly taped up). Just thinking of it now makes me want to put my feet up off the floor, in case there’s something else lurking about. Pythons aren’t venomous, and won’t kill you - unless they wrap around your neck and suffocate you or something. And with that hideous thought now hanging in the air, this post ends here, quickly.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Mordechai Vanunu

Yesterday Israeli police detained Mordechai Vanunu.

The nuclear whistleblower was arrested on suspicion of leaking “national secrets” in a police operation during which armed officers stormed the walled compound of the Anglican Cathedral in East Jerusalem.

An Israeli police spokesman said that he was under investigation for violating the terms of his release, which include bans on leaving Israel for one year, speaking to foreigners or journalists, discussing nuclear secrets and approaching foreign embassies and Israel’s borders or exit points.
Does anyone seriously believe the Israeli nuclear weapons program (ie. their weapons-of-mass-destruction program) would still be secret if not for Mordechai Vanunu’s newspaper article? Of course not. And the idea that - despite being incarcerated for 18 years - Vanunu might still have information to spill about weapons technology is even more ludicrous: why would he have kept it back, and more importantly, what the hell would it matter now anyway? Anything he learned at Dimona would now be hopelessly out of date.

I think his arrest suggests either:
a) petty vindictiveness on the part of Israeli security forces or
b) fear that Vanunu knows more than he’s said about who is helping Israel in its weapons development (and would we need more than three guesses to jump to the right conclusion anyway?)

They should let him go. The man's a hero.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remembrance Day 2004

May the bombs rust away in the bunkers
And the doomsday clock not be rewound
May the solitary scientist working
Remember the holes in the ground
May the knife remain in the holder
May the bullet stay in the gun
May those who live in the shadows
Be seen by those in the sun.

- John Marsden
(from Prayer for the Twenty-First Century**
Compass, ABC TV, Christmas Day 1997)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, today there are conflicts in:


China: Spratly Islands
India: Assam, Kashmir

Indonesia: Aceh, Kalimantan, Maluku, Papua
Ivory Coast
Russia: Chechnya

Spain: Basque Country
Turkey: Kurdistan

**Used without permission but in the interests of public health.

But He could've fixed the trains

When my sisters and I were little, Dad went to Sydney for a conference. This was new for our family, so he came back with lots of stories, including this one: He’d seen someone in Sydney we all knew. Someone very familiar. Someone with a beard. Someone we could look at and listen to every night. Could we guess?

He was talking about the weather man on ABC News. Which was a huge relief to me, because I’d been quaking in fear thinking that somewhere in the streets of Sydney he’d run into God.

(And no, we did not resemble the Flanders family on The Simpsons. Not in any way.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


From zaadz quotes:

"I don't know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens."

- E. B. White
(letter to James Thurber, 18 November 1938)

On the road again

The other day I had to drive a borrowed ute (ie. a utility truck) to another property down the road, and the dogs came for a drive. Little Pup had been in a ute before, but it was new for Big Pup, and she had trouble. She didn’t understand the concept of the “run-up” and couldn’t jump all the way up onto the back (I had to get a picnic chair for her to use as a step). Then at the end of the drive, instead of waiting for me to untie her lead (which was tied to the back of the cabin) she jumped straight over the side and hung there. She was on the driver’s side, thank God, so I was able to get her down quickly. As far as I can tell she was unhurt (physically, anyway).

By the time we repeated the drive the next day, she was just as skilled as Little Pup. We got to the other property and she waited for me to open the back of the ute and untie the lead. Then, in tidy fashion, she jumped out. I untied Little Pup, and she also jumped out.

But then Big Pup, probably just because she now knew she could, jumped back in. Little Pup, ever eager to join the club (any club) followed her.

“No, dogs!” said I. “Time to get out.”

So they jumped out again. But then Big Pup jumped back in again. Little Pup too.

“No, no!” I said. “Time to get out! Get out!

But it was too late: I was laughing. Realising they’d developed their very own comedy routinue, they ran with it (so to speak). One dog jumped out, the other jumped back in. Out, in. Out, in. It was like some sort of Magic Pudding. Every time I turned around there was another dog in the ute. I couldn’t stop laughing. And so were they. (If you’ve never seen a dog laugh before, you won’t believe me, but they were.)

I finally had to call a halt to proceedings or we’d still be there. So the little darlings jumped down and offered to sign autographs. No, really. Those dogs are stars, I tell you, stars!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The long war

Rachie at Living for Disco has posted a poem by Laurie Lee. It's bigger than Texas, you could say, and includes this:

Less passionate the long war throws
Its burning thorn about all men,
Caught in one grief, we share one wound
And cry one dialect of pain

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The Remarkables


[Photo from Backpack New Zealand, where you can find many more beautiful photos of that most beautiful land.]

Sometimes the wrong people get our attention. There are interesting people all over the place, doing amazing things, but unless they can afford to contest the next US election, there’s a good chance we’ll only see or hear about them by chance. For instance: have you heard of Fred Frese? I only-by-chance caught ABC TV’s repeat broadcast of Fred’s National Press Club speech (ABC TV, 03 November 2004; originally broadcast 17 September 2003). People like Fred are heroes, so I’m starting a series of posts called The Remarkables to bring them to your attention. So then at least two of us will be able to applaud them. (Is it okay with you if we wave little flags and shout Hurrah?)

The Remarkable Fred Frese

Fred Frese has a doctorate from Ohio University (USA), he won the American Psychological Association’s award for public service psychology, and for 15 years was the director of psychology at Ohio’s largest state hospital. He is married and has four children. Back in 1968, Fred was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Psychiatrists told him he would probably spend the rest of his life locked up, and that his brain disease was degenerative. Seems they were wrong.

The truth being - those of us with this disorder - we’re wired differently. For whatever reason. And notice I use the term differently. Not necessarily defectively. But living in society, now that we know we are different because of this disorder, it is a challenge and an adventure for us ourselves, and society, to learn. Okay, we function differently. How are we different? How are we different from others, and how, in spite of our differences, can we take roles by which we begin to contribute to society?
- From a speech to the National Press Club**, Canberra (broadcast by ABC TV on 17 Sep 2003; re-broadcast 03 Nov 2004)

The SANE Australia website offers information about a range of mental illnesses and shows 'Why stigma hurts' everybody involved.

** The PDF version of this transcript has now disappeared, but trusty Google is holding an HTML version.

The Remarkable Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy won this year's Sydney Peace Prize.

Here are excerpts from her acceptance speech, “
Peace & The New Corporate Liberation Theology”:

Today, it is not merely justice itself, but the idea of justice that is under attack... Even among the well-intentioned, the expansive, magnificent concept of justice is gradually being substituted with the reduced, far more fragile discourse of 'human rights'.
... Almost unconsciously, we begin to think of justice for the rich and human rights for the poor. Justice for the corporate world, human rights for its victims. Justice for Americans, human rights for Afghans and Iraqis. Justice for the Indian upper castes, human rights for Dalits and Adivasis (if that.) Justice for white Australians, human rights for Aboriginals and immigrants (most times, not even that.)

So what does peace mean in this savage, corporatized, militarized world? What does it mean in a world where an entrenched system of appropriation has created a situation in which poor countries which have been plundered by colonizing regimes for centuries are steeped in debt to the very same countries that plundered them, and have to repay that debt at the rate of 382 billion dollars a year? What does peace mean in a world in which the combined wealth of the world's 587 billionaires exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world's 135 poorest countries? Or when rich countries that pay farm subsidies of a billion dollars a day, try and force poor countries to drop their subsidies? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the Aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Ogoni of Nigeria? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India? What does peace mean to non-Muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources and for whom everyday life is a grim battle for water, shelter, survival and, above all, some semblance of dignity? For them, peace is war.

Arundhati, who says she’s 'not an activist, nor the leader of any mass movement, and I'm certainly not the "voice of the voiceless"', will donate her $50,000 prize money to three Aboriginal community organisations.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pride and Prescience


It is a truth universally acknowledged that, no matter how good you are at climbing through a barbed-wire farm fence, when the fence runs alongside a public road and there’s a car coming, you will get stuck.

[Photo pinched from: http://dnr.state.il.us/orep/c2000/assessments

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Next time I'll throw something

I used to work in a café in a beach town. Some of our customers came in every day, and one of them was called (let’s say) Arlen. He seemed to know all the staff, and we got to meet most of the people in his life. He was so comfortable with us he used to do all his business paperwork while he ate, spreading everything out over the table so it looked like The Little Island of Arlen. He was very fussy about his food requirements, but always friendly, and generally polite. And conversations with him often followed along the chitchatty lines of: “Morning.” “Morning.” “How are you?” “Fine.”

One day I was shopping in an inland town, about an hour’s drive away. This was the town where I’d gone to high school (very unhappily), and it represented, in a way, my old life. I was proud of the fact that I was now living in the hip and groovy beach town in a galaxy far far away. So when, in a newsagency, I looked up from the magazine I was browsing and spotted Arlen on the opposite side of the magazine racks, I had a sudden rush of pleasure in seeing him. He was from my new life, the better life. Knowing him, an out-of-towner, meant I’d moved beyond the old town and I was now like him, an outsider in this strange land. We were outsiders together. (And if you’ve got outsider tendencies yourself, you’ll appreciate the magnitude of this, the miraculous wonder of it.)

“Arlen!” I said. He didn’t look up from his magazine. “Arlen!” I said again. Still no response. I wondered whether to wave my arms about or something, but instead just called out again: “Arlen!” No response again, but it felt like a few other customers were starting to look at me. What should I do? Why couldn’t he hear me? I didn’t want to walk right around the magazine racks - which ran down the length of the shop - because he was right there, only a few metres away. “Arlen!” I said again, louder this time. Still no response. And people were looking at me, I could feel it.

What if he’d seen me walk in and just wanted me to go away? What if he was pretending not to hear, just so he wouldn’t have to look up? What if, what if... I would have left immediately, except these other people were looking at me. I couldn't walk out. They’d think I was an idiot: calling out over and over to someone, and then not even talking to them? No, it was too stupid. I’d gone too far to turn back.

“Hey, Arlen!” I said, loudly, and he looked up. Finally! “Hello!” I said, with a little wave. He looked at me blankly. “Oh,” he said, pausing, probably wondering who the hell I was. “Hello.”

And this is the point where I realised that - despite trying to attract his attention, in full view of other people, at considerable expense to my dignity - it was right here at this point that I realised I had nothing whatsoever to say to him. The only thought in my head had been “Hello”, and I’d used that up already. I nodded at him like an idiot, and looked around the shop. Or something. He just stood there looking at me, I suppose. I don’t remember now. I entirely stopped focusing on him and could see nothing at all except myself: The Idiot. In spotlight! Magnified to hideous superhuman proportions! Face getting hot enough to fry an egg! Oh my God, ohmygodohmygod...

What could I do? “Okay, bye!” I said, and walked stiffly from the shop, hoping it would look like that had been my plan all along. (“No time to tarry, darl! Have a nice day!”)

Back in the café the next working day, it was the same old chitchat: “Morning.” “Morning.” “How are you?” “Fine.”

He didn’t mention it, and neither did I. And that, I think now, was a very good thing.

Monday, November 01, 2004


This is for you if:
a) you’re doing the NaNoWriMo (Kent & Nick: you know who you are)
b) you’re one of those much-less-interesting people who isn’t. ;-)

I hope you and the copyright holder will forgive the extended quotation.

[From: Barbara Sher, Live the Life You Love: In Ten Easy Step-by-Step Lessons (Rydalmere NSW: Hodder Headline Australia, 1996) ISBN: 0733603866.]
    [about motivation]

    p3. Just think positive, tough it out, never quit. If you can’t follow through on a dream, the problem is all in your head. Change your thinking.

    Pardon me, but when I write those words I start getting all steamed up because believing them made me feel like a complete failure. If those phrases work for you, more power to you, but they have never worked for me. I can’t tell myself how to think. I can’t do just anything I set my mind to (trust me on that one - I’ve been trying to learn Latin for years). As for quitting, I’m famous for it.

    p4. If I was such a failure, how had I managed to finish school and hold jobs and raise kids? Those were all hard to do. They required continued persistance over many years! And I had done them! How?

    p5. Get ready for a shocker: the fact that most of us can’t change [through self-improvement programs] means there’s nothing but hope. If you or I were the only people who had trouble with those rules for success, the problem would be ours. But if most people have trouble following them, maybe the rules are the problem. Assuming that the same program will work for all of us is like feeding oats to a tiger or birdseed to a horse.

    p6. Your style of achieving goals might be radically different from mine. That’s fantastically good news. That means the reason most of us haven’t been able to run after our dreams is that we were wearing the wrong size shoes. All we have to do is discover what fits us, and chances are we’ll do just fine.

    p12. […] when it comes to motivation, we’re all different. You may respond to one kind and the person next to you responds to something completely different.

    p16. Look back into your past and ask yourself the same question I did: What motivated you? You too have accomplished a lot in your life. Even as a baby you were amazing. You learned how to walk and speak your first language. You went to school, got involved in a sport or a hobby, held a job, or raised a family. Look at what you’ve accomplished and you will find, as I did, that you have your own energy source. You too have instinctively developed ways that motivate you to swing into action and get things done.

    p18. What do you need to coax out your best work? Find that and you’ll know the secret to your success.

    p28. If you need praise, instruct your friends to praise you. If you need to be scolded, set up a buddy system and you can help each other. Your buddy can scold you (if that works for you) and you can remind your buddy that her enemies will love it if she fails (if that works for her). If you need deadlines, set them for yourself and write them in your calendar; or promise someone you’ll deliver on a certain date. If you work best in a team, pull some people into your project to work with you, and if you need competition, set it up for yourself. Never again judge what you need or assume that you should be able to win using someone else’s motivational style. That’s over. You’re the expert on what you need, so listen to yourself.

    [on gifts]

    p6. You arrived on this planet loaded with gifts and talent, seeing the world in a way no one ever saw it before. Nature meant for you to use that unique vision as surely as she meant for a fish to swim or a bird to fly. These gifts are as much yours as the color of your eyes. You didn’t choose them and you didn’t create them. Just as their name implies, they are “gifts.”

    And they come with a mandate: “Use us!”

    4 + 1 = a vision in blue

    I wrote down my age last night, looked at it, and burst into tears. It’s one of those major-birthday ages plus one, and it’s not 31 or 51, and it starts with a 4. I refuse to write it again, ever. I’m still mopping the tears off the floor. What a bastard that number is. (I hate you! I hate you! etc.)

    Now, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that by now I’d be old enough to know better. (“Old enough to know better?!” Oh! Boo hoo hoo!) In every other area of my life I’ve learned that clothes do not maketh the man (sic). Or they don’t maketh the interesting man. (There are plenty of people who just pour themselves into stereotypes, but they aren’t interesting.) And I’m also aware that the real danger in “isms” eg. sexism, racism, ageism, is that they not only infect the wider culture, but also burrow their way into the individual:

    [Quoting H. Jack Geiger, civil rights worker]
    Of all the injuries inflicted by racism on people of color, the most corrosive is the wound within, the internalized racism that leads some victims, at unspeakable cost to their own sense of self, to embrace the values of their oppressor.
    - Gloria Steinem, Revolution From Within: a Book of Self-Esteem (London, UK: Corgi Books, 1992), p.138.

    So, I should’ve been prepared for this. Should have, but wasn’t. Last night I was thinking: boo hoo hoo! (this got a really good run). And: it can’t be true! And: where did all the years go? You know: etc.

    What to do? Hmm. Don’t really know. Ageism isn’t like sexism or racism: your actual age isn’t a socially-constructed thing. The numbers are right there in front of you (if you’re silly enough to write them down). But what about the expectations pinned to the numbers? When I look at my age, an immediate list of “shoulds” springs to mind: I should be doing this, should be doing that. And this is accompanied by the list of “aren’ts”, the “now-it’s-too-lates” and the “what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-dos”. And I’m pretty sure I never sat down and wrote those lists out myself. For one thing, they're too long. (Can't concentrate longer than… What was I saying?) For another thing: they aren’t helping.

    Well, that’s the answer then, isn’t it? I’ll make up my own list. Something more useful. In a nice shade of blue or green. Something I can live with. Which is pretty important seeing I do actually, you know, have to live with it.

    Isn’t life interesting (in the times when it’s not completely shitty)?