Welcome to the World, Ella!

May 31, 2007 at 2:01 am (Uncategorized)

Too exciting, and this is as close as I can get to being there: my dear and distant English friend Kate gave birth yesterday to her first child, a daughter. Most of the overseas readers of this blog know Kate personally, so you might like to know she and her beau Stuart have named their little girl Ella, and how I wish I could meet the little miss in person rather than sending this remote greeting.

Welcome to life, baby girl.

She joins my latest relative, baby Harper, who arrived an impetuous month early on 20 May. I’ve already seen photos of Harper (my sister and her family live a fair distance from Sydney), and she’s sleeping as soundly as all little princesses should. Early reports from England suggest Ella is also very chilled out about this whole existence thing.

It’s very difficult being both a sister and friend by proxy. I’m missing all these markers, births, birthdays, assorted milestones. I’ve spoken before in this blog about how inadequate it feels, being so far away, and moments like this really make me count out, as I just emailed my friend Fernando, every single nautical mile between here and what I called the smugly companionable European cluster. Everything looks so easy when you’re in Europe. None of the distances feel insurmountable. As an Australian living on the east coast of Australia, I can assure you there are days when I feel the distance with every fiber of my being. It doesn’t just look like a long way on the map, it is a long way.

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Back in Business!

May 30, 2007 at 2:40 am (Uncategorized)

Wow, sorry guys, that was some hellish radio silence! Thank you for your patience. I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t been able to. But I have fixed the problem with my computer, finally, on my own and completely unsupervised, so I am feeling rather pleased with my techie efforts. Yes, yes, it was something really, really simple, but I don’t care. I fixed it.

The week that was…well, I’ve had a rather busy time of it, actually. The big news is that I have finished drafting my fiction manuscript (MS). It’s been read by a friend and colleague from PhD days, Tim, and I have spent quite an intense few weeks redrafting it based on some of his feedback, which dovetailed very closely with my own concerns. Given I didn’t discuss any of those concerns with Tim prior to his reading, the fact that we both independently thought the same things were problematic was enough to convince me that they had to go. So. What now, you ask? What now indeed.

I don’t really know the answer to that. Yesterday I submitted the MS to an annual competition for unpublished manuscripts – The Australian/Vogel Literary Award. Entries close tomorrow – I’ve always believed in cutting it fine. I entered it because I turn 35 in September, so this is the final year I will be below the age limit. It is a window of opportunity that is closing for me, so I thought I should throw it into the ring, come what may. It is the deadline I have been working towards since I began writing the draft in December, so I am, if nothing else, very pleased to have met it. It’s terrifying, putting it out there, but at the same time I wrote the thing to have it read, so now begins the really hard work. The likeliest scenario is that it gets nowhere in the competition. They receive around 200 entries per year. One winner. A couple of runners-up. If I am not short-listed, I won’t get any feedback on my entry. This is the likeliest outcome simply by virtue of the numbers. If it is short-listed, I may get feedback, but no publication. In some cases, runners-up have been published alongside the winning entry. No cash prize, but a book at the end of it. That in itself would be a great result. The winning entry receives a cash prize of $20,000 and guaranteed publication. That, of course, is simply too much to hope for. Someone has to win, but I can’t imagine the world in which that person would be me. My whole brain shuts down even trying to entertain the possibility. So why enter? Well, why not? I have an unpublished fiction manuscript. I’m 34 years old. The competition closes tomorrow. How could I not enter?!

Unfortunately, whilst the competition is being decided, I cannot offer my MS to any other publishers. I am now in virtual limbo. Hilarious and frustrating when you consider that the likeliest outcome is losing, but that is a condition of entry. What I can do, though, is start the serious slog of searching for an agent to represent me. If I can find one, then, assuming I get nowhere in the competition, I will at least be in a position to try and get it published elsewhere once the Vogel is announced in September. This is where the real work begins. Australia is a tiny market. It’s extremely competitive. There’s almost no money for new authors. And I have no idea how my work compares. No sense of its worth. No concept of whether a stranger would see any value in it. My chances of being published are miniscule. For those of you who are friends of mine, dear, supportive, endlessly encouraging friends, thanks so much for believing otherwise, but the reality is stark. As I begin this next phase, I think we all have to keep that in mind. But let’s go and find out, shall we?! What the hell!

The other thing I wanted to mention was that last Thursday night I went to the Stephen Dupont exhibition opening at the Byron McMahon gallery, 88 George St, Redfern. Dupont made his name as a photojournalist, before reinventing himself as a fine art photographer. Sandra Byron, the gallery’s director, has been championing fine art photography in this country for decades. The space itself is a converted pub – very lovely – and Dupont’s photographs are stunning. Black and white only are in the current exhibition – I’m not sure about the rest of his catalogue. He’s been to some unbelievable destinations: Cuba (a place that holds a strong pull for me, though I can’t really explain why), West Papua, Palestine, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia after the Boxing Day Tsunami…Talk about being right at the coal-face. But his eye is just superb. The composition of his pieces is uniformly commanding. I was very sorry I didn’t have a spare few grand to spend – there were a couple of pieces Llew and I would have bought had the funds been at our disposal. As a medium within contemporary art, I do love the photograph.

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The Trouble with Remembering Bad Memories

May 24, 2007 at 6:36 am (Uncategorized)

Technical difficulties, kids – sorry for the absence of a post yesterday. I was hoping it would just work itself out overnight as these things sometimes (bizarrely) do, but no such luck. Every time I click on the ‘Write’ or ‘New Post’ icon, my computer crashes. Well, no, that’s not quite right. Safari crashes. And having tried this a record-breaking number of times in the last 30-odd hours, I’ve finally admitted defeat and skulked up to the internet cafe at the end of my street.

Greetings. Yesterday’s post was going to be about the question of collective memory in on-going conflicts like that between Israel and Palestine. My Egyptian journalist friend who’s based in Gaza sent me a really interesting article about…well, it was about a number of things, but one of them was the extent to which memory matters when you’re looking for possible solutions, and it’s not okay to say ‘Let’s put the past behind us.’ That very sentiment, though, is what my husband believes needs to be embraced with the current Iraqi crisis. Tuesday night he went to the Lowy Institute and heard the Iraqi Foreign Minister speak. Apropos my exchanges with Warwick re. the Lowy in recent posts, people may find it interesting to know that the minister did want to shed some light on some of the ‘positives.’ No surprises there; apparently he’s frustrated that the media keeps reporting on all the negatives, among which there’s the super-negative: an estimated 65-70,000 civilian casualties. Yes. That’s a tough sell, all right, and kind of hard to get past if you ask me. If you are interested in an insider perspective outside Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, I urge you again to click on the Baghdad Burning link on my blog roll. The author is a civilian, not a politician, and her interpretation of the crisis is at odds with the positive reading. Having said that, it is important to believe, now it’s happening and has been happening for so long, that some good can ultimately come of this. Perhaps there are positives, as the Foreign Minister claims.

Which brings me back to this memory/let’s wipe the slate conundrum. Llew said when he got home from the Lowy that whilst he disagreed with the invasion of Iraq, they’re there now, the damage has been done, so isn’t the point to look at the reality of where the crisis is at and attempt to move forward from there? Well, yes, but no at the same time. People don’t forget – won’t forget. On the contrary. Surely we know by now that the inherited memory, the story that gets passed from generation to generation, is one of the most potent weapons of identity, religion, and power that people have. There are stories being created in Iraq every day that will be ear-marked for future generations, and I doubt a single one of them will involve America arriving on a white charger to save the day.

But maybe if there was no memory of how it happened, just a desire to end it starting from today, maybe then people could imagine a better future for the average citizen of all these war-torn -places. Maybe if there were no stories of invasion and civilian slaughter and mistreatment, maybe if there was an amnesty on memory, maybe then there might be a way out. But how do all the involved parties make something productive and good come out of this hell as long as everyone has their conflicting story? How do you ask people to lay those stories down when it’s tantamount to demanding they relinquish one of their sole weapons of defence? I wish – how I wish – I knew.

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Waking Up and Smelling the Coffee

May 22, 2007 at 3:36 am (Uncategorized)

The other day, Llew and I were reading the weekend newspapers, and Llew suddenly snorted in disgust.
“What?” I asked.
“This just makes me so sick,” he replied, showing me the paper. It was a big, full-colour, full-page advertisement from the Howard Government. It was about their controversial Industrial Relations (IR) reforms. They call it “information advertising,” like really it’s not political at all – they’re just doing us a favour. Bringing us up to speed. There’s nothing remotely slanted about the content – no, these ads just tell it like it is. They’re for our benefit. We should be thanking them for spelling it all out for us in such an objective manner.

Does anyone really believe that? Today’s smh.com site has an article that tells the fiscal tale – have a look. $111 million dollars on federal government advertising this year. Oh, and look at that, would you, it’s an election year. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, right? One friend who was working in TV advertising at the last election said it was the biggest thing to happen to print and television media in her memory – they made budget in record time thanks to the record funds being poured down the drain by the big spenders in Canberra. Llew’s right – it is sickening. As he said with a grim laugh, the sole justification for that kind of advertising spend is the zero-consolation defence that given the chance, the Opposition might prove just as bad. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel better about anything at all.

$111 million dollars. And don’t even get me started about the (now scrapped, since too dicey a PR game – it is an election year, you know) $540,000 new dining room for the PM’s offices. When I think about the tens of thousands of dollars – sorry, scrap that – when I think about the now hundreds of thousands of dollars my husband and I have already paid in taxes, and when I think about how that money is being misdirected and blatantly squandered, I almost can’t believe how little recourse we have, and how little accountability there appears to be in parliament. This is not confined to the Howard Government or to federal politics in general – the State Labor Government in NSW has efficiently demonstrated little more than that the grass is just as green and just as slimy on the other side of the fence. How grim.

Howard used to be fond of trotting out a humility-soaked sound bite that always made me gag: “I am a servant of the Australian people.” Well, let’s assume for one delicious moment that it’s true. If this is an upstairs/downstairs comedy of manners (or rather errors), then old Howard, the aging butler with inappropriate designs on the master’s fortune, is rather guilty of forgetting his station, and should be summarily dismissed by the owners of the estate. That would be us, Australian voters and tax payers, and boy I hope we’ve got the stomach to let go the staff since they’ve proven themselves to be liars and thieves.

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As the City Slept…

May 21, 2007 at 5:07 am (Uncategorized)

I ran my third half-marathon yesterday morning. It was the Sydney Morning Herald half-marathon, and it’s a great course – my first time running it – that goes from Hickson St, around under the Harbour Bridge, through the Rocks, through the lower downtown area, up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and back again via Argyle and Kent Streets. Times two.

The conditions were absolutely perfect for the race. It was a very crisp morning, but cloudless and blindingly clear. Most of the high-rises kept the streets below in early-morning shadow, too, so unlike the Blackmores race later in the year (where I notched up my first two), no one baked in the over-exposed heat of a Sydney day without shade. There was lots of sun-protection but beautiful flashes of warmth that did nothing other than raise my spirits.

It’s a very beautiful city, Sydney. And pounding its city streets before most people were up was fantastic. It’s an intimate thing, I think, running in a city race. You never quite see its streets the same way again. There’s always something more to the traffic-choked roads once you’ve run along them with your own two feet.

There’s a lot to like in the field, too. People encourage each other. If someone falls, several people will immediately stop to lend assistance. If there’s a wall in a tunnel, hundreds of hands will rhythmically slap their way along it, and hundreds of voices will echo their way through it. Spectators hold up lovingly drawn posters with simple things like ‘GO DAD!!!’ on them – so simple but so moving, somehow. One older lady stood on Pitt St yesterday yelling encouragement to every passing female competitor – and it did make me smile and keep going, so I called out “Thank you!” every time in response. When the winners passed by us on the other side of the street, running in the opposite direction back toward Hickson St, we all applauded and shouted. When the first female runner came into view, we did the same thing as some of us yelled “Go girl!” just for good measure.

Volunteers are staggering, their patience and upbeat chatter quite awesome for those of us bearing down their path. Spectators are so tireless and enthusiastic and even amusing, like the man leaning over his terrace balcony at the end of Argyle St, a little the worse for wear from the night before, by the look of it, but belting out a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda nonetheless.

I just loved it. I ran a personal best time, too, so all those shouts and all that clapping and all the quickly traded conversation with the other runners as we went along clearly did me the world of good. I’m so glad I didn’t just roll over and go back to sleep.

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Stand Up if You Think You’re Funny

May 18, 2007 at 12:03 am (Uncategorized)

I got an hysterical email from a US-based friend yesterday. He made his comic debut at an Irish pub a couple of nights ago. If the routine was even half as funny as his email about the experience, then his future is assured.

Unfortunately I don’t think it’s quite that simple. And judging from his email, they haven’t exactly invited him back. I might ask him if I can post the whole thing so you can see what I’m talking about – it just kills me. Bear in mind that the subject heading of his email was ‘Lynch mob,’ and I think you’ll start to get the idea.

Which brings me to the shocking fact that he was up there onstage in the first place. I have another friend, Mark, who also dabbled in stand-up, and his act I actually got to see. Mark was damn funny, and I daresay my other friend was, too. But how on earth did they compel themselves to get up there and start talking? I just can’t think of anything worse. Or more difficult. Up you get, that’s the way, and make a roomful of people laugh. It gives me hives just thinking about it.

In high school, I did a lot of debating and public speaking. As a university tutor, I was constantly talking to a generally apathetic and sometimes even actively hostile audience. It’s not that I have a fear of speaking in front of a crowd – as anyone who knows me will attest, I am what is known as a big talker. But the special job of a comic is to make that crowd laugh. Not once. Not twice in five minutes, which I would generally consider a pretty high hit rate, but over and over again. Sustained chuckles. Long-term laughter. Is there anything less funny than the task of making other people laugh? It’s a really, really serious business.

They must have nerves of steel. I doff my cap to both of them. I’m staggered by their bravado, I really am. I am sitting here literally shaking my head just trying to envisage myself in their shoes, and I can’t do it. There is simply no way I would do that to myself. Call me yeller, but that sounds way too scary.

I’ll get back to you on whether I can post his email – in the meantime, “Knock, knock…”

Okay, here you go. My friend has kindly agreed to let me share this with the readers of this blog. Brace yourself, because it’s bloody funny:

Oh, God, Di, the stand up. Possibly the most
hilariously misguided venture that I have ever
embarked upon. Where to begin? I guess it’s best to
explain the venue: it is a badly-lit Irish pub, full
of pretty loaded patrons who want to hear covers of
‘Sweet Home Alabama’. I am the second standup act
they have ever had.

All the rest of the acts were pretty good cover bands,
and people were dancing and having a good time, etc.
Suddenly, my name is announced, and I stumble onto the
stage with a huge notepad and an easel, which promptly
keels over sideways when I put it up, then awkwardly
grope around for it on the floor, muttering about
making allowances for Australians. Crowd laughs as I
mention something about being a slapstick act – so
far, so good-ish.

However, I soon realize that because my act relies
pretty much completely on the drawings that I have on
the pad, there’s a rather huge problem with the
enterprise: most of the punters are standing around
the bar, which is at a 180 degree angle to the pages,
so they can’t see any of them. They are sitting
there, arms folded, waiting to be entertained.

The first thing I go into is a kind of complicated
time-lapse diagram, of the male professor’s
relationship to his female students. This is
incredibly hard to explain even if you can see the
drawings, and downright impossible if you can’t. In
fact, all the jokes are so complicated that they
really requires a lot of explaining, none of which the
increasingly hostile crowd at the bar wants to hear.

Brief description of the professor thing: I cut the
pages down the middle, and dramatized the aging
process of the professor by representing myself as
Marlon Brando on the LH side, and showed how the
female students’ age remained the same, year after
year, by having pictures of Scarlett Johannson et al
on the right hand side of the page. By flipping over
the LH portion of the page, the audience who could see
the pad saw me incarnated as Marlon Brando in various
films, in increasingly bloated form, and in different
costumes, while the bevy of female beauties stayed
poutily young on the RH portion. Interlace this with
self-deprecating comments about the unattainability of
student babes.

As you can probably guess from this highly simplified
description of the gag, it does not translate well to
a crowded bar full of pissed people. The second part
of my act was, believe it or not, about ‘transitional
forms’ in Darwinian evolution; and Darwinism’s
relationship to religion. This would have been told
with a lot of monkey sex/masturbation/Bill
Clinton/bestiality jokes, which were represented in
the diagrams, but it would have, now I think about it,
required a basic knowledge of the process of
evolution, as well as an awareness of the
incompatibility of various religious doctrines with
the theory.

To cut this short, I was basically tarred, feathered
and run out of town on a rail, as you can probably
guess from the above. It all started with a lone
heckler, a babe with fairly spectacular breasts, who
shouted out ‘boo!’ I foolishly decided to try to
humiliate said heckler by saying: “I’m sorry, Madam:
all hecklers must possess a full set of chromosomes.”
Pretty much nobody knew what I was talking about – I
think the accent exascerbated the situation. She
responded, inventively, with “booooooo!”, and I
responded with disparaging & bitter comments about her
intelligence, and possibly (can’t quite remember)
comments about its inverse relation to the size of her
knockers. At this point, she backed down & said that
heckling was her boyfriend’s idea. I turn to the
boyfriend and make a disparaging comment about his
choice of woman, and the originality of his heckle.
Needless to say, he did not appreciate my input.

At this stage, the lone ‘boo’ has turned into a chorus
of bellows. My friends, who could see the diagrams
and liked the jokes, were laughing pretty hard before
this – not out of charity, I tell myself – but I
realized at that point that the crowd were quite
literally becoming actively hostile towards me: the
girl’s boyfriend (rightly) looked as if he wanted to
glass me when I got off stage.

One of the staff handed me a dollar bill as the crowd
became more hate-filled; not knowing that this was a
signal to get off stage, I took it as encouragement,
thanked him, put it in my pocket, and kept going.

This last push lasted for about five seconds, before
someone rushed up to the stage, grabbed the microphone
out of my hand, and started telling a ‘why did the
chicken cross the road’ joke. Applause. I take my
notepad and walk off stage, sort of incredulous at
what had happened.

On my way to the bathroom afterwards, I started to
feel bad about bagging the heckler, so I went up to
her and apologized. But she had taken my chromosome
comment personally: in a brief conversation, she said
that she was a fucking biology student, and I may
think that I was stupid, but that was my fucking
problem. Guilty as charged. This was accompanied by
her sticking her finger up at me, inches away from my
face.

To tell you the truth, it was kind of fun, in a
reckless way: I really started to enjoy the fact that
everyone violently hated my guts. If it had slowly
and drearily bombed, it would have been awful, but
there is something thrilling about having a whole room
of happy patrons turning into a furious mob, and
knowing that you’re solely responsible.

Oh well! Can’t say I didn’t try it….

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The Pursuit of Finer Human Hungers

May 16, 2007 at 4:01 am (Uncategorized)

I had to file a story today, so I wasn’t able to attend the Lowy Institute’s Wednesday lunchtime seminar, which is a bit of a shame after the comments Warwick and I traded following my post last week. I’m very interested to go back and see if my impressions are any different second time around. I noticed that on the think-tank watchdog site Warwick linked to his comment that they call the Lowy Institute a ‘neoliberal’ think-tank. What does that mean? I find all these terms so obfuscating. I suspect they’re intended to be. I know it broadly means ‘new liberal,’ but what does that mean?

In Australia, we speak about people being liberal or Liberal. Confusingly, there are many instances in which the two are at polar odds. Even members of the Liberal Party find it confounding. Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, for instance, has been an outspoken critic of the Howard government precisely because Fraser believes the current Liberal Party has stripped away the liberal values he says once defined their cause. Other people scoff at the idea that the Liberal Party was ever anything other than the opposite – a conservative old boys’ network working hard at the top to keep the majority down.

But when I think of the meaning of the word ‘liberal,’ I can’t help but still associate it with a kind of generosity of spirit, an openness to the world. A liberal education, in my view, is not being stridently lectured at about the evils of abortion by a Federal Health Minister. No, I think a liberal education should be about encouraging a general broadening of the mind, not the hysterical mass closure of it. I think of ‘liberal’ in terms of ‘liberation,’ and when I think of the intellectual nature of things, I think a liberal thinker is one who is open and unprejudiced.

Trying to figure out what these terms really mean is part of the way I try to continue to educate myself. I believe in the late, former Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson’s definition of education. His is the idea of education I constantly strive for, especially whenever I am in danger of feeling prejudiced against any idea, person, or thing. It goes like this:

Education is, above all, and ever has been, the process of learning how to think honestly and straight; to distinguish between the true and the false; to appreciate quality and beauty wherever it may be found; and to be able to participate and to desire to participate with intelligence and tolerance in that most important of all forms of free enterprise: the exchange of ideas on every subject under the sun with a minimum of restriction, personal, social, and political.

In a word, education means – and I think this is the best definition of it that I have ever discovered – the “creation of finer human hungers.”

So the educated person will place the desire to put muscle into missiles or men below the desire to put dignity and decency into living; moral values into action; beauty into words or images. He will put the search for the good life in peace and freedom above every other search.
– Lester B. Pearson, May 27, 1961

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Bad Dreams

May 15, 2007 at 4:28 am (Uncategorized)

When I was young, I used to have great dreams. Flying dreams were my outright favourite. I had one recurring flying dream I particularly enjoyed. It involved stepping off a ledge at the front of my house, and finding that instead of plunging into the garden below, I took flight, passing over the fence, across the road, and up, up, up into the skies over Sydney.

As an adult, my best dreams involve swimming with whales and dolphins. These are phenomenally relaxing, and when I’ve seen dolphins in my sleep, I always awake feeling refreshed and peaceful. Sometimes I have tsunami dreams – they’re not so hot – and sometimes I dream of alternate endings to situations that upset or traumatised me. Obviously I just can’t let some shit go, like a job I didn’t get and in a very real sense didn’t even want. For some reason, I keep dreaming about the person who didn’t give it to me. Often I dream she changes her mind and offers it to me – naturally then I get to do the rejecting, a la “I wouldn’t take this job if it was the last one on earth.” It amuses me to think my mind is that petty even when it’s supposedly switched off. It scares me to think it’s still hanging on to that little fantasy when the whole thing happened so long ago. Why do I still have that dream?

Anyway, most of the time I have desperately disappointing, banal dreams that are almost embarrassing to talk about they’re so bad. Is that the best my imagination can do?!! Where’s the flying?! Where are the whales?! Mostly I dream of actual people, real places, things that have either happened or might happen in day-to-day life. As if once isn’t enough with some of these things. And it’s not even the interesting bits. No, most of the time it’s the subplot. The minor character. The thing that happens offstage. Bizarre. Oh, and there’s that whole ‘choose your own adventure’ thing, too. The alternate ending. The confrontation. The denouement. I apparently don’t like loose ends.

So last night I had a really unpleasant dream set in the nation’s capital. I went to the ANU in Canberra as an undergraduate, and I must say that overall I had a blast. But I only have a few friends left standing from those university years – others have drifted away, or we no longer have a single thing in common, or we’ve fallen out of contact, or we’ve just plain fallen out. But there was a time not so long ago when I was good friends, so I believed, with a couple more people than I’m friends with now. This isn’t just happening with old university buddies. No, lately I seem to have been at the centre of a real spate of offence. I appear to have alienated quite a few people recently, either through this blog, perhaps, or through some other slight, perceived or actual. I can hardly keep up with the number of people who’ve evidently got the shits with me. Not that anyone has bothered to take it up with me directly. No one has actually said a thing to me, not even in cases where I’ve repeatedly asked if there’s something wrong. No, it seems some people prefer to let bad news or conflict filter down through other channels. Or they like to simply drop me like a tonne of bricks. Whatever the preferred method of giving me the cold shoulder, what I can say is boy, is it chilly in here…? Brrrr!

Obviously this rush of silent hostility and rumoured animosity is bugging me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be dreaming about people lining up to heap abuse on me, which is what happened last night. In the dream, I was walking down a street in Canberra, and I kept coming upon people who in real life, for one reason or another, don’t want to be my friend anymore. On each occasion, I stopped and said hello, and on each occasion they turned toward me and started yelling horrible things at me. It was awful. And I think I’m dreaming this kind of dream because I like resolution. I really, really dislike conflict being left unresolved. If people are upset with me, I really prefer they tell me, so I can do something about it. Or at least so I can say there really isn’t anything I can do about it. Otherwise it’s all just conjecture, and conjecture can create a lot of problems where there were none. I don’t like dealing in conjecture, so I try not to buy into it. But this dream lets me know I have unresolved conflicts of my own. It felt like a cast of thousands berating me in my head.

Some of those people I haven’t seen in years. Some of them hurt me and other people a great deal with their choices. Some of them I really don’t owe a goddamn thing, least of all an apology. I don’t know why those people, those ghosts, were in my head last night. All I know for sure is that we never really hesitate to seize hold of other people’s flaws. I can’t tell you the number of times people have kindly enumerated mine. But I wish we were a little faster to grab hold of the good stuff. I’ve been told my failings as a friend and human being more times than I care to remember. I wish we were all a little more generous about listing and appreciating each other’s strengths instead. I for one might rest a little easier at night.

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Parents and Peers

May 14, 2007 at 4:35 am (Uncategorized)

Another beautiful, if initially foggy, Sydney day. Considering we are a fortnight away from the first day of winter, things are looking pretty encouraging outside.

It was Mother’s Day here yesterday, and Llew and I had a lovely weekend with his parents and sister up in Palm Beach. We arrived Saturday evening and stayed until late afternoon yesterday. Saturday night was a fantastic Thai-nosh – Llew’s mum is an excellent cook – and yesterday we went sailing on Pittwater before a picnic-style lunch on the boat sitting in the sunshine at the Basin. A perfect family day and boy, we’re just so lucky to get the chance to get out on the water and appreciate that very beautiful part of the world.

Mother’s and Father’s Day always give me pause because I am completely estranged from my parents. I don’t think too much about it, generally speaking, because it’s all very resolved in my mind. On those two days, however, it would be slightly strange if I didn’t think about it, just because there is such a super-abundance of material telling me how fantastic all mums and dads are, and how much I should appreciate mine and lavish them with gifts, affection and gratitude. Except I don’t feel that way at all. That’s simply not the situation.

I am lucky to have a wonderful relationship with Llew’s parents and siblings. I am incredibly fortunate to have them in my life. My sister and her family live far away, so unfortunately we rarely see each other, and whilst my surviving grandparent does live in Sydney and we do have a good relationship these days, I was never the grandchild she was close to, and we’re never going to be particularly simpatico. That’s life; I was very close to my granddad. So it’s great to still have a mother figure in my life in my mother-in-law, and it’s also lovely to be able to show Llew’s mum my appreciation for the love, friendship, and encouragement she has generously extended to me.

The thing that amazes me about Mother’s Day these days is realising just how many of my friends are now mums themselves. Some of my friends already have two kids. The odd friend has three. And that blows my mind, just how many of them now celebrate Mother’s Day from a completely different perspective. And how quickly it seems to have happened. It’s a lovely thing to think about, all those friends who are now parents. Mine weren’t great, but now I’ve got so many other sets of parents I can celebrate, that really doesn’t matter at all.

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Fabulous Favela

May 11, 2007 at 1:23 am (Uncategorized)

Wednesday ended up being a pretty full day. After the lunchtime seminar at the Lowy Institute, Llew and I went and had a coffee at Intermezzo in the GPO (one of my favoured coffee spots, as you might recall), and had a great debrief about the talk. Llew also had something of an epiphany at the Institute, and so we talked about that, too, and its postgraduate study implications. Very exciting stuff.

Llew went back to work and I went up to the State Library. I stayed there doing some research for the rest of the afternoon, then Llew and I met up and walked to a function we were attending in the Cross.

Treble Cone Ski Resort in New Zealand had a season launch party, organised by David at Wasamedia, on Wednesday night at Favela, a relatively new restaurant and bar at 1 Kellett Way, Kings Cross. It’s opposite the back of Barons, which seems to have been given some kind of reprieve as it is still operational despite the closure date having come and gone. I’d read the review of Favela in Good Living a little while back, but had never been in there before.

I liked it. It was quite crowded with the media pack, Treble Cone people, and I think some Qantas types, so it was a bit hot, but it’s a great split-level space with a sunken dining area on the lowest level and a huge communal table opposite the kitchen next level up. There seemed to be a mezzanine level, too, but I didn’t go up there and therefore can’t confirm its existence to the average punter.

The big thing I will say about it – aside from the fact it’s quite a cool joint – is that the food was bloody great. Favela has a tapas-style menu, but the food is not at all Spanish. It’s much more Asian-influenced. We had delicious morsels all night long – crunchy, zingy betel leaf fillings, excellent mini steamed pork buns, scallop and prawn dumplings, house-made spring rolls, really delicately crumbed king prawns with an Asian dipping sauce – I was blissed.

Great food. Really, really good food. I would absolutely go back there and pay for the privilege. So add that to your little list of places to go because we can never have too many of those.

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