Saturday, 2 October 2010

Once in a generation...

I've just spent 7 days on my own. Just me and the sound of the car wheels on the road. I punched the air somewhere outside of Wodonga – not because I'd just left the place – though that's reason enough...but because I'd just clocked the speedo for the second time. Over 2000 kms of greenhouse gas producing solitude. Fan–fucking–tastic.

And the most significant exchange of words I had with anyone in all that time was with my current obsession – the extraordinary Mr Ewen Leslie. Now really, how can it get much better than that?

I had spent the 1000 or so kms before I got to Sydney thinking on exactly what I would ask Mr Leslie in the Q&A session after my third (yes that's right 1, 2, 3) viewing of The Trial. The Q&A session I was driving the aforementioned 1000 or so kms to be part of. There's a lot of space inside one's own head when there is nothing to do but drive; work out how to open water bottles and change CDs while driving; and consider which small coastal town deserves ones patronage for the night. The rest of my mind was able to focus on what to ask.

There's a fine line between sounding clever, knowledgeable and enthusiastic; and sounding like a dickhead. Walking that line got a lot of thought, particularly on the stretch into Lake's Entrance when I was already a little tired and paranoia may have been setting in.

Knowing that Mr Leslie is about to play Hamlet for the MTC was playing on my mind. I loved his Richard III – the fully self-actualised man – the self-aware villian who chooses villiany actively and accepts the consequences. “I am I” he calls out in the height of an existential crisis. Its the only answer any of us are left with when we face our inevitable defeat and mortality. Hamlet will be even better. I already want to know if they are going to leave in my favourite scene – the wonderful lines “O, from this time forth, My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.”

The publicity shots show him looking a little effeminate, clutching the sparrow whose special providence is part of the moving speech where he accepts his own demise. I hope we are not going to have a foppish Hamlet – let him be manic and masculine – more Mel Gibson than Kenneth Brannagh...

But all this worrying about Hamlet, got me no closer to the question.

I wanted to ask something about the actor's craft. A thought that struck me with particular intensity as at 8am the morning after the Grand Final I walked the beach at Eden in the sun and noted that it did indeed seem a place appropriate for tempting people with shiny objects like apples. I thought about asking about the lack of great speeches in The Trial for the Joseph K character. But then I remembered the wonderful speech, to the audience, made complicit in Joseph K's torture through him addressing them as the jury. Its a deeply uncomfortable moment – and when Mr Leslie ennunciates “Fuck you.” it has a new power. The F-word can still be shocking.

Of course none of his speeches quite measure up to the extraordinary parable of the doorkeeper from the penultimate scene. It is a magnificent piece of writing – Kafka at his most lyrical and horrific. Its impact on the audience and the trembling, near-naked Joseph K is difficult to describe. When the Chaplain finishes with the line “And now I am closing that door.” there is a collective gasp from the audience – we have been shown our own internal despair.

Its difficult to dwell too long on despair and death as one drives slowly up the southern coast of NSW. The sparkling water; the white sand; the pelicans diving, floating like small boats across every bay and inlet. But I still needed the question.

Of course some friends had suggested that the question I really wanted to ask was “So, what are you doing after the show Ewen?” but I like to think of myself as a little more subtle and cerebral than that. These may well be the same friends who were trying to shove me onto the stage in the Malthouse, whispering, rather too loudly for my comfort “Go on, he's up there in the bed, you could just snuggle in next to him.” With friends like that...

And it was another friend's question on my first viewing, which had made me think carefully about questions to avoid. She'd been fascinated by the way the blood from the final, truly harrowing scene had stained Joseph K's underwear in a patch that did indeed resemble menstrual bleeding. M is not squeamish and she asked if it was deliberate. There is something quite extraordinary about seeing a man who has just spent over an hour in front of an audience in nothing but a pair of white underpants blush and look at his feet. I noted, with an amusement inappropriate to the seriousness of said scene that when I saw it a second time Mr Leslie was at pains to bleed as far away from his undies as possible.

Those final moments of the play though are emotionally grinding. I had tears in my eyes all three times and during the first performance I saw, someone, not far from me, was sobbing uncontrolably. The bloodstain left on the floor of the otherwise empty stage is a moment of the most perfect pathos. So, as I settled in for my third viewing, crushed in the back row between a selection of Sydney's finer matrons, it was this that I already had in my mind. Its bloody amazing to watch...but what does it feel like to play?

I didn't ask the first question...but I did get my hand up, like an over-eager Yr 7, for the second one. And I explained, in my best booming teacher voice so that no one in the theatre could miss a word, that I found Joseph K a compelling literary figure; one who was fascinating to watch; but also harrowing. Then I asked what an actor could possibly get out of playing that part.

I have to say I was gratified with a very long and complex answer; which included lines about how the audience seems to spiral down as the play proceeds and doesn't give a lot back to the actor. Mr Leslie leaned forward in his seat – a good thing, because from the back row I could barely see him. He made some very funny jokes, which, to be honest, I was just a little too excited to remember. All in all, it was worth every km between Coburg and Sydney.

Fan-girl adoration aside, Ewen Leslie is something else to watch on stage. The manic energy which means he can't sit still during question time (in fact I've taught kids with ADHD who have more control over their movements) – becomes on stage a presence and physicality like nothing else I've ever seen. And there's a stillness – whole minutes when he doesn't move, does nothing but breathe. Simon Phillips, outgoing director of the MTC, has called him the actor who comes along once in a generation. Its hagiographic praise – but I think it might be accurate.

Sure, I'd pay money to sit and watch him read the phonebook; but what I will be paying money for next is flying to Sydney to see him in The Wild Duck in February...and now I have about five months to think of the question I'll be asking...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Self-Revelation #1

So when someone makes a list (as people inevitably do) of the 100 most responsible adults of all time...I do not expect to find my name on it – because yes, I do put knives in toasters and only sometimes do I turn them off first; and sometimes I have a nice glass of something or another on a school night; and yes, it was me that laughed at that kid who fell over and only later did I find out he broke his arm...
But even I would not let people bring weed into class. Let's clarify; here by weed we are not talking about a spot of bindi (the nasty little pricks; not the annoying little cunt); we are not talking noxious plants – we're talking what back in the home country we called Class C drugs.
Does this tell you something about Aotearoa? We're bored. We put our drugs into classes to make them better at what they do. No, really.
But back to the weed. Or not back to it as the case actually is.
I'm driving the car home from a school event. I say “Hehe – my class had a bit of a Wii tournament.” The people in my car gasp. I think “Oh dear, now I've done it. They will think I am an (even more irresponsible) adult than they already think...”
They ask further questions - “Why did you do THAT?” I become a little defensive...”Ummm, I thought it would be amusing...?”
They become outraged; shock and horror reverberate around the inside of the small, confined and rather filthy space that is my vehicle. I begin to feel caged in; like driving into the back of that bus might not be such a crazy idea.
I say, in desperation “But we needed to know who was really better...” I hear hesitation then a quiet, desperate question - “You said weed?”
NO Wii – Wii; the fricken games console...aaaarrrrggghhhh.
But really, for several minutes several nice, liberal-minded, people who like me, thought I had spent at least one class, perhaps only (a somewhat mitigating) twenty minutes thereof, sitting about, possibly in beanbags, surrounded by dirty bongs, getting riotously stoned.
They believed it was possibly true.!!!
What (maybe don't answer this question) does this say about me?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

In Defence of Angry Women Pt 3

And they all think Maryanne is such a bitch. Well gorram but so do I. And its not fair.
Ever since the Middle Ages the gorram christians have been trying to conflate the horned god and Beelzebub, and its just not right. Its not right because its not accurate.
So the nice people that write True Blood and god bless them, really, god bless them – they are up to something. And I am not a cheat enough to fast forward through, watch the rest of Series Two and go “Good grief yes, that's it”. Because I am just human enough to want to work it out.
But right now I'm a might confused. I like chaos. I like the idea of communing with my god in a rampant rutting of confused love, lust. hate and physical violence. And I'm having one hell of a lot of trouble working out what's wrong with that.
Alright. So its a little messed up. But then so is ripping people's throats out for fun and we're not spending too long worrying about the morality of that.
Which is, I would have to say, what I like and do not like about Season Two. I want my amorality without any morality, thank you very much. I like my Eric nasty. And yes I like him vulnerable. But I'd like him vulnerable AND dripping in someone else's blood.
Which beings me back to maenads.
The Greek religion, the ancient Greek religion as opposed to Greek Orthodox Christianity which is its own all kinds of odd – does not have any ghosts or ghoulies. All the ghosts reside happily, or more to the point, not so, in Hades. If you want to talk to them, you have to go there. They don't just appear conveniently beside your bed, or on your ramparts or wherever Anglos prefer to meet their ghosts.
There are monsters, certainly. And very frightening ones. The Chimera - “all lion in front, all snake behind, all goat between”, or Medusa or the Minotaur. But these are not critters with which to scare children to sleep. These are fearful creatures of legend, who heroes fought and heroes slew.
And the things of Greek myth that truly did terrible things to humans, why, those are other people. Agamemnon who sacrificed his own daughter in her bridal robes; the Greek heroes who raped Cassandra at the altar of Apollo; Clytemnestra who murdered her child-killing husband; Medea who put her own children to the sword.
In that world; the world from which we borrow all our most lasting metaphors; our most vibrant images; horror is other people.
Maenads, the real maenads; are indeed the followers of Dionysius. But they are not eternal. They are ordinary Athenian housewives. Women who spent most of their lives confined to the dark upper stories of their homes, weaving and gossiping and wishing they were Penelope because at least maybe at the end of a long ten years not just would they have fended off some handsome suitors but they'd have a man like Odysesus to take to their beds.
These women; bored and frustrated. Women who spent the rest of the year listening to their men in the garden with their dancing girls and their clever chat and their beautiful boy lovers. These women were the ones who took part in the rituals of drinking and dancing. Of drum music and ecstatic performance. Wild on wine and dance they ran through the barren hills above Athens and when they found another living thing they rent it limb from limb – child, man, beast, tree. And after all they'd had to put up with; who can blame them.
That they sometimes ate the raw, dripping flesh – well all the better for them. Stuck in the upper rooms they'd have been lucky to have got some of the fish, let alone the red meat.
So I will not hear a word against maenads. Let them rend and tear; they no more do the devil's work than any others who reach out beyond themselves to touch a world of freedom that is denied them.

Saturday, 26 June 2010


That Twightlight woman? What's her name? Stephanie Meyer? Why doesn't someone just bite her and fuck on the bed while she bleeds out? I mean really...? Wait? Is that a bad thing to say...?
But what she's done is just so wrong. I can't see any other punishment that's fitting.
The thing with vampires; the thing I don't think Stephanie, still living and breathing as I assume she is; doesn't get – is that motherfucker – they're supposed to be bad.
That's why we like them Steph.
And of course that's why Bill Compton, as sexy as the bloodsucking bastard is, is not really sexy. And yes, goddammit, not as sexy as Eric.
There its said now. It can't be taken back.
The vampire has always been most attractive to women. That's what's so great about them. A supernatural creature; a fictional creation; designed especially for the desires of women. Bram Stoker knew what he was up to. At a time when novels were predominantly read by women; bored, middle-class women; he wrote something that would truly excite them. And it still does.
A charming, glamorous creature. A creature of seduction and mystery; and of unbridled violence.
Of course Bram catered for his small, but discerning male audience too. The female vampires; as erotic in his novel as the Francis Ford Coppola ones nearly one hundred years later. No one can resist women who murder children and the scene with the squirming babies in the bag is one of the great ones in the world of the literature of powerful, fearful women.
So why do people; why do women in particular; love a vampire? Or want to be loved by a vampire? Is it as simple as the writers of True Blood would have us believe – that there is something automatically aphrodisiac about being wanted by something so powerful? Bill Clinton syndrome as we more worldly humans might term it?
Is it surrender? The desire to be totally consumed – as one is by a vampire?
The best vampire flick ever made is The Hunger – the ethereal Catherine Deneuve plays the eternal, immortal Miriam. David Bowie, yes THE David Bowie is her turned ex-human lover. Two people so beautiful that gay and straight stop having meaning and the whole realm of human sexual experience opens up. Of course in the film sexual experience ends with your throat being ripped out – but at that point who's asking questions?
Of course nothing this good can last forever. Miriam's human lover's slowly degenerate. She has a basement full of coffins and lost, shrivelled, helpless remmants of souls – still conscious, still wanting, but now, almost devoid of physical form. It is a filmic moment so filled with the pathos of the human experience that its unreality sears.
When Miriam takes the beautiful Sarah (a youthful Susan Sarandon) as her next lover – the ensuing scenes, shrouded in gossamer curtains, are some of the most... engaging... moments of lesbian sex ever put on celluoid.
And its so hot because the violence is so close to the surface, on the surface, those thick cords of arterial blood. And because those lost lovers are just a few feet away in the basement, screaming their torment. Hmmm, sexy.
Of course the vampire has always been a slimly shrouded metaphor. The fear of penetrative sex. Ho hum. The vampire makes sex even above the waist dangerous. A metaphor for AIDS – a disease transferred by blood. A metaphor for everything we hate and fear because we don't understand it.
But who needs the literary critics anyway?
Vampires are sexy because they are all the things we think we should not be. They are amoral, driven by need, more animal than human. And yet they are all the things we want to be; glamorous, clever, powerful, unsatiably needy and desirable.
I don't want to grow fangs. I don't want to meet anyone who has. But they make a nice fantasy and I don't want any uptight mid-westener trying to save me from it.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.

So a while ago I explained the narcissic personality disorder theory of why women read, write and generally get excited about slash. Let's do a little recap for anyone who was hiding their eyes and had their fingers in their ears while humming and thinking about their happy place...
Basically, we read and write dirty little homoerotic episodes about the people who we desire – but we desire them because they are mirrors of ourselves – or at least of the aspects of ourselves we most like/admire/get a bit warm and fuzzy about.
So I want to read about Captain Mal banging the doctor not because I am secretly a gay man...but rather because I see myself in Mal – ruthless, emotionally retarded and not getting, wait – I see the best bits of myself – brave, loyal, still not getting any...never mind.
Now I'd like to extend this theory to a broader discussion of that most profound of topics – why we fancy the people we fancy – most specifically the imaginary or otherwise unattainable – because they are my favourite kind of people.
Currently I am obsessed with Richard III – or more precisely Ewen Leslie as Richard III in the MTC's fantastic production. Is it the floppy dark hair; those bizzarely piercing eyes; maybe its the limp and the hunchback; I don't know – but I'm won as surely as poor Lady Ann.
The unfortunate friends who escorted me to my second viewing of the show were treated afterwards to a long treatise on exactly how exciting I'd found it – a little unnaturally exciting. They both declared after what must have seemed like a very long monologue (I'm personally sure no more than ten or fifteen minutes had elapsed) that it was clearly not the charming Mr Leslie that I was so hot for – no it was the character of Richard himself. They may have said this with just the slightest twinge of disgust in their collectively raised voices.
The problem is Richard is sexy. Bill wants him to be sexy. There he is in the first Act, courting the lovely Ann over the body of the husband he's just stabbed. And he's telling her the one place she's fit for is his bed. Not romantic, but to the point. And sexy. Very sexy.
Of course Leslie plays this up nicely. Once Ann has left; the spittle covered ring he has just given her clasped in her hand; Leslie's Richard bends over to lick, yes that's right folks, lick the face of his vanquished and now cuckolded foe. Its not the licking that gets us though – its the way Leslie looks up, tongue still out his mouth, and breaking the fourth wall, stares us in the eye and asks “What?”. Less than half an hour in and I'm already a quivering wreck of a woman, barely resisting the urge to throw myself on the stage shouting “Forget Ann, take me!”.
Of course its the verbal interplay of the scene which is where the sex is really located. Ann and Richard jostle and shout – exchanging flattery for insults – and she falls for him like every girl who has had her pigtails dipped in ink falls for the naughty boy who did it. Of course most boys don't have to go quite as far as murdering half your family before you notice them...but Richard is a man of extremes.
By the time Richard is offering to bury Elizabeth's sons (who he has also murdered) in the womb of her barely legal daughter; I'm slumped in my theatre seat gasping. The rest of the audience is too – but its more that collective gag of disgust than the rather base gagging happening at my end of the row. The scene finishes with Richard beseeching Elizabeth to take her daughter his true love's kiss – Leslie's Richard takes this literally and Elizabeth gets his tongue way down her throat. Nice!
Of course this second wooing scene is supposed to show us Richard's now waning power – his power over women, his power over England - and by the end of Act V he's sitting pathetically in his underwear crying because no creature loves him perhaps not even himself. But the line which makes me want to cry with him, hold him against me; is the simplest – he declares “I am I”. He is the self-actualised person, fully himself, fully self-aware; facing the abyss that later we'll call existential angst.
I think Mr Leslie is superb – he has the most extraordinary face, he delivers Bill's lines with wit and intelligence; you will not see a funnier, drier Richard for a very long time. But its not him I'm currently obsessed with – its Richard himself – bloody, treacherous villain that he is.
And its narcissism – I'm not so proud as I cannot admit it. I want him because some nasty, dark corner of my soul wants to be like him. Clever, ruthless, fiercely certain about who and what he is and willing to do whatever he needs to in order to be that person. Aren't those the kind of things we all want to be?

Saturday, 22 May 2010

In defence of angry women Pt 2

Apparently I'm a very angry woman. I kick things; throw things; shout obscenities out car windows at strangers and tear pages from books when I don't like what they are saying. I've had to stop myself reading Andrea Dworkin and her ilk because local libraries were sick of picking up the shredded pages.

Ah Andrea; the evil old witch died in 2005 but not before she had put back the cause of women's liberation by at least a hundred years. In 1976 she wrote a now seminal text in the world of radical feminism - Pornography: Men Possessing Women. It begins a life time of writing which will produce such gems as : pornography is the theory, rape is the practice and all heterosexual sex is rape.

Dworkin is wordy. It takes far too many pages in Intercourse (1987) for her to explain the one basic idea – heterosexual sex makes woman an occupied country – all such sex is rape. And if you thought you were liking it – then sweetheart, you were occupied body AND mind.

Dworkin is whiney. Here's an example, from the aforementioned Intercourse.

“There is a deep recognition in culture and in experience that intercourse is both the normal use of a woman, her human potentiality affirmed by it, and a violative abuse, her privacy irredeemably compromised, her selfhood changed in a way that is irrevocable, unrecoverable. And it is recognized that the use and abuse are not distinct phenomena but somehow a synthesized reality: both are true at the same time as if they were one harmonious truth instead of mutually exclusive contradictions. Intercourse in reality is a use and an abuse simultaneously, experienced and described as such, the act parlayed into the illuminated heights of religious duty and the dark recesses of morbid and dirty brutality.”

And that's not even half a paragraph of the beginning of Chapter 7; to get here you've already had to wade through SIX (count them!) chapters of similarly turgid, academic and highly whiney prose.

But most importantly Dworkin is wrong. In her famous testimony to the US Attorney General's Commission on Pornography in 1986 she said she didn't want to have obscenity laws used against pornographers because "Obscenity laws are also woman-hating in their very construction. Their basic presumption is that it's women's bodies that are dirty." But everything else she then went on to demand argued against this quite reasonable stand. Because there is no way to argue against pornography without ultimately arguing against all social, cultural, literary and artistic displays of sex and women.

And of course Dworkin is forced to end up doing just that. Make the argument that all depictions of women in a patriarchal heterosexist society must, by definition, be degrading – must be pornography. If the paradigm is one of male power and possession, how could it be otherwise?

So what does that leave us with? We have to get rid of every image of women – particularly nude images – god knows some bloke somewhere is jerking off over the Venus de Milo. And every image of heterosexual sex. Even the ones written by women – because we've all been tainted with the male, penetrative, phallus-hugging paradigm.

And that leaves us with nothing. It leaves women as asexual beings. In fact it makes us invisible. Better invisible than raped though. Perhaps better locked up in our houses, fully covered too.

Of course that was never Dworkin's solution. But it is the logical conclusion of a philosophy that sees men as the enemy in a war between the sexes. Dworkin's argument is devoid of any understanding of class, or the class-based nature of oppression; where the bourgeois family and the oppression it creates isn't there because men hate women but because capitalism requires it to survive. And her biggest hypocrisy is that all the piles of books and speeches and essays are written not for an audience of ordinary women stuck in lives of quiet desperation; but for other academics secluded in their ivory towers. This isn't an ideology of liberation, but of self-righteous intellectual masturbation.

Ultimately arguments against pornography, whether for censorship or in Dworkin's case for the prosecution of pornographers for civil rights abuses, end up being anti-sex and anti-women. In Australia the censorship laws mean that the female genitalia have to be airbrushed in photographs to appear smooth – almost pre-pubescent. Consequently young women are appearing in large numbers at the doors of plastic surgeons asking for the extra floppy bits to be removed – they think they are deformed!

But the harm is even more subtle than that. Anti-porn campaigners have made a generation of women guilty about enjoying sex. If you're lying there enjoying what Dworkin tells you is in effect rape, then that is going to screw with your head and your ability to keep enjoying it. Its no coincidence that Dworkin starts writing at the height of the Women's Liberation Movement – when western women at least have easy access to contraception and some control, finally, over how and with whom, they use their bodies. I'm no conspiracy theorist but it seems to me that telling people the thing they think is fun is actually a dreadful sin - ooops, I mean – an attack on their very existence within the socially constructed modern world view – is a good way to make them stop doing it.

The worst thing about all of this is that Dworkin didn't take all this reactionary bullshit with her to her grave. No, its still being pedalled as bona fide feminism in Women's Studies Departments and Wimmin's Rooms the country over. One academic I know of is happy to pontificate about how it is the fault of pornography that all men want is to ejaculate on women's faces. Yes, that's right, it comes as a shock to me too but apparently that's all that happens in every single piece of porn being made and in every heterosexual bedroom across the nation too – night after sticky night.

Now I haven't had time to do a SurveyMonkey on this and I doubt my school will let me put it up on the intraweb if I do, but I'm betting that such a survey of young men is NOT going to come up with facial ejaculation as their number one, favoured sexual activity. Isn't that right lads?

This is just one more piece of poorly researched knee jerk anti-sex, anti-fun reactionarism. What's the worst, most degrading thing this woman can think of? Someone cumming on her face. Aside from the fact that she clearly lacks imagination and has obviously not watched nearly enough porn to claim any expertise in the area – what is her problem? Where does she get off deciding what is and isn't appropriate sexual expression? Perhaps more pertinent – when does she get off?

Many years ago the then Women's Officer at Auckland University lectured me for several hours about how sado-masochistic lesbians were “fucking like the enemy” - in fact any activity that seemed in any way to mimic penetration was too. I thought this was somewhat unfair as at the time I'd cut out the middle person and had the enemy in my bed. Unfair or not, it taught me a lot about the way such people think.

In the end, they think sex is bad. Sex is dirty. And sex itself is oppressive. You can't fuck with the enemy and you can't fuck like him. Better not to fuck at all.

Dworkin spent her life as the life partner of an out gay man – John Stoltenberg. They were married, secretly, in 1998. Its just one of the stranger of many contradictions in her life. Clearly unable to negotiate her way through the minefield of sexual relations with women or men – she avoided it altogether.

The saddest and perhaps oddest chapter in her life was the publication of an article in The New Statemen in 2000. In it she claims to have been slipped GBH in a hotel in Paris and raped. When I first read the article I couldn't help myself, I was angry. I was angry because by the time I read it, it had been widely discredited. While the argument still rages ten years later, it appears that an ailing Dworkin made the whole thing up.

And why does this make me want to go dig her up and kick her in the kidneys? Because after a lifetime of telling women that what they do with their partners is tantamount to rape; she then has to go and borrow that experience too. Its a kind of playground one-up-personship that I find deeply offensive because in so doing she discredits every woman who has ever had to report a sexual assault and not been believed. Its a final, public and horrible case of the gossip who answers every re-calling of experience with “Me too.”.

That's not feminism – its self-hate on a level so grand nothing Dworkin's imagined enemy could ever do would be worse.

Monday, 3 May 2010

In defence of angry women Part 1

There is something wrong with a society where people decide that by placing the adjective radical in front of a word; suddenly its real meaning is magically inverted and the concrete noun it refers to is transformed from its true nature into something well, radically, different.

Take the word homemaker. Its the modrn version of the word housewife. But its still got connotations of the little woman, in the home waiting for hubbyy to come in from work so she can thrust his warmed slippers onto his aching feet. But put the word radical in front of it and voila you have something which to quote that veneral publication The Age, is a

“, anti-consumerist movement that is about providing for family and community rather than feeding the economy, where the home is seen not as a site of entrapment and servitude, but one of empowerment.”

Hail the arrival of the radical homemaker!

These women are staying home to look after their chidren and grow organic food. Oh and participate in a few community groups because otherwise they'd get bored. What I'm having trouble with is how this is radical.

In the 1950's women stayed home and lookd after their children and they tended their gardens and they joined the local sewing circle. So far, the ony difference I can see is that these newly radical homemakers are able to use that other buzzword organic, in front of the food they're spending their time, degrees and skills on.

But I'm clearly just a cynic. What I don't understand is that this is all about choice. And that all my feminine skills have been terribly de-valued by men and that in fact wanting to *gasp* have a life of my own outside the home is actually turning me into a man! As one of these rad wifeys says

“I think women have been masculinised to the point where anything that women had skills in that were important has been denigrated. Women now want to achieve the skills that men have, when their traditional skills were equally and sometimes a lot more important in society.''

The same woman goes on to list these skills as sewing and basketweaving. No joke. Basketweaving.But I'm clearly just being disagreeable because I haven't realised that we now live in a post-feminist world. Silly me.

And how short-sighted of me to think that all those skills that mean you can do things like ummm, read and write and engage in the wider world are the preserve of the male of the species. And here I was thinking that we all had to learn these things, whereas all along the possssion of a pair of testicles means that men emerge fully formed and intrinsically skillfull, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Or not like Athena at all.

The idea that somehow there are male skills and female skills is a bizzarely outdated piece of post-facto justification for a division of labour which serves the purposes of a system which needs women subjugated and in the home. How much easier to keep them there if they are busy telling themslves that its empowering and that a few hours a week in the local community garden and doing a permaculture course is world changing political action.

This stuff makes me angry. It makes me wall-punching, hippie-kicking angry. I want to rend and tear. And not just these truly foolish women who are trying to tell themslves they've made a choice to save the planet; when all they're doing is having the same lack of choice that women have always had. The difference is that now they pretty that up by saying that staying at home, growing veggies (organic bloody veggies), killing chickens and recycling clothes is – empowering.

Fuck these smug cunts and their gross attack on everything that the rest of us have been struggling for for the last several thousand years. Go live on your hippie fucken commune if you want just don't try and tell me its empowering; that its about equal but different. We've been listening to that crap since Hector headed out to meet his fate and sent Andromache back to finish her weaving. Its time to change the narrative not just the adjectives you use when writing it.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

and so the Trojans buried Hector, breaker of horses.

Now I bet that when Jeff suggested that I ship Hector and Achilles, he had no idea that out there in the big 'ol 'verse someone had already thought of it. Yes, it would seem sick minds do indeed think alike.
Actually the people out there with too much time on their hands have come up with things far, far...oddder.
Historial Person Slash. Yes, you read that right - like the French Revolution; like George Washington; like Napoleon Freaking Bonaparte!
Fancy seeing what happens when Robespierre and Saint-Just get weary of arranging yet another guillotining and decide that le petite mort will be a lot more fun than all the great big morts they've had a hand in? If that's what your tastes run to - there's plenty of it out there.
I've read angst pieces where Frederick Engels - Engels no less - writes a new Preface to Das Capital, bewailing the fact that Marx never really loved him. And I think we can all fill in the blanks when it comes to what he means by loved...
But really, is nothing sacred? Not even the pure, if drunken, friendship of two of the 19th Century's greatest minds? I'm all for a bit of iconoclasm but really; who needs to read about two big and beardy men getting it on over a bit of intense dialectic? And the pillowtalk - all those sweet whisperings of the use value/exchange value contradiction as embodied in the commodity at the point of production. I'm getting breathless just thinking about it...
These are real people and I'm not sure what we count as the canon when it comes to people's historical lives - makes you think about the role of histiography in a whole new light. That said, there's plenty of slashy moments for the would-be historical shipper - try this from Saint-Just, writing about his admiration for Robespierre - the older, better dressed beloved - “You, who uphold our tottering country against the torrent of despotism and intrigue, you whom I know, as I know God, only through his miracles—it is to you, Monsieur, that I address myself." "...whom I know,..." Know eh? We all know what knowledge for miracles...what could be more miraculous than love across the dropping heads?
But this is a long way from the potential OTP of Achilles and Hector - and even if the Athenians thought Homer was writing history, he wasn't. There is of course plenty of Classical material...Alexander and pretty much anything with the equipment; Hadrian and Antinous...but there's no real slashiness there - those blokes were getting it away with their best point in shipping; they'd long set sail of their own accord.
No, the two great enemies - that is good stuff.
Of course its the Classical Greeks who were the first slashers. There's not a shred of evidence in Homer that Achilles and Patroclus are anything other than close and dear friends - a genuine bromance. It was the Athenians, a couple of centuries later who liked the idea that there was a whole lot more going on in the Myrmidon camp! The Iliad is the original canon and so I suppose if shipping its characters was good enough for Classical vase painters, then its certainly good enough for me.
But I face some canonical problems. First I don't write great hexameter - actually I don't write it at all. And we know that slash is all about the voice and the style. But then the bigger problem - where's the secret meeting? When does Hector slip into Achilles' camp for a bit of pre-killing the other man and then being chased around the walls of Troy nooky? For that matter, is this an angst piece - devastated by the death of Patroclus, Achilles turns for comfort to the arms of the man who killed his lover? There could be could be a nasty little revenge fantasy...but somehow that argues against the OTP. I could go on...
...and while I ponder the possibilities there's a nice little piece on Henry V that I happened upon - "Once more unto the breeches dear friend, I'll fill this gap with my English..." you get the idea.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

if you don't like Hank Williams you can kiss my ass

Ah, one of the all-time inspiring pieces of country lyricism! Up there with Merle Haggard and if you don't love it leave it which my guilty conscience tries to avoid humming despite how damn catchy that riff is.
But its a Sunday and that can mean only one thing in the world of country music...Kris Kristofferson.
I don't know much about Kris, other than that he spells his name badly and that he looked damn fine in a white t-shirt circa about 1970-something. But that's enough. He writes songs about being stoned, about his friends who ODed and about loving and loosing and getting wasted. And if that dates him somewhat then it dates me too.
These days he looks grizzled and grey and like the man who survived. Not anymore like the man who has to justify why he's singing a Janice Joplin song.
I first heard Me and Bobby McGee on a country station late one night in Hamilton when I was 17. Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. And those lyrics, sentimental and obvious, still make me cry.
But it keeps making me think; why do we keep having to justify the love of the slide guitar, the delicate sound of a grown man singing through his nose?
And for the life of me, I have no answer.
Johnny Cash has a lovely album of other people's songs called The Storyteller; and I could argue that what I really love is a good narrative. And that the fact that all those highwaymen keep stealing each other songs appeals to my post-modern sensibilities. I like the way the songs and the singers are in constant conversation.
That album contains a cover of one of Bruce Springsteen's greatest songs - Highway Patrolman - Yea we're laughin' and drinkin' nothin' feels better than blood on blood - all his best lyrics are the ones from the songs no one has heard. And it comes from his most perfect album; Nebraska, I can't say that I'm sorry for the things that we done At least for a little while sir me and her we had us some fun. An awful, tragic (in the true sense of the word) cry to a world that doesn't care.
Which brings me back to being born a lonely singer, and bound to die the same. And Sunday morning coming down;'Cos there's something in a Sunday,Makes a body feel alone.And there's nothin' short of dyin',Half as lonesome as the sound, of a slide guitar.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Nations built on genocide have bloody feet

Here in my place of residence, where they were kind enough to allow me citizenship a year or so ago, the nation has just embarked on its annual frenzy of self-congratulation and denial.
If you were to risk a stroll down the main street of any Australian town on this fine Tuesday you are likely to be assaulted by the sight of cars zooming past bearing Australian flags; driven by Australian flag cap, shorts and t-shirt wearing persons; possibly with an Australian flag bikini wearing person of the opposite gender beside them. There will be flags hanging out of windows, draped around the shoulders of intoxicated youths and being worn as decoration on the obligatory thongs - and here I do mean footwear - though more intimate apparel can also come with the Australian flag design.
January 26 is Australia Day - but more properly it is Invasion day - when the first fleet arrived from mother England and the land, having been declared terra nullis, was taken over for the British Crown.
For those of you whose Latin isn't quite up to scratch terra nullis is a simple enough concept - empty earth. Despite the fact that they knew very well that people were living here, this was treated as an inconvenient but minor issue that could easily be fixed with a policy of open genocide.
All of which makes the celebration of such an event seem a little...well...racist.
Ah, the nasty 'R' word. Shane Warne - that great example of Australian manhood is off to India to help improve relations with the Indian people - who seem to be getting a disproportionate number of beatings on Melbourne's streets - not that the police think there is any racial motivation for such attacks. Warney's plan is simple - "We all like our cricket don't we? Well, there you go...". Now I know that I'm not in the same league of intellectual genius as our great international sportspeople...but there seems to be a few steps of logic that have been missed out here.
The constant denial of racism in a nation clearly constructed on it would be funny if it didn't have such serious consequences. This is after all the country that had to have Harry Connick Jr. remind it that blackface performances on national television, for laughs, were just not very funny.
So when I came across the two gnomes whose picture grace this post I had to think several times about how they should be considered. Yes, they are blacked up garden gnomes, but they also have the only representations of the aboriginal flag that I think I saw anywhere in Western Australia. Who put them there? I'd very much like to know...bad taste joke; well-meaning pcness or activists making a point - you be the judge.

Friday, 22 January 2010

And I thought I had issues...

It seems unfair to hold back the truth from the world so for your further education I supply a few more pictures of Gnomeville. I think this now puts me in the same category as those people who publish grainy photos of old boots and pretend they are sea monsters; or those who put up fuzzy pictures of curtains blowing on a dark night with captions like - "ghostly visitation? - you decide..." - cue slightly creepy music and a slow fade.
Of course the difference between me and the ghosthunters and monster watchers is that I WAS THERE!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

They walk in darkness

On the whole I think these pictures of Gnomeville speak for themselves and they tell a story of not inconsiderable horror!!

There are more this space...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Gulliver in Lilliput

I have been to hell. And here I'm not talking about the 47 degrees that greeted me in the supposedly chilly Esperance. A day so hot I might add that large numbers of rare, white-tailed cockatoo fell dead from the sky. Squawk, sqwawk, sqwa...crash.

No, as Auden has observed before me, true evil wears a much more ordinary face. At least more ordinary than the hottest day on record in a southern beach resort.

You see, I've been to Gnomeville. Been and retained enough of my sanity to return and tell the tale. Even post the photos...some day soon...

Gnomeville is in the otherwise lovely Fergusson Valley. A valley which has everything to recommend it - there's a brewery, there are many wineries, some of these wineries also sell cheese. It is warm, pretty and has fabulous off-road national park countryside perfect for exploring in a small hired Hyundai.

But then there's the gnomes.

I believe that I am not alone - neither in the great big 'verse or indeed in my solid belief that garden gnomes are in fact the earthly incarnation of Beelzebub. And I have the photos to prove it.

You see, Gnomeville is a little piece of collective insanity that obly the Great Deceiver himself could have thought up. It is an otherwise pleasant little glade, just off the highway, on one side of a deceptively easy to navigate roundabout. And in this little glade, clustered under trees; huddling inside little gnomehomes; standing on bridges; hanging, somewhat macabrely from said trees and generally getting under your feet at every opportunity: is every size, shape and diabolical variety of garden gnome every put on this good green earth.

But the horror doesn't end there. Because the people who've transported these gnomes so they can gather together for their unholy sabbath, have painted them "zany" colours and patterns (Aussie flags a favourite...); gathered them into "family" groups and horror of horrors written truly bad "poetry" on little cards round there necks so that the gnomes do truly have the look of penitents on their way to the stocks.

The photos...and watch this space, they are almost ready for download, cannot truly capture the strange feeling of dread, the prickles at the back of my neck as I explored the full extent of the Evil One's work here in WA.

There is something truly disturbing about the fact that people have travelled from all over the world to visit Bunnings, buy a cut-price garden gnome, paint in a garish representation of themself and leave it standing under a tree for other people to shrink in horror from.

The only thing more disturbing is that this in in the top ten most visited tourist sites in Australia. Think about it.