Monday, May 18, 2015

Bin nightmare. Tonight I emptied the bin, which was ridiculously full because several times it filled up but I'd push the contents down to make more room, so it was this horrible compressed lasagne of rotting garbage. I was kind of hoping my housemate Dan would empty it, but maybe he was playing the same game of chicken with me.

Anyway, I decided to just give up and empty it. But when I upended it over the outside bin, the bag was so full it almost got stuck in the inside bin and I had to shake and shake and shake it and bin juice drizzled out like some diabolical jus being plated in a nightmarish parallel MasterChef, and I was retching and moaning, "Oh goddddd" on my front verandah.

And then I rinsed out the bin with bleach in the shower recess (we have an extra washing machine blocking access to our laundry tub) and now the bathroom has this horrible institutional smell, like a school corridor where someone threw up and then it was cleaned up with bleach.

Dan will get home and assume I threw up in the bathroom, when ironically I was heroic in emptying that rancid bin and not throwing up.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Romantic friendship. Last night I was at a book launch and conversation turned to Writer A who had a crush on Writer B, even though Writer A (and perhaps Writer B as well) was in a relationship. Writer A's infatuation with Writer B was longstanding and known to them both; Writer A's work had even featured a fictionalised Writer B.

It's interesting that the idea of 'romance' arises from French chivalric verse narratives (orginally meaning 'in the Roman style'), and from the 15th to the 18th century, extended works of fictional prose were often called 'romances'. The French word for 'novel' is 'roman'. Sociologist Anthony Giddens argues that romance is about introducing a narrative into your life: telling a story.

But anyway, what I found interesting about this situation was that it was ongoing, and there was no shame in it. It gestured towards a different kind of relationship: one that allows feelings of romantic love without either a sexual relationship or taboo connotations of infidelity. In such a relationship you could desire and cherish, and feel cherished and desired, without feeling exploited or exploitative.

We're used to thinking of a crush as a desire for sexual contact with the crush object, or a desire to begin a romantic relationship with them. It's seen as an initial and temporary emotional phase, during which we hope and yearn to be with our crush, vividly imagine their reciprocation, dread the possibility of rejection, feel cripplingly shy in the crush's presence, and feel shame at all these compulsive, irrational feelings ("I'm a fool for you", "crazy in love", etc).

Psychologist Dorothy Tennov, who coined the term 'limerence', describes it as a temporary state that subsides in one of three ways: the crush is reciprocated and consummated; the crush is ignored and dwindles away; or the romantic feelings are transferred from one person to another.

Meanwhile, Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love sketches seven different types of relationships based on varying combinations of intimacy, passion and commitment.

But what if your crush wasn't either consummated or ignored, and remained constant rather than fading away or being transferred? What if you could actually tell someone you had a crush on them and it wouldn't necessarily mean you or they wanted to 'take it to the next level'? What if they knew about your crush but respected it, rather than bathing in the attention without offering any reciprocal hope or tenderness? What if such a romantic friendship didn't have to threaten any pre-existing sexual relationships?

I don't think this counts as polyamory. I think it's closer to friendship. It really annoys me that ideas of romantic friendship get retconned as same-sex relationships. I've written about this before, in relation to the film Pacific Rim, and it's a kind of relationship I would aspire to.

By now I've basically come to terms with the likelihood that I will never have a 'love life' the way most people do. The men I tend to crush on are already taken, or I suspect they would find me unattractive, so I keep the crush secret. I have a pattern of close male friendships that I tend to break off once I sense that I'm more emotionally invested than the man; it humiliates me that he sees me as easy, uncomplicated female company.

I am trying to carve out some possibility for a relationship in which the sexual aspect – the part I've always been so incompetent at – is mercifully excised, yet it might still be possible for me to receive the emotional benefits of love – a feeling of being valued, and cared for, and yearned for, and missed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What have I been doing? Lately, whenever people I haven't seen in a while ask me what I've been up to, I really struggle to think of anything. My mind sort of riffles through the past few days and weeks and months for any activities of any significance, and comes up short.

On Saturday I vacuumed the living room rug. Not even the living room, or the house – although I basically ran the vacuum cleaner over those bits of the house I could reach without having to unplug and replug it again. 

Vacuuming the rug is such an awful task I put it off for months if I can. It's like trying to vacuum a piece of Velcro. First I do one pass with the vacuum to get rid of any surface debris such as the sticks and leaves that Graham brings in on his fur. But Graham's fur adheres to it and won't come off with just air. 

Then I have to scrape the fur loose using the brush setting on the vacuum cleaner (any other brush or broom has bristles too long or soft to lift up the fur). This requires bending over for at least an hour, painstakingly scraping the fur in small patches, and then picking it out of the bristles when they get clogged.

By the end I am sweating and my back and legs are aching as if I have been exercising. My hamstrings were still hurting this morning.

Hmm… what else have I been doing? Well, I go and see movies for work. That's the main reason I leave the house. Anthony has seized the reins of our jointly written novel project and is making sure we are currently meeting once a week – at my house, or in a food court in the city – and trying to write 2,500 words at a time. Anthony's goal is to have a full draft by the end of the financial year. So far we've written a bit over 35,000 words.

I have so many other book ideas in various stages. The thought of which one to write, and when, is dizzying and shaming. I feel like I should be much more motivated to write. I feel paralysed.

At other times I toil in the online think piece mines for $100, $150 a pop. It is dispiriting how much I invest in this work and how little I get back. I don't think anyone even reads these articles I craft so painstakingly. I don't think I'm very efficient at my work, but on Friday Penny told me that she's impressed by the amount of work I get done and wishes she could get as much done. This is absurd, because I often think guiltily of all the work Penny juggles and wish I could get as much done.

I spend a lot of time idling in cafes and restaurants between the hours of 2pm–5pm and 8pm–10pm. This is my biggest vice. During this time I read books, or articles I've saved to Pocket, or mindlessly cycle between email, Twitter and Facebook.

I visit my parents at least once a week and watch TV or movies with my brother. The weekend before last I stayed over there the whole weekend. I used their industrial-size laundry equipment to do a giant load of laundry that included 55 pairs of underpants and all my bras. I couldn't find any laundry powder so I used wool wash instead. I don't think this washed my laundry very efficiently. I'm worried that it isn't properly clean.

My stupid cat has been catching up on his vaccinations, at considerable expense to me. Like, I have been to the vet four times in the last couple of months. The vet fat-shamed him by saying he was too fat to groom himself. He weighed nearly 7kg.

This means I have been trying to find ways to make him lose weight. I have cut down his portions of dry food – I actually measure them out individually into old dip containers rather than free-pouring blearily at 5am, as I used to. Most recently, and farcically, I bought a treat ball from the vet – it cost fifteen fucking dollars! – hoping that Graham's abject greed would mean he'd get incidental exercise batting the food out of the ball.

But no. Of course not. Graham has watched me fill the ball with the dry food he loves, and then he just looks at it dully. I bat it around so a few cat biscuits come out, and he still stares stupidly. I point to the biscuits with a finger, and only then does he eat them. I even wiggle the ball around temptingly like a mouse (it has a fluffy red tail, which I also thought he would be into), and he just isn't interested. He eats the few biscuits that fall out, and then he goes and sits expectantly in front of his empty food bowl.

Aphids and caterpillars have almost completely destroyed the mint I have painstakingly propagated from some sprigs I took home from Elanor's aunt's house. I thought I did all the right things. I constantly surveill the mint on my kitchen windowsill for signs of renewal. I spray it with a 'pest oil' that I now fret was the wrong sort to buy. I think the window box of mint that the caterpillars chewed through is completely dead.

What a boring, boring life I lead.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A letter from the park. On Saturday afternoons I sometimes like to sit in the park. Here is the view I'm looking at right now.

It's not hot; it's not sunny; but the humidity is oppressive. A foetid smell – some kind of excrement; an unpicked-up dog turd, or possum shit, perhaps – wafts occasionally past me, and every time it does I think, "I should leave. I should leave."

But I don't leave. I feel heavy, listless, unable to make decisions. A small child is squatting on the path behind me, wailing. I can't stand the sound of children crying. But I'm still worried about this child. Where are his parents? Is he lost?

I tell myself that when I come to the park, I'm going to do some writing. I've brought my notebook, it's resting on my knee, but I can't seem to figure out what to write in it. Somehow I thought that getting away from my desk, with all its distractions, would make it easier to write. It would make my head clearer. But I'm feeling more listless here than I would at home sitting in front of my computer. At least there it feels like I'm doing work.

I have so many different projects I want to write. Should I write my romcom novel,  or my historical paranormal romance novel, on my Australian rural horror novel, or something else altogether? Shamefully, what I want to write most at the moment is the terrible cat-themed pr0n ebook that I made up as a joke with Anthony on Wednesday.

Speaking of cats, it's almost 7 o'clock and I should probably go home and feed poor old Graham; he has been sitting inside my house all day. I can't help thinking I've wasted this afternoon doing nothing. My entire life seems to be made up of wasted time spent doing nothing.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Australia Day is a good time to think about Indigenous Australians. Not just in the abstract, as victims of dispossession, massacres and other barely recognised atrocities, nor as Magical Negroes with cool mythologies and ceremonies and traditions and 'affinity with the land', and not even just the survivors of today.

I try to learn specific things. I want to think of my familiar places as having been someone else's familiar places long before, and of the words and names I know as having ambivalent historical meanings.

For instance, did you know that Wurundjeri, the name for the traditional custodians of the land including Melbourne, comes from the manna gum ('wurun') and a grub that lives in it ('djeri')? When an elder does a "welcome to country" ceremony and waves around a spray of leaves, they are from that tree.

And next time you're drinking your Yering Station wine, perhaps consider the events of the Battle of Yering in January 1840, in which white settler Major Charles Newman brutally forced the Wurundjeri off their land at what's now Warrandyte over a dispute surrounding the cultivation of potatoes. When 50 clan members protested, their leader Jaga-Jaga (also spelled Jakka-Jakka or Jika-Jika) was captured, but his fellow warriors created a counter-attack as a diversion to lure the whitefellas away so Jaga-Jaga could be freed. The rescue mission was successful! No whitefellas were killed or injured; it's uncertain whether any Wurundjeri were.

Jaga-Jaga sounds badass! Someone should make a movie about this guy!

There were three brothers who were known by this name. At least one Jaga-Jaga was one of the signatories to John Batman's 1835 treaty, which historians suggest was signed at a bend of the Merri Creek near the present Rushall station. Today, the brothers are namesakes of the Federal electoral division Jagajaga that spans their traditional land in the north-eastern suburbs.

The Jaga-Jaga of Yering was the nephew of Billibellary, the brilliant politician and ngurugaeta (leader) of the Wurundjeri-willam, whose subtle negotiations with white settlers helped ensure his people endured far less violence at settler hands than did other clans.

Assistant Protector of Aborigines, William Thomas, had a close friendship with Billibellary. After the latter's death, Thomas wrote: "It may be said of this Chief and his tribe what can scarce be said of any tribe of located parts of the colony that they never shed white man's blood nor have white men shed their blood. I have lost in this man a valuable councillor in Aboriginal affairs."

His son Simon Wonga succeeded him as ngurugaeta, followed by Beruk 'William' Barak, son of Billibellary's brother Bebejan. In a photo taken in his mid-thirties, Barak looks strikingly like Ned Kelly, and is certainly as handsome. He was a master diplomat, forging many cross-cultural friendships and promoting his culture to whitefellas. He's also known for his artworks, which are very collectable. He died, aged 80, in 1903, having witnessed the signing of the treaty at age 12 and lived long enough to see a whitefella nation founded on his people's land.

Barak was the last traditional ngurugaeta. His three children didn't survive into adulthood; but the leadership role does. Barak's sister's son Robert Wandoon had a son, Jarlo Wandoon, who enlisted in WWI under his whitefella name, James Wandin. Jarlo's son Juby succeeded Robert as ngurugaeta; Juby's sister Joy Murphy Wandin has also played an important role as ambassador for her people and culture. Since 2006 the ngurugaeta has been Barak's descendant Murrundindi (Gary Hunter).

The tragedy of the Wurundjeri is that their friendliness and goodwill were never repaid in kind by the whitefellas. They welcomed John Batman to their country under the understanding that the 'treaty' constituted a kind of temporary visa. Batman, however, saw it as a land purchase contract.

Batman was a horrible person. After I read Rohan Wilson's excellent novel The Roving Party I did some research on Batman, and he was every bit as cruel as Wilson depicts him. The artist John Glover, his neighbour in Tasmania, called him: "a rogue, thief, cheat and liar, a murderer of blacks and the vilest man I have ever known." When he first landed in Victoria, he heard a local dog howling and got his dogs to find and play with it. Then he drove the native dog into the water and shot it.

The Wurundjeri must also have heard terrible tales of whitefellas from neighbouring clans. Escaped convict William Buckley had lived with the neighbouring Wathaurong, whose lands are near Geelong, and told them much about England. And the coastal Bunurong people, who lived along Port Phillip and Western Port, had been killed, and their women abducted and enslaved, by white sealers and settlers.

Nonetheless, the Wurundjeri had a good working relationship with the Protectorate of Aborigines, and hospitably warned white settlers about attacks from hostile neighbouring clans. Surely it was pretty reasonable for them to be granted land to live on?

In 1863 they were granted a reserve, Coranderrk, at Healesville, years after first asking for a place to live, and being moved on from their first choice at Bulleen because it was 'too close' to white settlement. They basically squatted at Coranderrk until the government gave it to them. Still, it was a traditional camping ground; and despite not being granted the freehold on the land, and being squeezed from an initially proposed 4850 acres (1962 hectares) to 0.2 of a hectare, Coranderrk became a beacon for members of the Kulin Nation. They were happily self-sufficient and won agricultural prizes for the wheat and hops they produced there.

Of course, they farmed the land so well that their neighbours complained that clearly it must be the best land ever and hence too valuable for mere Aborigines. All sorts of indignities followed, including 'half-castes' aged under 35 being forcibly kicked off the reserve, which decreased the labour force to the point where they could barely tend their crops any more. At one point William Barak led a protest march to Melbourne, as Simon Wonga had done before him. Finally the government just decided to close Coranderrk down in 1924 and shift everyone to Lake Tyers in Gippsland near Lakes Entrance.

This was a super remote holding place for displaced Indigenous people from all over Victoria, where they were basically cut off from the rest of the state. Some older people refused to move there, and stayed at Coranderrk until they died. Eventually, around 1950, Coranderrk was carved up and used for the Soldier Settlement Scheme, although of course not for Indigenous soldiers whose requests were turned down. A tiny parcel of the land was returned to the Wurundjeri in March 1998.

Anyway, I am never sure of the etiquette of telling these stories – they're not mine, just as the places I live are not truly 'mine'. But I've always preferred a view of history that folds together the places and people of the past and present: one that helps us empathise with these long-dead Australians, to see them as individuals who were like me in wanting to be heard and recognised, and to be free to live the lives they wanted.

We should all know the histories of the geographical terrain we move across. We should know these people's names and biographies as one of those taken-for-granted parts of culture. We might have no direct stake in the names and biographies of American presidents or kings of England, but we know them anyway because we live with their cultures. Well, I am no more Indigenous than I am American or English, but Indigenous cultures have helped create my culture, and have left their traces on it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014: the year in Five-Minute Photoshop. I am feeling sad and despondent right now because my annual Christmas carols singalong had to be cancelled this year because the Victoria Hotel, where it was always hosted, has renovated its lounge and got rid of the piano. Somehow it seems emblematic of how little I have achieved in 2014. I feel like I've basically been treading water this year, not actually moving ahead or kicking any real goals.

So anyway, I thought I would cheer myself up by reliving the stupid sweded pics I made this year. I did a similar post a year ago; maybe this can be another tradition.

Early this year Schapelle Corby was released from jail in Bali, and people couldn't stop talking about this stupid hat she was wearing. So this is my surrealist art homage.

Lefa is a massive Midsomer Murders fan, so I sweded this up for her birthday. It's a joke because Detective Inspector Barnaby is never happy. He is serious because he is always investigating so many murders. The text is my attempt to replicate the spoOooOOOky Midsomer Murders title card.

This birthday card for Ben started with the phrase 'it's all about the Benjamins' but then I got sidetracked by Swingers quotes.

Haha, once you have noticed that Queensland premier Campbell Newman looks like a reptilian, you cannot unsee it! This is perhaps my finest piece of sweding all year.

In case you cannot read my subtle labelling (I'm actually quite pleased with how I warped the text to appear as if written on the box) this was a birthday card for Chad, whose surname is Parkhill so I gave him the means of performing a 'hill park'.

This was a birthday card for Zoe, whose surname is Sanders. Another top-shelf bit of 3D sweding if I do say so myself, in order to make her picture appear printed on the tub.

I made this image to celebrate Dracula Untold, aka a film that basically nobody liked as much as me.

I think there was some stupid joke on Twitter re: 'a fascinator for cats' so I sweded this pic of Graham in his best racewear. What a cool and fancy cat he is.

Just the other day I saw Unbroken, which stars Jack O'Connell (right) as Louie Zamperini. When I looked up his IMDb profile I was struck by how much he resembles a younger Michael Fassbender (left). They both have a certain kind of Emo Ginger thing going. They should totally do some Plausible Family Casting.

I always get James Spader and Kevin Rahm confused. I went and saw Nightcrawler and was convinced that James Spader was in it until one of my fellow film critics kindly corrected me in the foyer outside. Of course, now Spader has gone bald it's easier to tell them apart.

A valuable infographic correcting all the errors made in a stupid Facebook ad that came up in my feed.

A while ago I was reading about feral cats, and I became fascinated by the question of how large they get after generations of breeding in the wild. So I was looking up Google Image Search and I found this pic of a really munted-looking feral cat who reminded me of what Graham might become if he were ever to go feral. It also looks like those munted cat decorations made in China from real rabbit fur, which you can get at terrible $2 shops.

This is a pic I made to accompany perhaps the least-viewed article I've ever written for Junkee: my Terminator 2-themed Game of Thrones recap. (Every other recapper made Law & Order jokes for that episode; I was trying to be different! But of course I forgot that pretty much nobody is as massive a Terminator fan as me.) I also did a terrible mashup of the two theme songs, which you can torment your ears with here.

I don't know why I decided to make this joke for Saige's birthday. FYI – that is the typeface used in the Law & Order title card. It is called Friz Quadrata.

I knew I wanted to turn Guy into 'Guy Incognito' from The Simpsons so I was going back through his Facebook pics and found this one of him sitting on the Iron Throne of Westeros at a promotional event.

This is Paul's birthday card. His surname is Nelson. The most period-appropriate font I had was Zapfino.

The reason Lucy looks so weird in her birthday card is that I was inspired by the airbrushed, colourised look of this pic of Lucille Ball.

It is kind of hard to get that look from a recent colour photo so I used a lot of blurring and colour-balancing.

Becky's surname is Harkins-Cross, so she gets a Harkins-Cross bun as a birthday cake.

Hahaha, another masterful swede for Simon's birthday.

This car belongs to a film critic who is notorious for his inability to park accurately. I've taken several shots of it transgressing several different sets of white lines, but this is the stupidest.

This is a piss-take of that genre of 'inspirational quote' where you paste the quote over a picture of the person being quoted. I've always found this pic of Jeff faintly hilarious, although I have tremendous respect for him as a writer and thinker.

The year's finest film poster, which I sweded after Kate raved about how much she was looking forward to this film. Kate was right though – Mr. Turner is a really excellent film and I recommend it to all.

After the triumph of Mr. Turner, people on Facebook asked if I could swede up a poster for Turner & Hooch. Note the paintbrush in Hooch's mouth.

Myke's expression in this photo reminded me of the Shepard Fairey Obama poster, so I posterised it. There are websites where you can automatically Obama your own pictures, but they didn't look any good when I tried, so I did it manually.

This one has previously appeared on the blog.

Around Easter this stupid and inaccurate meme was widely shared on Facebook:

But basically I just wanted to make a stupid Sean Connery joke!

I'm not even sure if Shannon is a Michael Jackson fan, but I just like making "Shamon!" jokes… Note my use of the novelty brush shapes.

Yep, there's that "Shamon!" joke again. This time it is because Steph's surname is Harmon. For some reason I always use Brush Script for my Michael Jackson swedes.

The Harold Holt pool party was an under-18 poolside disco held at the most ironically named swimming pool in Melbourne during the 1990s. This is a diagram of the time in year 9 when a chick from my year level at school spewed Scotch on me from the pool's entry bridge. Luckily I could just go to the showers and wash it off.

During the recent Sydney Siege, the conservative Australian commentator wrote an awkward colour piece ruminating on the fact he'd been just outside the cafe as the siege kicked off. He made a ridiculous reference to "the sliding doors of the cafe playing a brutal game of chance and fate". I'm not even going to get into the way that chance and fate are basically diametrically opposed principles.

This was a Political Parody of the Sydney Biennale poster – the biennale was sponsored by a company involved with incarcerating innocent asylum seekers in offshore death camps. Here, for reference, is the original poster.

Getting the gradient right on the text was the hardest bit of this swede.

So, Chad wrote something for the Wheeler Centre, which uses markdown as formatting, and the house style is to bold the author name. So I would be **Mel Campbell**. Anyway, you can see this formatting when Wheeler Centre articles are shared on Facebook. Clem referred to the asterisks as 'rad sparkles', and I quipped that we should refer to Chad from now on as 'Rad Sparkles'. And I made this GIF from Chad's headshot but was foiled in my stupid joke because Facebook doesn't support GIFs. WELL BLOGGER DOES, SO ENJOY!

This was just a pun on Dylan's surname, so I was looking for pics of rain and then I remembered that Shawshank Redemption pic.

This pic is inspired by the line in the song: "Heaven help my heart, cos it's a lot like me". Derbrain, your heart is you. Anyway, in order to get the anatomical heart the same sepia colour scheme as the original single cover I had to tweak the colours and now it looks like a turkey on Tina's head.

(Who wore it better: Mr Bean or Joey Tribbiani?)

Andrew moved to Woop Woop this year. I don't ever expect to see him again. But luckily for him, he really likes beer, so he will fit in just fine in rural Australia.

I'm also very proud of this pic I did for Max's birthday. Max likes to refer to beers as 'cold ones'.

Every year for my film buddies I swede up a stupid Christmas picture based on one of the worst films of the year. This year it was Winter's Tale.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why pat the cat? Graham is currently sitting on my lap and I am stroking his fur, mumbling the usual stupid comments regarding how soft and pretty he is. It occurred to me how much I enjoy patting him – but why?

Obviously there is the sensory pleasure: the feel of his fur on my fingertips. I like stroking the velvety short fur on his face and on his paws. I like how warm his ears feel because of how close to the surface the blood vessels run. The fur on his back is relatively coarse, but on his neck, shoulders, chest and belly it is luxuriously long and soft. 

And on his back legs the fur is thick and dense – I have thought of it as 'rabbit-like fur' ever since reading that description on the Wikipedia page for Ragamuffin cats, which is illustrated with a photo of a cat that I fancy looks quite like Graham. 

And I sometimes like to fantasise that Graham is a pedigree Ragamuffin who was somehow misidentified as 'domestic medium hair' at the pound. It is my sad version of a Cinderella fantasy – the idea that Graham is special and only I, his fairy godmother, can recognise it.

I also like the comforting warmth and weight of Graham lying on me, and the soothing feeling of stroking Graham when I feel distraught or stressed, even though he seems to recognise when I most need to pat him and deliberately refuses to let me. There are few rejections as devastating as when you go to pat a cat and the cat slinks really low to the ground to avoid your touch.

But what struck me as particularly perverse and anthropomorphic is that I get pleasure from the idea that Graham enjoys my patting. I like it when I stroke under his chin and he lifts it up. I like the way he closes his eyes when I stroke his head and ears. I like it when he purrs, or when he snuggles against me.

But ultimately the patting is for me and not for Graham. I like running his puffy tail through my hand, which I can tell Graham doesn't like because the tail starts lashing and he sometimes tucks it away. But I still like patting his tail.

Who knows what Graham thinks? Who knows if he is happy with his life in my house, and with me as his owner? I mean, he miaows at and hangs around me in a way he doesn't with my housemate, and he will leap onto my lap, but who knows if that is only because he's identified me as the main food source, the one to ingratiate himself to?

Sometimes I look at him, hoping for some sign of intelligence or daemon-like connection, and he just stares dully and vaguely belligerently back.

He is just an animal. But what an animal! What a puff! 

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