Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: was it better or worse than 2004? My instinct says worse. I haven't felt as consistently unhappy since 1999, which according to my personal mythology is "the worst year of my life". But 2005 was also quite a good year. Here are some pros and cons.

Met some wonderful new people through the magic of the internet
Had the internet at home
Hung out more with people I didn't see enough
Read some great books that made me think and affirmed my worldview
It was fun living with the manslave
Started a magazine and people seemed to dig it
Did a show in the Comedy Festival
Left crappy North Melbourne and am now straight outta Carlton
Published some interesting articles (eg mannequins, City Library, the SMH op-ed dream run)
Worked at The Big Issue and earned the most money I've ever earned in a job, ever

All the issues to do with Wetburgh Street
Wasted a lot of time on the internet
Lost my job in June and have had no steady work since - waited until my bank account was in double digits before throwing myself on the mercy of the government, with all the nightmarish bureaucracy that involves
Feeling angry and lonely and depressed all the time, but having no money to see a therapist
Crashed my car in October and have to pay $1900-odd by 14 January. This may be a little difficult as I have no money, but if I can't pay it by then they'll charge me $2400 instead
Being rejected by various men I was interested in (and who claimed to be interested in me), with all the associated self-hatred about being fat and ugly

All this raises the question: is 2006 going to be better or worse than 2005? I had a disagreement with Jeremy about whether I am a pessimist, an optimist or an idealist, but basically I have always believed that things work themselves out in the end, and that life is always going to get better, but on the other hand I constantly feel disappointed and betrayed by the way things actually turn out.

Anyway, I have to go now. It is really annoying me not having internet access at home anymore. It is also annoying me that my computer at home (nee Guy's computer) doesn't seem to recognise USB disks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This film is rated IA. Mel recommends it for viewing by immature adult audiences only. It contains coarse language, sexual references, and juvenile themes.

The other day I was talking about porn versions of normal movies. This fascinates me and sometimes I am so excited at having come up with another one that I have to text-message my friends and tell them about it. Two recent SMSes referred to Igby Goes Down and The Dykes of Hazzard. Years ago Penny and I had an SMS war with these. Penny considered she'd won with Womb Raider, but personally I thought I'd won with Remember the Tight 'Uns.

Anyway, last night Natalya challenged me to come up with porn versions of the classics. I obliged with:

Come With the Wind
Citizen Cane (an S&M movie)
The Jizzard of Oz

Obviously the Lord of the Rings cycle writes itself.

Oh, there are so many others:

Dances With Vulvas
A Cockwork Orange
Boner on the Fourth of July
Cum Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
American Booty
Steel Manhole-ias
The Break-fist Club
My Big Fat Greek Style Wedding
The Gobfather
Million Dollar Boobie
Raiders of the Lost Arse

As a total aside, today I bought a juice called Spring Valley Vibe that contains "apple, carrot, orange, pineapple, passionfruit and banana juice". I don't know why the fuck I did this. I guess I was just interested in what flavour this would produce. The answer is: no flavour at all. How can I explain it? the juice tasted like a vaguely sweet, not very nice-tasting liquid. I could discern sharp notes that were perhaps the pineapple or passionfruit, but I do not recommend this juice at all.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My fallible brain gets lost in translation. So far I have gone to three Christmas parties and other events at which free alcohol is served, and I end up having conversations with people which begin, "I was reading somewhere, I can't remember where..." or "Yeah, I was talking to someone recently about that - now who was it?"

Perhaps this says more about my approach to social interaction than anything else: I use my daily media consumption and personal interactions to build a database of interesting conversational topics which I draw upon in subsequent interactions. The trouble is that my memory isn't as reliable as a searchable database, and it has no disambiguation function. So, for example, if Virginia is talking about her brother's exchange student, I start entering "exchange student" humorous into my brain-database and say "Oh yeah, did your brother turn him gay?"

Virginia looks confused and I realise my brain has mistakenly cross-referenced her story about the Jewish-French exchange student who went on a rampage of Australian pork products and hot chicks before dooming Virginia's brother to a stay with his hardcore Orthodox family, with Nicole's story about the straight American exchange student whom she introduced to partying, and who returned to the States as a liberal homosexual.

But I am quite proud of my brain in other ways. For example, when I first watched the video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" I was dismayed and thought "There's no way I can ever learn this." But now, there is a part of my brain that knows the dance routine perfectly and will never forget it. In the same way, it has been fifteen years since I began learning poems in French to recite for the Alliance Française competition, yet I can still recite all the ones I learned perfectly. Here they are.

"La Puce" de Robert Clausard
"Le Milliardaire" de Jean Tardieu
"Il Faut Aussi Etre Très Poli Avec La Terre" (de Soyez Poli) de Jacques Prévert
"Les Roses de Saadi" de Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
Le Monde Est Trépidant de Trains et de Navires" (de La Conquête) de Emile Verhaeren
"Des Fruits, Nathanael, Que Te Dirais-Je?" (de Nourritures Terrestres) de André Gide
"Septembre" de Claude Roy

I had to google them in order to paste the right accents in, because this computer doesn't have accents, and I noticed that many of them are actually excerpts from longer poems, and the versions I learned had lines edited out. Although I loved "Septembre", my favourite poem was Les Roses de Saadi. Due to a photocopying error, our entire class thought the author's name was Valmorc and was only enlightened by the examiner.

The translation is my own shonky work and aims to give a sense of the poem's rhythm rather than an exact rendition of each word, so mangez merde if you don't like it.

"Les Roses de Saadi"
de Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

J'ai voulu ce matin te rapporter des roses ;
Mais j'en avais tant pris dans mes ceintures closes
Que les nouds trop serrés n'ont pu les contenir.

Les nouds ont éclaté. Les roses envolées
Dans le vent, à la mer s'en sont toutes allées,
Elles ont suivi l'eau pour ne plus revenir ;

La vague en a paru rouge et comme enflammée.
Ce soir, ma robe encore en est tout embaumée...
Respires-en sur moi l'odorant souvenir.

I wanted this morning to bring you some roses;
But I'd taken so many in my belts' closures
That the too-tight knots couldn't hold every bloom.

The knots burst. The roses flew away
In the wind, to the sea they all went astray
They followed the water, never to return;

The wave appeared red, and as if set alight.
My dress is still all embalmed by it tonight...
Breathe it on me, a memory in perfume.

I have been thinking about translation a bit recently. Just today I finished reading Platform by Michel Houellebecq, and I'm also reading an anthology of folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. (Everone familiar with my lame reading habits has asked me slyly, "There wouldn't be a film about this out at the moment?") You may recall that I was a little obsessed with fairytales a while ago. Anyway, I took great intellectual pleasure in picking up the repeated motifs between the stories, and in reading the introductory essay, which first looked at the narrative form and the motifs, then at the historical context in which the Grimms collected them, then at the working relationship between the two brothers and the differences between editions, and finally at the psychoanalytic and Marxist readings of the tales.

But what grabbed me was when the editor/translator said "This is the first edition of the tales to be written in everyday, twentieth-century English". I looked at the front of the book and the edition was first published in 1982, so it is perhaps a little out of date. But it struck me how much we take translation for granted, and what a difficult task the translator has: balancing the need to convey the author's precise word usage with the need to create a similar literary style in another language. I only realised it in a small way when I was translating that poem. I remember that the foreign language versions of The Simpsons struggle with the show's famous neologisms.

I am sure some academically inclined readers have specific examples of crappy translations of continental theory, but I discussed this over coffee with my new housemate Natalya, whose PhD deals with psychoanalysis so she's reading a lot of Freud and Lacan. She said that many key terms were mistranslated in English editions, and as a result a lot of the Screen theory of the 1970s was based on quicksand. And I remember from when I went through my disastrous attempt to 'get' Deleuze, that Claire Colebrook wrote how difficult it was to convey Deleuze and Guattari's wordplay in English.

J'aime les histoires.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mel's complete and unabridged share-house. I have successfully moved to Glamorous Carlton, where I live in a little house with two sensible, funny, champagne-quaffing, art-making chicks - and a pretty black and white cat named Meep. I only realised quite recently how much I wanted to live with a cat. It is really silly to like cats because they use you and never really like you back. You would think my romantic history has given me plenty of practice on that front, but it still annoys me.

The last days of Wetburgh Street seem like a bad dream now. It was a time in which I didn't enjoy coming home or spending time at home. I hated the stupid 57 tram, filled with bogans and taking ages into the city. I hated North Melbourne, so close to the city yet far away from anywhere else I went or that my other friends lived. And it stressed me out so much to be a den mother to my four housemates, whose average age was 21. I was sick of being made to feel like the buck ought to stop with me simply because I was the person who'd lived there longest and was the one whose phone number the agent had. I was sick of being the only one who vacuumed common areas, cleaned the bath and toilet or did a load of dishes without quibbling whether I'd eaten off them. I was sick of the loneliness and instability of a house where people moved in and out every few months and hid in their rooms instead of talking to each other.

Here are the complete personnel changes of that house. When I moved there in April 2005, I lived with Lorelei, Hannah and Chimere, who were rock/fashion hipsters who had just moved to Melbourne and started a band. It's now a fairly well-known hipster band, beloved of certain Fitzroyalty bloggers.

To make the rent cheaper we advertised for a fifth housemate in about May/June and got Shion, a laid-back Kiwi lad who was doing a sound engineering course while working as a cook. I liked Shion a lot. Almost at the same time, Hannah and Chimere announced they were moving out because they had never really wanted to live in North Melbourne. So I moved into Hannah's room, which was the huge upstairs front room, and we got Ben into my old room and Kerrie into Chimere's room.

Ben (briefly known to my friends as 'Mel's hot housemate') was also a Kiwi, a little crazy in the coconut, who did graphic design and animation while working in hospitality. Kerrie was a friend of Hannah's who was some kind of curator, arts writer or other gallery scenester. She's also a friend of one of my new housemates, so I have to be careful what I say about her. But she basically hid in her room all the time and I never really got on with her.

Then in July Lorelei moved out with her boyfriend and Kate, who was studying international relations, moved in. Then both Ben and Kerrie announced they were moving out at the end of October. Shortly after moving in, Ben had met this chick who swiftly became the love of his life and he wanted to move in with her. As for Kerrie, I got the feeling she'd never really wanted to live here either, which was why she hid in her room all the time.

So Kate moved downstairs to Kerrie's old room and history was made... Chris, a blokey musician type from Newcastle, moved into Ben's room, and the manslave moved into Kate's old room. Thus began what I like to call the Golden Age of Wetburgh Street, which lasted for several months over last summer.

I think Chris, Kate, Shion, the manslave and I were a good team, and I would have been happy for the household to stay like this. I also thought it was really cute the way the manslave acted all blokey around Chris and Shion, joking about their New Year's Eve shenanigans. But Kate got a public service job offer in Canberra, and Chris got a job in Thornbury and wanted to move to Northcote.

Kate moved out in February, and to replace her we got a friend of the manslave's, Steph, who's a uni student and actress. I liked Steph and still do - I went to her 21st about a month ago. She was a real ally in the 'how-was-your-day' and TV-watching stakes. And I like her boyfriend too.

Then Chris moved out in March/April, and in moved Jacinta, who had been recommended by the manslave. He has apologised for this many times to me over the last few months, as Jacinta turned out to be absolutely unacquainted with how to live in a share house. There are even more bonkers stories about how she dealt with the final cleaning, hard rubbish disposal, removal of whitegoods, and the return of bond money, but I can't be fucked telling them again.

Around the same time Shion moved out. He'd finished his course, and he wanted to move in with a bunch of his friends. I was really sad to see him go, because he was funny, easy to live with, and cooked amazing food. We found it really hard to find someone normal to move in. At one stage we were going to get this insane Italian called Pablo, who was disappointed that we were not Mac users, and there was this other Goth chick who really wanted to move in and kept leaving plaintive messages on our answering machine, but there was something slightly alarming in her eagerness.

Eventually Aug moved in. He was an architecture student - I remember him commenting in a slightly impressed manner on Is Not Magazine's appearance in Monument magazine. I think I can count the number of times I saw him on two hands - he was absent for long periods of time, came and went at odd hours, and his room looked like he was camping there. We sometimes used to speculate on his sexuality, relationship and employment status, tastes and hobbies, etc. We knew that little about him. But he was nice, and always paid the rent on time.

There was a weird, too-late bonding episode on the Sunday we moved out, in which I found an injured baby possum around the side of the house, and while Steph and I stood there not knowing what to do, Aug gently picked up the possum in a tea towel and Steph drove the three of us to the local animal hospital, where we waited in the odd-smelling cattery for the vet to tell us what we already knew - that the possum was doomed and must be put down.

Jacinta was making snarky comments predicting that Aug wouldn't pull his weight in the final clean-up. She kept referring to the possum incident as a bludging exercise for Aug. But d'you know what? He was awesome. On that Sunday afternoon everyone had left except me and Aug. Everyone had cleaned out their rooms, but it fell to us to get rid of all the detritus that my previous housemates had left in the shed and in the upstairs and downstairs cupboards. And we had to clean out the fridge and the kitchen cupboards - nobody seemed to want any of the food.

While we were doing this, I was chatting to Aug, and I realised that he was a really cool, funny guy, and that it was a shame that we had never really talked when he lived in the house. And he had a sense for the house politics - he came into the kitchen saying "Hey, d'you want this?"

It was Jacinta's name badge from the pub where she worked.
I pinned it on and said, "Maybe I should rob a 7-11," and we both laughed.

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