Sunday, August 29, 2010

The prison of humiliation. It was only this week that I started to think about how all the strategies I have for avoiding public humiliation are not makeshift, improvised coping techniques for particular problems, but form part of an overarching structure in which I feel trapped.

It is pretty hard to convey how comprehensively humiliated I feel pretty much all the time, and how my life is a constant struggle to anticipate and head off other people's disgust or ridicule. I am unable to forget even the most superficial embarrassment, and I constantly torment myself with the memories of past humiliations.

Here is just one example. Today I was on a panel at the Writers' Festival and the moderator put me on the spot to suggest a new cult TV show. I managed to remember Spartacus: Blood and Sand, but I mistakenly called it Hercules: Blood and Sand. I have been beating myself up about this all day, thinking wretchedly about how I have completely ruined my professional credibility, and how everyone must have laughed at my mistake behind my back.

Then later tonight I came across this article from the New York Times Magazine about pre-schoolers with depression. The story that really resonated with me was the cruel experiment they played on an anxious little kid – the therapist told the kid a particular teacup was her favourite and encouraged him to take it, but it was rigged so its handle would fall off. Then the therapist acted all upset that the kid had broken her cup.
“I feel like I’m going to go into the trash can,” he said.

“Who would put you in the trash can?” his mother asked.

“You would,” he replied in an accusatory voice.

“I would never do that,” she said. “I love you. Accidents happen.” The boy seemed to recover, and they chatted about her earrings, which he flicked playfully with a forefinger. Then his face drooped again.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked, and then added, almost angrily, “I never want to do this activity again.”

“You’re not a bad boy,” she consoled him. Often, parents don’t realize that their children experience guilt or shame, Luby says. “In response to transgression, they tend to punish rather than reassure.

“I am a bad boy,” the boy said, ducking under the table. “I don’t think you love me now.” He started to moan from the floor, whimpering: “I’m so sad. I’m so sad.”

What fucking bastards. I know just how that kid feels, because I feel like that all the time. And they call it therapy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Has IKEA incepted me? Last night I dreamed an IKEA hack! Not just this: I dreamed an Inception-themed IKEA hack!

(It annoys me to cap up the Swedish furniture brand name – I think it looks shouty and wrong – but it's actually an acronym, and the pedant in me wants to get this shit right.)

So I dreamed that I invented a special DVD shelf that had extra storage to hold my DVDs-within-a-DVD. In my dream, I used as a base an Expedit shelf laid on its long side on the ground. This is actually what I use in my living room as a TV stand and to hold my DVDs – you can see the corner of it in this pic.

I then cut gaps in the small interior shelves of the Expedit and inserted a Benno CD tower lengthwise into the gap I had created. The Benno rests on the Expedit shelves. I suppose I could glue it in for stability but practically, you would want to be able to dismantle it.

Forget the screwy perspective in this pic – I have just mocked it up quickly based on the product pics on the IKEA website. Of course, the Benno interior shelves can be moved to any spot on the tower, not just the CD width shown here; I would configure them to be the length of DVDs.

So the idea is that I would store the primary DVDs in the narrow gaps at the top and bottom of the Expedit, and the DVDs-within-DVDs in the Benno.

Don't ask me what "DVDs-within-DVDs" means. It was a dream. Things don't have to make sense in dreams.

My next IKEA hack: putting my couch on hinges so it can tilt back dramatically to 'kick' me back from the DVD-within-a-DVD to watching the first DVD.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Graham's triple-threat hand attack. This probably means I have failed somehow as a cat owner, but when Graham gets revved up he sometimes likes to attack my hands. He will do this unprovoked, and it is a really strange habit, as he is generally a gentle cat who enjoys being patted. I have never even heard him growl or hiss – even when he is annoyed or upset, he will only miaow.

The other weird thing about Graham's hand attacks is that he is completely hopeless when it comes to actual prey. I have seen him trying to catch flies and butterflies, and basically he will catch them in his front paws and then inadvertently let them escape when he opens the paws to check that he's caught them.

Whereas his triple-threat hand attack technique is vicious and effective.

1: The Teeth
Graham sinks his teeth into my hand (or, more usually, into a sleeve I have hurriedly slipped over my hand, anticipating his attack).

2. The Grip
Graham wraps his front paws around my arm so I can't pull away. If I use my free arm to prise the paws off, Graham will just transfer his teeth to the new hand.

3. The Bunny Kick
This is the most devastating technique in his arsenal – Graham uses his back legs to kick at my arm. His back claws are pretty blunt but he can get some strength behind them – I'm pretty sure they are what caused the scar on the back of my right hand.

All this attack work can really tucker a cat out.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Feeling very small. I just got home from seeing Mother Of Rock, the MIFF documentary about journalist Lillian Roxon. It left me feeling very small and mediocre.

Roxon worked like a dog, was always poor and died prematurely, fat and alone. But at least her work was incisive and influential, and she had lots of sex. By contrast, I work like a dog for little result that I can see, and I am probably going to die poor, fat and alone… after a drawn-out life of celibate mediocrity.

There would be no reason to make a documentary about me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Overheard on the train. I feel really naive for believing that people stayed at work until 5pm or even 6pm! Because I was on the 4:45pm Lilydale train from Parliament, and the platform and the train were already quite crowded! Slackers.

Anyway, I managed to find the last seat near the spot I entered the carriage. It was a middle seat facing backwards: the least desirable seat. Since I am not one of those idiots who insist on always facing forwards on public transport, this was fine by me.

Except that on my right was this monstrous, swarthy gym-junkie – you know, the kind with a skin-tight lemon-yellow T-shirt, piercings in both ears and hair sculpted into a central tuft? Whose arms are so huge he can't put them down by his sides and his elbow digs into my side, and his thighs are so huge he has to sit with his legs splayed into my seat so that one of my butt-cheeks is on the cushion and the other on the plastic seat surround? I didn't look closely at his face but I bet his sideburns tapered down to a point.

Anyway, he was talking to his female friend who was sitting in the seat opposite. She was tiny compared to Goliath here, and looked vaguely goth – parts of her dark hair had been dyed blue, and she was wearing thigh-high black socks. Her exposed thighs above the socks looked like plucked chicken skin. They both looked like uni students, although I am getting increasingly poor at accurately guessing people's ages and they might even have been high-school students.

Goliath was thrusting an earbud at her and saying, "Listen to my music!"
She said, "No! I'll listen to my music."
"Yeah, that's why I'm offering," jested Goliath.
"Well now you've insulted me, I definitely won't listen to yours," she said. "Or, you know, you could, like, talk to me."

They began to talk about music in general. "There's a guy in my philosophy class who says he doesn't listen to music at all, doesn't like it," she said. "I told my tutor, who's in, like, three bands."
"I mean, how can you understand philosophy if you don't like music?" Goliath offered. "Music is fundamental to life."
"We had to think of a controversial topic, and he took like half an hour to think of one," she said. "I mean, who can't come up with a controversial topic?"
"He's probably a virgin, too," said Goliath.
"He must have a really sad, difficult life, not liking anything."
"Doesn't like music, doesn't like sex… Not like me!" Goliath said.

"The best thing," he continued, "is listening to music while you're having sex."
"Definitely!" she nodded. "Like, when I was up in Byron Bay at Bluesfest I was having sex while my favourite band Gogol Bordello played. It was amazing."
"Did your boyfriend come to Bluesfest?"
"No, I met up with a bunch of gypsies."
"Wait – you got laid by some random gypsy?"
"No – I know them from circus school. I went to Bluesfest with my dad, and then I knew they were going to be there, so I met up with them."
"So your dad is off enjoying the festival while you're having sex in a tent?"

At this point I got out my own music and quickly stuffed my earbuds in. The song that came on was 'Out Of Touch' by Hall & Oates. I could still hear them talking, though – apparently she was a gymnast but she has a shoulder injury at the moment. Goliath also said at one point, "Look at my hamstring – it's massive!"

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In praise of pseudoephedrine. So I've been sick. The whole thing: rivers of golden snot; scratchy sore throat; aches and pains; cotton-wool head. Feeling freezing cold even though I was wearing a T-shirt, flannel pyjamas and a polar-fleece and lying in bed under a doona and a blanket. Then feeling boiling hot and dizzy, so I had to take the polar-fleece and the blanket off. Dreaming stressful dreams of a MIFF queue that never went anywhere, and a MIFF film with no plot that never ended.

Then I went out and got some cold and flu tablets. The pharmacy lady tried to steer me towards these bullshit herbal capsules with the echinacea and the zinc and so on. Fuck that for a joke. Give me pseudoephedrine.

I don't know whether bikie meth labs employ armies of people to buy up pseudoephedrine who are obviously sick-looking, with watery red-rimmed eyes and a constant sniffle. (No wait. They might. These people are called junkies.) Anyway. it was very annoying that I had to register to buy cold and flu tablets. They put my driver's licence details in a little book they have for that purpose.

But anyway. It's totally worth it. I've had my first two tablets and now I feel the absence of sickness and pain that's almost a high in itself. I feel as if only an hour ago I was a Walkman whose batteries were running low and making the songs sound all slow and dragged-out, and now I have replaced the batteries and I'm playing a cheerful tune again.

The drudgery implied in the phrase 'soldiering on' doesn't even explain it. I feel optimistic and energetic, as if I can actually tackle the mountains of work that await me today. Whereas yesterday, I struggled to get through the simple items on my to-do list, and when I stubbed my thumb while washing dishes, I had to lie down on the couch and sob. And I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep tonight rather than tossing and turning, alternately shivering and sweating.

I just wanted to explain how amazing pseudoephedrine is. You might say, "Well, duh, it's speed." But I want to emphasise that simply using this drug for its proper purpose is making such an absolute difference in my life. It's like the time I discovered Naprogesic and was like, "What, you mean I don't have to spend several days a month crying and vomiting in crippling menstrual pain?"

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Crap domestic hacks. I love the way this blog is shifting towards being a crap version of other blogging genres. First it started becoming a Crap Food Blog; now it is turning into a Crap Domestic Hacks blog.

You will remember my last Crap Domestic Hack: the DIY liquid soap!

Even though the consistency looks a little like vomit, that photo was taken at what turned out to be the soap's peak. It probably needed to have some emulsifying substance in there to keep it liquid (glycerine?), because the soap separated and the water evaporated, leaving a revolting-looking residue. I still kept it for a while before my housemate eventually made me throw it out.

That is what I mean when I talk about Crap Domestic Hacks. These are repurposings of household objects in ways that at the time make you feel deeply thrifty, with McGyver-esque levels of resourcefulness. But later you realise they are just a waste of time, don't work very well, and clutter up your house. So you throw them away.

In this spirit, let me bring you two Crap Hacks I did this week. First is my All Terrain Cat Vehicle.

I don't have a car, and so I have to walk to the vet with Graham in his cat carrier. I have been putting off his overdue immunisations and dental check-ups because I am weak as a kitten (fnar!) and have to stop every 50m or so to change arms on the cat carrier, and I feel absolutely destroyed by the time I get home. Graham is a greedy bastard and is not getting any lighter.

So I was thinking that it would be great if I could attach some skateboard wheels to the bottom of the carrier, and one of those long handles like you see on some kids' tricycles. Then I could just wheel Graham down the road.

Imagine my glee the other day when I saw this metal pram frame (or shopping trolley frame; I don't know) just lying in the street. I said to myself that if it was still there when I came back that way, I'd pick it up. Of course, it was gone. But then Thursday was bin day, and I noticed that someone at the other end of my street had put the frame out with their garbage. So it is mine now. I figured I would lash the cat carrier to the frame with octopus straps. But I still have to find a long handle to drag it with.

Now for my second Crap Hack: Spice Jar Posy Vase!

We have several violet bushes in the back yard. I love the colour and smell of violets but I don't have a vase small enough for them to stand up in properly. Then I realised that I'd been saving this empty spice jar, and that the holes in the top would be perfect for keeping the flower stems standing upright!

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