Sunday, July 22, 2012

Some random Twitpics I just found. I was trying to find a pic of Graham as a kitten; I don't have many since my treasured collection was stolen along with my old computer.

Calculating how much weight I just carried home. Just now I have got home from the supermarket, which according to Google Maps is about 562 metres away from my house. Yet I am feeling absolutely exhausted and had to stop several times along the way because my hands were getting pins and needles from the handles of my nylon shopping bags, and my biceps were trembling and aching.

I thought, "Why don't I add up the weight of everything I bought, so I can see how much I was carrying?" So here you go.

Cat litter, 4.5L = 4.5kg
Dry cat food = 1kg
Wet cat food, 7 x 85g = 595g
Milk, 2L – 2kg
Soap, 4 x 100g = 400g
Bread = 650g
2 x 10pk tea bags @ 20g = 40g
2 x Moist wipes = 667g (approx)
Paper towels = 567g (approx)

I had to approximate the weight of the moist wipes and paper towels because they're not measured by weight but by the number of sheets. I couldn't find anywhere online that lists these specific products by weight, so I had to approximate – the moist wipes were listed as 1kg for three containers, whereas I had two; and the paper towels were listed in pounds on a US site, so I converted to grams.

So, according to these calculations I was carrying 10.419kg. This does not include the weight of my regular handbag, which I was wearing over my shoulder.

Which brings me to the biomechanics of carrying weights. If I had all this stuff in a backpack, I could probably have carried it quite comfortably, but instead the weight was suspended from my arms and I was bearing it mainly in my hands.

But anyway, this didn't measure all that much, yet still it exhausted me to carry it. Because of the restrictions in how much I can carry, I can't buy groceries in bulk and take advantage of the price savings. As it was, I had to buy the smallest bag of cat litter, which will basically only fill the litter box once, because I knew I simply wouldn't be able to carry the larger one.

I have thought about shopping online for groceries, but honestly I rarely have a large enough amount of ready money to buy in insane, Costco-esque quantities, and I prefer the experience of wandering the aisles of the supermarket and discovering things on special that I mightn't have sought out on my own. I'm not quite sure how that experience is replicated in the online space, although my Googling for the weights of my products uncovered a weird world of online discount shopping that I'm sure would become quite familiar if I ever used it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writing as athleticism. As I've previously noted, I hate sport and am shit at it. Still, I live in Australia and can't help being interpellated by our national pre-Olympics narrative about how self-evidently great sport is and how heroic our athletes are as they strive to achieve the ultimate worthiness as people: Olympic gold.

John Clarke's documentary series Sporting Nation was refreshingly clear-eyed and knowing about why Australia, as a nation, stakes so much on international sporting success, while at the same time being empathetic about what this machine requires of the individual athletes who fuel it.

There was a pretty trashy and indulgent documentary profile of Ian Thorpe, The Swimmer, on TV last weekend. It was not thrilling to watch, or illuminating of Thorpe's character, as some sports documentaries can be. It was made by Thorpe's mates Gregor Jordan and Simone Kessell, and perhaps it's this pre-existing friendship that makes them reluctant to take their subject anywhere uncomfortably revealing. It felt more like a home video.

Thorpe is a stolid, physically imposing presence with a strikingly classical face. Over the course of endless press conferences and TV interviews, he has taught himself an inscrutable composure and an uneasily anodyne manner of speaking. At some points he seems relaxed and chatty over lattes, the way we are with friends; but when Thorpe scents a 'serious' moment may be happening, he slips into his public persona as cleanly and neatly as diving into a pool.

Kessell, especially, proves to be a clumsy and insensitive interviewer. (After Thorpe's crushing failure at the Australian Olympic trials, she says from offscreen, "So, you didn't make the team." A flash of contempt and anger crosses Thorpe's face: "Yeah, thanks for reminding me.")

I've also become quite fascinated by the ABC series Race to London, which follows six athletes as they prepare for 2012 Olympic selection. Three are famous veterans trying to come back from hiatus and injury; three are Paralympic hopefuls fighting personal demons and the logistics imposed by their bodies.

What fascinates me is the tenacity of these athletes in the face of failure, and their obsessive struggle to improve their physical abilities. What are their times? Their scores? Their weights and training strategies? What outside factors stymie their performances? How can they do better? How do they cope when they do badly? Who's in their support team?

At the moment I'm undertaking a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship. I'm writing this from a mezzanine overlooking the Wheeler Centre offices. Part of the reason I applied for this fellowship was to surround myself with a writerly environment that would act like my support team as I race to complete a 60,000-word first draft of my book by 31 August.

But I'm already encountering setbacks. Mostly these are logistical; it's very stressful to be embarking on such a sustained writing task when MIFF is going to overlap with almost three weeks of it, and I've been busy writing ThreeThousand's pre-MIFF coverage. I'm also teaching a course on Writing for the Web through Writers Victoria, and while it's handy to be in the building already, I've found the students expect more detail in the PowerPoint and course notes than I initially anticipated.

I've found the writing process on my book frustratingly slow. It's not the kind of writing I can just dash off; everything has to be informed by archival research and recourse to interviews and examples, which I have to find and look up in order to shape the structure of the book. To do otherwise would be like setting off on a road race without having a plan or strategy for how to handle the distance.

Yesterday I got a pretty devastating email from my editor. I'd almost killed myself, working night and day, trying to revise a chapter according to her comments on the previous version. I handed in 12,000 words on Friday night. Her reaction was basically that I'd handed in more of the same, and hadn't listened to her comments at all.

I was utterly crushed. I was doubting that I even have what it takes to be a good writer. What if I am just a dilettante who has managed to get this far on connections and dumb luck?

The other thing about the Wheeler Centre is that you can't sob at your desk, as I am used to doing at home. I had to go into the toilets. It was the presence of writers, the sense of an industry in the building, the very sense of being amid a community of peers, that paradoxically also made me feel nobody would be sympathetic to my failure. There's no crying in baseball!

But then I decided to think of myself as an athlete who's struggling to improve myself by a set deadline, straining my capabilities to their limit and still not working at a level that will win me selection on the team (publication) or a medal performance (good reviews and sales).

There is no point feeling devastated that all my hard work still hasn't produced the result I want. My only recourse is to become resilient, as athletes are when faced with a setback, and to be more strategic about how I can hone my skills, to learn from my editor's feedback as I'd listen to a coach.

The difference, though, is that most elite athletes have a support team of physiotherapists, dieticians and assistants around them. I can't count on my publisher and editor to be there for me. I need to be able to encourage and motivate myself.

Like an athlete who pours everything into their sport and stakes their entire sense of self on their success in it, I have nothing else in my life that makes me feel good about myself. Writing is it. And, like an athlete whose career is circumscribed by the physical limitations of an ageing body, I feel as if I've been given a narrow window of opportunity to succeed as a writer; I constantly fret that my publisher will see my lack of productivity as a sign that I was a bad investment, and that they'll cancel my contract and make me pay back my advance, and then all my work will have been for nothing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

MIFF films that will have a later release. Last year Cerise Howard provided a brilliant service to the Melbourne film review community – letting people know which Melbourne International Film Festival films will get a later release.

Last night at the launch, I mentioned to Cerise that I have been keeping track of these because our coverage is quite early this year, and she said she may or may not have time to make her invaluable list, so I thought perhaps I could have a go this year, seeing as I have been planning my MIFF coverage early enough to be keeping track of these things.

Last updated 24 July: this list will change as more dates are announced and distributors rejig the films currrently on their schedule. Please also note that some 'TBC' titles might turn up on DVD rather than in cinemas. Please let me know any films I might've missed.

Cerise has actually made her list again, which is way more exhaustive than mine. Rather than simply replicating it here, I'll just direct you over to her blog.

Amour – Transmission, TBC
Beasts of the Southern Wild – Icon, 13 September 2012
Being Venice – Curious Film, TBC
Beyond the Hills – Madman, TBC
Bully – Roadshow, 23 August 2012
Caesar Must Die – Palace, TBC
Damsels in Distress – Sony, 9 September 2012 (Nova exclusive)
First Position – Hopscotch, TBC
God Bless America – Potential Films, TBC
Hail – Madman, TBC
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai – Icon, 18 October 2012
Holy Motors – Icon, 26 August 2012
The Hunt – Madman, TBC
The Imposter – Madman, TBC
The Intouchables – Roadshow, 25 October 2012
Last Dance – Becker Film Group, TBC
Liberal Arts – Icon, 11 October 2012
The Loneliest Planet – Palace, TBC
Mental – Icon, 4 October 2012
Miss Bala – Transmission, TBC
Monsieur Lazhar – Palace, 6 September 2012
Moonrise Kingdom – Universal, 30 August 2012
No – Rialto, 21 February 2013
On the Road – Icon, 27 September 2012
ParaNorman – Universal, 20 September 2012
Rampart – Madman, TBC
Robot and Frank – Sony, 15 November 2012
Ruby Sparks – Fox, 20 September 2012
Safety Not Guaranteed – Rialto, 18 October 2012
The Sapphires – Hopscotch, 9 August 2012
Seeking A Friend for the End of the World – Roadshow, 23 August 2012
The Sessions – Fox, 8 November 2012
Shadow Dancer – Potential Films, 4 October 2012
Sightseers – Rialto, 26 December 2012
Sister – Palace, TBC
Tabu – Palace, TBC
The Taste of Money – Madman, TBC
Undefeated – Madman, TBC
Wunderkinder – Umbrella Entertainment, TBC
Wuthering Heights – Transmission, 18 October 2012
Your Sister's Sister – Madman, 6 September 2012

Monday, July 09, 2012

To show I still have a little humour about the whole thing. Just now I was thinking, "I wonder if Graham is inside or outside. Maybe when I go make my next cup of tea I'll have a look around for him."

And then Graham strolled over to me and miaowed, and I scooped him into my arms and said the following insane monologue that is no doubt fuelled by incipient T. gondii psychosis:

"Graham! I was just about to go looking for you, I was like, 'Where is Graham? Is he inside? Is he outside?' and then you came up and you were like, 'Miaow!' and I was like, 'Graham! It's my cat! Here he is!'"

And Graham stared into my eyes with that look he has that masterfully combines contempt with dull incomprehension.

I want to reassure any readers that I try to be a very normal and intelligent person in my everyday life and would never, ever say this stuff, or sing any of the Stupid Cat Songs, if I thought anyone could hear me. If I even suspect that my housemate may have overheard any of it, I die a thousand shame-fuelled deaths.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

BREAKING: Belittling women for cat ownership 'not real misogyny', Twitter numpty says. I had a ridiculous fight on Twitter today over a Gawker article. The article was about a study that investigated whether there's a higher incidence of suicide among women who carry the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. The parasite is often found in cats' intestines, and cat owners can become infected while cleaning litter boxes.

The trouble is, the article's headline is "Being a Cat Lady Increases Your Risk of Suicide".

Gawker knows this is a SEO-friendly headline because the stereotype of the 'crazy cat lady' is so pervasive. The body of the article actually calls the cat lady/suicide connection "a little misleading", and states the link between cat ownership and increased risk of suicide in women is tenuous (because the link between toxoplasmosis and suicide is still only a correlation, and because T. gondii can also be contracted through undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables).

But on balance, Gawker is happy to participate in the genre of media coverage that seeks scientific validation for the crazy cat lady stereotype by linking the neurological impacts of toxoplasmosis with animal-hoarding behaviour.

There's no reason this behaviour should be unique to women, but many news articles don't seem to think toxoplasmosis is a problem for male cat owners. This Atlantic feature is one of the few articles on the phenomenon that never mentions the term "cat lady" (until the comments section, when you can be sure people pick it up).

'Cat lady' is about systematic belittlement and demonisation of women cat owners. We make fun of cat ladies seemingly for no other reason than that our society is threatened by a woman who cares more for an animal than she does for a man or a child (and perhaps is also old, and hence sexually valueless), so we neutralise that threat by branding that woman 'crazy'.

Cats are negatively stereotyped as women's evil familiars, and are themselves feminised to the point where we nickname women's genitalia after them, and children innocently believe all cats to be female.

So, here's what I tweeted:

I would've left it there, except the guy whose tweet I quoted got snarky and decided he wanted to pick a fight with me. I shouldn't have risen to his taunts, but basically, his smugness gave me the shits.

It's people like him, people who see nothing wrong with cat-lady jokes, who made me agonise over whether to get a cat, because I'm single and was afraid of being the butt of such jokes. It's people like him who make me feel ashamed of caring for and worrying about my cat, even to the point of apologising for being sad when he went missing. It's people like him who help silence me from talking about my cat in public forums where I want to be taken seriously. It's people like him who make me fear an old age filled with loneliness, mental illness and perhaps even suicide; a future devoid of compassion and full of yet more light-hearted humour at my expense.

This is because I am a woman. If I were a man, it would be deemed novel and adorable for me to like cats. I would be a lust object, no matter how old I was.

For mentioning this, I got treated to a Twitter shitfight. When I expressed my dismay that what I thought was a pretty defensible objection to 'cat lady' gags had culminated in a demand for my apology to the original dude, I was accused of adopting a "victim mentality" and obscuring the real feminist issues, seeing as "it’s ridiculous statements like that that actually devalue & mask real misogyny."

Look, this seems pretty obvious, but I'm gonna have to say it again: there is no authoritative Real Misogyny Master List, arranged in order of hatefulness to women so we can efficiently make our way down it fixing each problem in order of urgency.

Misogyny is capillary. It's everywhere. It's in our economy, our society and our culture. It's not only expressed in overtly hateful behaviour, but also in the behaviour of people who don't want to think of themselves as hateful, yet who nonetheless contribute to systems that oppress women.

Caring about seemingly small issues in your day-to-day life does not in any way devalue, obscure, or suggest you are unmoved by the 'big issues'. Indeed, suggesting there are 'more important issues' to address is a common strategy for derailing discussions of discrimination.

Based on today's shitfight, I am glad I'm not a Professional Feminist. As Lefa says, maintaining the rage makes me tired, and I also don't like the person I become, the level I descend to ("Fuck off, the lot of you" was a particularly cheap and unintellectual response), when I participate in these kinds of spiteful, pointless exchanges. But I still strongly believe I was right today, and I am never going to apologise for calling someone out whenever I see them demeaning women in ways it'd never occur to them to demean men.

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