Because the world needs more overwrought candour.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Just about to finally make the break and move out. I've taken my time, but it's a hard thing to do when its the first time. Home is a hard habit to break. It feels a little strange, changing homes, altering the people who I live with, starting a new sort of family. We've got to try and find an equilibrium between personalities, something done years ago in my current (real) family. It's great having a more central base, a place near other places I need or want to go to. But sad to say goodbye.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Just got back from a week in the sun - Perth, my former hometown. Why we left I'll never know. Who'd give up permanent sun and a city on the sea for a drab, unsettled city across the other side of the continent? Well, us obviously. It's funny though - Perth people all seem to have a little chip on their shoulders about East vs West coast. Mention you're from Melbourne and whoa, watch that visible shrinking away. Oh. Melbourne. You're from the East Coast. Mmm. I think they're still suffering from cultural cringe. As the most isolated large city in the world (as they never fail to mention), they've got the plus of self-reliance and a wonderful place to live, but the minus of always wondering if it's better elsewhere. Melbourne and Sydney have both gotten over their cultural cringe (well, almost), but Perth keeps looking at us, half-longingly, half-snidely. And as for Europe and the U.S, it's best not to mention them. It's interesting though, that even with these divisions (Western Australia has tried to break away from the rest of Australia twice that I know of, once seriously before Federation, and once not-so-seriously in the 80's), the city is not united. If you read the personal ads there (c'mon, who doesn't? Someone's life in fifty words or less) you'll notice an unusual acronym popping up between the more common GSOH's, DTE's, NS-ers and SD-ers. Yep, Perth has got it's very own acronyms - NOR and SOR. Standing for North of the River and South of the River. And most ads that mention this division also specify that they'd prefer to remain on that side of the river. Now, sure, the Swan River is pretty big, and there aren't that many bridges, but why this split along watery lines? Locals have tried to explain it to me by saying that Perth, like the Bris-GoldCoast-SunshineCoast sprawl, is spread up and down the coast so much that people tend to stick on their side of the river, in their local suburbs, and don't tend to cross over. Not only are they isolated from the rest of their country, and of the world for that matter, but they're isolated from the other half of their own major city. I'm sure that means something, but I'll leave that to qualified psychologists.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I'm reading The Corrections at the moment, months behind everyone else of course, but at least I've got there. I found it at a friend's beach house, devoured a third of it and then, sadly, had to leave it on a chair. I bought it when I got back, but managed to completely forget another friend's birthday, and handed it over with a heavy heart. The third time our paths crossed has been luckier; halfway through, and it still hasn't disappeared.

Dear Lordy but it's good. So good that it makes my humble ambition of writing a book (one day, when I've lived a bit more) wither a little. Why go through the mundane and tortuous process of birthing a book when such monsters of intellect, character and humanity walk amongst us? I think every writer gets this though, when reading someone marvellous. Still. I salute you, Jonathan Franzen . I admire you, and the other (mostly) American writers, like DeLillo, who are re-mysticizing our lives in Western suburbia, making the stories of the present rival those of the past.

Monday, February 09, 2004

God, look at me churning out posts tonight. Hopefully they aren't too wanky - my conversation has recently been afflicted with unnecessarily complicated words and academic concepts. It happens every now and again, and I always feel like a wanker afterwards. I wonder what causes it?

Anyway, onto the post. Had a good conversation the other day about love and hate. It's something I thought about a little while back but had no chance to air the ideas until recently (hopefully it was somewhat relevant to the convo). Basically, my idea is that love and hate are not opposites; love and hate are inextricably linked, and apathy, non-caring is the opposite of the love-hate phenomenon. If you hate someone, you still care about them. It's why it's so easy to shift from love to hate in a failing relationship - it's a lot easier than apathy, a reversion to strangerhood. Taking the idea further, it can explain the whole 'methinks he protests too much' phenomenon. Violent homophobes sometimes secretly long to be gay - they feel an attraction to men, but reject it, flipping the emotional coin to hate, and distributing this widely as a demonstration of how they feel. It's easier for them to go from love (attraction) to hate than from love to apathy. In addition, it goes some way to explaining the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism - suicide bombers and other nutcases look at the increasing prevalence of Western ideas/products in their countries (notable more so in oil-rich countries who have the money to purchase honorary Westernhood) and feel some attraction to it, but reject it violently. The emotion of hate has to overwhelm the previous attraction felt, and is therefore out of proportion to the object.

I don't know how valid the idea is, but I like it at the moment.

She's still away, it's been a month now. The first three weeks were hell; a week of family holiday cursed by bad weather, old stories, and her absence; a week of drunken debauchery and beachswimming at a friend's holiday house, conversation, participation, emptiness. A outdoor doof; insular substance-provoked experience, self-probing, massive intensity, filled with people I know and love but still lonely, still this holding back, still these lower levels of knowing people. Then back, the house, the home; socializing, grey days, colourful days, lots of time on the phone, trying to plan the year: a job, a house, a volunteer position, a new language, new people, old people experienced anew and gradually I started to heal, to learn to live without her as she did earlier, in the first week. She took to Germany like a duck to water, immersed in people and the place, with not so much room for me. I can understand, I can be like that when I travel, but not when I'm in love. It feels like year 11, the maudlin, lonely pointlessness of unrequited love. I'm not sure what to do next but I feel like I've learnt to walk again.

Time for a higgledy-piggledy post.

My dog's got a degenerative eye condition, which has finally blinded him after years of his narrowly missing, or running into our legs/the bin/trees. Now he's all the way there; a white film across his eyes. He follows sound and smell now, pounces on our voices, scurries after the scent of a rabbit. I've been wondering how he manages to move through the world without seriously injuring himself. When I take him for walks, he's a stubborn little thing, pulling me this way and that in pursuit of rabbits that he'll never catch, leash or no leash. Despite his blindness, he runs at top speed, darting from right to left, into trees, posts, other dogs, rocks, unless we see the danger first and give him a sharp tug on the leash. It's like driving a remote controlled car. But even when he does hit something, it rarely seems to hurt him, and I've just worked out why. He's got a sharp muzzle, like a boat's prow, and when he encounters something, he just rubs past it, like a canoe thrusting through water - it slides past to one side.

Coming back through the park, I noticed two pieces of graffiti on the underside of a road bridge. One claimed that 'Eltham Sux' in 03, while the other wondered sadly what happened to the Eltham s/he knew - 'Back when Eltham was... Eltham'. The same writer hit the side of an abandoned antiques shop one night as well, leaving similar sadness: "I knew Eltham back when it was just dirt roads". Someone disagreed with this retrospective, however, and showered it in orange paint. Kind of funny, really - the tacky orange ties in nicely with my suburb's new pretensions. Cafes are multiplying, and trendifying, with their waves of al fresco chairs colonising the sidewalks. We've even got our first private school bar, which fills up with the beautiful people nightly. The Eltham Hotel, our tacky, pokies-subsidized suburban pub, has been deserted by the local aspirational youth. (Actually, this demographic probably went into the city before the new bar opened, which is probably a good thing for Eltham's self-esteem). Car parking is now an Issue. But most of Eltham's beauty still lingers; parks abound, with windy, go-slow paths, possums, gum trees and brown creeks. A few token dirt roads survive (ours went last year, in a burst of shonky workmanship and poor consultation). The main attraction still lives and breathes though; from a high point, Eltham does not exist. The houses are cloaked by a suburban forest, only the town centre and light industrial estate daring to clear the trees. I love this, and I love the freshness of the breeze. But sadly, developers and the nouveau riche have heard about this, and, with a compliant council on side (the greenies lost the last elections), massive, Templestowe-esque houses are sprouting, flattening the forest, laying claim to the light. Subdivisions, extensions, pretensions. Excuse the bitterness, but in five years, the 'lifestyle' they came for will have died. And yet there is this strain of self-disgust and self-loathing amongst the youth, the products of young families moving out to the leafy beauty ten years ago, the newly bored, the park drinkers, the scornful vision of Eltham as the periphery, the regional, the dying. Eltham Sux in 2003.

But who am I to condemn this? I'm leaving it too, coming down from the trees to the city, to immerse myself in people. And though I'd protest it halfheartedly, I am leaving Eltham for another place because I've outgrown it. It was an amazing place to spend my childhood/adolescence in: riverswimming, bikeriding, ropeswinging, blackberrygathering, burbanflirting, bingedrinking. But the city beckons; I go to uni there, most of my friends have joined the sharehouse contingent, and Eltham is half an hour away by car, an hour by train/tram. I'll miss the place, and I hope it doesn't go to shit. My Korean neighbours (some of the first Asians daring to live here - Eltham has traditionally been very white-artist / young middle-class family) say that this is the best place they have lived, the best in the world, they claim, and I can't say they are far wrong. This is how suburbs should be; treeburbs, foresttowns. Not concrete and thistles.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Got a house! Hurrah and hooray. Thank the deities of patience and luck. After demoralizing rejections all over Carlton, Fitzroy and Brunswick, we widened our search in desperation and struck gold in East Melbourne. Second most expensive suburb in Melbourne after Toorak makes it easy for poor students to omit from their scouring of real estate websites. Luckily for us, desperation paid off. A freakin' huge, six bedrooms (probably seven with a bit o' rejigging), a crawl home from the city, a reasonable bike ride to uni. Did I mention the size? It's huge, imposing on the street with two craggy storeys of red brick, before relenting inside and giving way to lovely polished wooden floors, high ceilings, massive rooms and two toilets next to each other, labelled Male and Female. Yes, it used to be a medical consulting centre, which may explain the lack of interest apart from us - think of all the sick people flowing through the place, think of the sinks in nearly every room used to expel microbes - but it's ours for a year, and we love it. O, the excitement. It's probably obvious that this is my first time out of the family home, which is a little sad for a twenty-two year old but there are extenuating circumstances (not for the net's eyes n ears though). Bring on the learning curve; bring on independence, pauperhood, laughter, tears and sweep me up in the grand narrative of the city, far from the quiet doldrums of Eltham. Mm. Perhaps a little excessive, that last outburst, but hopefully excusable.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I keep thinking about technology and magic. Whenever I drive into the city, I look at everyone else sailing in on four lane freeways, focussed on their destination. But how amazing it is that we get there at all, propelled along by small explosions contained in a metal vessel. And how bizarre it is that I have no real idea how a car works. Sure, I know broad strokes, but ask me, or most of us, in detail, and we'll falter. All we really know is that it works, and when it doesn't work, it can be fixed by showering it with money. It's really a modern form of magic, a wonderful magic that lets us get places quickly. We use it, but the magicians make it. There are a very few who understand how cars work, because it's either their job or their passion to. Mechanics, designers, petrolheads - these people understand the magic, the details, the brilliance of the engineering. It's the same with the internet, and computers. Computer geeks have their own languages to describe the arcane environments they both create and live within. For that matter, so do the magicians within any tech speciality; mining, economic modelling, military, space exploration, biotech. And we, the users, the worshippers, the unknowing give thanks that it works. It's amazing, really. Despite all the democratizing of knowledge through the printing press, radio, libraries and more recently, the internet, knowledge has expanded outwards in dizzying, exponential spirals, faster and faster, causing niche knowledge and tech specialities to multiply like isolated colonies. Sure, people have tried to buck the trend and talk across specialities, across magic realms - the genre of popular science is the best known example -but even popular science is based on ideas, not practicality. It's a little scary, but a little exciting at the same time. What a strange phenomenon, though - it's not that the knowledge doesn't exist, the problem of the past, but that we can't access it or understand it readily enough. It exists, but in strange forms requiring indoctrination, training, a community.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Last Saturday night, a good friend of mine half-jokingly accused me of analysing everything to the nth degree. This is probably true. I seem to have an overdeveloped sense of self-awareness, carefully cultivated throughout my hideously shy/gawky teens. In fact, I used to think of my mind/body as two seperate-but-linked phenomena - I would watch myself moving through life as if from above, a birds-eye view. Anyway, now that my teens have been consigned to the embarassment bin, I have found this level of self-awareness quite useful, as it has let me know myself intimately, my flaws and strengths and idiosyncrasies. The downside is that continually watching and policing myself has made me somewhat scared of putting myself out there, of trying new things, because of the way in which I analyse myself doing these things. In that sense it can be a little disabling. Still, I think on balance it's positive.

More recently, I've found that I find I can use the same analytic technique on other people, in order to understand them. Most people have a level of self-awareness, but some have almost none. I volunteer at a soup van fortnightly, and there is a woman there I find fascinating because she can't step outside her immediate greed, even for a second. Background: We turn up to the housing commission flats (commonly known as the suicide flats) with baskets of sandwiches, soup, cordial, coffee and sweets. We have heaps of meat and cheese sandwiches, but limited tuna sandwiches, which are in heavy demand as a result. This woman heavily prefers tuna, and always comes out to the van to nab some before the others can get into them. Once the baskets are on the outside table, people dive into them, clawing for the tuna sandwiches. Somehow, this woman always manages to get more than her fair share. This would be bearable, except that while she ravages the baskets, she continually points out how many sandwiches other people have and how few she has and how greedy other people are. She gets angry when we try to restrict the number of tuna sandwiches she gets so as to let other people have some, continually pointing out the size of other people's bags, while neglecting to mention her own, sagging under its own weight. Her greed is so absolute that she is blind to others needs, like the quiet woman who waits for the greedy to have their fill, so that she can quietly ask for the scraps. It's incredible, absolutely incredible. The worst thing is that she accuses others of her own sins, in a remarkable feat of self-blindness.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Househunting at the moment, kinda fun except we've left it to the last possible moment and each ten-minute inspection is overrun by forty-plus people, all divvied up into little groups eyeing each other suspiciously and wishing each other luck in fake voices. It's funny what difference a name makes; step across the line from North Carlton into Brunswick and the price drops by 75-100 bucks a week. Hey, I'm happy to bear that label if it means a little extra money in my pocket. One thing that's got me curious is the process of applying; all it is is a simple little form. Name, address, what you are studying, employment, referees. There's no space for creative pleading or selling yourself - that's left up to your bank balance, prior rental experiences and personal referees. The real estate is god, and his/her choices are final. We know who holds the power and we bow and scrape and make snippy comments once we leave.

The downside of Brunswick is that it was colonized midway through last century by an influx of Greeks and Italians who, for some reason, have an inherent distrust of grass and concreted their backyards mercilessly. The places we've seen in Brunswick have been smothered in the stuff, and the Greeks/Italians have long since got rich after decades of hard work and moved to Templestowe, a suburb which believes in grass and sometimes even trees.