Friday, 28 September 2007

worth the price of admission

I am preparing for tomorrow's Word by Word meeting, where I agreed to talk about what I'm writing. I am having a mild existential crisis about being a writer and why on earth I would do something as stupid as try to write a book. I pick up Mark Tredinnick's Little Red Writing Book and find immediate reassurance.

Reasons for writing about nothing at all
Write - about the wind tonight, your bright and terrified child, the intelligence of the darkness, the opacity of grief, the shape of her breast - because these are small, good things and they need to be witnessed. Write them because writing them reminds you and whoever may listen why we live at all. Write because it's a practice the world seems to want and civility depends upon. Write to keep in practice for telling the truth. We may need people who are good at that; it seems to be going out of style.

Write because it seems like a better thing to do, in every possible way, than blowing yourself or someone else up, than rioting on a beach, than dropping democracy on a Middle Eastern country from a B-52, or telling a bunch of lies and calling it politics or business. Write because, who knows, you may hear and speak a phrase that just may save a life or change a mind or start a worthwhile rumour.

Write well and write often because it is a way of playing the instrument each of us has been given, that voice of yours, of keeping it alive and humming.

Write most quietly when the politics are shrill. That's when quietness and calm and inconsequential beauty are most exquisitely in need. Given them to whoever may be listening. Give them back to the world, which gave them to you.

Write because writing is a proof of civilisation. Someone had better do it. And it might as well be you.

Mark Tredinnick, the little red writing book, UNSW Press 2006, p 149-150
It doesn't make it any easier to do the task, but it helps me remember why.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

time out

I've ground to a halt. My capricious body has finally told me that enough is enough and is forcing me to stay in bed today.

It will be nice to sleep.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

neighbourhood watch

I haven't really known what to write lately. Been staring out of windows a lot (my current view is pictured above - look beyond the's quite a nice tree to look at). Moving house and fitting it in with everyday life is just so exhausting. But the good news is I have finally gotten to the end of the really busy time; looking at my diary and seeing blank space is just bliss!

Apparently, mum tells me, we are the subject of intense neighbourhood speculation. The house we are living in was formerly inhabited by members of the Sydney Swans. Needless to say, mum and I are a lot less...boisterous than a bunch of footy players. So one of the neighbours bowled up to mum at the bus stop yesterday and told her that 'everyone' was really pleased that we had moved in and it wasn't more noisy boys.

Now every time I leave the house I wonder whether someone is watching me...

Friday, 21 September 2007

moving week summary

It's funny, so much has been happening, yet it hasn't really been noteworthy enough to write about. Actually that's not true; I've actually been mostly incoherent up until today. So this is when bullet points come in handy.
  • We moved house this week with relative ease - no death or structural damage, as the Bs would say.
  • We've been juggling unpacking with going to work and trying to remember to buy groceries (we have been unsuccessful on this last front).
  • We have welcomed visitors in to check the place out and/or help with the unpacking, namely my dad, Cheryl, Lee from church, Freda, and the Barry family.
  • My dad bought us a barbecue as a housewarming present, which we can't wait to test out.
  • It brings me great delight to open my bedroom door to see a wall of books lining the hallway.
  • Ditto having a study and not having all my crap in my bedroom
  • Yet oddly I quite like having my piano in my bedroom
  • I LOVE having storage space
  • I am already starting to plan what I'm going to do with the garden (veggie patch!!!! woo!)
  • I bade farewell to the Baddeleys who moved to Oxford for four years on Wednesday. This made me quite sad.
  • But we bought their Magna, which is a great pleasure to drive and a constant reminder of their loveliness.
  • We discovered our phone can't be connected without great difficulty because when Optus connected the last tenants' phone, they totally severed the Telstra line. Not only does this seem to be an extremely sneaky and piratical way of getting people to stay with Optus, but it seems to have happened to every second person I talk to. It's not right!!!
And now it's Friday. Although I have a weekend of cleaning the old flat ahead of me, tonight I am going to see The Bourne Ultimatum with Margie from church - and I can't wait!

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

new digs

Well we're all moved in and I am absolutely exhausted. My room's all set up nicely though, so at least I'll be able to go to bed tonight and be comfortable.

I also didn't realise quite how many books I have until I saw them being brought in, box after box, by the lovely removalists (just a tip, if you ever need removalists, get JJ Dash - they are polite, efficient and reasonably priced).

That's about as much coherence as I can manage tonight. More...later.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

tori, tori, quite con...trory

Saw Tori Amos at the Opera House last night, as part of her American Doll Posse tour. I have wanted to see her perform live for years, and although I haven't kept up with her last couple of albums, I still love the earlier ones and jumped at the chance when Brett and Em said they would get me a ticket for my birthday. It was an amazing concert, and she is one of the most fascinating performers I've ever seen, but the whole thing I found quite exhausting.

When I was absorbed and 'into' it, it was perfect, but there were times when I stepped back from it and found the whole thing quite absurd. The music was incredible - I still think she is an incredibly talented and accomplished musician, especially when she plays two pianos at the same time without looking at either, and she had a kick-arse band with her. But I found the disconnect would happen especially during songs I wasn't familiar with, and I realised it's because of her unique diction and tone when she sings; if it's not a studio album, the words are rendered virtually incomprehensible and unless you're a hard core fan, you won't get it. She's also still all about sexualising everything and being anti-God and that can be a bit...well, boring after a while.

She also didn't engage with the audience much - the only time she actually talked to us was at one point when she turned and talked to us to introduce the band, and everyone was just lapping it up. Maybe that's the thing; she just gives out a tiny little bit which keeps everyone screaming for more. But part of me felt that the audience didn't even need to be there; compared to musicians like Ani diFranco and Ben Folds who really feed on and play off the audience vibe, it was almost like Tori was a self-sufficient, self-contained unit that was occasionally surprised and amused to look up and see the Concert Hall full to the brim.

Anyway. It was a brilliant concert and a great (late) birthday present from Brett and Em. Here are the notes from my journal I scrawled in the bus on the way home:

She's totally nuts. I know it's partly the whole 'persona' thing, but really she's pretty insane. And everyone loves it. Screaming girls and gay men and dramatic postmoderns all being so unique and alternative, yet fulfilling a certain laughable stereotype. A sea of bright pink and red heads. Ironic nerd glasses and taffeta puffed sleeves.

And yet, when she comes out, we all clap and shriek. She's clad in yellow draped satin, rubber leggings and a black wig [this is the 'Pip' persona, pictured left]. She's serious and vicious and sexual. She has the most amazing voice.

After a set, she disappears for a costume change and comes back as 'herself', in a green spangled jumpsuit that makes her look like a lithe lizard. And her hair's back to her trademark red - though it's still a wig, still a persona.

She's playful and mocking and funny. She growls and purrs and croons and wails and it's beautiful.

But after a while the hyperbole is exhausting, so it's a relief when she slides in the 'T & Bo' set; Tori and her Bosendorfer, the piano that's like an extension of herself. She plays it and the synth without even looking, stretched between the two, as though she's not even controlling herself.

The crowd cheers for the old faves - and so do I - but I'm glad when it's time to go home.
[top photo is a dodgy one of the staging I took with my phone, the other two are from her official site, which also has more info about the whole 'American Doll Posse' tour and who her various personas are, if you're interested]

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

WKC condensed

Here's a little snapshot of Rose's talks, though my notes are barely coherent, but they're still interesting points to think through.
  • There are 3 options we have in a world where it's becoming hard to live as a Christian:
    1. capitulate and live as the world does, ie, blend in
    2. live in a ghetto and only mix with other Christians
    3. say 'I want to follow Jesus totally and will accept the consequences, even if that means sacrifice and persecution'

  • 1 Peter 1:1-2 - Our identity is as God's elect, as strangers in the world who are homesick for our real home, and scattered all over the place. Our purpose is that we are chosen by God, set apart for service and obedience in response to the promises God has made.

  • 1 Peter 1:7 - There is meaning in our suffering - purifying of gold. Faith will persevere eternally, even when gold perishes. In the hands of God, faith becomes eternal.

  • Christians need to be deeply thinking, being counter-cultural, showing the radical and complete transformation of our lives. Many Christians just keep their faiths in a box, only letting it affect a very superficial layer of themselves. But Peter talks about a total change of worldview, affecting every area of our lives, every thought, every action.

  • Prepare your minds for action - follow the drumbeat of Jesus entirely.

  • We are not called for our own good only - we are called for a purpose, to be mission-minded, to spread the gospel. This is our radically new corporate identity.

  • Our new 'ethnicity' is as the people of God, one in Christ - in our fractured world, Christians need to think differently, need to be united as one.

  • We are all made in the image of God, and that is where our value comes from. There is no hierarchy in God's family.

  • We are to be representatives of Christ - 'visual aids', so that people can look at us and see what God has done.
The main thing that I took away from Lisa's talks was the idea of suffering being a part of the Christian life.
  • It's a lie to say to people "come to Jesus and he'll solve all your problems", because it's just not so, yet he gives us the strength to carry on despite immense suffering.

  • When we encounter problems we shouldn't say "why me?" but "Lord, how are you using this?"

  • Isaiah 40:28-29 - God knows when we are weak, tired and weary - but those who hope in the Lord will be renewed. We will soar on wings like eagles, we will run and not grow weary.

  • Isaiah 53 invites us to believe that pain and suffering can be mysteriously glorious. There are purposes for our suffering (perseverance, character, hope), and joy that we even as we share in the suffering of Christ we will also share in the glory to follow.

  • Isaiah 50 - we are called to walk to the different drumbeat of sacrificial servanthood - and serving costs. But we have the settled confidence that the Lord has everything in hand; it is possible to do anything when we know someone is for us.

  • Isaiah 54:17 - not only is our suffering purposeful, but it will end.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

a long post for a long weekend

Thanks to APEC and the road closures and George Bush needing a motorcade of seventy million limos every time he wanted to drive 100 metres, it was a long weekend in Sydney last weekend. It also coincided with the first weekend of the Women's Katoomba Convention, so our church group decided to go up on Friday and make it kind of a relaxing long weekend, rather than the usual stressful scramble to make it up to Katoomba in time for the first talks on Saturday morning.

We stayed in a gorgeous and well-appointed house just down the road from the conference centre, at the edge of the golf course. We were pleased to discover that it looked exactly the same as in the photos - I think mum and I have become newly disillusioned about property photos, and how there is a rather large gap between what they promise and what they deliver! But Bodhi Grove was very comfortable and warm and pleasant (it also had the biggest spa bath I've ever been in...I felt like I could go swimming).

We had a lovely roast chicken dinner on Friday night, with mum's Christmas pudding for dessert. It suited the weather perfectly, as it was cold, rainy and foggy outside.

The next morning we headed over to the convention site. This year's WKC was on the topic 'A Different Drum' and had talks from Rose Dowsett (1 Peter) and Lisa Patston (Isaiah) about how we are to walk to a different drumbeat as Christians. Although I found the convention moving and interesting and all of that, my brain was so fried and I was so overwhelmed by being in the same room as 2000 women (the noise! it's unbelievable!) that I could barely take anything in (my next post will be an overview of my notes, such as they are).

We had dinner that night in the kitschy but cute Swiss Cottage in Katoomba, and I was most taken by the huge cowbells on the wall. They reminded me of my Swiss step-grandmother, Rose, who used to read us a story about these children in the Swiss alps and cowbells (I don't remember anything more about it than that!). I had rabbit (which the jolly waitress kept referring to as 'happy bunny') and mum and I shared the most divine Lindt chocolate fondue for dessert.

I found it a bit difficult to cope with, just the relentless nature of the weekend. Conferences can be hard work at the best of times, but I think I was already very tired, and there is so much happening with work and moving and everything that I just couldn't function. There was so much talking and interaction and socialising and I am used to having a lot of time on my own, being reasonably quiet. I went and sat on my own in the car for a while at one point, just to get some peace, and wandered off around the outside of the house just to listen to the birds and breathe in the cold air.

Once it was all over, mum and I went to Leura for lunch and then drove to the Baddeleys for afternoon tea. They are both exhausted too, with the impending overseas relocation, so we all just kind of sat in the living room staring at each other and making terrible jokes.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

cranky pants

2 more things that bug me:
  • when people write that something is 'completely full proof'. What do you mean, that the thing contains 100% alcohol?! IT'S FOOLPROOF, FOOL! (here's what Paul Brians has to say about the distinction - note that most people who use 'full proof' aren't doing it in a mathematical context (it has also led me on a trail to investigate mondegreens and eggcorns - even the terms for these things sound funky - and discovered that in the US there's a PBS show coming up featuring a heroine named WordGirl and I think I want to see it...(do you remember me saying I was a nerd of some sort?)))
  • the way ABC journalist Philippa McDonald says 'pleece' instead of 'police'. Every time she does it, it makes me want to scream.

virtual me

well this has been done to death, really, just about everyone's in the Simpsons now...

But I must say, my South Park self looks kinda fun, don't you think?

I also have other avatars floating around the place, some in games, some just because I could do cool things making up another character.

What is it that is so compelling about creating another version of yourself, whether idealised or just for fun? We do this in fiction, in art, in music... is it a yearning to be more than we are, or different than we are?

I just always thought I'd be cool in South Park.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

go on, shock me

Does it surprise anyone that although it seems to take weeks for the real estate agent to fix anything (eg, the still-leaking toilet), the day after I give my notice, they have found the time to come around and stick a 'for lease' sign on the building and to list the flat on - for $25 more rent than I'm paying now? And does anyone think that the agent will do any of the much-needed repairs on the flat before leasing it to a new tenant?


what to do...

Remember The Milk

I'd heard about this site (mainly from Karen, I think), but never checked it out. Now that I'm starting to think about all the things I have to do for the move, I decided to check it out today and now I'm hooked.

I'm a big fan of making lists (it doesn't always mean that the things on the list get done, but anyway), and Remember the Milk is so well designed, easy to use and just...nifty that I am now a big fan of making lists online. You can add tasks via email, separate them into various lists, export them, even plot them on a Google map (and you all know how much I love plotting things on Google maps). Also, they're a Sydney-based Australian company - I always get excited when I see something that is really cool that has come out of Australia, and better yet, my home town.

Of course, then you get the problem of whether it's a more effective use of your time to plan how you're going to use your time, or just to get on with it and do things. But I find that when I've got lots of big things happening, I'm often immobilised by all the things I have to do, and making lists helps me to sort out the tangled mess of loose ends that is my brain. And if I can integrate that with my love of technology (and Google maps), so much the better.

Monday, 3 September 2007

i love...maps

Boy are you getting good value out of me today - three posts in one day! I must have something to talk about!!!

I said it before, I'm an ├╝bernerd. I've just plotted on google maps all the places I've lived in Sydney. You know. Just in case anyone was interested.

View Larger Map

on the move!

We got it! We shall be Maroubra-dwellers in about a fortnight. It's so weird how renting works, that it can be an arduous process for so long and then when you finally find somewhere it all happens really fast. Now there's the outlay of money for the bond, removalists, connecting utilities, blah blah blah...but I think it's going to be great!

I am an ├╝bernerd


I really want to see this movie. Mark says it's okay, because it means I'm a creative nerd, which is somehow better than just a straight, garden-variety nerd, but the fact that I am rapidly developing a passion for typography - and I don't know why!!! - is a little concerning.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

masks and wandering

It's been a weird sort of day, partly the product of the late night I had last night. After years of working our way through from seasons 1-7, the Baddeleys and I finally finished Buffy forever (obviously we don't have time to get into Angel before they go to Oxford so there's nothing for it, I'm just going to have to go over there to watch it). After they left, I stayed up playing X Box with Dave and Glenn and crashed around 2.30am, leaving them in the living room reminiscing about their misspent youth.

I was woken up at 7.45 by a desperate Meg, who has a terrible cold, was moving today, had heaps of uni assignments due and had just realised her car was out of rego so couldn't drive to work. I was glad I could help her out by driving her to work; though it was hard to get up. It feels really weird that she's not living downstairs anymore.

I came back home and went back to sleep for a couple of hours, then mum and I went to look at a house in Maroubra. We hadn't been thinking about that area much at all, but this house sounded like it had all the things we needed, so we thought we may as well give it a go...and I think it's the one. I really hope we get it! It's close to work, close to transport, has plenty of space - though the agent said we can't have a cat. Oh well.

I drove mum in to the city to meet her friends, and I mooched around for a few hours, as I was supposed to be meeting Bek for a celebratory-PhD-handing-in high tea at the Sheraton. I tried not to eat anything much as I knew I'd be filling up later that afternoon, so I wandered around, wrote and had a coffee in the Strand, bought The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (which I'm already enjoying immensely - every page seems to have a quote about reading or writing that I want to stick on my wall) and bought some make up from Benefit in Myer. As I still had time to kill, the girl did my full makeup and it's so weird, because I rarely wear that much makeup but it's kind of fun to have someone do you up like that - but the make up artists' version of 'natural' is quite different from mine, which basically involves lip balm and not much else. I don't like the feeling that I can't rub my face, and I forget and usually end up with really smudged eyes. But after a few hours it kind of settled down and I just look like a photo-ready version of myself (proof below of me looking pretentious while I lay on my bed this afternoon and fiddled with photobooth). :)

It's weird how having a painted mask on can make you feel so different - even if it's only a thick layer of foundation. Just walking around the city after that I felt much more visible, noticeable. I'm not sure I like that feeling. But knowing that the makeup had been put on properly (instead of my usual ham fisted attempts) led to a certain level of confidence I must say. I think there is a girly-girl inside me, but she doesn't come out that often.

Then Bek rang and said something was up with the trains and she couldn't come in after all! We're still going to do high tea tomorrow, and deep down I was relieved as I had tired myself out by wandering around town for three hours. Came home, read some Nick Hornby on the couch, and still have my makeup on.