Wednesday, 28 February 2007

family odysseys

i was just woken by my father and brother ringing me from malaysia and now i can't go back to sleep. they were at my grandmother's 80th birthday party, and it sounded like the typical jee-family extravaganza in the backgound. i ended up having to yell my part of the conversation and even then i think they only got half of it.

my brother sounded pretty relaxed, although he admitted he had gotten involved in that day's family meltdown (a regular occurrence, one that he usually stays well away from). but by the time we spoke it had blown over and he was feeling pretty good and was back onto trivia: "oh sorry for waking you up. hey you know that song that goes, [singing] 'i love you, for sentimental reasons'? what's that called?"

"um...i think it's called 'for sentimental reasons'."

"great! thanks, you're a great phone-a-friend. do you want to talk to mama?"

he handed me over to mama, who, as usual, was talking with her mouth full, but sounded like she was enjoying herself immensely as the focus for the whole dinner.

"hi mama, it's rebecca. happy birthday!"

"anh...anh...hey, hey, hello, anh thank you, thank you. eating lots, very good food. why you not here?"

"i couldn't come because of work."

"work? ai-yoh, what's work? no need work. just stop and come round. i save you some." uh...ok.

"ha ha, that's nice."

"no, you come, you come round, okay? i save you some."

"ok, sure."

"so when you coming?"

"i'm too far away, mama! i'm in sydney!"

she laughs like it's the funniest joke ever. so i just said, "well happy birthday then."

"okay, okay, thank you."

she handed me back to my brother and i went "okay, did she even know that was me?" he laughed and said "yeah, probably not." oddly enough though, it wasn't that much less comprehensible a conversation than those we would have had before she started 'losing it', as my dad so gently puts it.

talked briefly to dad and ended up yelling down the phone "I might have hepatitis or glandular fever! no, hepatitis! maybe!"

"oh really?" he said. "what did you do to get that?"


well he sounded suitably concerned, but i guess the context he was in made it difficult to have any sort of serious conversation.

sounds, images and smells from other massive chinese family birthday banquets won't stop banging around in my head. at this point, i'm glad that i'm able to just go back to bed and not have to participate. must try to go back to sleep now.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

poor little rich people

i hate election time. there's a state election coming up on the 24th of March and so the ABC news is full of stories about what the leaders of each party are up to.

their second story tonight showed the opposition leader, peter debnam, who was today in western sydney 'highlighting the plight' of those struggling with high land taxes. they interviewed a woman who owns four properties in NSW and a fifth in QLD, who was complaining that she had to sell a property because the land taxes were just too high.

oh, my heart bleeds for you.

i'm sorry for the sarcasm, but honestly, how can that be considered a 'plight' when there are so many people who can't even afford one house, let alone five? are we supposed to feel sorry for property investors who are 'forced' to put rents up because they can't afford their mortgages? when those of us who are renting, and paying out huge proportions of our wages to do so, have no other option, and when so many people can't even afford to rent? how can people muck around with other peoples' homes, as though they are just renting for the hell of it?

i know my understanding of the market and economics is woeful at best, but surely housing is a basic human right. wouldn't it be great if our society was geared around the concept that everyone had to have one place to live that was theirs, before anyone else could have more than one property? (yeah, okay, you don't need to tell me why that wouldn't work or that i'm secretly a communist...i just think it would be fairer than wealthy people (who consider themselves hard done by) bitching about land tax for no good reason)

i'll stop ranting now. it makes me mad, but it also makes me grateful that i belong to a loving God who will always look after me. it doesn't mean he'll have me living in a 3 storey mansion, but i've never wanted for food or a roof over my head.

Monday, 26 February 2007

avoidance tactics


i'm now sitting here watching the oscars. and i even know who won everything and who wore the ugly dresses and all that and i'm still sitting here watching the oscars. with all the unfunny scripted banter and the schmoozing and backslapping and...and yet...i can't look away. i may have to turn it off and go into another room before ere long. but hey, let's face it, i'll probably still be here in nine hours when it's still dragging on and ellen degeneres is still rambling her intro monologue.

also all i want to do is eat the remaining four chocolate billabongs in my freezer and the half a block of mint chip chocolate in the fridge. do you think it might have something to do with the fact that i'm...uh, still sick?!!!

so yeah, got the blood test back today and apparently my liver is stuffed and my blood count is down and they have to do more tests because it's clear my body is fighting something bad, possibly - yes, you guessed it - glandular fever, or even maybe hepatitis. yuck.

though i have to say, will smith is really attractive when he laughs. hey, he's attractive even when he doesn't laugh.

oh good lord it's just devolved into some weird song with a gospel choir and ellen is waving a tambourine around. and now daniel craig and nicole kidman are presenting the first award and they look like robots. they sound like robots too.

i think i'm going to have to get that box of billabongs.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

would it be churlish to say "it's not fair!"?

i appear to be sick again. have been in bed for the better part of the last three days, feeling much the same as i did a few weeks ago when i got that awful virus. went to the doctor today for a blood test, but she said "most likely it will show that you're just really unlucky and got another virus within two weeks of getting over the last one."


and i'd been doing so well. feeling the best i'd felt in ages, going to the gym, going out and catching up with friends...i refuse to think i'd overdone it because those were just normal, ordinary things, nothing that extreme. but then i have to remember, in my case, the batteries do wear down very quickly and normal, ordinary things can become unscaleable mountains. damn it.

well this time i'm doing the right thing. i am listening to my body, staying in bed, not attempting to leave the house. it sucks but the doctor told me if i don't rest then what starts as 'just' a virus will end up being a lot worse.

so i bought myself a trashy fashion magazine to read in bed as consolation. it hasn't helped, though in a several page recap of oscar fashions from 2006, it has got me well and truly primed for this years' awards season, something that was obviously sorely lacking in my life up until this point. is it the delirium, or do you also find that after a while all the starlets and their plastic smiles start to blend into one?

Thursday, 15 February 2007

kingdom blong yu i mas kam

one of the articles i've been editing for salt magazine is by joel, a student who went on a short-term mission to vanuatu. he sent me a translation of the Lord's prayer in bislama, the local language which has a lot in common with tok pisin, the pidgin english used in papua new guinea, where i grew up.

i just thought i'd reproduce it here, because i love language, i especially love these kinds of pidgin words and, well, i think it's great!

Papa blong mifala we yu stap long heven,
Nem blong yu i mas tabu,
Kingdom blong yu i mas kam,
Mo ol man long wol oli mas harem tok
blong yu olsem we olgeta long heven oli stap harem.
Plis yu givim kakae long mifala tede,
Mo yu fogivim ol rong blong mifala,
Olsem we mifala i stap fogivim ol rong we ol man oli mekem long mifala.
Plis yu no traem mifala tumas,
Be yu tekemaot mifala long han blong Setan,
From we kingdom, mo paoa, mo ol gudgudfala samting oli blong yu, gog i no save finis.

(in case you need a reminder, in english:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on Earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil,
for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.)

* for other language-nerds, i discovered via wikipedia (so it must be true) that the name 'bislama' is derived from the 19th century word 'beach-la-mar', from the French 'bĂȘche de mer', in turn from the portuguese 'bicho do mar' (meaning sea cucumber) because the local labourers used to speak this pidgin language amongst themselves while they harvested sea cucumbers! i love the internet, it makes me feel so smart! (and nerdy)

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

happy new linen set day!

well. who's the sourpuss who hates everything to do with february 14 (except for the fact that it's jen's birthday and also, as i noted last year, decimal currency day)? who's the bad-tempered lass who, on this day, scowls at anyone carrying flowers, derides cards and sneers at anything with a red heart on it? who's the hypocrite who would secretly be thrilled if she got flowers or a card (but would probably draw the line at anything red-hearted)?

it's me, in case you didn't guess.

but here's what happened this morning. i got an email from the lovely girls at vilain boutique telling me that i was the random winner of the prize from a survey i took at their site several weeks ago. woo hoo! a brand new 400-thread count egyptian cotton sheet set and quilt cover coming my way! sweeeeet.

it's nice to get presents for no reason. but especially nice to get presents on a day when you're usually feeling ticked off and scrooge-like about anyone else getting presents.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

physical training is of some value

so i've started my gymming in earnest over the last week. i must say, i do feel a lot better, energy-wise, and i'm sleeping well. it's such a weird thing, going to the gym. but i do think if i can get into a routine the benefits will outweigh the inconvenience of aching and the strangeness of walking on a treadmill (which always seemed supremely pointless to me).

Saturday, 3 February 2007

new perspectives

having lain in my bed for the better part of a fortnight, i decided it was time for a change. so i moved my bed around ninety degrees and it's given my room a whole new lovely feeling.

best of all is i can open up my curtains and lie in bed and watch the treetops move. and having a pleasant outlook of some sort is a grand thing.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

lost in a good book

mum sent me this article by Mem Fox in today's SMH about the importance of reading to children from a very early age, not just to promote literacy, but because "[s]haring a book with a child is an enchanted time, a time away from the workaday world, a time when parents and children fall in love with each other."

i am sure i've inherited my love of reading from my mum. we've always had books, and lots of them. but it really did forge a closeness i think, that nightly reading ritual. i cherish the memories of snuggling up in bed with her (and often my brother too), hearing her voice, staring at the pictures, being warm and feeling safe. my brother was snuggling up to have stories read to him late into primary school...something about that feeling of security when everything else feels unsure. at least you know you'll always have that half hour with mum just before bedtime, and whatever happened during the day will just slip away for a time.

but back to books. i can't throw books away. i have three large bookshelves full, and even though they get dusty and take up lots of space, i need to have them out of boxes and there for me to look at. now i'm at the point where i almost don't believe that there are people who don't read for pleasure. when i go to someone's house and there are no books anywhere...well i try not to make snap judgements but let's just say it makes me a little wary. the world around us is made up of so much text - when you're out walking around the city, for example, try and find anywhere to look that doesn't contain some text, it's almost impossible - and reading is just such second nature to me i don't understand people who just shrug and say "i don't read" (and there are lots of them).

that sounds so snobbish. but you'll either know what i mean, or you won't. there are people who read, and there are people who...don't. it's not that they can't, it's just that they find no joy in doing so. is it because they've never found that magic book that changes everything for them? or they really, honestly, just don't care for reading at all? (much like i'm sure there are some people who would be horrified that i a) don't know the rules of cricket or rugby league or any sport for that matter, and b) don't care.)

i've had friends who act like i'm elitist because i read and because of all the books i have, and yet there are others who head straight for the bookshelves when they walk in the door to see what they can plunder. i don't think it's elitist in the slightest to enjoy reading. i'm not saying you have to read only Worthy Books - believe me, i've tried and failed many times*. these days i tend to just go for things i know i will enjoy until a time when the worthier books appeal a bit more.

but to be able to escape into other worlds, to consume words, to learn about other people and other places and to use your imagination - there's no other medium that works quite the same way. you can appreciate film, but you're only seeing what the filmmaker wants you to see. plays are a prime example of the power of the word - i have had a play of mine staged a few times and each time the production has been completely different. words on the page contain endless possibilities.

so thank you mum for your legacy to me. i treasure the books we read together and one day i hope i can pass them on to a child of mine. (along the left are the covers of some of my treasured childhood books, though there are some notable omissions such as 'the world is round' by joan berg victor, which i can't find anywhere and seems to be not only out of print but not in existence anywhere on the web. when i get a chance i might scan in a couple of my favourite pictures, because it was definitely one of the best and most read that i owned)

* there are a few things that kill reading for me:
  • depression and grief can be real reading-killers; at the worst of my long-term depression it was hard to absorb anything more complicated than the newspaper, and even then sometimes i didn't have the patience for it. mum went through the same thing when her partner died.

  • another issue for me was doing an MA in literature/creative writing - i just got so sick of people being overly pretentious that i swung the other way and read nothing but fluff for ages.

  • i hate to say it, cos it's pretty superficial, but layout and design can really either appeal or turn me off. this has its upsides and downsides. i find that if i pick up older paperbacks, especially of 'classic' novels that may be brilliant for all i know, where the font size is small, the type all set very close together with small margins, i can only get through a few pages and then give up. and yet sometimes i persevere with the crappiest more contemporary books (especially trade paperbacks, which are the bigger sized paperbacks they release when a book first comes out) for much longer than i should because the clean, bright white paper stock, wide margins and more accessible type setting make them easier to read. it sounds pedantic, but it's actually a pretty basic point. this is why i get really annoyed when publishers reprint books with brand new covers and you think you're going to get a whole new, beautifully laid-out book and the innards are still on the old, coarse stock with the old, cramped typesetting. cheating!

  • i love knowing about what other people read and what sets their imaginations alight. but when someone tells me i absolutely have to read something, it usually turns me off until i have time to come around to it myself. this is a problem when people lend me books that i never asked for and refuse to take them back until i've read them. this usually means they don't get their books back for ages. and yet sometimes when i eventually come around, i realise they were right all along (this was the case with ruth park, terry pratchett and robin hobb especially).