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The following conversation happened on the train while The Geek was taking the kids to school the other day:

Cub (to The Geek): Dad’s have beards. You have a beard so you’re a dad.

Bug: Dan’s dad doesn’t have a beard.

Cub: He’s not a dad, then.

Flawless logic, don’t you think?

If Your Dad Doesn’t Have a Beard Then You’ve Got Two Mums

** WARNING: MILD SPOILERS FOR CRAZY, STUPID LOVE CONTAINED IN THIS POST. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, STOP READING! **

 

 

We went to see Crazy, Stupid Love last night. I’d heard good things and I felt like seeing a movie. I hadn’t seen any previews for it so I didn’t really know much about it other than it was a romantic comedy. It *was* good … sort of. Well, it was funny … mostly.

I’m not stupid. I know going in that a romantic comedy is going to be full of FAIL. You know, sexism FAIL, “battle of the sexes” FAIL, assumptions about “true love” and “soul mate” FAIL and this movie had it all. Most of it didn’t bother me so much I couldn’t enjoy the film. I’m ok with recognizing FAIL but still enjoying the movie or TV show within context. I have to be. If I wasn’t, I’d never be able to watch anything (especially Doctor Who).  Besides, fiction is supposed to be entertainment, a fantasy, expecting it to be realistic is … well, it’s setting yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment.  I think the important part is recognizing the FAIL and acknowledging it rather than either boycotting everything all the time and never watching anything OR blindly watching things without giving the assumptions underlying the script writing a moment’s thought. So, why did Crazy, Stupid Love bug me enough to inspire me to ramble on about it in a blog post?  First, a brief rundown of the story (or at least the bits relevant to this post):

The movie starts out with the main character, Cal, being dumped by his wife, Emily. They’re out to dinner, she tells him she wants a divorce. We learn that they’ve been married for almost 25 years, were high school sweethearts, they have kids, and she’s had a fling with a guy in her office. She says she thinks she might be having a midlife crisis if women can have those (paraphrasing the quote here). Cal basically goes into shock, doesn’t fight and moves out. He ends up in a trendy yuppy bar loudly telling anyone and everyone how his wife dumped him. In steps the (much younger) heartless, womanizing player. He offers to help Cal “regain his manhood” or some such nonsense (cue bits that I try not to think too hard about for the sake of entertainment) and proceeds to give him a make over. Apparently make overs are manly and macho or something now. Anyway, he does this and then teaches Cal how to pick up chicks. Apparently women fall into men’s beds if they spout a few tired lines and insist on buying them a drink.* Cal proceeds to have several random one night stands.**

Meanwhile, Emily is trying to brush off the guy in her office with whom she had the once-off fling, generally acting like the wronged wife and moping around. She does not, you will note, continue dating the guy from the office (aside from a really awkward date that she agreed to after being badgered by him) or sleep around or even just date anyone else. AND THAT IS THE PROBLEM! I can only guess that this is because women don’t really like sex and they are never interested in sleeping with more than one or two guys (yes, both she and Cal had only ever slept with each other prior to her fling & their break up) and men always have more sex than women. You know, the standard bullshit narrative about the battle of the sexes or … whatever. AND IT IS BULLSHIT!

Emily had said she thought she was having a midlife crisis. She appeared to be acting out of boredom with her marriage which had gone stale. So, why, when she frees herself from the marriage which she feels is the problem, doesn’t she go taste life a bit? Why does she become the pure “angel” while her ex husband goes on the prowl to “regain his manhood?” Granted, the subtext in the script is that the players aren’t really happy when they’re playing, that they need their One True Love to be happy, etc. This is problematic for several reasons but at least it doesn’t necessarily paint the objectifying behaviour in a particularly good light. Still, though, Emily’s behaviour (or lack there of) really bothers me.

I’d have been able to get past the sexism, the really awful stereotypical characterizations, etc if only this one thing had been different. It ruined my ability to really enjoy the last half of the movie. Maybe it’s the fact that I literally just finished reading Sex At Dawn or maybe it’s just that after 32 years hearing the same bullshit about how men can sleep around but if women do it they’re vile sluts. Maybe it was just because it was utter bullshit and my bullshit-o-meter was on high alert last night. Either way, it pissed me off and ruined what could have been an otherwise good, fluffy, somewhat problematic romantic comedy. I guess, at least, it was actually a new movie and not just a remake. That’s rare in Hollywood these days. And it *did* have it’s moments. It wasn’t the worst movie I have ever seen by far.***

*    Jacob’s character is your typical retelling of the Casanova story. Complete with him falling in love with the one woman who rejects his advances. The only differences being that Casanova supposedly had better lines (at least in the versions of the story that I’ve seen) … in that women wanted to sleep with him because he made love to their minds first. He wasn’t just confident, he was charming, caring (at least for that one encounter), etc. Anyway, Jacob was just a boring, douchebag with some standard lines and a gorgeous body.

**  Including one who’s characterization is … well, let’s just say there’s an entire blog post in what’s wrong with that particular “comic” device.

*** That title might just have to go to Moulin Rouge.

It’s my birthday on Monday. Instead of doing the grown up thing that everyone seems to do these days & plan a casual meet up at a pub for drinks, I decided to have a good, old fashioned, juvenile piss up* at my place. I arranged for the kids to spend the night at their granny’s house, invited some people and proceeded preparing my house for a party. At some point, I got it into my head that proper lighting was needed. I became fixated on getting fairy lights and tea light candles. After much consternation, I managed to purchase both these things & the hooks needed for hanging the fairy lights. The problem? I suck at doing decorating stuff. So, I decided to invite my decorating mad, fairy light loving & self confessed anal retentive friend over to help me. Let’s call her Di.

We began by discussing what arrangement in which to hang the freakishly long string of lights I had bought.** It turns out I wasn’t very organized and really had no idea what I was doing. Surprise! While the children ran amok around us, I finally decided on a rough idea of a general way of hanging them and we started sticking the hooks on the wall. During the course of sort of eyeballing*** where the hooks should go, she said that if it were her house, she’d have her husband (let’s call him Chuck****) getting out the ruler and the spirit levels to make sure it was perfect. Remember what I said about her being anal? Yeah, that. :)

Fast forward to lunchtime and we were chatting about who will be at the party. She’d met a few of the people who will be there and I was trying to help her remember which face went to which name. Following on from that, it turned into me explaining the various romantic connections between this particular group of people. They have what I affectionately refer to as a “love cloud.” Basically, they’re polyamorous. It can seem complicated at first so that’s why I thought Di’s eyes glazed over for a moment. Then she said, in a reverent tone:

“That would be awesome! They ALL could have rulers and spirit levels!”

So, there you have it. A benefit to polyamory that I bet you never even considered!

A blurry photo of the fairy lights or, as Di pointed out, Cullen guts.

*      That’s Australian for a drunken event.

**     I’d wanted two or three short strings but was only able to find this freakishly huge one.

***   We did, you’ll be happy to know, eventually get out the measuring tape & do it somewhat “properly” though not to the standards that Di would insist on for her own home. :)

**** It’s not necessary to give him a nickname, really. This is the only time I will mention him in this post. However, calling him Chuck makes me giggle. :)

I have been living in Australia for 10 years now and have had to cop a lot of casual, knee jerk anti Americanism. And, you know what? It’s offensive not to mention hypocritical. Those of you who read this blog pretty much already know that I’m no flag toting patriotic “God Bless America” wanker. I know my country of origin is fucked up for many reasons and rapidly getting even more fucked up. I don’t harbour any illusions that my country is some sort of land of milk and honey that does no wrong. I can complain about America right along with most people and I understand where anti American sentiment can stem from. But there are certain people (a whole lot of you Australians, whether you think so or not) that automatically denigrate America in ways that you would never dare do so to any other country. The reason you wouldn’t dare demonize any other country in that way is because it is offensive, insensitive and racist. So why is it ok to do it to the US? Yes, the US is predominantly white so the racist* argument would be hard to hold up. But that doesn’t change the offensiveness. This sort of thing happens across all sorts of subjects but the one I notice the most is language and accents.

Just now on Twitter, I noticed some people I was following having a conversation about the correct way to spell “premie” (as in, a premature baby). The fact that Americans say “preemie” was mentioned. I jumped in only to say that the reason Americans say that is just an accent thing. We pronounce “premature” “pree-mature” as opposed to the Australian/English habit of pronouncing it “preh-mature.” I also pointed out that “mum” vs “mom” is accent related yet it’s reflected in the spelling so go figure. I then got served with some snotty comment along the lines of “if it’s American then it’s wrong.” I pointed out how offensive that statement was and I got served with yet another snotty dismissal of all things American.

Here’s the thing: Accents are not wrong, they are simply different ways of pronouncing words. Different is not Wrong. Accents fascinate me because they seem so random and weird. I always wonder how one group of people speaking the same language as another group of people came to pronounce things so drastically differently. Even groups who live right next to each other have radically different accents! I find some accents beautiful and some of them make my teeth itch. Honestly, even I find a really strong US accent quite jarring especially after having lived overseas for so long. So, I get that some accents are just not palatable to certain people but they are not Wrong, for crying out loud! Neither are different spellings. They are DIFFERENT and they are all ENGLISH (well, in this context I’m only talking about English). I would have gotten pretty upset (and justifiably so) if any of my teachers had marked me down for spelling “colour” the British way as opposed to the US “color.” The same goes for if my kids happen to spell something the American way.

Language is a funny thing. It’s always changing. The English we speak now is nothing like the English spoken in Shakespeare’s time, for example. These days it seems to change even faster (I’m no linguist, that’s just my personal perception of how quickly words seem to make it into the dictionary). Accents add another layer to this. It’s all pretty fascinating and a good topic of discussion, really. But to say that everything about US English is Wrong and therefore should be ridiculed is ignorant. I wonder what the people who behave like this would do if an American went off about how Australian English is Wrong and deserves ridicule? You can bet they’d get pretty offended and justifiably so.

The language thing isn’t the only time this casual anti Americanism happens around me, to me, or about me. It’s uncomfortable on top of offensive. How should I act? If I stand up for myself and my country, I am seen as an overly patriotic American wanker. Often I have just joined in or let it go for the sake of social harmony. But, that is pretty cowardly on my part and after a while, it gets to me. These things should not be ok**. Part of what’s wrong with America is Americans’ perceived arrogance and ignorance of the world. And you know what? That’s fair enough because, as an American, I know that the American government (and many Americans, collectively) can come off as arrogant and ignorant of the world. It shits me too. But what shits me even more is that the people displaying the casual knee jerk anti Americanism are BEING JUST AS ARROGANT AND IGNORANT OF THE WORLD as the Americans that they complain about! So, get off your high horse, you arrogant fuckwits! Not everything Americans say, do, spell, eat, or think is shit. Quit acting like you’re so much smarter and worldly than an entire country of people just because you happen to live somewhere else. In short, grow up.

*    I almost want to call it a sort of cultural-ism. Does that work? Can I make that a word?

**  I’d just like to note here that I am not entirely humourless. I can take a joke and I do find most America jokes pretty funny. So don’t give me the “Australians take the piss” lecture. I know they do and I love it. What I’m talking about is not your usual light hearted Australian piss taking. Some jokes go beyond that and have too much animosity behind them to be funny.

The Ayla Diet

A new lifestyle/diet trend has come to my attention recently: The Paleo Diet. As lifestyle trends go, this one doesn’t sound too bad. The argument is that eating closer to how our ancestors ate in the Paleolithic period will somehow make us healthier. I’m not sure it would be some miracle health solution but there is sense in cutting out processed shit, refined sugar, etc. I can even understand the arguments against dairy despite it being my favourite food group and having no intention of ever giving it up. I think there is some merit in the idea, I’m not sure it’s possible (or wise) to try to follow the rules of the diet to the letter. But, in my opinion, there is definitely some merit in the basic idea.

Having said that, though, the very phrase “I’m on the paleo diet” conjures up images of my friends attempting to roast a ptarmigan in a pit in their suburban backyards … or, better yet, in the park down the street because they don’t have a backyard. Ooh! Maybe they go hunting for squirrels in the park with their handy sling shots! After taking down a friendly park squirrel, they forage for “wild” vegetables in the neighbour’s garden … I could go on and on here.

The diet should be renamed The Ayla* Diet. Think about it: Ayla invented everything from the bra to the needle, domesticated horses and great sex. She even invented the spear thrower (ok, her well hung boyfriend helped her with that), discovered that hitting flint & pyrite together makes sparks to start a fire, and discovered that watching other animals having sex is a great aphrodisiac (In other words, she invented porn. Wooly mammoth porn in this case). At some point during all that, she became the first human being to work out where babies actually come from! Seriously, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that she also invented the latest diet/lifestyle trend for the 2000s, is it?

I envisage a strict exercise regime to compliment the Ayla Diet. It involves lots and lots of spectacular sex … in caves … and on plains … and in huts constructed from mammoth bones … and in hot springs … and on glaciers … and, well, you get the idea. Maybe I should market this Ayla Diet idea. I could be rich like that Atkins guy. He’s rich, isn’t he?

*  If you don’t know who Ayla is then reading this about the Earth’s Children series of books might help. It’d help more to read the books themselves, though. They’re entertaining, somewhat educational and funny as hell (in the way that things are funny when they aren’t *supposed* to be funny). :)

One day last week, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, The Geek was on the couch and the kids were outside playing. Suddenly, Bug comes bursting inside talking in his over excited, mile a minute voice. Due to the speed, I was only able to catch some of what he said. I gathered that there was something broken outside and that it needed someone strong to fix it. That’s when I realised what his main request was (and what he was saying as he burst in, before he explained the part about something being broken). It went a little like this:

Bug:   Mum! Call P’s mum!” mumble mumble mumble “something’s broken” mumble “someone strong needs to fix it” mumble “P is REALLY strong” *

Me: *looking confused* “Um, what?”

The Geek: “I’m here! Could I fix it?”

Bug: “No! It needs someone REALLY STRONG and P is really strong!”

Me: *looks at The Geek*

The Geek: *looks at me*

Stunned pause

Bug: *runs outside again*

Subject never heard of again. We still don’t even know what was “broken.”  Kids. They say the weirdest shit.

 

* This is a really rough interpretation as I can’t remember nor could I really hear all of the exact quote.

Ninjas in Perth

 

Last post I mentioned that I’d recently seen Amanda Palmer in concert. It was at the Fly By Night (a most excellent venue) in Fremantle and we’d bought the tickets for our 8 year wedding anniversary celebrations.  It really was an excellent show. It being the Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under tour for her album which she described as a “love letter” to Australia, she came out on stage wearing a Union Jack corset and an attempted Southern Cross drawn on her breast in a hilarious mock up of the Australian flag. Whatever else that can be said about Amanda Palmer (and I will touch on that in a minute), one must admit that she is an entertaining performer. She’s theatrical and over the top yet still manages to convey a feeling of authenticity and familiarity with her fans. It’s a delicate balance and one that I’ve seen very few pull off well.

As far as the other things that can be said about Amanda Palmer, I got into a conversation of sorts about this when a friend (and fellow Ani DiFranco worshipper) posted the above video on Facebook yesterday. She said she didn’t much like Amanda Palmer and thought she was a bit overrated before she saw this video but now she thought she was starting to see what all the fuss was about. I responded with what I think now is probably my best attempt at summing up my feelings about this controversal performer. So, please excuse me while I pull a Richard Dawkins and reference myself (I drop out of italics occasionally where I’ve edited my original words to better convey what I meant):

I’m not a huge fan, tbh. I enjoy some of her music and don’t really own much of it. I do, however, enjoy watching her. She’s like Peaches or Madonna … I just like watching what she’ll do next. I don’t think she’s as edgy and radical as she seems to think she is or that her fans seem to think she is. I also think she can be an entitled douche occasionally. However, she is a performance artist worth watching just for sheer entertainment value and occasionally, just occasionally, she hits on Truth in her songs. Map of Tasmania is one time. The Vegemite Song is another. She’s often hilarious and fun to watch … which is why I’m also going to her free ninja gig in the city tonight. It’s a good excuse to go out and enjoy myself at any rate. :)
My friend basically concurred with me here and then I added:

Also, I think that she’s an interesting/important figure historically merely because of the way she’s harnessed social media to drive her career. Social media: She’s doin’ it right. A lot of up and comings can learn from her in that regard.

At this point my friend claimed that that was one of the things that irked her about Amanda Palmer and that she was basically a Big Brother era star. To which I responded:

That’s what I mean by doing it right, though. She’s *not* all that much like Big Brother in that she’s pretty authentic, not fake, etc. She puts herself out there and is, really, just being herself (which is at times quite prentious, but you get that). She makes herself really accessible to her fans in a way that not many people do/have done/do well these days and she uses things like Twitter to do it very effectively. I really think that people studying the social media phenomenon will be using her and Neil Gaiman as examples for a long time. They didn’t necessarily break new ground but they hit upon the way to make Twitter/social media work well for them iykwim.

Again, she’s not a fucking saint or necessarily worthy of the unconditional worship that some of her fans bestow upon her (but then, I’m sure people say the same of how we worship Ani DiFranco) but she is a significant figure nonetheless.

Damn, somebody should do a thesis on this shit.

The conversation went on and I did mention that we all can be entitled douches sometimes and that was pretty human. I’m not sure Amanda Palmer has always managed to gracefully own her privilege/entitlements when she cocks up but, again, that’s pretty damn human as well and just adds to the point I made about her being really authentic and accessible to her audience. Let’s face it, we’ve all cocked up (sometimes spectacularly) in our lives and dealings with others and not all of us deal with said cock ups gracefully all of the time. Hell, I’m sure there are some of you reading this who think that I have cocked up by even writing this. It happens. Sometimes we learn from it, sometimes we don’t. I try not to pass judgement as I know I’m not perfect or innocent, either.
In short I still enjoy her performances both on Twitter and on stage; I enjoy a good amount of her music though I am not a hardcore, obsessive record buying fan (though, I rarely get to buy anyone’s records these days & rely mostly on TripleJ for music); and I really admire the ovaries it takes to go out and do the kind of stuff she does. I am a very self conscious person and I always admire those who can put themselves out there and perform especially in the way that Amanda Palmer does.
But enough about that. Let’s get on to the ninja gig fun! Amanda Palmer does this thing she calls ninja gigs. She announces via her blog and Twitter when/where she will do a free impromptu “gig” that usually consists of her, her ukelele and whatever friends she happens to have with her at the time. I missed the first one she did in Fremantle two years ago because I had two small kids and it was really hot that day. I decided that the effort of getting both kids out & keeping them contained during a ukelele gig in a park on a sunny, hot day was just too much hard work. Afterwards, I found out there were only a handful of people who showed up and she’d gotten Neil Gaiman on the phone (this was before they’d even announced they were romantically involved though it was pretty obvious)! That was when I vowed to make it to the next ninja gig near me even though I knew it probably would never be that small or that awesome again … I had missed a golden opportunity.
Yesterday, I texted my friend, Joni, and arranged to meet her in the city for the gig. Amanda performed outside the Art Gallery at 9:30.  She even brought the band, Michaelangelo and the Tin Stars (from Melbourne), who opened for her the night before. It was great. She put on a hilariously entertaining show and it even culminated in a 28 ukelele (yes, 28 ukeleles!) version of Creep by Radiohead which I got on video. Amanda tends to do meet and greets at both her concerts and her free ninja gigs and this time I managed to get in line early enough to get to meet her. It was a little awkward as I didn’t really know what to say and ended up just babbling about the Vegemite Song (which I do love). You can see the picture at the top of this post. But, bloody hell, if I babble incoherently when I meet someone like Amanda Palmer, who I like but am not obsessed with, then what the fuck would I do if I ever found myself in the presense of someone I really, truly worship beyond all reason (and blindness to her faults … of which I’m sure she has many but I don’t want to hear them) like Ani DiFranco? I’d probably just drop dead from the excitement.
Enough of my rambling, though. It’s time for the grand finale: My not so great video of a moment of awesome involving 28 ukeleles, Amanda Palmer and a man made pond in the middle of Perth:
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