Sunday, March 24, 2019

NSW Election: why was hate embraced with hate?

In the aftermath of the NSW State election, it's easy to get depressed. The NSW Liberal/National coalition has gained a third term of government, ensuring more sell offs of public assets, more cuts to funding for community and human services, enforced adoptions of Aboriginal children in state care, that abortion will remain technically illegal, and we'll all be going to bed early as pubs close and developers take over formerly lively suburbs.


There is some good news. The three sitting lower house Greens MPs were all returned with increased majorities, showing that people - in those seats at least - prefer community representation that cares about people and the environment to corporate cronyism and thinly veiled racism. But these returns have pointed to a larger trend; that generally, very few seats changed hands. Labor failed to capitalise on the general discontent with the Berjiklian government, and did not win the swag of seats they expected and needed to win. (The Labor party should change its slogan to "thoughts and prayers", since they have nice platitudes but are useless at actually changing things).

But what has been most devastating to a lot of people is that 8 days after one of the worst terror attacks ever carried out by a white supremacist - a white supremacist from our own state - who shot 50 innocent Friday worshippers at a mosque - so many NSW voters have turned around and voted for the (Elephant) Shooters party, who want to dramatically relax our gun laws, as NZ tightens theirs in the wake of the massacre; and One Nation, who peddle a line of racism and hate.

How could this happen? How can people turn towards the ideology which allowed for the slaughter in Christchurch, as the funerals continue? I don't think the answer is that complicated. There are always those who are overt in their cruelty and racism, the ones who cheered the shooter on. These people need watching, but I have to believe they are a minority of us.

The real problem with racism we have in Australia is the covert, insidious kind of racism. And if you've ever tried to argue with someone who believes that Muslims are a criminal threat to Australian society, or that climate change is all a scam and the climate is always changing all on its own, you know facts don't make them change their minds. They dig in. They double down. Cognitive dissonance sets in; feeling under attack, they dismiss the facts as lefty bias and become more sure of their beliefs.

It would be nice to think that the Christchurch atrocity caused some soul searching on the right, reflection on how the message of fear they spread fermented the toxic soup of hate that lead to the massacre. They didn't, though. It's hard to admit you're wrong. And they're afraid. Not of right wing terrorism, but that following the massacre, laws will be changed to take away their guns, to remove the right to bigotry they trumpet as free speech, to increase Australia's intake of asylum seekers. The massacre is all about them see, and they don't want to change, so they voted for the parties they believe will protect them.

And it's depressing as hell.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What's in your handbag: 2019

Back in 2004, struggling for ideas about what I'd put in this blog thing, I thought it would be fun to make an inventory of the contents of my handbag.

Tonight, as I made one of my semi-annual tip-outs of my bag to get the debris out, I decided to see what changes age, income, technology and motherhood have made to my daily carry. And it turns out people love to know what other people are lugging around. So...

What's in your handbag, 2019

A large and sturdy leather satchel I actually acquired second hand at St Vincent de Paul (so I don't have to feel directly responsible for the skinned cow) and which came up a treat with some polish and elbow grease.

A pink eel skin (?) wallet I bought from Etsy. It's actually falling apart a bit and I've got a wallet I bought on the recommendation of the Buy It For Life subreddit arriving in the next little while. It contains my driver's licence, medicare card, ATM card and again a bunch of other cards. No cash. This isn't for any reason other than I'm lazy and forget to go to the ATM and get any out and you don't really need it anymore do you? when you can just use pay pass every where.

A fluro orange glasses case containing my prescription sunnies, which I discovered is a fantastic colour for locating the thing in a hurry at the bottom of your bag in dim environments.

Keys to my house, another house... and an anonymous key I'm too scared to get rid of just in case.

An A6 Leuchtturm lavender gridded notebook.

My Opal, in a purple holder with a hand strap which is super useful for travelling on crowded public transport.

Mr G's Opal, which was in a holder till he chewed it open.

A Lamy Vista with a F nib, loaded with J Herbin Poussière de Lune ink.

Tube of blistex.

Tube of cherry chapstick.

A little bottle of hand sanitiser the label has come off of.

A little pink tin containing my ear buds, they're white and by Phillips is all I remember, but they've given me 2 years of faithful service. They're held by a little bunny cord wrap I got in Chinatown I think.

I got a picture of the bunny. The things I do for you people, honestly.

My make up bag. I've lost so many nice/fancy make up bags over the years I now use a dead plain thing I got from Kmart and it seems to be doing the trick cause I haven't lost it yet. It contains...I won't bore you by naming each matte liquid lipstick, but there were six. Comb, emery board, sheet of imflac, pressed powder. I don't go anywhere but work so I don't carry much with me.

And now we get to the hall of shame. This is the stuff that has accumulated:

A flyer for an adult acrobatics class which I considered attending for 0.3 of a second till I saw it was at 8am.

One of the flags they put in your burger at Bar Luca.

A "First government house" penny from the Museum of Sydney, the provision of which is somewhat odd since we don't have pennies.

3 of those little hand wipey things they give you at food courts (still in their wrappers, I'm not that icky).

Wrappers from Jolly Rancher chews. Only two.

3 perfume sample cards, all from Estee Lauder for some reason.

The little insert they put in with the Happy Meal toys.

The tag from a Beanie Boo. (But no actual toys, not even a bit of Lego).

Not in my bag, cause I'm at home, is my phone. A Galaxy S9+. I like it fine, if only it were a little bigger.

See what's not in the bag? Cigarettes, cause this May will be ten years smoke free.

A most satisfactory 15 years of progress.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The fantastic day I didn't have at Wet n Wild

So this week I went to Wet n Wild, Sydney's only water park, expecting and hoping to have one of the best days of my life.

I did not.

I've been wanting to go to Wet n Wild for years, ever since it first opened in Sydney. I love water slides. I don't understand how other people don't love water slides. If it were up to me, there would be water slides in every suburb, just massive towers along main roads as though they were a service station or Officeworks. But there aren't. So I had to go to Wet n Wild. 

But whilst I happily do most things alone (it's that or stay home with my collection of talking potatoes), going to theme parks alone is one thing that's beyond me. It just seemed too sad. I needed someone to go with. Unfortunately none of my friends wanted to going to a water park with me. My friends generally are the kind of people only inclined to go places that are indoors, semi dark, and air conditioned. You should see their faces when I ask them to go bush walking! And if you do see their faces tell me, because we communicate exclusively through messenger apps; I haven't seen any of their faces in years. I wonder what they look like now?

But if my friends don't want to go, that's okay. I can make my own people to do stuff with me. Unfortunately the person I made, like all new people, started out rather small and with no control over his bodily functions, and I had to wait several years for him to get big enough to go on water slides with me (my attempts to speed the process up by giving him cake met with unverifiable results due to sample size). Finally this year, he was big enough. And he certainly seemed keen. He likes water, and I even took him to some smaller but still substantial water slides at Manly to make sure he could handle it without getting freaked out. No problems. We had a kid who was good to go to Wet n Wild.

There was also the matter of being able to afford it, which I couldn't for years, but now that I'm working I can Do Stuff. So tickets were purchased. Hey G, remember all the times I told you I was busy with uni work? It was all for you, so I can afford to take you to places like Wet n Wild. (And does your father take you to theme parks? No, he does not. If you think marriage is a constant battle for moral superiority, try getting divorced. It's a blood sport between you and the person you once gave your whole heart and life to and now don't want to share a word with. But that's another story). 

So I planned our trip. Rather than being located in an area designed to attract tourists, Wet n Wild Sydney is in the far western suburbs of Sydney, not far from the site of Sydney's now defunct and much lamented other major theme park, Australia's Wonderland (and I bet you didn't know that the song is about me. My body is a wonderland - in the 1990s everyone wanted to get in but now it's an abandoned wasteland). Incidentally, the final CEO of Australia's Wonderland, Stephen Galbraith, blamed the closure of the park on: the September 11 attacks, the 2002 Bali bombings, the collapse of HIH Insurance, the SARS virus, the bird flu virus, "consistent losses" on the Asian financial crisis, the collapse of Ansett Australia, the Iraq War and the 2003 bushfires and he might as well have kept going with a list like that and added political correctness, Y2K preparations, rodent infestation, ennui, pickles on Big Macs and ring around the collar. Anyway the point is, Wet n Wild is in the middle of nowhere.

Generally in NSW, there are buses. The might only come once every two hours, they might be over crowded and require you to transfer to get from your house to the city 3km away, but generally if there are more than a handful of buildings somewhere, eventually a bus will get there. And I'm the public transport whisperer. I can master routes, time tables, networks, lines and ticketing faster than you can say why bother just use an app. But despite my extensive research, there was no bus going to Wet n Wild. I seem to remember their website once promised a shuttle bus to a major nearby train station, but no longer. The best they can suggest now if arriving by public transport is to get an Uber or taxi from the train station. So that's what we did. I hate approaching taxi drivers and asking if they'll take me where I want to go. It makes me feel like...well anyway, I just don't like it. It didn't get any better as we settled into the first cab off the rank and G said to me "you sounded so strange when you asked for the taxi." Thanks kid. I brought you into this world and I can take you out.

Like any sensible person, I purchased our tickets in advance and had them on my phone's screen ready to scan as we went in. No queuing with the plebs for us, we're VIPs. Except after the (long) queue to get your bags checked by security, we couldn't get in the normal way phone (a Galaxy S9+ for those of you playing at home) was too big to fit in their scanner. We had to walk over to the ticket office, queue again, have our electronic tickets verified manually, then take the wrist bands we'd been given and get back in the first queue once more. Okay, settle down, we told ourselves and each other. We got off to an irritating start but this was still going to be a fantastic day! 

Oh. Two of the four water slide towers are closed today. Half of the major slides are out of action. Well...okay. We can deal.

After changing and lathering our 50 and 100% Irish skin respectively in SPF 50+, we needed a locker. I knew the lockers would cost money to use, everything does in a place like this and I'd made my peace with that. But arriving at a bank of lockers, there were no instructions, no automatic machines or indications how one might pay. G was hot, had already been through a long train trip and a lot of queuing and wanted to hit the water. And I couldn't find a staff member to assist (this was to become a theme throughout the day). Finally I saw, at great distance, one of the apparently five teenagers who worked in the park. She directed me to a kiosk at great distance, where for the moderate sum of twelve fucking dollars who do these bastards think they are I was granted a day's right to use of a locker.

The first locker I tried didn't work. I could put our stuff in it but couldn't get the door to stay shut, fulfilling the "er" part of its brief but not the "lock" part. When I managed, after another lengthy expedition, to locate another staff member to see if I was doing it right or what, they determined that all the lockers in that bank were broken and lead us to another distant corner of the park to find a working locker.

We grabbed a couple of photos - just as well we did it then, cause this was just about the last time I'd smile that day - stowed the last of our belongings, and set off to have fun.

Having theoretical fun. Also I apologise for misleading anyone about my legs; they are patently not "okay". 

But now I was blind. Understandably, you can't wear sunglasses on the water slides, and with no one to look after my prescription glasses whilst we went sliding, I left them in the locker. But the melanin my ancestry has given me is suitable only for drinking somewhere cold and drizzly, and on this very sunny day, I literally couldn't see. My eyeballs still feel burnt 3 days later. My advice if you have expensive sunglasses and this post is making you think "hey, a day at Wet n Wild sounds neat!" is to buy a cheap pair or two you don't mind losing to carry with you on the day. Meanwhile G began to sneeze. He inherited from his father the propensity to phototonically sneeze photogenically sneeze that thing broken people do when they sneeze when it's sunny.

We managed to find ourselves in the queue for a water slide. And find ourselves we certainly had time to do, as given it was the last day of the holidays and half the slides were closed, the queue for this one was well over an hour. Running along side the normal queue was the express line, where people who paid 150% of the admission fee for the privilege could zip right to the front of the queue, so at least you could occupy yourself during the wait time feeling resentful and wishing bad things would happen to the express pass people. Back in the long queue I was sure we were being overtaken. Finally we reached the top of the queue for the Double BowlsEye. This was what we'd been waiting for! I tapped my band to indicate we wanted an action photo of us on the slide. We climbed on the raft. I was seated in the backwards position and missed the whole experience cause I couldn't see where we were going.

Bu now it was time for lunch. In the early days of the park, Wet n Wild notoriously didn't let you bring your own food, but even as a 14 year old on rare family outings and with my bar set very low, I knew the best chefs are rarely falling over each other to work their magic in amusement park kitchens. Luckily now you can bring your own, so we had a little picnic that turned out to be the best part of the day - Wet n Wild I will say does at least supply deck chairs under shade umbrellas for free, once you've paid the costs of entry which includes the costs of all those slides closed today.

When I tried to put our stuff back in our locker after lunch, it wouldn't lock shut. Another hike to find a staff member, who moved us to locker number 3.

It was now getting on for early afternoon. Time for another water slide. This queue was even worse. And it was hot, and exhausting, and G began to cry, not because he's a whiny spoiled kid - he isn't - but he was dehydrated and tired and overwhelmed and he wanted to go home, but out of a stupid sunk cost fallacy I convinced him we should continue queuing for what turned out to be another excessive period of time so we could spend another what felt like 8 seconds on a slide. Then I made sure we sat down and I got plenty of water in him and bought him an ice cream. One of the luridly coloured frozen confection treats known as a golden gaytime, which in a minor but predictable disappointment promised to be an ice cream sandwich on the poster, but was a regular old ice cream on a stick when served. His nose and eyes were now running uncontrollably - turns out the earlier sneezing wasn't just the sun, but a heretofore unrealised allergy to chlorine.

In search of some more sedate fun without an hours long queue, we went to the Dinosaur lagoon, which invites you to relax as you float in a soft tube around the half kilometre lazy river. Sounded like just what we needed. Alas, acquiring the tubes meant tackling the odd tube handover system where you needed to stand at the end of the river, taking tubes from the people who'd just completed the course. People who, in many cases, wanted to go around again or hadn't managed to get a tube in the first place. This put me and G at a distinct disadvantage against the family groups who were able to acquire the scarce tubes by forming human chains, tackling the course finishers and half drowning them until they handed their tubes over. We waited so long for the tubes we almost gave up, but I was determined to wrest some fun from the day, and we resorted to pathetic begging (Wet n Wild was resembling sex in more unpleasant ways than one). But it occurred to me, as we stood in waist deep water, surrounded by reeds, reaching our arms out to wet strangers saying "tuuuuubes....tuuuubes?" that this was about as relaxing and fun as the zombie apocalypse it felt like we were trying to survive.

I convinced G to give the water slides one last try. As we joined a queue, he said "Mummy, I think I'm going to be sick" and promptly was, lavishly all over the path, golden on the way in and golden on the way out. (So much for the control over bodily functions). As I desperately tried to flag down a staff member, G remarked "I guess it's not a myth that you shouldn't swim after ice cream". The first squeaky voiced teen staff member I managed to find didn't have a radio. The teen with a radio I did manage to find another few dozen metres further on didn't know how to contact the cleaners. I left them to it to attend to my son and once he was stabilised and cleaned we went home. On the way out I scanned my smart band to get the photo of us on the first water slide. It wasn't us.

Back home the zip on my bag got stuck and I had to cut the lining in order to extract the smelly wet swimwear contained within. I can't sew it back up, cause I can't sew. I was terribly sunburnt, despite all the cream. I don't think I've been really sunburnt for a decade, a decade I've managed to be an Irish person in Australia with Vitamin D deficiency. Anyway, I'd forgotten how much sunburn fucking hurts.

I spent five years and...I won't tell you how much money, but including Ubers, locker and my perfectly nice tote bag, on top of the tickets, it was a lot, to go to Wet n Wild, and I got to try out more lockers than I did water slides. And given I've vowed to never go again, unless some future paramour wants to drive us to the door, pack a gourmet picnic and pay for express passes, that was my total experience at Wet n Wild. It was a purportedly fun experience that I didn't even get to experience once.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Looking good

A recent opinion piece in The Independent rehashed a well-worn premise: that wearing make up is anti-feminist, that choosing to wear make up is conforming to the desires of the patriarchal system that dictates how a woman should look.

I don't agree. And whilst the article's writer, Julie Bindel, did raise some important points about the chemicals in one's makeup and the potential for lifetime harm (although everything in modern life is synthetic chemicals, and you can get paranoid trying to keep up with it all, or you can just sort of try to get on with things). And whilst we are constantly pounded with messages from the media about how we should look (and what we should spend money on to get that way), everyone wants to make themselves look better. If you really eschewed make up because it's uncomfortable and you won't conform to media images of how a woman should look, then surely you'd apply the same principles to your clothes, wearing only the cheapest, shapeless and comfortable garments you could find. But I've never met anyone who does that. The most intense anti-makeup feminist will still throw on some necklace she likes that goes well with the top she's wearing. Make up, to me, isn't much different from that. 

I'm not a liberal feminist who believes any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice; our liberation is all tied up with each other. And I don't believe my choosing to wear make up is a feminist choice. But it's not anti-feminist either. It's not really connected to my feminism at all. It's something I choose to do, cause I like it, for two main reasons. First, as a kid I was fascinated by paints and colours - still am - and make up is an extension of that. I enjoy the process of painting my face, I like getting in with the liquids and creams, squishing everything around. It soothes my sensory issues, it's a pleasant part of preparing for the day.

But I also do it cause I don't like the way I look without it. I'm mildly aware of how others might see me, but I'm mostly concerned with how I look to myself. When I look in the mirror, I want to see pretty. My skin is very red naturally, I have thin lips, and when I see these things in a reflective surface, it ruins my whole day. As the line goes, I'm not doing this for some man who doesn't know the difference between Ruby Woo and Russian Red (although I'm really into matte lip creams right now, and anyway my MAC lip colour is Diva). I'm doing it so I look good for me. I'm not doing it to attract a mate, but so when I look in the mirror I get as close to the cross between Victoria Frances model and porcelain doll thing I go for.

These photos are from the day of my uni graduation. 40 minutes of make up, and I think it was worth it (although it took me only a few days to work out that short fringe was a mistake I shan't be repeating). I stopped wearing make up unless I was going out for the night for about ten years, but I'm back on it now, and the hell with it, it's just what I do.

There's been a pretty major shift in my wardrobe lately, too. For reasons too complicated to delve into now, about 2012 I seriously looked into conversion to Judaism, which being me involved reading everything I could find. And although I was never looking to convert Orthodox, I was intrigued by the Orthodox notion of tziniut, the laws of modesty, intended to "protect our souls from assault from a coarse world". The laws themselves cover a great deal of issues of mindset and behaviour, but for women the jist of it is skirts only that must cover the knee when you sit down (experience will teach you this means calf-length), tops that cover the collar bones and elbows, and for married women, covering their hair. reserving sexuality for the home, reserving a woman's body for her husband

As grossly anti-feminist as this no doubt seems, the idea struck a chord with me. I'd had many engagements with a coarse world before I met my then husband; this seemed like something I could give him now, that now my body was reserved for him. I modified the guidelines slightly for the Australian climate; but for many years I dressed only in skirts that covered my knees and tops that covered my shoulders and cleavage. That was it. No sleeveless tops, no shorts or short skirts; even at the beach I wore a long sleeved swim top and a swim skirt (I saved a fortune on sunscreen).

It was only recently I came to two realisations. I was shopping for clothes and automatically applying my mental filters about too short, too low cut etc, when I thought why the frilled hemline am I doing this? We've been separated for 3 years and I've seen other people; who am I saving my body for? But more importantly, whilst it's been a relief in many ways to cover myself and all my problem areas - which is basically all of them - I realised recently I have quite nice legs. They're not spectacular, and they only go up as far as where the abdominal fat begins (which seems to get lower every year - no wonder I'm terrified for the future; every year sea levels rise and my love handles fall). But I walk quite a lot, over 5km almost every day and usually carrying stuff, and my legs are reasonably firm and a nice shape and anyway, I like them. Why was I covering them? I should show them off. I'm not quite ready for shorts yet, and modesty aside I'm not much of a shorts person. But I wasn't doing myself any favours cutting off one of the nicer parts of me in dowdy long skirts, so I've been venturing into skater skirts lately.

Not that it's been easy. I don't know what it is with me and retail. Sure, I could shop online, but I'm impulsive and shopping online in Australia often means waiting 1-2 weeks even for items which you bought for Australian retailers that purportedly had them in stock. This is why malls in Australia continue to thrive even as dead malls scar America. Saps like me keep going there. So I hit H&M in the vain hope they'd have something in my size. They did; I saw one size 18 item in the store, a pair of cream trousers I'd never ever wear. That was it. One size 18 garment. And I looked through lots and lots of racks after that, hoping they might have clothes I would wear in a size 18 but they didn't. I suspect the trousers were a decoy they put in to get my hopes up.