19 February 2013

What's Wrong With Michelle Bridges

I used to just feel a bit sorry for Michelle Bridges. When she sprouts nonsense like "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" - a triumph of the inane - all I could think was "lady, you need better recipes. Acitvated almonds and sprouts are not a meal". But it's okay. Her view on the world is different from mine. I believe enjoyment of good food is one of the very best things about being alive, she believes having a good body is more important than availing oneself of such pleasures. That's fine.

But then, in this piece on Daily Life, she decides to apply her wisdom to parenting as well. Helicopter parenting produces fat kids, she has decided. And I got to thinking about what, precisely, is wrong with Michelle Bridges' view of the world. Now, I don't fall into the school of thought that people without children are not entitled to an opinion on raising them. But I rankle at the idea of Michelle Bridges doling out shame and guilt on how others raise their kids. What makes her so perfect?

Nothing. Nothing at all. I find her entire worldview glorifies shallowness and aesthetics. Bridges offers a hugely popular twelve week body improvement course which is all about "building a better you". But her better you is not achieved through introspection, volunteer work, activism, or being a better family member or neighbour. It's all about going to the gym. The person you are is defined by the body you have. Fat is a sign of weakness and shame, to be eliminated. I can only feel a vague sense of sorrow as I read of people proudly boasting of getting up to go to the gym at 5:30am. If only all that effort was put into really improving themselves and the world, instead of just physiques! I'm sure they'd say "well if it makes me feel better, what's the harm?". And I can understand, a bit. I had a horror birth with BabyG, and jogging was an important part of my recovery that helped me feel my body was "mine" again. But I understood it was not making me a better person. Just a person who went running. (And if we're going to get into aesthetics here - I'm sorry Ms Bridges, but heavy exercise is ageing. And you are no exception).

Like I say, I'd live and let live. If people are going to spend time on themselves, exercising is surely better than playing poker machines or watching DVD box sets. But I'm sick of all this "best version of yourself" crud applied to parenting. Sorry, but I think Ms Bridges' values are so skewed that she's no right to decide how others raise their kids. And am I the only one who's pretty bloody disturbed at the idea of children being subjected to an "arduous training session"? If your kids could do with a bit of exercise, get out and play a family game in the garden. If they're old enough, take them along to volunteer for a neighbourhood regeneration program. But keep them away from the insipid, shallow values of Michelle Bridges.

06 February 2013

Big Harry's Place - A Trip to the old BHP Site

Newcastle was once known as the town BHP built. At it's peak, "the big Australian"'s Newcastle steelmaking facility employed tens of thousands of Novocastrians. Everyone worked there or knew someone who did. I never knew BHP at it's peak, and when it closed in 1999, my 20 year old right-on self thought "good" - and it's true the appalling fug of pollution which had hung over the city lifted. I thought little more about it until I visited the fabulous BHP exhibition at the new Newcastle museum, and whilst looking at the displays illustrating life at Big Harry's Place, as it was colloquially known, I became nostalgic for a life I'd never known. After the plant closed, most of the buildings were torn down, but a few remain; and yesterday I decided to ride Zorah out to the site and see what remained.

Approach to the former administration building. The aura of faded grandeur is not what I was expecting.
It's hard to get across just how vast and empty the site is. Zorah sneaks into
shot like a drunk uncle at a barbecue.

I've written before about the coal trains. Here's where they end up. From the Hunter to
 poisoning Beijing - so proud!

Some of the scale of it all. I didn't know it would be so good to photograph so I only had my phone
not my half-decent camera, alas.
Waaay down the road, miles from humanity, the ships get loaded.



Zorah makes her move again.

This coal loader is the height of a four story building (that railing is waist height)



Administration entrance. Being summoned here to see the Big Boss was a terrifying experience for
many workers, I'm sure.
Definite art deco vibe going on there.

It's a pretty fascinating place and my iphone photos don't really do it justice. I'll be back one day, to imagine what it must have been like to work there, to be part of something with tens of thousands of others, unloaded off one of the now-defunct (alas, alas) Port Waratah buses, dreaming of a life I never knew and is now gone forever.

03 February 2013

In Praise of Bad TV

We hear so much of the new golden age of television. We've been having appalling weather here on the east coast of NSW - 45 degree temperatures followed by days on end of flooding rain - and the best way to spend time is indoors, enjoying some television and trying to block out the impending global warming apocalypse threatening to destroy us all. Ask someone to recommend you a good show to watch, a season of something to plough through in a marathon coach potato weekend, and the recommendations come thick and fast - Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Girls. Into something a little more classic? Well, there's The Sopranos, The West Wing, Six Feet Under...

At this point I chime in with "so you're telling me there's a tonne of TV out there that's tightly plotted, well paced, expertly cast, filmed cinematically, that really makes you think? Because that's not what I'm looking for at all". Nosiree Bob. When it comes to TV, give me trash. I love Dance Moms. I love Wife Swap Australia. I love Girls of the Playboy Mansion marathons. Ever seen 20 Greatest Hollywood Scandals pop up on your EPG and wondered "who watches this crap?" It's me.

Thought provoking in its way. Photo: IMDB

I've a short attention span, and like doing several things at once. I don't want to think when I watch TV. Cold Case is about as intellectual as it gets for me. And I don't like twists and surprises. I like knowing what's going to happen within the defined paradigms of the reality TV cocoon. I've tried the "good" stuff, honestly. I sat down to watch The Wire. And...yeah. It was dark, and there were people running around, and that's really all I got from it. If asked at the time what I thought of the thing, I would have replied "brilliant. Just brilliant. As good as everyone says". But my true thoughts were "what's going on? I don't..." Someone then told me it takes four or five episodes to really get into The Wire. What even! Why would I spend five hours of my life trying to enjoy something I might not even like? At least with The Anna Nicole Smith E! True Hollywood story, you know she's dead fifty minutes in, and that's the end of that, apart from the fact her six year old daughter is now following in Mom's footsteps by modelling for Guess and let's hope the comparisons end there.

I don't live in a complete intellectual wasteland - and that may be part of the problem. I set myself the task this year to read fifty books I'd never read before - a big ask for someone who thrives on repetition. My first two, Confessions of a GP and Ron Jeremy's autobiography, The Hardest (Working) Man in Show Business, went down easy. (Don't judge me, Jeremy had a Masters in Special Education...he seems like a nice guy). But then I decided to finally tackle a book I've been reading to read for years, Jung Chang and John Halliday's Mao: The Untold Story.


He was an asshole. I get it.

It's readable, and well paced, and not particularly intellectually taxing. But it's So. Long. Mao was a dickhead. He had people buried alive, allowed his wife to be executed, left several of his children to die, massacred villagers. There's only so much of that stuff you can read before it starts to get a little tiresome, and I'm only up to the Chinese civil war days. Plus much of the book is necessarily descriptions of military strategy, which is not really my thing, and taking a lot of work to follow. I've been working on this thing for weeks, and I'm not even halfway in, and I can't even read anything else for the duration because I'm grimly determined to finish Mao. I've a week off starting today, and I've promised myself I'll finally finish the book, and I know I won't, and I hate myself a bit. So you'll forgive me if I finish this post to watch a couple of new episodes of Dance Moms.