Monthly Archives: April 2009

Williamstown Literary Festival

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You may or may not have noticed my lack of posts over the last few weeks. I’ve been busily organising publicity for the Williamstown Literary Festival, which is on this weekend (Fri 1-Sun 3 May). I’m pretty lucky to have been given this opportunity, through Veronica of Market PR. She has been kind enough to mentor me through my first real account, and so far I think I have done pretty well!

So, the WilliLitFest is on this weekend. Aside from doing the publicity I am also going to lots of the events. But let me just give you a quick breakdown of who’s there:

– Andy Griffiths
– Andrew Rule
– Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope (ABC’s The Librarians)
– Denise Scott
– Alice Pung
– Amra Pajalic
– Leigh Hobbs
– Catherine Deveny
– Jackie Kerin
– Gideon Haigh
– John Harms
– Maureen McCarthy

The person who most captured my attention is Jackie Kerin. She is author of children’s book Phar Lap the Wonder Horse, but she is also writing about stories from Australia’s history that have otherwise been untold. See, I believe it’s the little things that really make up our history.

So, this is just a quick plug to say that if you enjoy reading (and if you’re here, I assume you do) or writing and need some inspiration, then I suggest you head to the WilliLitFest this weekend.

Random acts of kindness Part 2- public transport

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I can’t believe I even have to say this one, but these days there’s no such thing as respect for the elderly, disabled, or pregnant on public transport. When I was pregnant at the end of last year there were several occasions when I had to stand most of the train ride home from the city. It’s a 30 minute train ride at the best of times. It was hot. And people would just ignore me. It wasn’t as though it wasn’t obvious that I was preggers- I was absolutely huge. On one particular ride I was crammed in with other standing people (gotta love Connex an their filthy delays) being squished to the point where I didn’t have to hold on to anything, I was being supported(and squashed) by the people I was standing with. At another point I was standing right in front of a woman in her late 20s/early 30s who ignored right up until the point where someone else noticed I was standing and offered me a seat. And then what happened? The woman who spent the train rid trying hard to ignore the basketball in her face said to me “you can sit here if you want to” with a sickly sweet smile on her face, as did the woman next to her. I just glared at them both and snapped “well it’s too late NOW” and went and sat where the other person offered.

Anyway. It’s really just common courtesy to offer seats to those who need it more than you. Here’s what you can do:on a bus or tram, sit right at the front, or right near a door, so the minute you see an elderly person get on you can jump up and offer them a seat.

It’s so, so simple, and yet hardly anyone does it any more! You know who the most polite people on public transport are? Men of Asian/Middle Eastern background. They’re up the minute your bulging belly pops through the door. Do you know who the worst are? Women. In general. Young, 20s-30s, and 40s. They all think it’s their god-given right to have a seat on public transport. They are rude and selfish. When it comes to public transport etiquette, men are the nicest.

Book Review – The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas)

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Set in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, The Slap is a brutally honest depiction of what really goes on behind closed doors in the ‘burbs. It tells of the jealousy, infidelity, regret, uncertainty, violence, sex and drugs that permeates the lives of the eight characters used to tell the story.

The book begins with a bbq, and a slap administered to a child by a man who wasn’t his father, and then meanders through the lives and opinions of eight of the people present at the bbq, briefly touching on each person’s life, while discussing how they viewed the “incident”.

I find the plot to be very weak, and I don’t like the fact that this book doesn’t have movement. It goes nowhere. It’s stagnant, as all the characters revolve around one event that really isn’t even that interesting to begin with. I get slightly put off at the start, when I’m introduced to a barrage of characters at the bbq- too many to keep tabs on- so after the first few I kind of tune out. This poses problems later in the book, when I reach a chapter of a character I’m not familiar with, and have to refer back to the bbq to refresh my memory.

The story begins from Hector’s point of view, and proceeds to meander through another seven of the people that were present on the night: Anouk (Aisha and Rosie’s friend), Harry (the “villain” in question), Connie (17, I assume, and works with Aisha at the vet clinic), Rosie (mother if Hugo, the “victim”), Manolis (Hector’s father, Harry’s Uncle), Aisha, and Richie (17 yo gay friend of Connie’s). It is based on the slap that Harry administered Hugo, and its consequences. There are around 20 people at the bbq that witness it, and everyone has different opinions on whether it was wrong and Harry should be charged, or whether Hugo, being the spoilt, undisciplined brat that he is, was actually well over-due for such slappings. Ultimately Harry is taken to court by Rosie and Gary, but the outcome, in the scheme of the story, is neither here nor there.

In every chapter you will find sex, drugs, and plenty of ‘c’ bombs. I have never read so many ‘c’ bombs in one place. I’m not a prude, but still by the end of the book I couldn’t help recoiling every time I read the word. Anyway.To me, the book really goes nowhere. It briefly touches on the eight main characters lives, and even more briefly on what their opinions of the slap and how it affects them as families and individuals. But there’s no beginning and no end. It just sort of…remains stagnant. There’s no climax. I know not all books have climaxes, but I really prefer ones that do.

There’s only one character I can really form any sort of relationship with and that’s Connie, the 17 year old girl. Maybe it’s because I was once a teenager like her, and I remember it clearly, and yearn for it often. But she’s the only one in the whole book who doesn’t annoy me, doesn’t irk me, and doesn’t make me feel like grabbing them by the shoulders and shaking them. It’s also probably because she’s the least cynical and jaded of them all, and the most level-headed and grounded.

One thing I will give Tsiolkas is that he has a great talent at getting inside the minds of the characters. In particular, I was impressed with his depiction of the two teenagers, Connie, and her gay friend Richie. Assuming he’s never been a teenage girl himself, Tsiolkas’s portrayal of the way Connie thinks of herself and the world around her is spot on. He has captured the self-consciousness, insecurity and naivety with perfection, and it really struck a chord with me and how I remember my adolescence.

Tsiolkas is undoubtedly a brilliant writer. His style is cohesive and easy to read, the narrative colourful. It’s just the plot that I don’t like. I feel he could have done so much more with it, and felt quite disappointed when I reached the end, a disappointment I knew was imminent only a few chapters in. I finished it because I wanted to see how it “ended” but somehow I knew once I got through the first two character’s chapters that it wasn’t going to “end” as such. There’s no conclusion and I received no sense of satisfaction once I closed the book, as I do with most other books I’ve read.

Apparently the book will be reviewed on The First Tuesday Book Club (ABC) next month, so I will be interested to see what they have to say about the book.

Dating in the 21st Century

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Dating is such a tricky game on its own without adding to it a plethora of new technologies and ways in which to meet, pick-up, and dump people. It has changed so much in the last decade that a new book needs to be written about dating, sex, and technology etiquette.

I haven’t been in the dating game for a few years now (whew!) but even then, I met all my past boyfriends and my husband the old-fashioned way via work or friends. But there has been an influx of dating stories from single girlfriends that inspired me to have a closer look at dating in the “noughties”.

Anonymity is a thing of the past, as you can now “research” the lives of the person you are interested in dating. How many times have you heard a friend say “have you Googled him?” Gone are the days of meeting one-on-one with no information about each other apart from what your friends or colleagues have told you. Jump online and find out what they do, what groups/associations they are members of, what events they have attended, and who they hang out with. Facebook and MySpace also provide ways to check out ex-partners, best friends, and favorite past-times. Now you can be fully armed with all the information you need to know for a successful first date.

But it can go too far. One successful, gorgeous, and single girlfriend told me the hilariously shameful stories of her and her friends and the obsessing that takes over their lives each time a new guy arrives on the scene.
“It’s so easy to become obsessed with Facebook,” she says to me. “I have banned myself from the page of the boy I like because I just don’t want to see the photos, or girls that add him as friends, or whose wall he writes on. It might all be innocent but I have found that when I have checked out his page in the past, I’m like ‘Oh… so that was what you did on your quiet weekend.’” It does have the potential to harbour thousands of cyber stalkers.

Google has stimulated the cyber stalking situation by giving people the opportunity to see where a potential interest lives or works. Now you can sit on your computer and watch their house, rather than sitting out the front in your car, low in your seat with a cap and dark glasses on, hoping to catch a glimpse of them as they leave for their evening dog walk.

The introduction of mobile phones and emails to the dating scene caused quite a change, least of all totally killing the romance. It introduced a new, no-fuss way of breaking up with people via emails or SMS- as if being dumped isn’t bad enough. It also prompted the increase of erotic photo requests via mms, “to keep me warm on lonely nights,” as one eloquent gentleman put it.

If you’re lacking in time to get out and about and meet people through sports clubs, pubs and whatnot, there is a surplus of online dating sites like RSVP, Lava Life, and even one exclusively for rich, good looking people to meet other rich, good looking people.

Research done by RSVP showed that online dating has become one of the most popular ways of finding love, second only to meeting through friends. A survey on dating in the US found that one in eight couples that married in 2007 had met online.
Even the Y Generation has taken the new dating game in their stride. High school kids are no longer satisfied with people from their own school, opting to meet people from other schools via social networking sties. One friend’s 15-year-old sister met her 18-year-old boyfriend on MySpace.

This whole new world of dating seems to be utterly lacking in romance. No longer do you have to suffer those nausea-inducing butterflies the first time you went to call them on the phone- just send them a text instead! Never will you need to sit through those awkward first dates with nothing to talk about- just do a bit of research and you’ll have a whole list of likes and dislikes to discuss! And there’s nothing like a bit of text-sex to spice up an otherwise boring Wednesday night. Just make sure his mates aren’t gathered around taking in every juicy word you write.

Why having a second child is easier than having the first

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When I was pregnant with my second child I was slightly freaking out. Having a child was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done- how could having a second one NOT be even harder? No matter how many people told me it’s easier the second time around I just couldn’t believe it. Two children to look after. Two lots of clothes to wash. Two mouths to feed. Two children to bath and get ready for bed. It was making me tired and slightly hysterical just thinking about it.

Thank goodness it’s all been ok so far. My second born is now 3 months old, and let me tell you- it IS easier second time around! But here’s why:

– Being your second child you’re much more relaxed. If you have housework to do you don’t feel as bad letting the little’un cry for a bit, because you know he’s not going to end up mentally and emotionally scarred for the rest of his life. YOu think “sorry mate, but this needs to be done, and you’ll survive for five minutes.”

– It’s much easier to distinguish between different cries. Now, if my youngest cries I can, 95% of the time- correctly diagnose what the problem is. Short, sharp, loud or high pitched squeals or cries usually means he’s in pain; normal sounding cries mingled with grunts and legs being drawn up to stomach means he has a gut ache and needs to burp or fart; red around the eyes, red face, not holding eye contact and whinging means he’s tired. Of course, I only know this because I have a first to make comparisons to, but as far as I’m aware (from others babies) they’re all pretty similar.

– If your baby is crying and crying for what seems to be no reason, you no longer stress. Sure, it’s painfully annoying and a bit upsetting that he just keeps crying and you can’t help him, but you’re much quicker to admit “well, I’m sorry mate, but there’s really nothing I can do to make you feel better. It will go away on its own and in the meantime I am going to do what I can. I’ll cuddle you while I can, but if my back hurts I am going to put you down until it stops hurting. There’s nothing else I can do so there’s no point stressing”.

– You’re already used to being sleep deprived, so having a second child isn’t as shocking as the first time when you go from being able to have all the sleep you want to hardly any. Because your body has already adjusted to the lack of sleep it’s nowhere near as trying a time.

-Because you are more relaxed, your baby may be more relaxed.

Sure, it’s difficult in the evening, which is often my baby AND my 3yos feral time, and my hubby’s not yet home, and I have to try and organise dinner while the baby’s crying and the 3yo is bugging me to play with him and whinging because he’s tired. Those are the times that are difficult. But it’s nothing you haven’t already been through. The reason second time around is easier is because you’ve already done it, and you already know what to expect.

So, if you’re having a first child, don’t let the difficulty of it put you off from having another. And if you’re about to have your second and are quietly shitting yourself, don’t. It’s just like riding a bike! Only it poos and wees and spews….