Category: Misc

Miscellaneous words in packets called sentences and paragraphs.

Things I Never Knew Until I was a Parent

A few years ago, I didn’t want children because the stakes seemed too high in the anxiety department. But my partner did. Let me tell you, my friend, there is much joy ahead. Relax. But do brace yourself for a personality transplant. And keep these things in mind.

You become less self-conscious

I recently attended the Rhyme Time class at my local library. Singing half-forgotten rhymes with accompanying hand actions in a circle of 30 people was an experience anathema to my personal sense of self. But I did it. Because when you’re a parent, you have to extend yourself.

Last time I did a VIA Institute personality assessment, my score for self-consciousness was off the chart. Now I sing in the street. I improvise new entertainment all the time. Furthermore, I don’t care if adult peers witness my inventions. Karaoke would once have been a private hell, but now I’ve been able to scratch it off the ‘Do Never’ list.

The unparalled power of distraction

Smoking cessation therapies are often about feeling the craving, acknowledging it, taking ownership. When I quit smoking years ago, my strategy was to become attention deficit whenever I had the urge to smoke. Brush TV. Watch teeth. The effects are now obvious. But I did quit.

I’ve learned that the same works with children. Forget focusing on good behaviour and bad. They don’t understand—they’re primal. Accept that they have fangs and wings, but when they do something disagreeable to you: DIVERT! DISTRACT!

By all means take away that ciggie butt she just picked up, but replace it with something better. Give her that water bottle lid. Just imbue it with magical mythology while you do. And make sure it’s not a choke hazard. Or you’re in trouble. You can only do the switch-trick once at a time.

If the water bottle lid is a choke hazard and you want to switch again to the AMAZING TOILET ROLL TRUMPET, she’ll call your bluff and go back to that nicotine-stained filter.

Gregarious and egregious may be one and the same

If you are not a natural conversationalist, you may find it easy if your child is your main conversation topic. But that, my friend, is a mistake. In the perception of others, these two similar-sounding words could become one and the same

Example: I am hopeless at keeping in touch with people. I recently sent a card to an old pal who had sent one to me. I lay the card on the floor and gave the child a pen.

“Draw a picture for BB?” I asked my one-year-old. “Just a squiggle or something.” She eventually made a scrawl over the floorboards, some of which landed on the card. I took a closer look. A jagged V and a half-swan swirl. Genius!

I drew a dotted line around the picture like the x-space around a logo, preserving the artwork’s integrity with a healthy clearway.

ORIGINAL ARTWORK BY SUSANNAH ROSE, I wrote in small uppercase letters. And in brackets below (Prodigy!)

About three the next morning, I thought about the eye-rolling gifs I had seen that day. Heed this warning: your child no doubt has highly advanced physical, intellectual and creative capacities. But please make sure some you have other conversation topics. Not everything is about the child.

The power of ‘the Thing’

“Have more,” I kept suggesting, pushing cubes of watermelon to her little mouth.

Thirty minutes and half a watermelon later, our one-year-old was wildly ricocheting off the walls of her ‘cubby’ (i.e. cage bed) like a loose ball-bearing in a pachinko machine.

Instead of calling an exorcist, my partner told me to do ‘the thing’. The thing’ is a fingertip head-and-eye massage and it works nearly every time. She was asleep in ninety seconds. Go tenderly and slowly so she doesn’t realise at first, then the gentleness and rhythm will suck her into a daze, and then into the sleep land.

There is a world of mind-expanding television

I used to enjoy watching surreal and arthouse films. Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou, and Godard’s Alphaville were favourites. But In The Night Garden on ABC Kids TV is the trippiest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s mesmerising, sedating and has a dark edge. With colourful stuffed toy characters in cocoon-like sleeping pods, and an unseen narrator, it’s a richly polysemic text. I have banned the child from watching it because I am unsure of the messages. But I love it.

There is much anxiety and fear bringing a little ‘un into the world. But little gems lie along the path as well. Take these tips on board and be edified.

Can you add to my list?

Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

I love Magda Szubanski. I’ve loved her since I was a kid. She’s a true comic. Her humour is borne out of acerbic intelligence and astute observation. She can pull a fully formed character out of the collective unconscious and breathe them into being.

Reckoning is expansive and it covers all of her life from early childhood to today. Instead of being delivered through a ‘story of my success’ type framework, Magda is ensconced in her heritage and history.

There are two sections with colour photographs. The first section is of family ancestors in Poland and Scotland. The second shows more recent images, many recognisable to most people. We can see how much she has achieved and accomplished throughout her life—from the D Generation to the Dalai Lama with Kath and Kim and Steve Irwin in between.

But these celeb-filled headline slices of the story are almost incidental aspects of her life—a life that has had much pain and struggle. There is no gloating or syrup. There are therapy sessions, and a belief that trauma may be genetically carried from one generation to the next through nightmares and imagery. The backdrop of Reckoning is war, courage and cowardice, and trauma.

We start with a grand description of the hilarious Scottish women in Magda’s mother’s side, then we move to the harrowing Polish side and a father who is like a walnut she spends her life trying to crack. Did he collude with the Nazis? Why does he dismiss socialist ideology? Why does he insist she find her killer instinct on the tennis court?

Much of the book also is concerned with sexuality. Or coming to terms with an ‘aberrant’ sexuality. There is much insight in her words. She writes about how all the many aspersions that her loving parents cast on gay and lesbian people, had unknowingly “formed a pointillist impression”. I can say that matches my experiences entirely.    

She describes the fear of being outed publicly and that the first step is coming out to oneself, which can be the hardest step.

Ultimately this book is a love letter to her parents, replete with the idiosyncratic yawning screech of their Jason recliners.

The language in Reckoning is fluid and very easy to read. I had difficulty putting this down. It’s not ‘a laugh a second’ but you can tell that from the cover. This is a serious and thoughtful book. Magda Szubanski is a fine writer.

Letter to my Accountant

Thank you for your very kind letter.

My initial tax meeting with your very pleasant sub-contracting accountant concluded with a statement I was not expecting to hear. Not the mellifluous, “you’ll be getting a refund of a grand.” Rather, the strong and discordant, “you owe the tax office two thousand dollars.”

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Love Letter to Bundanoon

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d like it. It was quaint. But dinky. No place for a city chick.  The roads were narrow. You could hide an orphanage in the potholes. And it was creepy, all those doilies. Continue reading

A Future Now in HER

HER is a film that is both entirely formulaic and completely original.

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a soulful, depressed introverted 30-something who works for beautifulhandwrittenletters.com in a city some time in the very near distant future.

By day he writes personal letters between parents and children, lovers, and others who don’t have the time or poetic skill to communicate with those closest to them.

Theodore is nursing a broken heart and a divorce impeded by his unwillingness to sign the paperwork.

At night, he plays his 3D video games; a world that is holographed impressively into his apartment lounge room. After trialling a new computer operating system with ‘intuitive’ capability, Theodore soon finds himself falling in love with  Samantha, the intimate, intelligent, supportive voice of the new OS (spoken by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha helps him clean his in-tray and boost his confidence – the perfect woman.

What follows is a typical love story. There’s the cautiousness at first, the flirtation and coyness, the union, the honeymoon period, the misunderstanding, the jealousy and a somewhat predictable denouement.

Belief in the absurdity of the relationship can be suspended for the ride because the voice of Samantha is so sexy and the dialogue is far better than the average rom-com.

The Art Direction is also great – with effective matt painting of sets that create a city like a laid back New York with elements of Shinjuku.

Theodore learns that his best friend (Amy Adams), with whom he regularly falls out of contact, is also in love with her operating system (Alex). Soon, we notice that everyone on the street seems to be talking lovingly not only with but to their phones.

It reminds me of something I once heard, “People use their PCs. But people love their Macs.” I don’t think anyone can fail to consider this incited by Apple’s cult brand.

HER holds a mirror to what we have now – people disengaged with people. The love affair is with the technology that binds us together with a most tenuous adhesive. It allows insomniacs to have phone sex with strangers and be complicit in auto-asphyxiation ritual using a dead cat’s tail. Real human contact is undesirable and unnecessary.

People are routinely enamoured with their machines and as machines make quantum leaps in capability, this tale could be cautionary. Even Telstra now advertises a new phone every year so you can enjoy the hedonic ‘new phone feeling.’

The cars, the computer games, and the voice-activating ear buds all add fun and depth to a simple story. It’s a compelling film. It is a stretch of credibility, but only a small one.

I’m off to see if the domain beautifulhandwrittenletters.com is available. I’m positive the market already exists.

HER was written and directed by Spike Jonze. It also stars Amy Adams and Scarlet Johansson as the voice of Samantha.

Fred Cress Exhibition

Fred Cress PaintingGaleria Aniela, Kangaroo Valley

What strikes you first about Fred Cress’s latest exhibition is the richness of colour; pure blacks, pure whites, and every jaundice yellow and bloody red in-between. His large, caricature-like depictions are iconic images of people known to us from society; recognisable, but unidentifiable. Continue reading

Philomena (2013)

Philomena (directed by Stephen Frears) is a film based on the book by Martin Sixsmith about the true life story of Philomena Lee, who as a pregnant teenager, was forced into Roscrea Sacred Heart convent for four years. Continue reading

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