Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's as we feared.


Just a short one to let y'all know that yes - I've relapsed. Quite badly. I noticed physical symptoms before psychological ones so I wasn't sure what was happening at first - one of the major symptoms was, and is, total exhaustion for no good reason - but I'm pretty certain at this point.

Normally I would tell myself to blog blog blog because it helps to focus on something, but I'm overwhelmed with things to focus on at the moment, with uni and my internship taking up massive amounts of my headspace. I never wanted this blog to become a whine-cellar and currently that's about all I can manage, so unfortunately I'm going to have to stop writing here. At least for now.

Please don't worry. I am seeking treatment. I've been trying to stay around other people although I'm less and less able to function socially. I will accept all hugs; but conversation may be of a poor standard. Thanks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This is America - speak American!

Some of y'all might have heard the recent fuss about the kidnapping and execution of British English at the hands of the Yankee invaders. Last month, the BBC's Matthew Engel sounded a lament for his mother tongue, mourning "the sloppy loss of our own distinctive phraseology through sheer idleness, lack of self-awareness and our attitude of cultural cringe."

This was followed by a persnickety list of abhorrent Americanisms. And then US editor/lexicographer Grant Barrett submitted his own perspective, pointing out that a majority of those loathed "Americanisms" didn't actually have origins in America, and that the "carpers, whiners and peevers" who had submitted them were basing their claims about English on nothing more than gut feelings about a language they knew too little about.

Where do I stand? I'm Australian. We have a vague notion that our language mirrors British English more than it does American, but in practice we're more likely to model our speech on NBC than BBC. There is a thing called "Australian English". There are grammatical rules. We follow mostly British spelling and punctuation, for instance. There are also dialectical features of Australian slang speech - we use phrases like "g'day", "fair dinkum", "I reckon", and "sheila". Apparently. Here's a fun list of Australian slang terms at Koala Net, anyway.

But I certainly don't speak like that. I know people who say "bludger", "bogan", "dag" and "mate", but the wider range of Australian slang has lapsed into a sort of embarrassing collection of cliches that one simply can't use with a straight face these days. And as a long-time sufferer of Australian cultural cringe, I have no problem with this. "Strewth"? Really?

I honestly don't mind sounding "less Australian" because I don't use such turns of phrase. I'm not comfortable with them. And that's the key, really - the way people speak generally reflects the way they feel comfortable speaking. Should anyone be forced into talking more pommy-like, simply because they're British? Should I be expected to "talk like an Australian"? I might live here and I might be happy and lucky to live here. But as long as you can understand me, I'm going to talk like me.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quiet.

Firstly, an apology to my devoted - dare I say obsessive - readers who have been sitting at their computers hitting refresh on this site over and over for the past two weeks.

I've been overtired and rarely had the spare time and coherent brain function for blogging. This is the third week of my internship and although my shifts at (paid) work have finally dropped off, it's also my first week back at uni since I took that little break... oh, a year ago.

And sorry to those people of the real world who probably think of me as Flaky McBadfriend at the moment. I will return all your texts eventually. Hopefully.

Blog posts will probably become less frequent during the semester since I really am a very low-energy sort of person and will be setting aside additional time for napping forthwith.

I've noticed in the past that periods of me not blogging have coincided with periods of me not smiling very much. When I'm struggling with negative emotions I usually have real trouble funneling my thoughts into interesting and reasonably-written prose. I still read, but I can't process. And to be honest I think I'm in one of those periods now. I mean, I'm quite busy, but it's not distracting me from the fact that I feel gloomy and vague a lot of the time.

It's been a couple of weeks. Historically, this is about the time it usually passes. So, if we're lucky, there will be more chattery pointlessness in this space soon. Yay! We love chattery pointlessness!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Contrary Passions.

I'm an atheist and a feminist, so it might be seen as ironic that two of my favourite things are a song about God and a prose poem about being a housewife.

Dante's Prayer has been my favourite song since I was a child. It is an absolutely exquisite piece of music by Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt. Listen:


As McKennitt says in the clip above, its title is a reference to Dante's Divine Comedy, which is about a spiritual journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. The song's words take the form of a prayer. Yes, this is a religious song. I never really thought about that when I was small - the overriding theme of the song, for me, seemed to be a desire not to be forgotten. It sounds like a message to a lover.

I realise now that the words are most likely addressed to God: "you came to me in the night" not the gesture of a lover, but of a spiritual saviour. It's a song about God's ever-presence, about his unbroken love for the soul of the singer, always providing hope despite trials and lapses in faith.

But I appreciate it precisely because all of those virtues exist in a world of mortals. Human love is this powerful. Human hope is this powerful. And the human memory is the place that loved ones are kept and treasured long after their passing.

*

And on a different note completely, one of my favourite blog posts ever is Housewife by Erin O'Brien. It's about being a housewife. O'Brien takes great pride in her home. She has her favourite products and her favourite appliances:

How many other fuckers you know have a Poly Perk coffee pot? You fuckers come over here and I'll put up a pot of coffee in this mother fucker.

Why? Why do I love it? Because five years ago it made me realise that homemaking is a real thing that real, awesome women do. Yeah, it's a comedy post. Yeah, she's pretty much just talking about the contents of her kitchen and swearing about it. But she's no cornered woman. She's built a life that includes a husband, kids, domestic responsibilities, and a writing career. And to me five years ago, that was revolutionary - I was still convinced of the idea that domesticity was a trap women fell into, a dull and directionless path of "providing support for your man" and "keeping everything nice".

I know better now. This one blog post actually convinced me I'd be willing to consider working part-time or arranging some kind of distribution of labour with whoever I finally shacked up with. It's not weak - it's a way of meeting your own needs and your partner's, if your needs include, say, financial support while you write badass prose poems about detergent and shelving paper. I started to realise that a new era of women's choice didn't mean we should all choose the same thing.

These aren't new ideas to any of you reading this, but that's what this stupid poem meant to me.

Hope you like it too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Live and let die?

So many of the debates that fascinate me are about one fundamental issue: the right to choose your own path in life.

Go your own way.
For instance, the entire feminist movement is about giving women the ability to live a life unbound by gendered social structures, legal limitations, and sexist attitudes. (This in turn should allow men the same social freedoms.)

Last week I responded to a link posted on Facebook, to an article weighing in on the euthanasia debate. I shouldn't have done it. It was insensitive to have commented - the poster was a family member of the article's author, and that author is very ill, speaking of palliative care from a place of experience, so talk of death is a delicate matter. But I didn't want to discuss the author's choice to fight for his own life. I respect that choice entirely. I wanted to discuss his argument, which was firmly against legalising euthanasia, and therefore against allowing others to make a choice that does not parallel his own. Even though I regret being boorish enough to vocally disagree with the article, I probably never could have stopped myself. Maybe it's because the writer used his own condition as leverage for his side.

The questions surrounding abortion and euthanasia are similar in many ways. With abortion, we're talking about the right of a woman to decide on the course of her own life after the moment of conception. Should she wish not to become a mother, or not to have more children than she can handle, or not to bring a child into an unstable family, or not to bear the child of her ex-lover or her rapist... is no reason a relevant reason to terminate?

With euthanasia, we're asking whether a terminally-ill person has the right to control the timing and circumstances of his own death. Should life always be preserved, even when the person living it would prefer to forfeit such suffering as they endure? Should quality of life be forsaken for quantity?

Dear reader, you will know my positions on both issues. I believe in choice. I believe in the ability of people to make the right choices for themselves. And I do not believe in the right of other "moral authorities" to make choices for us about our lives.

It makes me unbelievably angry when I hear people arguing to refuse others the right to make choices about their own lives. This is why I couldn't keep my mouth shut. A sick man arguing against euthanasia is, in terms of argumentative weight, the same as a pregnant woman arguing against abortion. It's hard - and rude - to say so but ultimately his own experience does not transfer to anyone else's. I'm probably pushing it now, but in my experience, it seems that some of the most active opponents of the right to choose are people who (a) already have a bias toward the anti-choice view, and (b) have experienced circumstances in which they were afforded/denied that choice. Like "I'm pro-life: I'm a mother"; or "I'm infertile and I hate the idea that other people can get pregnant and abort if they choose to". This is beside the point. One person's choice should not dictate the lot. As though allowing the legalisation of euthanasia will mean all sick people will be pressured to shuffle off quickly. As though allowing abortion to remain legal will mean all pregnant women will feel they ought to terminate.

Why is it that conservative and religious debaters seem to believe nobody can be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves? Why is it that they believe that the different choices made in other people's lives will somehow cheapen and damage their own? Do they really have so little faith in humanity?