On Hate

When I was ten, I had pretty regular ten year old interests. I loved Whitney Houston, books about fairies, and The Golden Girls. I swapped Hello Kitty writing paper with my friends, and took a weekly class called ‘Mime & Dance’. I won the acting awards, but sucked at tap dancing. I played with Barbie dolls, adored my grandmother, and slept every night with a stuffed white bunny tucked under my chin.

Yesterday in Nigeria, a ten year old girl walked into a market place in Maiduguri with a bomb strapped to her tiny body that killed 20 people and injured roughly 20 more. The Islamic militant group Boko Haram, known for their increasing use of women and children as human bombs, are suspected to be behind the carnage. News reports haven’t mentioned the little girl’s name, but I imagine it was something pretty and lyrical in that lovely rhythmic way of African languages.

On any other day this might be front page news, provided nothing too dramatic happened in Australian sport. But this hasn’t been an easy week for the world. Collectively we’re all still reeling from the shootings in Paris, and unfortunately an innocent little soul used as a weapon of mass murder in a notoriously dangerous area doesn’t have quite the same shock value as an unexpected attack in the City of Love. Like a shooting in America, we’ve come to expect it. With a shrug of our shoulders and a shake of our head, we put our palms up in despair and resign ourselves to the world being a crazy place.

But the world isn’t crazy. Crazy is uncontrollable and unpredictable. What is happening right now is neither of those things. The Charlie Hebdo shootings were shocking, but not altogether unexpected in a city that has always pulsated with barely contained cultural divides. You can hardly say that France deserved to be attacked but in a country that has laws restricting a Muslim woman’s right to wear her burqa or hijab as she sees fit, it’s not surprising that fundamentalists would seize the chance to exploit any simmering resentment.

I don’t suppose the grandfathers of the internet could have foreseen how their invention would shrink the planet to the extent that the web has become a matchmaking site for third generation immigrant kids full of inherited resentment, and evil despots from organisations they’ve never heard of. Where Hitler rallied the troops at Nuremberg, today’s tyrannical leaders connect globally via secret chatrooms and social media.  Clichéd as it sounds, disenfranchised youth are ripe for the picking, and ancient cultural ties, however tenuous, still bind.

This ‘war on terror’ we keep hearing about is a festering, man-made mess of tyranny and hate and fear, with religious fanaticism the volatile end result.  There is so much hate behind this shit in Paris. Lunatics hating ‘the West’ on behalf of Islam, idiots hating the Jews on behalf of the Palestinians, the French blowing up mosques in an eye for an eye retaliation…maybe it’s just that I’m lucky, but I can’t fathom living with that much anger inside me. How can anyone hate anything that much? I don’t even hate cane toads or the Westboro Baptist Church that much, despite both being out to get me. Where does it all end?

Ever since news broke of the shooting in Paris, I’ve had on my mind something I remember Desmond Tutu saying on, of all things, an episode of Donahue about 20 years ago. I might not have it exactly right, but it was along the lines of “the only way to be human is to be human together; and the only way to survive is to survive together.” It’s a good quote.

I haven’t felt this unsettled by world events since the aftermath of 9/11, and I mean that sincerely. I don’t know how we realistically go about fixing these problems, but I do know this: if ever there was proof that hate is a stupid unproductive emotion, this week is it. Hate is lazy and ignorant and easy.

Trying to understand and respect each other might be harder, but there’s less dead bodies at the end of it.

Yoko Ono Endangered Species

Yoko Ono
Endangered Species

Religiophrenia

So…is it time yet to classify religious fanaticism as a mental illness more along the lines of delusional schizophrenia in order to seek therapy for it, or do we continue to treat extremists just a little differently to other lunatics because they’re acting in the name of religion and that is somehow different?
And while I’m thinking about it…why does that only apply to crazies acting in the name of Islam? Two Catholics going on a rampage wouldn’t lead to declarations of war from Presidents or reminders that not all Catholics are terrorists; it’d lead to us all saying “fucking nutjobs” and perhaps an analysis of their past and what made them do it. During The Troubles in Ireland, we knew it wasn’t all Catholics and all Protestants who acted with violence. Why do we pussyfoot around some & not other religions?

I don’t get it, but I’m not sure I want to.

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The Gertie’s G20 Drinking Game

– Tony Abbott gets drunk and acts like the worlds’ most embarrassing uncle at a BBQ: dunk your head in a keg of VB, it can’t get any worse.
– You see someone wearing their G20 all access pass outside of the exclusion zone: top shelf, A grade scotch, two chunks of hand chipped ice.
– Held up by a motorcade carrying the assistant to the assistant of the guy who shook Obama’s hand: lemon, lime and bitters (you’re driving).
– Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff asks where the restrooms are, isn’t seen again until Monday morning: one whole bottle of cachaça.
– King Abdullah mistakes Campbell Newman for his chauffeur: order a white wine spritzer and hang your head in shame.
– François Hollande and Matteo Renzi overheard comparing the size of their “planes”: a bottle of Australian red, just to annoy them both.
– A friend expresses surprise that Turkey is invited: glass of rosé.
– Shinzo Abe takes Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife to karaoke at the Brunswick Hotel after one too many frozen margaritas: there’s no such thing as too many margaritas, have another one.
– Lord Mayor Quirk asks Park Geun-Hye how his flight from Toyko was: find Tony Abbott and congratulate him for not being the most embarrassing uncle after all. Share a shandy with him.
– Protesters overthrow the Convention Centre and turn it into a rave party: two litres of bottled water, followed by a tantrum on Tuesday.
– South Africa is here as well? Sheesh, have a Captain Morgan’s and tell me how this G20 thing works again?
– Xi Jingping and Mariano Rajoy caught goosestepping behind Angela Merkel: crack a Lowenbrau.
– Obama fails to recognise Stephen Harper, leader of Canada: oopsie daisie, best break out the moonshine.
– David Cameron bets The Falklands in a game of late night poker, loses to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina: two pints of warm lager (actually, make that three).
– Narendra Modi tweets a photo of Barnaby Joyce holding a pineapple tart with the caption “who’s the fruitcake?”: double rum and coke. Bundy, of course.
– Vladimir Putin is seen leaving The Wickham in the early hours of Sunday morning: Wet Pussy shot.
– Indonesian President Joko Widodo takes one look at all of them, decides he doesn’t want to be in politics after all: champagne for you sunshine, you’ve got a reason to celebrate.

Written for Gertie’s Bar & Lounge

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

American columnist Erma Bombeck said of her career writing about the quirks of her home life “there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt” and it is true in most cases that the bigger the laugh, the deeper the well of despair that it echoed out of.

There have been, and will continue to be, many tributes to Robin Williams. I have many, many memories of his films resonating with me, none more so than Dead Poets Society. I still can’t think “Oh Captain, my captain” without getting a lump in my throat. Today especially.

But for all of the roles he played, it was perhaps his appearance in Bobby McFerrin’s video for Don’t Worry, Be Happy that most sums up all the thoughts I’ve had since hearing the news this morning. Legend has it McFerrin wrote the lyrics while suicidal, a note to himself to push through the pain. How terribly sad if that story is true.

I too fight a sometimes daily battle with the more sinister side of my brain, and I too choose humour to pull myself out of that black hole. It’s a lucky person who doesn’t understand that the biggest laughs come from the darkest places. Sometimes the melancholia feels like it will never leave. Continue to seek help, continue to find laughter, continue to try not to worry, continue to try to be happy.

We owe it to Robin.

To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before

So apparently I’ve reached that point in my life where, when I catch up with friends, all anyone wants to ask me is whether I’m seeing someone. I’m not sure if it’s my clitoris or my heart that people are most concerned with, but either way they aren’t concerned with any other achievement in my life. Correction – any actual achievement in my life. All they want to know is if I’m attached, and if I’m not, then why not?

“But you’re so pretty/funny/smart/successful/blah blah blah”…who cares? It’s all irrelevant if what you’ve got isn’t what’s on demand.

It’s weird. I guess I hit ‘married with children age’ a while ago, although I never really felt it happen. But suddenly I’m the single friend, and everyone wants to see me paired up. People look out for me, they feel sorry for me. They want to ‘see me happy’ as I keep getting told. For some reason, we’ve worked out that it’s not polite to ask if a woman is pregnant, but to put someone in a position of analysing their desirability is still okay. The reality is I’ve been dumped more times than a Channel Ten newsreader, and while I’d be kidding myself to say it didn’t hurt like hell to feel that I’ve never been worth holding on to, for the most part it’s not a big deal. I get that I’m a bit left of centre and most of the time I can handle that. My mother let me off the hook a long time ago when she told me that not everyone was meant to fly accompanied. I remember at the time feeling so much calmer with that thought. Shame the rest of the world didn’t get the memo.

Not that I don’t fall in love. I do, though rarely with the appropriate target. I seldom find people who spark my curiosity anyway, so it doesn’t often matter.

And then today someone commented on how many times my position as girlfriend has been made redundant, and I thought to myself “fuck this” – I may be single and live alone, at risk of becoming the crazy cat lady my brothers always said I’d be (bollocks to that, I’m a dog person), but without the knock downs I wouldn’t know I can get back up again…and I wouldn’t have such an extensive music collection. And sure, there are days where having to face another partnered friend and their well-intentioned questioning is just too hard. But it is the way it is.
So screw it. I might have a worse batting average than…um…some shit cricket player (I don’t know names)…but I have learned a lot from every single one of those relationships. They might not be good for a back massage any longer (actually none of them ever were), but these are the things I have accumulated along the way…

The world’s best taco recipe
Joan Armatrading
Learning to use my mirrors when I’m reverse parking
Champagne at midnight
Knowing that Calvin Klein men’s boxers are the most comfortable sleepwear ever
Bright red lipstick
Funny Girl
Brain Pickings
Kurt Vonnegut
Dusty Springfield
Wine appreciation
Carol King
Midnight in Paris
How to walk in super high heels
How to pitch a tent
M People
Honey Birdette
Brazilian waxing
The rules of AFL
How to order caviar
How to use a strap on (sorry mum and dad)
Amelie
Armagnac
How to ride pillion on a motorbike
The best way to eat oysters
Patsy Cline
The best Vietnamese in Sydney
How to apply a smoky eye
The Pretenders
How to cook a lamb roast
Friends (not the exes – ugh – but the people around them have almost always been worth it)
A million other little things that have made me who I am

I realise that most of these aren’t particularly exciting. But sing ‘em to the tune of Willie Nelson’s To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before, and you may just be on to a winner.

Alternatively, skull a bottle of red and cry yourself to sleep. It’ll all be okay tomorrow…

Sleep Well Woody Allen

In 1997’s Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen’s central character said “all people know the same truth; our lives consist of how we choose to distort it.” There are other standouts from that movie – “baseball’s easy because it has rules” and “I’m a guy who can’t function well in life but can in art.” Now that the proverbial has hit the fan for old Woody, it’s hard not read more into them than I had before. I wonder if he’s been mulling them over as much as I have in the last week. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know how he’s really feeling, but I do know this: I don’t want him to have done what he’s accused of. I don’t want him to be a paedophile.

You’d have to be living in a parallel universe not to know that allegations he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow have resurfaced, 20 years after they were originally made public. Everyone seems to have an opinion, despite none of us being there to know exactly what happened, but it’s not looking good for him is it? Then again he doesn’t exactly make it easy for himself – the awkwardness of his demeanour, both onscreen and in real life; his reclusiveness; his obsessive need to focus on his sexual inadequacies in explicit detail in almost every screenplay; not to mention the marriage and children to a woman who was once his stepdaughter. These are things that are at first glance a little startling; with concentrated effort they can quickly be seen as totally freakish behaviour. The more you think about it, the more suspect it becomes. So did he do it? Well, I guess so. I will always believe the victim, that’s what we must do.

And yet there is a little part of me that’s holding back. Not because I disbelieve Dylan Farrow or because I’m a Woody Allen fan and don’t want to see an idol disgraced, but because we live in a world that is already so suspicious of the motives of men and I don’t want yet another story confirming that suspicion is justified. I have men in my life who are wonderful, kind and honest men who would never hurt a child, yet every time a paedophile is discovered they too are judged. And they know it.

It is particularly apparent in the way we view older men. I have a father about the same age as Woody Allen who is fascinated by little children. Where my mother is disinterested in the offspring of anyone unrelated to her, my father can watch children for hours delighting in their company. He is not creepy, he is not predatory, and he’s absolutely not interested in them for any sinister motives. He does however live in the moment, have an incorrigible mischievous streak, and is a big fan of play. He lights up around tiny people and always has. He loves observing how they interact with the world; it is something he has passed on to me. The difference is that as a woman I am fairly free to interact with children without causing alarm, whereas my father – my kind, genuine, gentle father who children gravitate toward – keeps his distance. He’s respectful, cautious and aware. He wouldn’t dream of approaching a child unless he knew both the parents and the child themselves were okay with his presence – after all he was once the protective father of a little girl watching out for bad men. He still is.

But as his daughter, it makes me sad. It makes me sad that my father has to modify his behaviour because we live in a world where men and children are a suspicious combination. It makes me sad that the children themselves don’t get to benefit from the wisdom of his years and the silliness of his humour. It makes me sad that I can’t make him a grandfather when he’d be such a very good one.

So back to Woody, and another of his quotes: “It seemed the world was divided into good and bad people. The good ones slept better while the bad ones seemed to enjoy the waking hours much more.”

I really hope for the sake of my father that Woody Allen gets a good night’s sleep every night.

This is NOT Woody Allen!

Brave to the Bone – for The Big Smoke

Brave to the Bone – for The Big Smoke

Here’s a little piece I wrote for a new publication out of Sydney, The Big Smoke…

From The New Yorker

From The New Yorker