Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

OK SO.

I’m writing right now, it’s late, I don’t have time for a full post explaining why Avatar: Legend of Korra is balls-out awesome, plus and also we’re only two episodes in, and I’d love to have a bit more plot-arc under my belt before I attempt such blogging.

BUT.

The second Katara came on screen in episode one? I started crying – a pattern which repeated itself through each of her appearances. And it’s not like I’m someone who never cries at stories or shows or movies, because IMAGINARY CHARACTERS GET ALL MY FEELS, but there was a weight, an enormous sense of complexity to the feelings just a glimpse of Katara provoked in me – a reaction I hadn’t expected, and which, if I had, I would have assumed could be brought on just as handily by all the gifs and screenshots I’ve been seeing since the first ep leaked (which it wasn’t).

And the difference wasn’t in hearing her talk (though that was part of it) or watching her interact with Korra and Tenzin and her grandchildren (though that was part of it, too) or even seeing her crop up in narrative context rather than abstractly on tumblr (though that strikes nearer the mark).

It was being hit – viscerally, powerfully – by the sense of her as a person, as someone whose youth and formative years I knew by heart, who had lived through the long, rich narrative of her own adventures and survived to become a woman, a waterbending master, a mentor, a mother, a grandmother and a widow, and yet who was giving way gracefully to the new generation: a human grace note in someone else’s story. And even though Korra knew who Katara was and understood the significance of the role she’d played in shaping her world, it was somehow me, the invisible viewer, who had the greater claim on her kinship; because for me – for us – the years of her life had passed in a blink, and in her smile and humour we saw the echoes and strength of a girl that Korra could never know.

And it brought me to tears, because this is the thing that stories do that the real world never can: they show us first-hand the passage of generations, how young men and women grow old and change, and in so doing remind us of all the things in history we can never truly see. Because even though I know my grandmother is an extraordinary woman – that she defied her Irish Catholic family to marry my English Protestant grandfather; that when her husband turned anti-Japanese after the deaths of his friends in WWII, she defied his hurt and taught English to Japanese refugees; that she worked as a gemologist, cutting and polishing precious stones, and learned to paint, and raised two children, and wept when her daughter was able to attain the university education she could never have, and who just before my wedding became a widow – I cannot, not matter how great my empathy, reach into the past and watch the days of her youth unfold. I can glimpse it in photographs; I can search for it in her stories; I can imagine it through her actions.

But I cannot live it the way I can live the fictional growth of a fictional girl who is reaching the end of her beautiful, fictional life. And so I cry, because just for a moment – when I look at age and remember youth – I can almost touch the wealth and the depth of my grandmother’s hidden life.

She turns ninety this month; she was born in 1922. Not long ago, I called and spoke to her on the phone, and when the question of her age came up, she laughed – baffled, wistful, wry – and said, ‘It sounds so old! But I don’t feel any different.’

Ninety years old. And inside her, a girl of five, a girl of fifteen – an endless parade of every girl and every woman she’s ever been. I love my grandmother dearly, and yet I will never know her youth as fully as I know Katara’s, because that’s what stories do: they make magic and turn our hearts inside out, so that just for an instant, reality bends and lets us glimpse what would otherwise vanish forever.

Is there anything sadder than a government add campaign self-consciously endeavouring to relate to Teh Young Peoples? I mean, seriously – how stupid do these people think teenagers are? I don’t care how it was back in the Good Old Days Of Yore, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and John Howard was still the lifeblood of the Young Liberals, because nowadays, people don’t look upon advertising as a natural Goddamm phenomenon. It’s not like the weather. It doesn’t just exist in some pristine, impartial state. This is not the 1950s. We know where advertising comes from, and what it is for. The fact that the government is endeavouring to promote law rather than a product grants them a unique legitimacy, especially as the intended consequence here is to save lives. But these ads, right here? They are the televised equivalent of entering a valid argument in full possession of the relevant moral highground, and then proceding to answer every statement with inane schoolyard insults. The government is trying to relate to young people, but instead, it is insulting their intelligence.

A small interlude, by way of comparison. Consider the following recent ad, wherein ANZ has created the (admittedly amusing) strawman of Barbara, a bank manager who lives in Bank World, and who is described as being the diametric opposite of an ANZ employee. I laugh when I watch this ad, because I have encountered people like Barbara in my travels, but I am not fooled into thinking that ANZ’s recognition of the stereotype equates to their having eradicated it. The point being, I am meant to find Barbara repulsive, because the ad works on the assumption that I, its intended audience, am not a Barbara myself. Furthermore, I do not want to be Barbara; I am not friends with a Barbara; I should, in fact, have nothing to do with her (wait for it) barbarous kind, and therefore – it is hoped – the humour and disgust I feel when looking at Barbara will lull me into accepting the premise of the ad, which is that ANZ is home to bunnies and light and sweetness, while all other banks are slavering, scabrous bastions of cruelty and disease. Or, like, not.

But.

The government, in its infinite wisdom, has elected to mock emos and redheads as part of its campaign. Question from the gallery: are there emos and redheads among the teenage population? Ding ding ding, that’s an affirmative, Captain! And are they friends and associates of  other teenagers who, although neither emo nor redheaded themselves, are likely to be outraged on their behalf? Double jackpot! And now, for the winner: assuming the remaining population of phone-wielding teenage drivers who like to mouth off their hatred of emos and redheads find these ads funny, what are the chances that their mirth will translate into careful driving practices, rather than – as seems infinitely more likely – serving as justification for their bigoted trashtalking? Do I hear cries of slim to none from the audience? Hallelujah! Thanks for playing another tedious round of Yet More Proof The Government Is Run By Crazy People With Little Or No Grasp On Reality And The Social Intelligence Of A Concussed Trout! I mean, Sweet Zombie Jesus!

Some days, I hate everything.

Look, dudes-in-government: there’s no shame in being so hopelessly out of touch as to qualify you as having only four working senses. Well, tell a lie – maybe there’s a little shame, but that’s only because you can’t bear to admit it. You like the idea of being in touch, because you’ve made a career out of popularity, and deep down in the tiny, scum-encrusted carapace of your stunted souls, you can’t bear to think that there’s a demographic alive you might not be able to sway, should you desire it – but you are not in touch. And most of the time, we, the Thinking People Under Thirty, don’t particularly care, because it’s what we expect. But when you do something like this, it makes us sit up and take notice, and not in a good way. Suddenly, we smell the lies on you, the way dogs smell fear; we curl our lips and remember why we are so fucking disinclined, by and large, to take your advice in the first place. You, with your forced joviality and condescention, you make yourselves resemble a set of creatures we have no wish to become; but inevitably, we will grow up, and when that happens, we do not wish to be scrambling for the approval of our juniors, as you so clearly are, but earning it through a demonstration of the idea that maybe, just maybe, our older selves are something worth imitating.

Today, you failed at that. You failed hard.

Try and learn from it.

Resolutions: Past & Future

Posted: December 30, 2009 in Uncategorized

So, with one day to go before NYE, I thought that, seeing as how I blogged my resolutions for 2009 at the same time last year, now might be a good point at which to figure out how many of them I achieved, and perhaps to set some new ones for 2010.

Most actively, my goal for this year was to try and read only new books. From long habit, I’m an inveterate rereader, and while this is still a policy I endorse, it’s been my habit for so long and to such an extent that it’s actively prohibited me from trying new authors. I am therefore proud to report that, with one exception, everything I’ve read this year has been virgin territory. All up, including individual volumes of manga comics, I have read ninety-five books since January 1, in an unprecedently broad range of genres: aside from the usual quantity of graphic novels, fantasy, steampunk, manga and YA titles, I’ve ventured into the realms of straight fiction, biography, autobiography, popular science, crime fiction, history, classics, political commentary and philosophy. Which, frankly, is astonishing, and something I am keen to keep up in 2010. I’ll still allow myself the comfort of an occasional reread, of course, but with so many new stories itching to be heard, it will become a very selective treat.

Otherwise: I didn’t take up tennis again, despite my best intentions. My short stories have improved, and though I still didn’t write too many, the important thing is that I’m thinking up more ideas for how they might work, with a stronger sense of my own style. All in all, I’ll call that a win. Undeniably, I have broadened my addiction to awesome TV shows, discovering Dexter, Dollhouse and True Blood all in the past few months. I’m not sure how often I’ve surprised other people this year, but I’ve certainly surprised myself, which should count for something. I have done nothing by the way of anarchism, and though my poetry output has been meagre, I’ve been happy with the results. My life hasn’t overflowed with an abundance of jigsaw puzzles, but more than one new pair of comfortable pants has found its way into my wardrobe, I have certainly delighted in silly hats, I have been caught in the rain more than once, and even if I haven’t always succeeded, I have tried throughout the year to listen more and talk less. I have given thanks to Vizinczey – and, even though it wasn’t on the list, I’ve signed the contract on my first published novel, which is the most exciting thing of all.

Which leads us to my resolutions for 2010, the last year of the noughties decade. They are as follows:

1. I will do everything in my power to ensure that Solace & Grief gets off to the best possible start.

2. I will continue to work on my short stories, and to submit them places. Optimistically, the aim will be to have one published somewhere by the end of the year.

3. In addition to finalising edits on The Key to Starveldt and completing at least a full first draft of Falling Into Midnight – respctively the second and third volumes in the Solace/Rare trilogy – I will complete the Mystery Ambush Novel, currently titled Finding Echoes, shop it around, and start the immediate sequel. Also, seeing as how I have at least three more stories planned for that universe in a sort of loosely linked, sequential-but-separate arc, I will aim to set down my plans for all of them in a vaguely comprehensive manner, and figure out if there are more to come.

4. An oldie but a goodie: I will embark on some form of regular exercise, and try to show a little more restraint in the presence of cheese and chocolate.

5. At some point, I will come back overseas.

6. I will continue to be thankful for the opportunities I’ve had and for all the amazing people who’ve brought me to this point.

Happy 2010, people! It’s going to be awesome. :)