Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A response to Paul Recher, Dorroughby NSW.

In the June 23rd edition of The Echo, a local newspaper which is distributed freely in the Northern Rivers region, I noticed a letter. Written by what a Google search proves to be a local doctor, the letter absolutely floored me. It’s got to be a troll, right? I thought (clearly indicative of my internet habits). No one can be that stupid… Apparently they can, and below is the letter:

For years I have heard this statistic:"One in every four girls is sexually abused by age 18."It's a stat I don't believe. What I want to know is, what is meant by sexual abuse? Are we talking strictly about touching the crotch area and worse, or what? For example, is Bob Hope a sex abuser?My mum, born in 1914, was in vaudeville as a chorus line dancer. Her diary entry for one day in 1931 reads, "Bob Hope is nice, but fresh. What's the matter with men?"Mum was warned to not stand in the wings watching the acts with Bob, because he was in the habit of putting his arms around a young woman's waist and grabbing some titty.So in today's world Bob Hope is a criminal and sex abuser, not merely a man behaving obnoxiously.  When an 11 year old brother grabs a feel on his 14 year old sister's boob, is this counted in the statistics?If a male talks dirty to a female about what he wants to do to her sexually, is this sexual abuse? Or is it only sex abuse if she's not interested in him? For example, is it sex abuse to wolf whistle and growl sexually at a female passing by? Yes, but only if she has no interest in the perpetrator. In other words, if she turns around and sees a short fat guy growling she is disgusted and it's abuse, but if it's a hunk she's got chemistry for, she smiles. Same incident but one time it's abuse but another it's not.  Seriously, is there anyone who knows what the working definition is for sexual abuse that is bannered by 'one in four girls by age 14 will be sexually abused?'

Having been so disgusted by this, I have pulled out my research cap, swigged down a glass of thorough indignation, and have written my own response. In this post, to provide the clarity that Dr Recher feels is so absent in our society, I will be using the following definitions:

Sexual Exploitation: "any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust for sexual purposes including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically, from the sexual exploitation of another". (UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, 2010)
Sexual Abuse: "the actual or threatened physical intrusion of a sexual nature, whether by force or under unequal or coercive conditions." (UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, 2010)
Childhood Sexual Assault: "any sexual activity between a child and an adult, or older person. This can include fondling genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or any other object, fondling of breasts, voyeurism, exhibitionism and exposing or involving the child in pornography." (ACSSA Wrap, 2005)

These definitions were easily sourced by simply typing “define: sexual assault” into a search engine. Believe me, Google showed up plenty of pages.


Dr Recher, according to studies undertaken by the ACSSA, your first premise is correct. 25% of females are not sexually assaulted by age 18; rather, the stats are closer to 18%. Before you start crowing, I’d like you to keep in mind that the majority of sexual assault cases are not reported. And why is this?
Because they are ashamed.
In a society where man is king – and sadly, this is still true; respect for women (despite the strides we have made) is still horrifically low – they are made to feel it is their fault. Have you seen stories on the news where a woman from an overseas country has been raped, then sentenced to death because she ‘clearly’ egged the man on?
The following quotations are from Amnesty International's 1995 document, Women in Pakistan - Disadvantaged and denied their human rights
“If the victims bring complaints of rape before the courts, unless they can prove that they did not give their consent they may be punished for unlawful sexual intercourse...”
“Despite the number of women who have been beaten and raped in police custody, few police officers have ever been prosecuted for such violations… the convictions have always been overturned on appeal…”
“A woman who has been raped can be sentenced to imprisonment, flogging in public or death by stoning after a trial in which she was given no chance to testify.”
Not much has changed in 16 years, another Amnesty International document shows.
"The Pakistan Supreme Court's acquittal of five men charged with the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai highlights the failure to bring perpetrators of such crimes to account, Amnesty International said today."
What are women being told?
It's their fault.

According to the website Child Abuse Effects, Western society is sadly labouring under the following sexual assault biases:

  • “If a female has a crush on the male who sexually assaults her, she may be blamed for seducing him, rather than the blame being placed where it belongs: on the offender.”
  • “If the girl doesn’t fight her abuser, she may be viewed as ‘liking it’.”
  • “If the girl is promiscuous, she is often blamed for her sexualised behaviour, rather than seen as a legitimate victim of sexual abuse.”
  • “If a girl dresses in a provocative way, she may be seen as ‘asking for it’.”
  • “If a girl is well endowed, if she is voluptuous, if her body looks more mature than her years, or if she acts more mature than her years, society may see her as ‘looking older than she is’ or ‘acting older than she is’ and excuse the offender’s behaviour, rather than recognise the girl has been sexually abused.”

 How about a clear example from a victim of sexual assault? 
"[My uncle] told me it was my fault because of the way I looked."
Dr Recher, I believe the statistics are much higher than the 18% that the government can accurately state; even on the ACSSA’s website, there are two publications of note that suggest why these figures are not wholly accurate – and are pushing a figure that doesn’t represent the entire picture. For example, research conducted outside of the reported cases involves women of a certain socio-economic background – primarily, women who speak English (and presumably of the middle class). In modern Australia, this rules out many women. So too, this rules out homeless women, as the second study shows.  A study conducted by multiple sources (Lievore, 2003; VLRC, 2004; Heath, 2005; Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005) shows that approximately 85% of sexual assault cases never come before the courts, effectively lessening the accuracy of the statistic even more.

As for the second element to your argument – that Bob Hope was not guilty of sexual assault, but merely was “acting obnoxiously” – that is most certainly not the case. At most, your mother could have been 17 when referring to the ‘fresh’ behaviour of Mr Hope. This would make her a minor. (Regardless of whether she is a minor or not, Mr Hope’s actions are still horrifying.) Mr Hope, being in a position of power over her, is not only committing sexual assault, but also sexual exploitation. It is not a man’s place to inappropriately touch a female – whether she is a minor or not, it is her body, and she is entitled to decide what is done with it.
Yes, she lived in the 1930s, before women’s rights were firmly fought for. It does not make it okay. The fact remains, your mother was warned by the other women not to stand near Mr Hope. Doesn’t that suggest to you that they were uncomfortable with his behaviour, and that they knew it was wrong? If there was nothing wrong with his behaviour, she’d not have been warned. He was not a man acting obnoxiously. He was a man assaulting women – and given the times in when he lived, and who he was, it certainly is sexual exploitation and assault.
There is a very small chance that your mother would have gotten anywhere had she chosen to report the abuse. Does that change anything? Of course not. Human rights abuses are freely committed in many countries - people are raped, murdered, sold into slavery - and these are regarded as perfectly fine. But are they fine?

When an 11-year-old brother grabs his 14-year-old sister’s breasts, it is sexual assault. His relationship to her does not render him innocent. His age does not render him innocent (in Australia, following the doli incapax presumption, a child under 10 years of age has “no criminal responsibility”; after that, he or she is free to be trialled in a juvenile court). It is not a game. It is not only assault, it is incest – and this is prohibited in all states across Australia. The female is also under the age of consent, which falls into child abuse. 
(Incidentally, a report regarding adolescent sex offences - i.e., where the perpetrator of the crime is an adolescent - was written and would be well worth a read.)
f a father did this to their daughter, they would be placed on the Sex Offenders Register, no questions.
If the assaulter is taught that the behaviour is okay, the chances are they’ll try it again.
No matter what, it is not a game. It is not exploring. It is the female’s choice as to what she does with her body. No man, no matter his age, is to decide for her.
In answer to the question – “is this included in the statistics?” – I would hazard a guess at not. See my links above as to why, though feel free to rebut.

Beginning to hit a grey area in terms of what’s commonly perceived as ‘hitting on’ a woman, and I’ll relay a personal experience.
About a month ago, I was at work. A customer approached me; he’d been in the store plenty of times, and while I was a tad uncomfortable around him, I treated him politely and civilly. He asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I replied honestly with no.
As this man was older than my father, and I’d never been placed in this situation before, I didn’t think that this man was scoping out the territory. It didn’t occur to me to lie.
This man brightened, and began to tell me that it was a shame. I was very attractive, he told me. In fact, I was so sexy, I distracted him from his shopping every time he entered the store.
Naturally, I was absolutely horrified. “Excuse me, that’s just not on,” I said.
He ignored me, and continued. “You and I should go on a date some time.”
“You’re older than my father! No, I’m not interested.”
“Why not? I’m good company.” He accompanied this with a wink.
“I said no,” I said firmly, and handed him the pie he’d asked for.
He looked me up and down and said, with the creepiest smile I’ve seen, “Oh well, I’ll just get you next time.”
This completely freaked me out. In what universe did a fifty-year-old man approach a nineteen year old – while she was working – and speak to her like this? I’d given no encouragement beyond typical customer service, and as he’d made me feel uneasy, I’d been a tad cold towards him. He viewed it as his right to harass me in this way. It is harassment to make comments like that towards a woman, especially when she tells you to stop. I told my supervisors (one of whom told me that he used to tell her that he’d watch her in the shower when he lived across the road from her) and a co-worker (who informed me that he’d hugged her last week and didn’t let go when she asked).
A lot of people say, “Oh, but if it was a young guy asking you the same thing, you’d not be put off.” Believe me, I am. I’ve had guys in my age range telling me similar things when I’m working. I’ve had guys wolf-whistle me on the street. And they’re all levels off attractive. My response is still revulsion. When is it okay to growl at a woman, to whistle at her like she’s a piece of meat? An inanimate object solely created for men to leer at? You’re doing it at a distance. Men do this to women who are behind a counter, because they subconsciously are aware that the woman serving them is forced to be polite – else she might get fired. They whistle at women who are walking along the street, because the woman has the audacity to walk in front of them. They act as though it is their right to behave in such a disgusting manner towards women, not considering how this might make the woman feel (humiliated, dirty, etc). Dr Recher, no matter the age or the attractiveness of a man – if a man is making commenting on, or acting towards, a woman in a way that she does not like, that is considered harassment. I personally consider it harassment if the man is acting in that vulgar way of from afar, no matter the man's intent. If you want to make a connection with a woman, how hard is it to go up to her and talk to her, rather than accosting her in a position where she cannot escape?
And as a general rule, if the female in question is young enough to be your daughter, don’t go there. It’s sick. 

In case you believe I’m in the minority of people who regard this as harassment, the question “Do you consider receiving a wolf whistle from a stranger a compliment, or even a shout out complimenting your assets? How do you take it?” was asked in the Bubhub forums. A few choice responses:
  • ·        “Harassment. It makes me feel gross, I’d never go near guys with a ten foot pole who do it. Heck, even my boss who was a builders labourer for decades said it’s harassment.”
  •          “… it actually makes me feel self conscious rather than complimented.”
  •          “I think pig/s”
  •        “Harassment. I have not been put on this earth to be leered at.”
  •          “I find wolf whistles and sleazy comments plain humiliating.”
  •          “When a guy smiles at me its something only he and I see. When a guy whistles at me everyone else around can hear and see it and I think I find it rather humiliating.”
  •          “As a teen I found it intimidating. In my 20s I found it disrespectful and oafish. Now I find it confusing.”

This entire forum – the majority of women admit to feeling humiliated when a man offers up lascivious behaviours like those aimed at them. They can be attractive guys, they can be young. Still humiliating. Still harassment.

I hope this post has enlightened you, Dr Recher. I’ve tried to go through and answer your questions – you probably won’t see this post, but for all the other men out there who are querying the same? (Heck, even the women.) You can find accurate definitions for sexual assault. You can find out what is deemed assault.
And no matter your gender, age, or background, you can take a stand against it.

[Note: I completely realise that men are sexually assaulted; some of the statistics I came across in this shocked me, as it’s very rarely publicised. (I think the first I became aware of it was when I was a young teen, reading The Kite Runner – if you’ve read it, you’ll know the scene to which I refer.) However, it does happen. As I was responding to Dr Recher’s letter, which specifically addressed women, I didn’t bring it up as at the best of times I flit onto tangents.
For awareness, see the following links and studies. Women are not the only ones hard done by Western stereotypes. Men can be, and are, victims.
If you’re under 25 and are a victim of sexual abuse, phone Kids Help Line in Australia.
If you’re over 25, phone LifeLine.
Telling someone is the most important thing – you are not to blame, not in any circumstance.] 

Saturday, June 25, 2011


On the other blog, I once wrote about wedding dresses and the odd infatuation I have with them. I was going to take a photo of all the bridal magazines I own to show you this infatuation, but when I went into my room and saw that they were in about 5 different places, that idea swiftly vanished.

(Though I will upload these shots, because it's just kriffing awesome.)

This is Discerning Bride magazine.
They write about weddings, suppliers and bridal trends in south-east Queensland.
And this is the editorial page.

Yeah. That's right.
Excuse me while I quietly bask in the glow of being published, then let out an almighty fangirl squee.
So I have enough of an interest in bridal gowns and the like to be offered an internship - and by that, one where I actually got published - with one of Queensland's best bridal magazines.
And tonight, we shall revist said interest to a blissful soundtrack of, currently, the Beatles.

Of course, I can't help but begin with this dress.
Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge. I've not seen many wear dresses that look this spectacular, and not be worn by the dress. Maybe it's that it's a royal wedding, but my gosh, if ever a dress suited a bride, it's this.
Grace-Kelly-salute, yes. Perfection? Heck yes. When Kate stepped out of the car and we all got the full glimpse of the dress, there was nothing else to be said. I was, with everyone (including myself) expecting a McQueen, thinking the dress might be more daring, and this perturbed me a bit. Class, elegance and a good dose of classic fashion was what bridal trends desperately required, and this dress was going to do it.
Kate, echoing what so many have said, thank you for wearing sleeves.
The neckline is probably my favourite part of the dress. The shape it makes as it follows the lace's natural pattern is just beautiful. It's weird that it's something that's never crossed my mind, to have a hem or a neckline following a lace edge. Maybe it's because I primarily associate lace with scalloped edges (which brings out an involuntary shudder, as it's usually so tacky...). Sarah Burton did it beautifully, and this is definitely going to be one of those dresses that we'll look at in fifty years and still note the class it had. Don't bash me, Diana-lovers, but really? That's not something you'll get from hers.
It's a cute dress, I suppose, if you look at it in a Disney-Princess-esque light. The big poofy sleeves are oddly reminiscent of the Little Mermaid (Googling dates, however, shows me this came first. Disney is always watching...), and it seems like it's a princess' dress. You know, when you're 9 and imagining what a princess would wear. It's 80s all over, and unfortunately that's how we're going to classify this dress.
Also, the train? Scalloped. Lace. Edge.
*prepares to die at the hands of rabid Diana fans*

So, armed with my new adoration for that lovely neckline, I found this dress and instantly fell in love with it for its hem.
Depending on where you look, this is dress is alternately referred to as 'Ina' and as 'Diana'. No matter; on Henry Roth's website (the incredible designer of this gown), he calls it 'Ina'. I first saw the photos on Polka Dot Bride, where upon frothing, I madly raced to Henry's website. I'd never found his gowns to be my taste (on the whole, I'm a Nicole Miller girl; I'll get back to that in a moment), but his Urban Chic/Spring 2011 Collection just gives me the shivers in a thoroughly excellent way.
Incidentally, Henry said that this collection was inspired by the royal wedding - as every collection in this upcoming season no doubt will be.

“The recent wedding of Kate Middleton reinforced many things to Michelle Roth (my sister who I work with) and myself.  Keeping things simple and striking seems to be the style message for 2011.”
I love the above dress for its simplicity. It's a fabulous silhouette, and as my personal style leans towards the more classic colours, cuts and silhouettes, this certainly suits. The hem is a work of art, the train is subtle, yet still makes a chic impact, and ivory, oh ivory, you're a welcome change from the champagne coloured gowns I'm seeing in bridal stores around here.
I'd pay good money to wear this dress.

Monique Lhuillier's Fall and Spring Collections had a lot of tea length, and almost mini-skirted, bridal gowns. As much as I try to be open to new trends, it didn't seem to work. It's a pretty decent idea for a reception gown (if you're lucky enough to have one, and a Lhuillier to boot), but I can't see it working as a ceremony gown in very many circumstances.
Maybe in Vegas.

Incidentally, the Catherine gown...

... oh, Monique, you were going up against a McQueen.
You cannot improve it.
It's a battle lost before it's begun.
Also, why is there a dress called 'Pippa' in the same collection?

Having said that, I am a massive Lhuillier fan when she's doing what she does best, and that's creating chic interpretations of fairytale princess dresses. She's got a few dresses that appear to be made out of heavy satin fabric, and these pale in comparison to the magnificent ruffled, light-as-air skirts with corset bodices that lurk within these collections.
This one, colour aside, makes my heart sing.
Is it wrong I'm reminded of clouds, sunshine, and feeling like a kid again when looking at the volume and the frills on that skirt? Because I am. It reminds me of a summer day, sky stretching out in an endless Tiffany blue (Pantone shade 1837), and just running around feeling free and content about it all.

Above is Carolina Herrera's Evelyn gown. 
Must say, I'm not a huge fan of it. I got excited when I saw the thumbnail, but the style below has my approval above and beyond the Herrera.
A dress I've loved for years.
And finally, because I suspect this post is going on far too long and I'm going to get readers staring at me incredulously, we reach Nicole Miller.
I used to go straight for Nicole Miller, and I'd always say that if I could afford one of hers, I'd be racing there. After seeing the Henry Roth one, my heart lies elsewhere, but nevertheless Nicole Miller gowns are things of beauty.
This gown is the FA0027 (unfortunate, because I cannot remember numbers to save my life).

The lines on this - statue. But in a brilliant way. It's a new take, I think, on Grecian styles. Rather than the empire line - which I personally find unflattering, but whatever - the use of a dropped waist allows for a more detailed bodice. And the draping of the light fabric, criss-crossing across the bodice, draws the eye in, creating a nipped in waist. The beautiful front ruffle adds a hint of glamour and drama, a modern take on a toga:
This statue of the Greek goddess, Themis, shows a lot of what looks like heavy draping. Miller's gown recreates that, but in a classy, understated way - still paying homage to classicism, but with modern elegance twisted in.

On my final note, a friend of mine who recently got married did something I adore when it crops up in bridal shoots, but haven't seen much of - she wore coloured shoes. Specifically, darling red strappy heels. Besotted due to the colour and the statement they provided (in her photos, the shoes and her matching red French tips were the most commented - everyone adored them), I went on a shoehunt. I've always told everyone I want Louboutins when I get married (because I don't think I'll be able to justify it otherwise. Sigh, reduced pair at DJs stocktake sale that were $1045... after reduction), and I think I'm in love with these ones.

Showy? Perhaps. With a concealed platform, though, I'd be pretty happy rocking pumps this colour.


Friday, June 24, 2011


In case you're not aware - though the widget on the side would probably be a big hint - I'm on Twitter.

You should come follow me because I'll tweet something awesome once in a blue moon, and those are pretty good odds.

On Twitter, I follow a whole bunch of writery people. Occasionally, these writery people follow me back. Can we have a moment to squeal over John Birmingham following me on Twitter? Can we please?
Anyway, that's... not my point. My point is the following tweet.

When this tweet travelled into my feed, I got pretty excited. No words give me more excitement than 'weekend' and 'reads'; both distinctly imply not having to work, and as I work in a deli as my main mode of sourcing tehmonehs, I feel glee when weekends arise.
But underneath the excitement, a small voice was trying to get my attention.
Weekend reads, Tash? Actually planning what book you'll read? You?
Of course, I replied with some variation of "Hush now, child, Mummy's tweeting."
But you never plan what you're going to read. You have books all over the house, lying face down in probable pain. And more often than not, you rudely ignore those books and pick up other ones.
I silenced the voice with a glare, and clicked on the reply link.
Mental blank.

Penguin, I cannot reply to your tweet succinctly. So, for an appropriately bookish Friday, I have decided to hunt out all the books I currently have lying around my house, ready to be picked up and flicked through at random.

And, because the weather around here is so darn depressing, DVDs are in order.

All in all, Penguin, it'll be a lazy weekend for me, and I'll enjoy it thoroughly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The post where Tash is tired and lacking a social life more thoroughly than usual.

"Believe me, men are either eaten up with arrogance
or stupidity. If they are amiable, they are so easily
led they have no minds of their own whatsoever."

  1. But isn't this about books? 
    I'm trying to keep it about pretty much everything this year. Thoughts, feelings, everything - leading up to whatever happens next year.
    Ergo, books can come, and books can go, as can most everything I write about.
  2. Why isn't this going on the other blog?
    Because those poor suckers have to deal with many of my tired posts, and I want something on here besides books.
  3. But -
    Stop. Asking. Questions. *intense stare*
To the post!


From a young age, I was told that men (on the whole) are not complex creatures. The way of the man is simple to understand, especially to the mind of an intelligent female. After all, how much to them could there be?
Sitting on a chair at my grandmother's place, legs dangling down and not touching the floor, I was eating a sandwich as she told me about the differences between men and women.
Men could eat two sandwiches. Women could not.
Men were meant to work. Women were not.
Men were allowed to go and drink, eschewing parental responsibility. Women were not.
This was, she said, because men did not need much to make them happy. Food, drink and work - this is what kept men happy. And so, gently tugging the extra bread roll I'd reached for from my hands, she told me that I shouldn't worry.
Mi Natashita, she said, you'll always be able to understand them.

Truth be told, I am no closer to figuring out men than Lizzie Bennet was. I suspect it is not uncommon; after all, humanity is inherently complex, and it stands to reason that men - the gender that currently is just over 50% of the world population - would follow this formula of complexity.
Google can't help me understand men either. Correction,  Google thinks it can help me understand men. But when you click on articles and get the following:

It kind of lessens your faith in the whole 'let's figure men out' scenario. At least when it's provided by Google.

It's not that I don't socialise with men - I highly doubt that women can't figure out men for this reason. In fact, I have a group of guys I turn to when there's something one of their gender has done that cannot be rationalised. Occasionally, they get stumped. 
"Yeah, that's just odd. I've not seen that before." What? How have you not seen it before? 
"Okay, I've only ever seen a guy do that once before." Why did he do that? "You think I asked? I backed away."
But with a source like that, and my group of friends being predominately comprised of males (drama effectively lessens by 60%), I theoretically should have an okay understanding of how the male brain works.
I have a fairly solid understanding of how the female mind works. As much as it pains me to admit, my entire reasoning behind female actions has been tainted with a very strong dose of cynic. Yet men...

A couple of nights ago, I had all but decided Lizzie Bennet was bang on (or, I should say, the screenwriters for Pride and Prejudice Class of '05). Men were stupid. If they were not stupid, they were arrogant. If they were neither of those, then they were just sheep-like and really a waste of time.
And, with all the enthusiasm of Danae from Non Sequitur in her attempts to become invisible, I decided it was to the nunnery I was going. In the nunnery, there were no men. There were no idiotic reasonings I had to follow. In the nunnery I was probably only expected to pray, sew, and -
Oh. Dang. There are vows-of-silence nunneries.

Be that as it may, I decided I should wash my hands of all the general weirdness. 
And quite possibly start my own convent, where I could yak all day long, still text and use Facebook (without being evicted), and eat KFC.
Would be an excellent convent.

However, that does not explain the fact that for some obscure reason, I still find myself yearning for a man. There's a vaguely specific one at the moment, but he's so far outside the realm of possible that I should, ideally, forget about him. Pining away for one unavailable man is just ridiculous, pathetic, and an extreme waste of my time.
I say ideally. Ideally never occurs, because I'm one of those humans who is all "YAY PRETTY PRETTY FLOWER OH FLOWER IS BEHIND A BARBED WIRE ELECTRIC FENCE WITH LIGHTSABERLIKE NETTING I MUST HAVE FLOWER", and in my excitement I end up losing my limbs up to my elbows, and they scuttle away and I am left handless and flowerless.
... that makes so much sense, Tash.
I asked Nate about my inability to get over the flower behind lightsaber fences, and he replied with the following:
"Because love is blind, and I'm talking more the 'go to get a drink at night and stumble around clumsily' type of blind"
It's comforting he didn't say "because you're an absolute idiot".

Re-reading from the beginning, I realise I've completely diverted from the point of this post.

The point of the matter is, men currently confuse the heck out of me. I'm sure you have your reasons for doing things, men, but I for one believe signage is appropriate. I probably have written about signs somewhere, but signs are the greatest invention ever. Or they would be, if we just put them into action. Sophie Kinsella shares my views:
Like I said, there should be a different system... It could involve hand signals, perhaps. Or small, discreet stickers placed on the lapel, colour coded for different messages. 
 - The Undomestic Goddess, pp 249
If we just held up signs, we'd be totally cool. We can hold up signs to explain our odd behaviours, our views towards a relationship with others.





Etcetera, so on, so forth.
But unfortunately the world has not gotten on board with such things, and as a result, men and women will forever be unable to understand one another. At least, I fear I will be forever plagued with this.
Maybe it's just some innate knowledge you're born with, much like the ability to apply makeup effectively, except you can't learn it from YouTube and you can't get someone behind a counter at DJs to make it all work in your favour.

I have always heard from men that women are confusing. That we say one thing, and mean another. True, to an extent. I have been known to say "Yeah, I'm fine" when really meaning "One day, you will pay. I don't know how, or when, but expect it". I'm sure that my fascination with fashion is astoundingly odd, and the fact that during a rational debate regarding something like politics, literature or feminism with a group of men, I can instantly be distracted by a sale or a beautiful shoe:

But you men... my gosh. What's with the whole 'pleather-being-chased-around-a-field-while-wearing-abnormally-short-shorts-qualifies-as-sport' mumbo jumbo? How does rugby even work? AFL is even more confusing, and really? Why does random tall man in red uniform need to kick that through those posts? What is the point?
(I understand women enjoy these sports as well, but the men in my life are all - or mostly - obsessed by this.)
And apparently you guys don't really do the whole D&M thing. I mean, yes, it took me years to get to that point... but surely part of you wants to, right? How do you vent? This deeply confuses me.

My brother once told me, when one of his female friends was weeping over her boyfriend never confiding in her - or, very rarely - that guys won't go to their girlfriends first, or don't usually. I don't know how right he is, but that's another enigma of Man. Man, you are weird. ('Man' being used as gender and as exclamation of exasperation.) I can understand if it's an issue about the girl, but...
Oh, I don't know.

Men, you confuse me.
I don't expect this to ever change.
In rebuttal, I'm going to eat cake.

Friday, June 10, 2011

30 Days of Books, Day 13.

First up, I'd like to point out the following:

  1. It is flipping freezing. While this is 15 degrees of freezing, I would like to state that for here, that's just plain unfair. We probably have a wind chill factor of about -472 degrees. (My father says that's a lie, but it certainly feels like it.) 
  2. I don't think I could survive in a snowstorm/blizzard/anywhere in the northern hemisphere where snow occurs.
  3. To make myself feel warm, I have adopted a pair of hobo gloves and am listening to Rick Astley. Which has morphed into the Beatles, then into Bloc Party. Sirius, you good thing you.
Onto the post!

[Your favourite author.]

There are so many. So very many. 
Neruda, as I've mentioned, probably tops the list. But I don't want another poet on here, and he cannot make a repeat appearance.
Everyone mentions JK Rowling on these lists, so I will not.
I'm going to write about my favourite author in many genres. She's my favourite in the Australian scene, and in the YA scene to boot. She does excellent work writing about teenagers in situations pretty similar to my own - that being, culture. When you're of a different cultural heritage, what do you do? It might seem an odd question, but believe you me, you're stuck. For me, I have the Chilean on one side, and the Australian on the other. I probably identify with each side equally, but it's not like I'm identifying with a modern Chile. It's an 80s version; a time-warp, if you will. 
So I've got the people who often say to me that my English skills are very good. "How long have you been over here for?" "I... was born here." "But you spoke Spanish first, right?" "No, I only began learning Spanish when I was 16." 
I had a teacher who told me that my 'Spanish speaking at home' would negatively affect my ability to write, as I would often feel a compulsion to mix up my word order. "I'm Italian," he said, kindly, "and I do it myself."
(And as my grandfather has influenced my vocabulary the most, I can say with all honesty I do do that.)
Yet then my Chilean family will refer to me as 'la chica blanca'. My cousin, Daniela - her nickname is Negra. Her father also calls me Blanca. Ice queen. Mocked Spanish. Straight hair, yellow-olive skin in winter and faintly tanned skin in summer. Big eyes, which my cousins don't have. But another girl who, too, had one Caucasian-Australian parent, and a Chilean parent, also had eyes like mine.
So I guess that's why I love her novels so much. They are just... relevant.

I should actually introduce her, shouldn't I?

Melina Marchetta.

She's a Sydney author, and because I placed a lot of emphasis on cultural heritage before, I'll mention hers. She's from Italian family, middle child, and lives in this country, which is probably the world's melting pot. 
When you live in a country that has a 40,000 year history but only has 230 years of western occupancy and you’re the daughter of a migrant whose family has only been in the country for sixty of those years, you are constantly trying to work out your place and where you belong.
As of writing this post, she has been given the CBCA award for Older Readers twice (in Australia, that's a darn excellent writing award to receive in the world of YA fiction). She has written 6 books, according to her website. Of these, I've read five. They're excellent, amazing, wonderful. She knows how to write a teenager very well. It could be her years teaching, but whatever it is, it's just - wow. That's a character.

It's very tempting to continue on to the next post in here, because it's so seamless and now I very much want to write about one of her novels.
Alas, I cannot. Tonight, perhaps.

Melina's website lives here, and according to Book Depository's US website (because it's looking like more and more US people read this blog) - when you load, Book Depository, no hurry - you can get her books. I recommend Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca and The Piper's Son out of hers. They... wow, just wow.

30 Days of Books, Days 10 - 12. (Yeah, it's an epic one today.)

As I have been excessively lazy and I'm attempting to catch up on my missed posts, I have decided to bore you all with an extremely long post.
Bear with me, please? I promise Day 12 is very short.

[Favourite classic book.]

This is my cover of the book. Well, it was. I'm looking accusingly in the direction of one Liska Shomanla, whose real name isn't as brilliant as that one.
Thanks, Liska, for stealing my copy of Animal Farm.
Anyway, I very much liked this book. It's far better than 1984 (don't spear me!) and I gobbled this book up in an afternoon. It's not big, so it's not like it's that hard to do, but to understand it... I was poring over it over and over - and not only because I had an assignment to do on it. I'd never read overt satire like this. I'd never read a novel with such amazing depth to it. We were also learning about the rise of communism and the Russian revolution in history, and these two together nearly made me weep with joy.

I really need to re-read this.

To close this, I'm going to quote a conversation between Nathan and I last weekend.
Nate: You've read Animal Farm, right?
Me: Of course. It was very depressing.
Nate: WHAT? It was amazing. How can it be depressing?
Me: [knowing this would rile Nate up exceptionally well] Buster learned to write his name. I mean, that's pretty hard, being a horse. And he had hooves. But he still learned to write his name. And they sent him to the glue factory.
Nate: Satire. Russian revolution. Communism. Do those words mean anything to you?
Me: The horse died, Nate. It died.
Nate: [facepalm] ... you're stirring me, aren't you?
[A book you hated.]

It was always going to be a Winton.
Rather than a rant against - actually, screw it, this is going to be a rant against Tim Winton in general with a few choice references about the stupid book.

Dear Tim Winton,
I don't like you very much.
Well, not you. I'm sure you are a lovely person. You seem like you could be, what with your penchant for writing across the ages and putting Australian literature on the world map. Kudos to you, by the way.
What I don't like about you, and this is more criticism against your writing style than anything else, is that your ability to not use a full stop is now legendary.
If I were to do the same thing that you do you know that thing where you refuse to use any sort of discernable punctuation and just keep going on and on
and then suddenly go onto a new line and describe it as post-modern -
I. Would. Be. Shot.
If I had an essay like that in high school, no amount of pleading with my English teachers would allow me to get away with writing like you. I would be a laughing stock.
Heck, if I wrote like that in primary school, I'd not pass into the next grade.

The sad thing is, you are apparently the golden boy of Australian literature. This depresses me a whole lot. I may not be excellent with my grammar and whatnot, but seriously, I have mastered the usage of punctuation pretty effectively.
Your rant in Lockie Leonard where Lockie goes into a wave as a boy and comes out a machismo man? It was ridiculous. Any child could have seen the moment where Lockie stopped being Lockie and started being you. Separate yourself from your characters, man! What thirteen year old child is going to start spouting off "We're just kids, Vick, I don't know what love is and nor do you"? What thirteen year old kid is going to start up like that?
Also, that whole wave as a phallic symbol thing? Really, really creepy.

I have blocked out most of An Open Swimmer, but I do remember that I didn't like the story. The plot was not effectively mastered. The dialogue was ridiculous. I hated the 'postmodernism', whatever that was. (Why is the exclusion of a full stop so inspired?)

Mr Winton, in order to be postmodern, I've been told you need to learn the rules first. You can't start toying with rules if you don't know them. And I might just be a nineteen-year-old girl with the ability to rant, but I don't believe you know the rules. Just saying. If you want to understand postmodernism, and surrealist writing, and generally being awesome, I say go and look at Salvador DalĂ­'s paintings. And do it  when he's showing at an exhibition. He starts off painting realism. Then he starts melting clocks.

Like I said, I think you're probably a lovely person.
But I just don't like your books.
And I (and my year 9 classmates) all hated this with a passion, where we actively petitioned our teacher to please never make us read one of your books ever again.

[A book you used to love but you don't anymore.]

I really don't have one for here. I associate books with my memories, much like I do with music.
So my books never get hated, they just stay in my mind, associated with a time and with a place within these last nineteen years.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

30 Days of Books, Day 9.

[A book you didn't think you'd like but ended up loving.]

Looking at my usual book tastes, this one is a definite winner in this category.

I can't really remember this book - I read it in year 8, but with so many other books that year I've just forgotten specifics completely. I do know, however, that it was amazing. My brother was desperate to see the film, and Dad, having seen and read this, insisted that the book had to be read first.
(My brother isn't much of a reader.)
So Chris read this, taking his usual time. I thieved it from him whenever he left it lying around.
A few months later, Chris was allowed to watch the movie. And I watched it with him, in awe and happiness. This book was just... fabulous. Amazing. Win in all ways.
And death, killing, and a horse's head? Somehow, I was able to cope with all of that.

30 Days of Books, Days 7 & 8.

[Most underrated book, and most overrated book.]

I'm going to cheat and write about series for each one. Because I can do that.
Firstly, most underrated.
L-R, first row:
Winging It (1), Losing the Plot (2), Flying High (3),
Calling the Shots (4), Fogging Over (5), Fighting Fit (6).
L-R, second row:
Making Waves (7), Budding Star (8), Keeping it Real (9),
Going for Gold (10), Feeling the Vibes (11), Living the Dream (12)

I've been reading these books since I was 11. And I can't, can't, not finish a series. It's a hate of mine - if I find a book, I must devour all other books. Even if I must hunt high and low, I will finish the series and feel that lovely satisfaction.
It took me nearly eight years, but I finished that series and I finished it with style.

These books tell the story of 13 year old Mel Beeby, typical 21st century airhead whose life ambition is to get on TV and be a radio presenter. She's not hugely talented in any one realm so, as you do, she sells herself short and limits herself to very simple dreams and doesn't consider steps to where she wants to go.
Bam, smack, boom, Mel gets hit by a joyrider on her 13th birthday and dies immediately.
She then finds herself in Heaven, but most definitely not the Heaven you normally consider. Not just clouds and sitting around playing harps (which is a depressing image of Heaven; the Heaven I believe in is a darn epic place). It's actually a city. An amazing, "incredibly vibey" city made of win and awesome. It's earth, times a gazillion in legend-waitforit-dary points.
And, best of all, it's got time travel.
(And even cooler, Annie Dalton actually explains how time-travel works in the heavenly realm. Which is really cool, because time travel is so often screwed up and is so flawed. Her representation of it actually works.)
So these books show Mel's training (because she attends the Angel Academy, where she learns to become a 'cosmic agent' - a fancy term for angel who helps out in the world) and she's thrown in the deep end, experiencing the typical wobbles of teenagerdom while also showing that age is no barrier. You can help the world in whatever way. She visits some incredibly legend time periods and locations (making me severely jealous).
Winging It, she visits 40s wartime London.
Fogging Over, she hangs out with Shakespeare. (Extreme jealousy right here.)

Flying High, it's partly the Crusades, and then to the future. A very eerie future. She then progresses to 1920s America, the era of Hollywood, in Calling the Shots. Fogging Over takes her to Victorian London (and partly to the very red outback of my own Australia); Fighting Fit, Ancient Rome. Then to the world of one lovely such gentleman as this:
Though he doesn't make an appearance, Making Waves is the piracy novel, excellent in all its win. Budding Star is set in a quasi-spirit realm, which is cooler than it seems. It's almost purgatory. Dalton refers to it as Limbo. Keeping it Real sends her back to 21st century London, and Going for Gold? Egypt. Cleopatra's Egypt. *mutter mutter jealousy mutter*
Feeling the Vibes shows a Mel in current India, and Living the Dream in 21st century Navajo America.

Why can't time travel exist for us plebs?

These books are pretty difficult to find now; I think Book Depository is the only place stocking them. You could try your luck on Amazon, though I'm not used to it.

Now, to overrated.

Going clockwise, top left:
Fail (1), So bad I wanted to die (2),
What, is that cover supposed to be 'meaningful'? (3),
Hooray, demon spawn and creepy antics (4).
I used to be into Twilight. It wasn't creepy fail into it, but I did read the books. I did like them. I thought it was an okay storyline. Not great (done millions of times before). One-dimensional characters (much like a Mills & Boon). Terrible writing (she's made a new standard of terrible writing).
But, you know, I could read it.

Then I saw a small child wearing a Twilight shirt and insisting that they wrote Wuthering Heights because of Twilight.

Anyway, these blogs and vlogs sum up Twilight's usefulness:
Reasoning With Vampires, an excellent Tumblr with grammar skills of win. (Should really pay attention to my own, but sadly I never do on blogs. They never get edited; you get pure brain-goo.)
Blogging Twilight, Dan Bergstein's fabulous take on Twilight. I got so many laughs out of this.
And, finally, Alex Reads Twilight, from the fabulous Alex Day. (Charlie McDonnell did one as well. It was win.)

There we go!
G'night, todos.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

30 Days of Books, Day 6.

[A book that makes you sad.]

Not sad so much as enraged, but there's a little bit of sadness in there. A little, tiny bit. It lingers under the crankiness.

I have never gotten into a novel like I have Atonement. It was beautifully written (darn amazing prose) with one of the most gripping storylines to come out of modern literature.
Why the anger, you ask?


Thanks to you, I have a severe mistrust of 13 year old girls. I can't trust them to not screw everything up. Everything.

(That's what you do on the interwebs, isn't it?)
Briony, you screw up massively. You screw up your rapists (remind me never to ask for YOUR help in a criminal lineup). And, you know, that'd be vaguely okay. Sort of. I could deal with it a whole lot more if it was an honest mistake.
But oh no, stupid little thirteen year old Briony had to have Robbie for herself, even though had she actually gotten Robbie, that would have been borderline pedophilia.
Actually, considering Robbie was at university, and Briony had just - yeah, that'd have been pedophilia, and YOU SUCK, BRIONY. You didn't think of that part, did you?
I despise you, Briony Tallis. You flipping lie about the gardener/groundskeeper/whatever raping your cousin. Did you think about how that would have been for Lola? Claps for Briony. And then she has to marry that rapist while you look on knowing you failed at life.
Oh, and then? Then you write a book and use it to fabricate a reasonable ending and expect it to be okay even though Robbie has contracted blood poisoning - during war, which he had to participate in because HEY, YOU GOT HIM IN JAIL - and Cecilia has been blown up/drowned as a result of bombs going off in tunnels.
And that's your atonement?
You atone by making the characters get together and by having Robbie's name cleared in your book, while you live the longest and only begin going senile at a late age?
Screw you, Briony Tallis.
My only sadness comes from poor Robbie and Cecilia. Lives messed up by a precocious and interfering 13 year old.

That being said, I loved this book. If I react passionately in any way, a book has succeeded. And - wow. Wow wow wow wow wow I wish I could write like you, Mr McEwan. Props.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

30 Days of Books, Day 5.

[A book that makes you happy.]

In all reality, this is an anthology.
And this post is just going to be pictures of the writer that I believe, heart and soul, is the best we've ever had.

This guy.
Pablo Neruda, genius with a bird.
Maybe I'm biased because I'm partly Chilean, and it seems to be that Chileans are fervently protective of Neruda. Don't try and suggest that Keats is better than Neruda. For one, it's a blatant lie, and for another, we will probably tear your limbs off while reciting his poetry. (Violent bunch, we are. Or at least my grandfather, who glared at me when I, 12 years old and completely unfamiliar with this man, had the audacity to state that I liked Andrew Marvell.)
This book is probably one of the most prized books I own. I have salivated over this book for years and years. I stroked its cover, weeping quietly when I realised that I couldn't afford it, again.
(Look at it on Amazon, and I'll seem extremely poor. Over here it was about $50.)
And then, age 18, I received a heavy rectangular bookish package.

This book is just...
Me encanta esta libro. 
Mucho, mucho, mucho.
My grandfather, holding this book, asserted the muchos.

There's something about smoking a pipe while wearing a
quasi-beret-hat-whose-name-escapes-me. Adds a true air
of "I am a poet. You are not. Sad for you."
Though the only issue, according to the Chileans amongst us, is that this is a travesty. "You cannot translate Neruda," my father protested, as though I'd suggested painting over the Mona Lisa. "They're his words."
"That's true, my Natashita-ita-ita," Tata agreed solemnly. "What have I always taught you? The translator is a traitor. A traitor."
Which apparently comes from some Italian proverb. Tradurre e tradire or something like that.

This is taken off a wall in Valparaiso, Chile.
I don't know where the wall is. But it's magnificent, no?
I want to give the man hugs. If I could get a Time-Turner, I'd go back to visit Neruda.

I love all elements of his poetry. He is honest in every word he writes. He expresses amazing wisdom, but it's that wisdom tainted slightly by uncertainty that assures you it's wisdom gained by experience. You cannot separate author from work with Neruda; it comes from a place that is so deep within that unless you write yourself, you won't really understand that place. But it's that place where passion lies.
He has a depth to his work, but at face value, you can understand what he's saying. A beauty rises from the simplicity of his work, but resonates down through each level of thought.
My family - and apparently every respectable Chilean, my grandfather tells me - does not approve of his later poetry, where he became 'political' and a 'wicked Communist'. (Tata's words, not my own.) I can't find a fault at all. If it's where his heart lay, it would be a betrayal to write about anything else. There's a season for everything.

These are two of my favourite poems of his.
One day, if I can write with the beauty and honesty he does, I will be pretty darn content.

These translations are the direct ones from this anthology (and, as my father begrudgingly admitted, are very good translations of the originals).

Sonnet XVII - originally published in Cien Sonetos De Amor (1957-1959)

I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain dark things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that rose
from the earth lives in my body in darkness.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

translated by Mark Eisner

Poetry - originally published in Memorial de Isla Negra (1962-1964)

And it was that age... poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.
I didn't know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.

And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

translated by Alastair Reid

Mark Strand from the New Yorker said it perfectly:
There is something about Neruda - about the way he glorifies experience, about the spontaneity and directness of his passion - that sets him apart from the other poets..."

And Gabriel Garcia finished this thought with one of the most brilliant assertions I've heard:
The greatest poet of the twentieth century - in any language.
Indeed, Neruda more than fills the shoes of the greatest poet that we've seen in recent years.
If you read no other poetry anthology, read this one.  Eschew all those others; this man knows words.

30 days of Books, Day 4.

[Your favourite book from your favourite series.]

All the other stories in this series were beautiful. They were excellent, amazing, lovely, and a nice way to spend a rainy afternoon in a Brisbane apartment.
But this one? 
Maybe it was the bantering between Tim and Sydney, or just the overall Twelfth Night-ish vibe to the entire scenario. You know, girl assumes identity of boy, falls in love, etcetera so on so forth. Any Shakespeare allusion makes me tingle all over with excitement. (So, yes, I'm an absolute pain to be around when watching She's The Man and Ten Things I Hate About You and Lion King.) 
Whatever it was, I was besotted. I actually read this one second in the series; I picked up That Certain Spark first and was overly confused. But this one, Cathy Marie Hake does excellent backstory and even though the cynic in me sits there going, "Haha, lack of women's rights and lack of indoor toilets and acceptable plumbing? Not fun at all", I still get kind of fuzzy. Those tingly fuzzies that are all, "I so want to be a pioneer woman in America circa 1890."
So when I get all down about whatever's happening here, I can eagerly step back to all the wondrousness of Gooding, Texas, in the 1890s. 
And life gets blissful for a little moment or three. Or five, as it were.