Monday, October 24, 2011

Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, Buffy.

Oh. I mean, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You know, I actually do like your new show Ringer, but why oh why did you have to start the first episode with gothic statues, reminiscent of your OTHER show? And then, to end up in a fight. Where you lost? It felt traitorous. Let me just repeat though, I do like your new show.
But I want to lament the passing of your other character Buffy the vampire slayer. What a privilege to be able to play a feminist, kick-ass character such as Joss Whedon's creation, Buffy. For those of you who may not know this, Joss Whedon, amazing writer extraodinaire had a vision. It was of the "little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie" and subverting it. He wanted to create a hero, and thus, Buffy was born, a feminist hero that goes down those dark alleys and kills the monster, giving power to women everywhere. Well, at least that's what I like to think.

So, for anyone out there listening, or reading, this is my idea. I think we need to franchise the Buffy character and make movies - controlled by Joss Whedon. Unfortunately he doesn't have the rights to the character. As we now have other slayers, the movies can be narratives about their journeys. Feminists everywhere!

And before I close, I do want to say that I really like the new show Ringer, but I just wish that Sarah would consider Buffy again. That's my two cents.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What I've been reading lately...Parnassus on wheels by Christopher Morley

"Lord!" he said, "when you sell a man a book you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue-you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night-there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.

And so it goes. If you love books, then this novel, or novella, is for you. Written in 1917, I'd never heard of it, until I read somebody talking about The haunted bookshop by Morely over at Book and Reader. Apparently Parnassus on wheels is sort of a prelude. The thread that described The haunted bookshop, someone wrote of it as having 'drowsy alcoves' and I was hooked! So I looked it up on Library Thing. (BTW, if you haven't come across these sites before they are fabulous for a bibliophile!). A couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy at my library, and realised I'd discovered a gem, and I am still yet to read The haunted bookshop! So that has me excited all over again.

The story is about spinster Helen McGill, aged 39 (not so old these days!), living with her famous author brother on a farm, where out of the blue travelling bookseller Roger Mifflin turns up and sells her Parnassus, a complicated wagon bookstore. Helen gives readers a lovely practical voice, and talks about how her brother is always off having adventures and writing his stories, and so she decided that she wanted an adventure too!

A kind of anger came over me to think that I'd been living on that farm for nearly fifteen years-yes, sir, ever since I was twenty-five-and hardly ever been away except for that trip to Boston once a year to go shopping with cousin Edie.
The feminist in me whooped for joy when Helen takes off, leaving her brother Andrew to fend for himself - well kind of, she still makes sure other women around the area help out - to give a go at selling books. What I also liked is that Helen McGill is such an unlikely heroine, described as a 'home-keeping soul'. An adventure she certainly has, I'm not going to give too much away as I really want to say, do yourself a favour and read it for yourself.

Parnassus on wheels is a charming book, and the tone reminded me of Dodie Smith's I capture the castle and a little of L M Montgomery's Anne of Green gables series. Read it as an ode to the bookshops of yesteryear, a dying breed. There's a powerful message in this book, that words and reading are important. Wonderful.

"The world is full of great writers about literature," he said, "but they're all selfish and aristocratic. Addison, Lamb, Hazlitt, Emerson, Lowell-take anyone you choose-they all conceive the love of books as a rare and perfect mystery for the few-a thing of the secluded study where they can sit alone at night with a candle, and a cigar, and a glass of port on the table and a spaniel on the hearth-rug. What I say is, who has ever gone out into the high roads and hedges to bring literature to the plain man? To bring it home to his business and bosom, as somebody says? The farther into the country you go, the fewer and worse books you find. I've spent several years joggling around with this citadel of crime, and by the bones of Ben Ezra I don't think I ever found a really good book (except the Bible) at a farmhouse yet, unless I put it there myself. The mandarins of culture-what do they do to teach the common folk to read? It's no good writing down lists of books for farmers and compiling five-foot shelves; you've got to go out and visit the people yourself-take the books to them, talk to the teachers and bully the editors of country newspapers and farm magazines and tell the children stories-and then little by little you begin to get good books circulating in the veins of the nation"

Friday, October 07, 2011

House update

You know that episode of Fawlty Towers, where Basil gets in the Irish builder who consequently removes the door into the dining room? Last week we had our own Irish concreters, not builders, come through to give us a quote. One was young - well about our age - and the other older. The Younger was besotted by our Jack Russell and had him describing his dog, just like ours, back home in Ireland. The older told us that his wife had just left him and thus needed a hug from me to compensate!

Before I go any further with the concreting quote, let me just update you on what's happening (or not happening) with our renovation/extension. My husband has succeeded in getting himself appointed with a Builder/Owner status. This is good, because we got some quotes from builders that just had us saying, thanks but no thanks. Our next option that we looked at is us managing the build ourselves. Or my husband doing it. I have faith in him that he will do a fantastic job. In fact, I think that if we go in this direction, by the end of it, he will look up - and all around him - and say, I built this.

So for the last few months, we've had all sorts of tradies come through our door. Structural engineers, electricians, carpenters, and now the concreters. Our quotes are slowly coming in, and yes it's going to be an expensive adventure, but we think we should manage it.

So back to the concreters. After obliging The Older with a quick hug, they proceeded outside where my husband showed them the site and access etc. Traipsing back inside, I once again had to give The Older a hug, and as they left, the Older told my husband that he'd have a 'ball-park figure' for him the next day. Once the front door closed we looked at each other and burst out laughing, and my husband did a very good impression from the Fawlty Towers episode.

Anyway, this leads me to the last update, that I've decided to take next year off from studying. The main reason is timing and secondary money. Currently the two children do two days of daycare whilst I go to classes. The daycare fees are killing us. If we didn't have to pay for an extension there wouldn't be a problem.

If I continued next year, it would mean that I would graduate with a view of working as a teacher in 2013. My son starts prep that same year, and I think it would be better to be more flexible as we go through transition into school. As he is on the spectrum, this could prove to be very important, and if I commit to a new job, then I don't think I'll have that flexibility. However, by taking 2012 off from studying, I can take my youngest out of daycare, and then in 2013, resume that final year that will then allow me to be around more in case I'm needed. It also means that my youngest can then take over my son's daycare hours and it won't make too much difference to the hip pocket.

So, like all parents, it's a big juggling act, but I think that this will be the best way to go.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dear Christine,

the girl with the pretty smiling face. I wish that you were here so I could shake you, only to somehow make you see what everyone else around you sees. And then I wish that I could give you a hug. Of reassurance. That perhaps you needed? Recently it was RUOK week, and maybe someone didn't ask you this?

I wish that you were able to hear what your friends have to say about you? The one's that you have left behind. Would you have decided to go if you knew what it is we all see about you, that you yourself couldn't? I don't think we'll ever know the answers.

But know this. I always thought of you as an accomplished woman. You seemed to have it together at such a young age when the rest of us were still in party mode. I know you've had your heart broken, but you still walked about with a smile on your face. I know you did appreciate life, or at least you seemed to. I know you liked to sing. I know that you were valued.

Today I know these things, and today I remember them. I wish I could have done more.

Your friend.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Conservative catholic or modern secular?

There is an article in my newspaper, Do we really want a leader trapped in a bygone era? (01/10/2011) that is an edited extract from new book Tony Abbott: a man's man by Susan Mitchell.

It is important to remind ourselves that Tony Abbott is a 53-year-old former trainee Catholic priest, a former right-wing student activist, a former Liberal Party staffer, and an MP parachuted by John Howard into a safe Liberal seat. From an early age, he was mentored and trained by older men to become the man he is today - a product of a bygone era. Most of his ideas have been formed by men in all-male institutions or mostly male environments.

Can we believe in his political separation between church and state when Abbott boasted that eight Catholics in the Howard cabinet had overturned the Northern Territory's euthanasia law, buried gay marriage, stopped the ACT heroin safe injecting-rooms trial, and tried to reduce abortion numbers through pregnancy-support counselling that was openly anti-abortion?

When asked about the problem of businesses paying women an average 16 per cent less than they pay men in the same job, Abbott admitted that he was unaware that there was still a problem. When asked how he would get more women into politics, he said he did not have a solution.

Even though he is married with three daughters, he freely admits he has been mostly absent from the housework and child-rearing. Is it any wonder that he has no understanding of what Australian women, more than 50 per cent of the population, expect or need from a potential prime minister of their country?

The social and historic changes of the 1960s and 1970s have become firmly fixed in the social fabric of the nation - particularly those changes that affect the lives of women. What Abbott never understood, and still fails to understand today, is that a belief in a woman's right to make choices about her own body, and the belief that everyone has the right to equality despite their gender and sexuality, are not merely ''fashionable'' causes.

These rights are enshrined in legislation, and have been since the 1970s. They will not change, like the length of women's skirts do. To dismiss them alienates him from the women, and many men, who fought so hard in the past and are still fighting to achieve equality and fairness in and out of the workplace.

Women no longer accept that they are not entitled to the same opportunities as men, just as gays are refusing to be treated as second-class citizens, the elderly are agitating for the right to voluntary euthanasia, the young are demanding the development of stem-cell research, and eminent scientists throughout the world are certain that governments have to accept the reality of climate change and take immediate action to reduce carbon pollution or face the tragic consequences.

Abbott, a man of drive, cunning, ambition, and incorrigible determination, is now in a position where he could be leading our country come an election. But what if all his values and beliefs are more suited to the leadership of a conservative, Catholic institution than a modern, secular democracy? What if his attitudes to women are outdated and out of step with what they believe to be true about themselves and their own lives? What if the Australian people want a leader who embraces the future and is not trapped in the past?
The Saturday Age, 01/10/2011

I have long been concerned that Tony Abbott may one day become our Prime Minister. However, even though I personally agree with Susan Mitchell over the statements in this extract, what struck a chord with me was the question regarding a conservative Catholic religion and a modern secular democracy.

Recently I blogged about looking for a primary school for my son. I want to send my children to a local primary school, and we have the choice of either a Catholic or two government primary schools. Ultimately we have decided to enrol him (and later my daughter), in our local government primary school. However, I didn't find this was an easy choice, in fact it almost felt like going against the grain. Allow me to explain.

I have been raised a Catholic. Thirteen years of catholic (all girls) education, a grandmother who is very pious and took it upon herself to teach me the catechism and my husband also had a similar education to mine (although his was all boys) and was an altar boy in his teenage years. Both of us have turned away from the Catholic church, even though, eleven years ago, we were married in one. In fact it's the same church that I received the sacraments (communion and confirmation) and that my husband had served as an altar boy. I don't regret that at all, I have very fond memories of this beautiful bluestone church and it can even be described as a part of me. My son and daughter have been christened at this same church.

This is why, when choosing a school I found it hard to choose something other than catholic. This is why, when reading today Mitchell's words about today's society being modern secular I think my husband and I represent this new society. I had to ask myself, what sort of education do I want my children to have? I certainly don't want it to be dogmatic, one that includes missals and bibles. I want them to question what is around them. I want them to experience things and later on add value to society. I'm not saying that if you're Catholic you can't do all these things, but for me, the church just seems removed. I'm not getting anything out of it. To go to church would be a chore.

But I don't think I'm any less spiritual because of it.

Weighing up both schools, the government primary just seemed to offer more. During our meeting with the school principal, she said that the children at the school seem to be very socially aware, fair-minded, and I liked this. The school seemed to represent a modern secular society, and maybe this is why we chose it, because it meant finally taking that deep breath and actually admitting that this is what our family is. I was brought up as a conservative catholic, but as an adult, I am anything but.
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