Friday, October 23, 2009

Boi-Boi's daddy phase

We spent a week on the road, long hours in the car up to the farm, onto Canberra, and back again through the rolling countryside of Yass and back down the Hume. Beloved drove while I pulled faces, poked, tickled, made oddball noises, passed food and toys and generally tried to stave off the worst-case scenario of 2 kidlets screaming with frustration in a splendid duet. I largely succeeded.

In Canberra there were Beloved's old friends to catch up with, there was my mother-in-law's wedding to prepare and attend, and for much of the time I was the one on primary kidlet duties. It wasn't easy but it brought us closer, and seems to have triggered a daddy phase in Mitta, Boi-Boi, Big Rocks or (if you ask Bear) variations on Lalilolilo.

We talked a lot- he said urgh, grunt, dadada, a-Dah, and I explained exactly why, what, how or where. I lolled around on the floor, playing absently. We trashed newspapers together. And while I did and have done all this with Bear as well, it was, for father and son, an unusual amount of bonding time. We bonded.

He is reaching for me as I walk past, leaning out and extending his arms. He watches me moving around the room, smiles when I speak to him. He does for me what he has done so consistently for Beloved. It's all goodness.

One morning about 4am, Beloved had gone to pat Bear and had fallen asleep in her room (as an aside, no, sleep wasn't part of the package on this trip!). Mitts cried, I picked him up. I was too tired to stand and rock so I collapsed back into the bed, my arm wrapped around him and his head on my shoulder. We both drifted off to sleep, pretty much where we'd landed. I listened to his breathing, felt the instinctive relief all parents must feel from the immediate proximity of a safe, content, healthy child.

He is Zen with the world, but he also gives Zen back.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

John Safran's race and pan tee* sn$ffing oddities

Hi, I'm John Safran. I'm latching onto the noble cause of tolerance and general inter-racial fraternisation. We're naturally attracted to other races.

No way, you say, because you're all so conservative compared to me. Well, I'll pass on some astonishing facts.

Did you know lots of white women are attracted to black guys?

... pick yourself up, there's more:

I, John Safran, am attracted to part Asians.

NO WAY, OMG! I know, I know, this completely tips on its head all cliches out there. Oh did I mention, part Asians go for me, look at my photos, here's 3 I've been dating... etc etc. OK, let me steal some panties and sniff the genitalia of women without their consent and we'll see what I can prove...

Is it just me or was this a string of sometimes offensive splats that failed to connect? I'm up for being shocked. Love any topic to do with the juice of attraction, don't mind getting into the way people of differeing races do it, etc. I read Houellebecq, I'm not particularly sensitive on this stuff. But I think interracial p00rn probably makes a more compelling case for love between colours than what was served up on ABC last night.

The sperm donor stuff was a bit foul, and proved nothing. Other than reminding us that so many people still could not give a rat's about the child's right to know anything. To me it was hard to separate conceptually from the 'purpose' behind the rapes carried out by Serbian and Croatian soldiers as part of the ethnic cleansing that went on there. Consent, effectively, was removed, so a different race could be promulgated. Witty stuff.

The p&nty sn1ffing escapades are a set up I'm sure, it would certainly be a criminal offence to do that, probably acts of gross indecency as well as theft, so he's either faked those bits or sought permission. If he didn't it's sexually invasive and abusive.

And why did he bring the Minister from Togo into it? I found that just, well, here's a white guy from a rich country granted an audience most likely because they're poor and desperate for any recognition, and he just wants to bang on about why black guys in Australia get an unfair advantage?

His obsession with part Asian girls does not bear out his theory. It just shows he has an obsession with part Asian girls. As a white male obsession it's about as novel as white women into by black guys. In a general sense, Asian girls look very young by Caucasian standards. Black men look particularly physically strong and imposing. Viewed that way, neither is a particularly novel source of attraction signifiers.

His theory, about genes and opposites, would be better demonstrated by people who go for people of all other racial backgrounds. Which, based on last night, he is not.

My limited knowledge of the whole genes and opposites thing is that there's truth there, but 'race' is just one way to find such 'opposites', and is a means to the priority ends from a genetic point of view which is strengthening immunities and eradicating weaknesses. So a Jewish girl who had complementary immunities to him should be just as attractive to him. And given he lives in a city full of people from all corners of the globe, if it was all about being attracted to the 'other' why did he keep bounding back to one particular obsession?

I don't know, it was all just a bit um really. I have liked a lot of Safran's stuff, but in this case I didn't think the ends connected at all to the means. It just seemed an indulgence of a privileged, powerful man having fun at others' expense and acting like an adolescent boy. Clearly I missed some witty connection between the dots so I'll wait to have it pointed out...

* I don't censor my headings very much, but was getting just a wee tad too many of the wrong type of searches...

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Silly Peace Prize

I have nothing to add to debates out there. I certainly think it is telling that the paranoid right in the US is able to use this against Obama. It isn't his fault.

In his statement where he offered to share the prize with the woman walking silently, taking a bullet, he got to the nub of what is wrong with many of the nominees and winners of this prize. Whether it is those idiots in Israel/Palestine being rewarded for merely acting like human beings for a change, or Obama being rewarded for not being the most hated man in the Western world, the prize often seems to simply fail to get to those who actually do the important work in seeking and maintaining peace.

Sure, the hawks are not going to like most deserving recipients. Being hawks, that is having a propensity to seek and support military solutions to international problems, their notion of 'peace' is unlikely to dovetail with any notion acceptable beyond the borders of their own nation.

But particularly political decisions just give them ammunition, damage the award's credibility and most importantly fail to identify and shine light on the work of those truly putting everything on the line for a better world.

Just. Silly.

Monday, October 05, 2009

School reunion: one of the strangest days of my life

This is the year of cleaning decks, facing demons, giving up on errant parents and generally moving on. A trigger point for this resolution has been the looming, now-actualised, 20 year reunion of my year 12 class from St Ignatius Riverview. The 2 years I spent there conincided with and partly triggered the darkest period of my life, a source of recurring anger as well as drive and determination. Facing them has drawn out bleeding wounds and gnashing demons from my soul, and together with the process of considering my own children's education this prospect has created a quiet but nagging feedback loop in my mind, shutting down the subsequent, largely happy and successful decades and triggered the white noise of awkward uncertainty, vulnerability, revenge fantasies, and more benign hopes of restitution and deliverance.

It didn't shape up as a picnic. The prospect gave painful focus to my pushups and bag work and wound its way into most deep-and-meaningfuls with my wife. I went alone. I flew in and out the same day. I psyched up pretty hard to remain on my best behaviour. And while I slipped about 3 times I otherwise, largely, made it through. There was some deliverance, and it was, on balance, a good thing to have done.

Perhaps tellingly, many of the people I liked the best weren't there. This is a slightly edited version of what I emailed to 4 of them, capturing the moment as a disjointed set of impressions...

It was surreal. I've been completely out of touch with nearly all those guys for 20 years, and of those I would have liked to catch up with most, few were there... despite a big turnout (maybe close to 100?) yourselves notably together with the likes of Bolivia, Bonney, Foreshaw, Mitch, Forrest, Evo and others I looked around for were either unrecognisable to me or absent.

Of course, I have to say I understand. I had to face certain demons otherwise I might have stayed home and cut my toenails or something. As it happens, it wasn't too bad. There were upsides...

'Goodo' was probably an upside.Though I'd psyched myself to stay completely away from him, as he'd built up in my head as a sort of arch nemesis, I saw him on the night looking quite laid back, not really fitting in there, a bit indie, so I changed my mind. He turned out to be one of the nice surprises, apologised profusely for ever being less than decent, and talked of having dropped out of chartered accountancy to pursue meaning in music, films and more recently trying to become a music lawyer. I realised he'd felt more of an outsider at the time than I knew, perhaps explaining some of the behaviours I resented. I walked away liking the guy as he is now and largely dropping my personal indignations towards his youthful self. An apology, even 20 years later, can work wonders if it seems genuine.

Though largely on best behaviour, I slipped here and there. I told my old maths teacher in what was meant to be a compliment that although he was a real prick sometimes, he'd also been one of the best teachers I ever had. He used this as the opener to his speech (!) and finished with a return backhander about "who'd have thought that fella would turn out so well"! Fair enough, I asked for that and indeed it became an ice breaker from then on!

I was also approached by a brick shithouse of a country bloke who'd been expelled in year 10. His one past encounter with me was to walk over once and shove me down an embankment. As he didn't look like he'd changed and I was getting a bit tired of nice small talk, when he asked how we knew each other I told him exactly. That kept us nice and short! I did try to smile.. and wished him a pleasant life!

[I'd meant no antipathy but you dear reader know I'm prone to speaking my mind and I think my superego just faltered for a moment's rest, allowing the id to poke through... I'm sure he's now a nice guy, or something... actually ran into another of the guys who were expelled before I started, and he, also a man mountain, was one of the nicest people I spoke to all day. Ran a martial arts school of all things. I digress...]

Speeches were interesting. One guy gave a slow, melancholy rant that was a bit sad, I didn't pick up much of it. Another did a big spiel about some "lezzos" that was as charming as it sounds. At least I wasn't the only one who didn't laugh.

Someone did an old hardcore warcry which was kinda fun, kinda surreal. I think at that point 2 clear thoughts crystalised for me at the same time:

1) these guys aren't as bad as I remembered, as individuals, most are pretty nice in a laddish sort of way; and

2) the collective judgements about class, privilege, and the limits of an exclusive education that I made at 16 were actually bang on the mark.

Andrew O'Keefe [aside from Tony Abbott, our most famous Old Boy] stepped up and was, of course, hilarious. There was something about his swagger that said 'I'm THE success story here, and you WILL stop shouting "DEAL OR NO FCUKING DEAL" and actually give me some deference!' But he WAS very, very entertaining! He was always so.

I got a lot of "gee you are so much taller", which I am, compared, and I suppose is a good result at a reunion! It may be because I was a scrawny runt who was too young for my year in school, but you've got to take compliments in all their forms.

People were nice, generally. Some definitely had wanker vibes going on but what did surprise me is that a lot of others seemed also to be a bit nervous, awkward. The number still palpably bursting with the pent up pressure of expectation and social place was notable for someone like myself who mixes with a lot of 'lefties, losers and artistic strays'. It made it easier to like them, while at the same time feeling there is little I could stake out in common with the majority.

Apart from the 'honest moments' above, I found myself congratulating a lot of people on their lives, and meaning it. I lost most of my antipathy towards the school experience in a matter of hours.

And at the same time I realised that some of my past judgement wasn't just derived from being depressed and awkward at 16. Those schools, environs, swirling pools of self-perpetuating privilege, all do something funny to people. It doesn't make them evil, but it does explain why 'that end of town' can at times be so heartless, callous, and detached from the rest of the world.

I walked out into the rain in the early evening, in a good mood. Some surprises, some things exactly where I expected. I missed my family and my life in Melbourne, and knew a massive wound had just been cauterised....

When I got home Bear and Mitts were asleep. I kissed their heads, told them how much I love them. I sank back into my little Melba townhouse and decided that this is a good year. The world is not such a bad place.

Clearing the decks at 37, TBC shortly...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Bad news gets harder to stomach

Maybe it's just me, I suspect not though: my ability to watch stories like those coming out of Samoa and Sumatra has deteriorated since having kids. In fact even since genuinely falling in love, something I now know I've only done once.

When you care about someone, or ones, so much that life itself becomes unimaginable without them, stories of death and loss seem different. I realise how relatively indifferent I was, and probably still am, to my own death.

A person comes on the screen now and talks about losing all of their children, or the love of their life, and my gut churns as I dwell, momentarily, on how that might feel. Not that I know how to properly empathise with such unimaginable horror.

There is nothing else to add. I hope the numbers prove too pessimistic, I hope many more of the missing turn out to be sheltering somewhere, protected by something, alive.