I walk the streets of Japan ’till I get lost…

…because it doesn’t remind me of anything.

Anyone uncool enough to be familiar with Audioslave would know these lyrics and could have joined me in consistently singing them whilst getting lost in the streets of Japan. Needless to say, my travel companions didn’t appreciate my penchant to sing karaoke outside of karaoke bars nearly as much as I did. My poor singing aside, Japan is best described as a sensory overload within which, nothing actually makes sense. Rule number one in Japan is not to question anything; lest you go mad searching for logic. Basically, Japan is to crazy what Russia is to gas; sitting on enough reserves to supply the world for decades. “What the actual f**k?” becomes a daily question to which “…because Japan” is the most accurate answer. And it is precisely this inherent madness that enchanted me so much; that out of everywhere I have ever been, I yearn to go back to Japan the most. In no particular order (and certainly not a complete list) here are a few of Japan’s ‘quirks’, experiences and lessons I’ve learnt:

1. Efficiency is just not always a priority: On the surface, Japan is seen as a technological wonderland of science and innovation. To an extent this is true, with whole suburbs being dedicated to electronics and wireless internet literally being dispensed from vending machines. However, doing mundane tasks like checking into a hostel or sending a postcard require a minimum of 10 pages of paperwork and an abacus. I wish I was kidding. One chain hostel my friend and I stayed at calculated the amount we owed using 12 steps by hand, on paper. Hiring portable wifi for 5 days required the same set of forms to be filled out everyday whilst exchanging pre-paid Disneyland passes for tickets was a 15 minute process. Whilst some aspects of Japan run at extreme efficiency, like the amazing train networks (but only before midnight), other services seem to pose an extreme resentment for automation.

2. Toilets resemble the bridge of the Starship Enterprise:  Going to the bathroom is an new adventure every time, so much so, that when you encounter a normal western toilet, you don’t know how to react. All Japanese toilets are equipped with a bidet, which is a flowery term for a burst of water that gets fired at your tenderness. More complicated toilets involve multiple settings you can adjust depending on your tenderness’..ahem, sensitivity. What’s more, toilets are equipped with seat warmers, deodorisation, a catalog of relaxation music and multiple flush noises (yes, you read that correctly and no, I’m not kidding).

3. Shinjuku station is the scariest place I’ve ever been:  Anyone who can master Shinjuku station should be given God status. It is the world’s busiest station in the heart of Tokyo and has 36 platforms, over 200 exits and on average 4 million people pass through it everyday. Hours were spent everyday just trying to get out of the station, and then inadvertently walking the entire way round it as we took the wrong exit. Speaking of stations, in Tokyo, when walking through them one must always walk on the left, except on escalators where you stand on the left and walk on the right. Naturally, in Osaka the opposite rules apply. As for everywhere else, you must always read the signs as you sometimes have to stick to the left and sometimes to the right. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative, after all. Japan1

4. ALL of the convince stores and vending machines:  Between 7-11, Family Mart and Lawsons (my personal favourite) it feels like Japan has as many convenience stores as people. And they sell everything from fresh sushi to cosmetics to see-through umbrellas (for when you accidentally get caught in a typhoon). Everything is packaged 5 times over, to the point that I feel safe in assuming that Japan has declared a shadow war on both plastic and trees. But then outside each connivence store (and most other places) is a complex recycling system where each material has it’s own bin. Fittingly, Japan uses the most plastic packaging material per capita in the world whilst also boasting one of the highest recycling rates in the world. As for vending machines, they’re located on every corner and sell anything from beer to camera batteries.

5. Drink outside, smoke inside: With booze so readily available from both convenience stores and vending machines, drinking in public is commonplace. It’s even legal to do so on public transport (but speaking on the phone is frowned upon). Smoking however, is prohibited on the sidewalk except for around public ashtrays. The smaller a bar or restaurant, the higher the chance you’ll be allowed to smoke there. Then there are the pachinko parlours, which are an array of outrageously loud slot machines seen through extreme smoke. And it wouldn’t feel right to write a post about Japan without mentioning Golden Gai or ‘Piss Alley’ as it’s more colloquially known. It is a collection of nearly 200 tiny bars over 6 alleyways in Shinjuku, Tokyo. A nightlife unlike I’ve ever experienced. And the plum wine. Oh, the plum wine!

6. Unparalleled history and people: Whilst experiencing the ‘cities within cities’ of Tokyo and Osaka was a delight for the senses, the more laid back and traditional Kyoto and Hiroshima were just as mesmerising (topics for another post I feel). Becoming a Geisha (and then subsequently stalking a few real Geisha) in Kyoto and experiencing the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum were two of my favourite experiences whilst in Japan and made me realise just how much diverse history such a relatively small country has. As for the people we encountered, I don’t have words to describe their kindness and humility. Each time we stopped someone and asked for directions (which was often) we were met with graciousness to such an extent I haven’t experienced anywhere else in the world.

Geisha Classiness.

Geisha Classiness.

Japan itself is incredibly diverse and it’s culture is so different from ‘the West’ that I feel I could go on writing about little experiences forever, but I’ll spare my readership of 4 such turmoil and end on a fun point…

7. Maid cafes are a thing: So are cat cafes. And owl cafes. And robot cafes.                                                                                                         …because Japan. There are so many more quirks, encounters, and interesting facets I have to share about Japan. Some places seem to occupy a special part of you and Japan (and Tokyo in particular) has definitely been one of those places for me. I simply can’t wait to go back and explore every nook and cranny. And then go back again every time the seasons change.


Maleficent Leading Ladies

Whilst the Brothers’ Grimm are undoubtedly among history’s greatest storytellers, their stories proffer traditional gender roles. Sleeping Beauty is one such story that promotes a pretty archaic view of women by today’s standards. Maleficent, the remake of Sleeping Beauty is thus a strange place to seek a feminist manifesto, but that is exactly what I found whilst watching it. The movie is far from good, but it does take the original story and inject some much needed feminist-revisionst flavour. My male movie buddy, whilst agreeing that the movie was terrible, failed to understand why I was so excited to see the fairytale flipped and a strong, multifaceted female character as the lead in a movie. This led to a ‘heated debate’, some dangerous ideas and me pondering the archetypal woman in the wee hours of the morning.

Sleeping BeautyMy aforementioned movie buddy kept insisting that many movies have strong female leads (citing Frozen, Salt and numerous rom-coms as his evidence) and generally arguing that people prefer to watch men in save-the-world-superman-type roles as males are physically the stronger sex and it’s therefore more realistic (particularly for comic-book heroes). I huffed and puffed and…went home to do some research.

Did you know there’s a thing called the Bechdel test? I didn’t. It basically tests to see if a movie has two named female characters who talk to each other at some point about anything other than a man. I initially thought this is setting the bar ridiculously low, however to my surprise (and disappointment) the majority of top-grossing films do not pass. Yes, you read that correctly, the majority do not pass. The entire Star Wars series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (including the Hobbit), and all but one film in the Harry Potter series fail. In The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia is the only named women in the galaxy and is the love interest of both male protagonists, Han and Luke. For all of Leia’s strengths and progressive leadership dialogue, she spends an awful lot of time getting saved or kissed. Make of that what you will.

More recently, despite being nominated for best picture this year both The Wolf of Wall Street and Her fail and the only reason American Hustle passed is due to a 10 second conversation between Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Röhms characters about nail polish. You might be surprised that other hit movies such as Avatar, The AvengersThe Social Network, The Lone Ranger and Run Lola Run (despite Lola being considered one of the more well rounded female characters ever put to film) also fail. Yet, when you reverse the criteria and perform the Bechdel test on male characters, it is almost impossible to find a movie that doesn’t pass.

Possibly even more worrying however, is that in movies where females have a role (leading or not), they play to an archetype being either the innocent virgin maiden, the temptress or the evil witch. Most often, it is a male hero who drives the storyline while his female opposite has already been branded as a sinner or saint, Madonna or whore – according to her moral sins or virtues. The hero however is free to be complex and flawed whilst he navigates these archetypal women.


Briefly going back to comic book movies, which my movie buddy was staunch in defending, it is interesting to note that whilst the likes of Batman, Spiderman and Superman have been rebooted numerous times, Wonderwoman and Catwoman have not. Again, the majority of these stories utilise the saving of the ‘damsel in distress’ to show the heroes worth. In many cases, a single man saves the known universe whilst all that is good and pure is symbolically embodied by the rescue of the single virgin/Princess Leia character who cannot fend for herself. Basically, a woman who is anything other than a love interest, who needs rescuing (or a sexual conquest in the case of Bond) is considered progressive, much like the ‘feline fatale’ Catwoman was when she first appeared in 1940 (she only had to wait 64 years to get her own movie). It’s interesting to note that Bob Kane, the creator of Catwoman said this:

I felt that women were feline creatures and men were more like dogs. While dogs are faithful and friendly, cats are cool, detached and unreliable…cats are hard to understand as women are…You always need to keep a women at arms length. We don’t want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that.

I’m not calling for existing super heroes to change genders, but is it so impossible to imagine they become involved in differing and more creative story lines? Why not have Mary Jane help Spiderman save the world rather than be the one in need of saving, or invent a new female superhero to join the Avengers? Is it really such a radical idea?

According to an analysis of 2013’s fifty most successful blockbusters, films with a better balance of women made more money overall, so there is a strong audience for such changes in film to occur.
Whilst I’d agree with my movie buddy that women’s roles in film have gradually changed, what is important here is not the exception to the rule, but the dominant rule itself. Old ideas are given weight through repetition, until over time they come to form popular notions about the essential human struggle. Yes, Maleficent was more well-intentioned than accomplished but it was at least original and went against tradition; a rare feat it should be applauded for.

You can bank on me to be annoyed at banks

This is a story about a girl and a bank.

Let’s call the girl Tijana as that is her real name.
Let’s call the bank MAB for fear of getting a fee for using the banks real name.

One sunny day, Tijana went out for an afternoon stroll. The heat of the sun was comforting on her shoulders and the faint song of the native birds created a gentle symphony as she walked. All was well with the world.

When Tijana made it back to her home she noticed the postman had come by. After opening her mail, Tijana found out that she’d been charged a $35 missed payment fee on her credit card. This was bizarre to Tijana as she had paid off $200 a couple of weeks ago and the total amount left owing on her card was less than $35.

Being a naturally curious person, Tijana called up the bank and inquired into her missed payment fee.

“Well Miss” said the pleasant voice on the other end of the telephone, “You failed to make a payment after you received your statement.”

“But,” Tijana optimistically pointed out, “I paid $200 just before I received the statement and thus there were only a few dollars remaining on the card.”

“Yes Miss,” the pleasant voice said, “but after you receive a statement you must make a minimum payment of $10.”

Tijana felt a little confused by this notion. She felt she was not making herself clear so sought to explain her position further.

“Yes, but I made a maximum payment of $200, which is 20 times more than $10.”

“Yes, but that wasn’t a payment. You were decreasing debt.”

“Isn’t that what a payment is?” Asked Tijana out of genuine curiosity.

“No Miss, a payment is what you do after you get a statement.”

“So anything I pay before a statement is in fact, not a payment?”

“Yes, that is correct Miss.”

And with that Tijana learnt the valuable lesson that there are only 15 days out of every 45 where a payment is actually called a payment. And the bank will charge you an exuberant fee (one that in Tijana’s case is double her current debt) should you not make your payment during the ‘correct’ 15 days.

Sadly, with the threat of global warming upon us, the Amazonian basin cannot afford enough paper for Tijana to explain just how ridiculous this is.

Nonetheless, Tijana has long accepted that the world is stupid so she just tries her best to accommodate it. Thus Tijana tried to set up a periodic payment which would deduct the minimum $10 from her normal account and pay it to her credit card preventing future punishments for high treason such as this.

However MAB does not have the facility to deduct payments every 45 days which is what Tijana needed it to do.
To be fair this is probably good news as the bank would charge every automatic payment made a $2 fee. And should there be insufficient funds when the bank tried to transfer money they would charge a fee of $50. Presumably, this would also incur the $2 transaction fee and also result in the $35 missed payment fee.

I don’t pretend any of this is funny or of any interest to anybody, but I feel the need to get Tijana’s story off my chest.

And to make the story less one-sided; in defense of the banks they are wonderful institutions that bolster the economy by awarding their CEO’s million dollar salaries and thus create a demand for luxury cars and holidays.

At least it’s a sunny day.

The end.

Wine, will you be my valentine?

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
wine costs less
than dinner for two.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a day that proves florists are in cahoots with God and where people in functioning successful relationships flaunt their wellbeing before the rest of the world and generally mock the lonely and broken-hearted.
Generally, being alone is a little like having a bruise on your chest — it doesn’t hurt all the time, only when pressure is applied. Valentine’s Day feels like taking a sledgehammer to that bruise thus single people use Valentines Day to become manic-depressive and buy cats.

If history is anything to go by, irrespective of my relationship status I am more likely to spend the day shouting profanities than paying compliments and am more likely to give someone the finger than a kiss.
This year, however, I am changing all that.
After careful consideration, I’ve come to the realiziation that blindly throwing blanket hatred over the whole day is pessimistic and unhealthy and thus this year I am going to embrace St. Valentine and his chocolate shaped heart.

My newfound appreciation for all that is lovey and dovey has led me to investigate the origins of this most holy day. In summary, my research has found that Valentine’s Day was created in the 1700’s by St. Cupid, the patron saint of babies with wings and complaining about commercialisation; and along with Mothers Day and Fathers day, it is one of the most important festivals of the religious calendar.

Having a sound knowledge of the days history and significance leads me to my next obstacle: actually finding a Valentine. Gossip magazines inform me that Mr. Gosling already has plans, my puppy prefers to immediately eat the flowers I give him rather than be a participant in a dramatised ceremony of presenting them to me and my best other Valentine prospect is inconveniently on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

But fret not, for I have come up with the perfect solution. You see, I have this friend who has loved me for years but whom I only pay attention to when the circumstances are right. They’ve been there through my laughs, my frowns, my ups and downs. I think we all know who this person is:


Valentines CardSure, it may not have been love at first swig, but over the years we’ve built up a very loving and reliable relationship. I don’t discriminate against it; I don’t judge based on color or the size of its… bottle. And in return, wine doesn’t discriminate against me. It’s taken me for better or worse (progressively worse as a night wares on) richer or for poorer (mostly poorer), in sickness and in health, and I know it will stay with me as long as we both shall live. And that’s why wine is my Valentine, but I’ll make sure to treat it properly every day of the year, not just when it suits me.

What I’m trying to say is that people need to take a page out of my metaphorical book (written by Hemingway? He was a drunk, right?) and rise above their defensive instinct to just hate the day or believe they’re above acknowledging it. A day can’t authenticate or validate a romantic relationship so it can’t shed shame on singledom, either. If you put aside the irrelvant history of how the day came about and the extensive and unnecessary commercialism associated with it, what is the actual harm of just having a day that acknowledges and reminds us of all the different kinds of love we have in our lives? That’s all it is (or should be), a day to simply recognize love in all it’s forms.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone, use Valentines day as a reminder to celebrate your relationship. Then do that everyday for the next 364 days. If you find yourself single, replace the self loathing and sadness you feel in in your heart with warm positive thoughts and appreciation for the love you do have. Start an affair with wine, open a bottle of red and embrace the day. It’s better than spending the day being cynical, mocking others and wasting an otherwise perfectly good Friday. Not to mention it makes for a fun way to pass the time until Mr. Gosling finishes with his plans and runs into the sunset with you.

Ain’t no mountain high enough…

Let me start by giving this story a little context: a few months ago my friend, lets call her ‘G’ and I decided to go overseas to celebrate the end of our academic years. G was in the thesis year of her degree and I was suffering through my Masters, thus we thought we’d go somewhere warm and sunny to relax and rejuvenate. We picked Tahiti, bought bikinis and cleared our calendars. Upon arriving at the travel agent to book our flights, we noticed a poster for a sale on trips going to Everest Base Camp and subsequently made fun of the masochistic people who would voluntarily spend their hard earned holiday time trekking to such a place.

In an attempt of self preservation, my mind seems to have blacked out the 2 hours we spent at the travel agent. The next thing I remember, I was handing over my credit card to pay for flights to Nepal and a non-refundable 19 day trek to Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base Camp. To this day, G and I are still perplexed at how quickly it all happened.
Now, as the inter-webs are bursting with blogs recounting the day-by-day experiences of the trek, I thought I’d spare my readership of 4 of all the boring details. Instead I’ll just make a few comments about the things I learnt whilst on the trek/ things I should have known if I’d bothered to do any research before actually going on it.

Let’s talk about OH&S:
I’m terrified, mortified, petrified and stupefied of flying. My completely rational fear stems from both not understanding how planes work and from knowing that human beings are not evolutionarily equipped to fly at great speeds in metal containers. I also possess a considerable disdain for airports and struggle to go near one without first drinking a bottle of valium.
So it’s only natural that on the first day of the trek we flew a teeny-tiny plane from Lukla 'airport'Kathmandu to Lukla ‘airport’. I use inverted commas because the Nepalese people seem to be set on calling Lukla a real airport whilst I think a more accurate description would be ‘runway to death’.
Quite literally, Lukla ‘airport’ is comprised of one runway which is inconviently situated at a 30 degree angle on a cliff. Should the plane not stop in time, you fall off the cliff and join the wreckages of the multitude of other planes whose breaks weren’t up to scratch. Lukla is actually the most dangerous ‘airport’ in the world; a fun fact to learn whilst on the plane flying to it.
To make matters worse, getting to Lukla involves flying through small corridors in-between mountains all whilst watching the pilot take their hands off the steering wheel to wipe the windshield with toilet paper every 5 minutes.
I have no doubt though, that if you don’t spend the hour flight screaming and fearing for your life, it would be quite a scenic trip.

Sherpas and Porters are actually super-heros in disguise:
In Lukla we met our Sherpas and Porters who would stay with us for the duration of the trek. The Sherpas job was to guide the group and generally keep us alive whilst the Porters job was to carry our kit bags. On average the Porters carried 30kg each on their backs (two kit bags, first aid kits and their own packs). They always walked ahead of the group and managed to complete each days trek in half the time we did and with a smile on their face. Their sheer athletic ability commands the upmost respect and puts the rest of us to shame.

2It’s easy to forget that the only means of transport above Lukla is walking, thus everything from food to bricks needs to be carried up the mountain on foot. Seeing men and women carry up to 60kg of building materials on their backs up the mountain for a livelihood is a humbling experience that puts a leisurely walk with just a daypack into perspective.


Frozen hair

Brrrr, it’s cold in here:
Due to both poor planning and sheer stupidity, we undertook our trek in December which is one the coldest months of the year. Everything above the tree line was frozen over which made for some stunning scenery, albeit slippery walks. The nights got to -26 degrees celsius which really put sleeping bags to the test. Rather than having competitions on who could walk the fastest, the group got competitive over who could wear the most layers of clothing or feel their toes for the longest.

The scenery is unbeatable: 
The terrain changed everyday and the topography was just incredible. Waking up to snow capped mountains and waterfalls everyday is an experience I’ll never forget. For me, the most beautiful part of the trek was the Gokyo region, which is comprised of the three highest (and bluest) lakes in the world each with snowcapped mountains in the back ground. Walking up to Gokyo peak we were face to face with four 8000-metre giants: Everest, Cho Oyo, Lhotse and Makalu along with the Ngozumpa Glacier and the third lake. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world and consequently no photo can do it justice.


Who needs doctors when you can self-medicate: 
In any other situation most members of our trekking group would be put in psychiatric wards for the amount of pill popping that went on. Most days included concoctions of at least 5 different medications to counteract aches, pains and the dreadful altitude.

Dr. G was very impressed with herself. I was not.

Dr. G was very impressed with herself. I was not.

G, who is  studying medicine became the resident doctor and spent her days diagnosing and prescribing for everyones ailments. After a nasty slip on ice which caused my hand to develop elephantiasis, she even became a medical MacGyver shovelling ice into a bag to make an ice pack, creating a splint out of cardboard and fastening so many bandages to my arm and body that I felt half mummified.

You actually can get drunk in the cold: 
On the way down, the carb-loading stops and the drinking begins. Namche is home to the highest Irish Pub in the world at 3445m; frankly it’s sacrilege not to go in and have a drink (or 12) there. We also experimentally proved that you can indeed get drunk in the cold and that we’re considerably better at walking on ice after a few everest beers.

Wouldn’t have had it any other way: 
Despite the physical and (more so) emotional challenge of the trip, I loved every minute of it. Overall, the trek was physically easier than I anticipated it would be, but emotionally it was more challenging. Going into it not knowing exactly what to expect enhanced the experience and ‘curveballs’ such as the weather and broken scaphoids only rendered it more memorable.
Whilst the paths are becoming busy and increasingly more tourist friendly they still have an authentic feel. There is nothing like the Himalayas to make you feel utterly insignificant (in the best way possible) and getting home after 19 days of trekking to feel an unbeatable sense of pride and achievement.



I still have many more tales and memories from the trek, be they the incredible food, pushy yaks, wonderful people, scary suspension bridges, questionable hygiene practices, helicopter rides and fun times. The trip has left me with many incredible memories and is something I would recommend people to do in a heartbeat.

In hindsight, Nepal was just as relaxing, rejuvenating and (probably) more incredible than Tahiti would have been, just with more yaks.

2013 Election Night Drinking Game

Today we participated in democracy and rewarded mediocrity. So tonight, lets sit back and prepare to learn the results the only way Australians know how; with copious amounts of booze. The rules are pretty simple:

Take a fair dinkum suck of your sauce bottle every time:
-K Rudd is seen taking a ‘selfie’
-Tony Abbotts daughters are on screen. One drink per daughter
-Indi, Eden-Monaro or Griffith are mentioned
-Kevin Rudd says ‘folks’, ‘mate’ or mentions that he’s from Queensland
-The phrase “democracy in action” is used
-Christopher Pine is on screen
-An anchor stalls awkwardly for time
-Western Sydney is referred to as a “key battle ground”
-A seat is considered “too close to call”
-Julie Bishop stares at something
-The carbon tax is mentioned
-A three world slogan is used
-Clive Palmer tells us he’s Australian, twerks or mentions dinosaurs
-Someone at your election party threatens to move to New Zealand
-Malcolm Turnbull looks like he still can’t believe Tony Abbott is his leader
-A poll is mentioned
-Bob Katter tries to say something smart
-K Rudd gives a speech that goes 20 minutes too long
-An animated representation of the house of reps gives us no new information at all
-Annabel Crabb makes a cooking related pun
-Nobody from the Liberal party remembers their six point plan

And lastly:

-Do a shot when a former Prime Minister weighs into the debate and offers absolutely no relevant insight.

-Do two shots when a Palmer United Party member wins a seat.

-Do three shots when the final announcement is made. Hopefully by then you’ll be too drunk to care that we either have a Prime Minister who refers to the conflict in Syria as “baddies v baddies” or one whose own party consider him to be the ultimate ‘baddie’.

On being fully sick:

Whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you mildly suicidal.
That is the lesson I learnt this week after being sent to rendezvous with my deathbed by the all-debilitating flu. For the first time in a long time, the sick day I took was actually due to sickness. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but I assure you it’s very serious stuff.
Every time I get sick I take it as a personal insult from the Gods. Basically, me catching a cold is a little less devastating than Hiroshima, but certainly worse than 9/11.
In contrast – and I need to make this very clear – when someone else gets sick I honestly and truly don’t care.
I’m not alone in thinking this way. My mum also thinks that me getting sick is the worst thing that could possibly ever happen to humanity-at-large.

Falling ill was fun when you were little. You got to stay home from school, eat mashed bananas and watch how Blue found his clues. But now falling ill involves melodramatic groaning, grave thoughts about morality, and summoning the last of your energy to write an ill thought out will and testament (in my fever haze I left all my prized possessions to my puppy).

heads-sick-get-well-ecard-someecardsEssentially, I have learnt a lot about myself in the past week; namely that at the ripe old age of 22 I have become an illogical-attention-craving-hypchondriac-crybaby and that my conspiracy theory against flu shots should obtain ‘law’ status.
I cradled my mothers lap, forced to her make me chicken soup, continuously emitted faint groans, nearly overdosed on paracetamol and sobbed whilst telling anyone that would listen how I’m too young to die.
Then the thermometer beeped and I realised just how high my fever was.

That’s when I really proceeded to put on a show – kind of like a crucifixion, but with songs.

If I was going to whinge or groan, I wanted everyone in the room to be able to hear it. I utilised 18 adjectives to describe my excess phlegm and carried on until I was brought soup and treated like a fragile diamond. The more people that knew my suffering, the better I thought my chances of survival were. Evidently, when I’m sick, I like to drag people down to my level. A sentiment that is clearly shared by the succubus who gave me the flu in the first place.

But alas, 5 days later and I’m all better now. It is with that knowledge that I’m quietly reassuring myself and quite loudly telling everyone else how sick I was. Thomas Fuller famously said that ‘health is not valued until sickness comes’ and I feel like he was onto something.
In the end, I think the Gods chose me to bear the burden of the flu and tell everyone about my experiences for the same reason they created paracetamol: because they’re in cahoots with the big pharmaceutical companies.


A Smorgasbord of Sexism

It’s been the week that’s just kept on giving in Australia. Politicians, sporting stars, commentators and shock jocks all entered a competition to see who could best serve up a plate of misogyny with a side of offensive asinine comments. The winner of the competition is still being disputed, but the losers have unanimously been identified as both women and political discourse in this country.

Stop SexismFor those of you who missed out on all the fun, let me recap.

The masterclass started rather predictably with Holger Osieck, the Socceroos coach claiming that “women should shut up in public“. Thankfully Osieck cleared the matter up by saying he’s not actually sexist as he been “married to for a number years” and is “pretty happy” about it. His inspired words came from an old latin saying that Osieck often says to his wife, so really it’s okay.
When I however took initiative and put the expression ‘mulieres taceres in ecclesia’ into google translate, I found it actually meant “soccer coaches should stick to talking about soccer”. Something clearly got lost in translation here.

Moving right along and not to outdone with mere words, Mal Brough, a prominent former Liberal party member physically wrote up a menu describing how seriously the Coalition takes the issue of sexualization of women – which is to say not seriously at all. The now infamous menugate incident involved a menu at a Liberal National Party fund-raiser which offered up the Prime Minister in the form of  Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs, and a Big Red Box. Appetising don’t you think?
It has since come out that the menu was in fact the brainchild of Joe Richards, the restaurant owner and had absolutely nothing to do with Brough. If this is in fact true, Brough’s apology for the menu came before he was even supposed to know it existed. It’s fascinating that even with his magical powers of premonition; he couldn’t see that the menu was a bad idea.

Just as we all thought that Brough and menugate were sure to win gold in the weeks idiocy contest,  Howard Sattler came along and demonstrated that we were all just wildly optimistic. Sattler, a professional announcer asked the Prime Minister on air if her partner Tim Matherson was gay. Sattler then went on to justify his question by stating that Matherson was a hairdresser and “it wasn’t him saying it” therefore the question was valid. The conversation when further when Piers Akerman went on the ABC’s Insiders program and supported Sattler by again bringing up the rumours of Matherson’s sexuality.
Guys, just a heads up, the problem isn’t the question or where it came from, the problem is how you both thought it was appropriate to ask it. Now that we’ve cleared that up please take the time to step out of your retro-sexist time machine and join us back here in 2013.

Next cab off the rank this week were various sporting personailities putting in time in building their reputations as disrespectful chauvinistic pigs. Firstly we had Blake Ferguson, the NSW State of Origin player who was charged with assaulting a women in a nightclub. Then the Stephan Milne story broke whereby the St Kilda star was charged with 4 counts for rape for an incident 9 years ago. There has been much talk during the week as to whether he’ll play for the rest of the season. On The Footy Show, Nick Dal Santo, Milne’s teammate, stated that the most important factor in the decision was Milne’s welfare. Then Sam Newman weighed into the issue by labelling rape as a ‘misdemeanour’. Why the Channel 9 legal department ever let Newman open his mouth is beyond me but the comments made are endemic of the patriarchal boys club the footy world is run by.
Naturally, Milne has a right to the presumption of innocence however in the multiple articles and news reports I’ve read about the matter, not one has mentioned the victim in the situation or her potential feelings (or that of other rape victims/women) towards Milne returning to the field. If he is allowed to play before the charges are dealt with, what message does that send about the seriousness of rape? We’re quick to forget that this isn’t just about Milne’s welfare, it’s also about the welfare of the young woman involved and those like her.
The latest development in the story is that Milne is expected to be allowed to play in round 15, after Women’s Round in round 14. Because you know, the AFL is sensitive to this issue and if they let him play in Women’s Round that might cause controversy.
And as for Newman’s comments; with the threat of global warming upon us, the Amazonian basin simply cannot afford enough paper for me to explain just how hurtful and idiotic they are.

Add to all this the Australian Defence Force sexism scandal, Nigella Lawson’s strangling photographs, the continuing tragic Jill Meagher story, and Serena William’s blaming of the 16 year old victim in the Steubenville rape case and you have yourself a smorgasbord of sexism and a very sobering week when it comes to women’s issues and our progression towards equality.


At the beginning of this week, Julia Gillard (prior to all these incidences) made a speech about misogyny and women’s rights. For her efforts, people who didn’t even bother listening to the whole speech or understanding the context it was given in went into an uproar about the mention of ‘blue ties’ and then dismissed her ideas as ‘using the gender card’. Cue the outrage and booing.
It’s no wonder sexist incidents continue to happen when that’s how we greet a speech delivered by a Prime Minister.

Everyday, ordinary women experience misogyny and sexism; yet when women raise their voices in protest they get labeled as femi-nazi, man-hating, whinging, shrill witches and bitches.
We need to remember that playing the gender card isn’t a game or a desperate measure.  Proclaiming it as such or mocking people for using it only serves to further justify the ongoing inequality we experience. If we accept the things that have transpired in the past week without discussion or reflection, then this cyclone of retro-sexism will continue to gather force.

Many excuses, apologies and explanations have been given up in the past week and many times I have read or heard people suggesting that they’re only words or single instances not a reflection of society. But how many sandwiches need to be thrown or how many cases like Jill Meagher need to come to light for us to realize that maybe they’re not just single instances and are reflective of how we view and treat women.
They may just be words. But the words hurt. The language used to depict Julia Gillard is one no other Prime Minister has ever had to endure. And the language that’s been used this week to discuss domestic violence and sexual assault seems to flourish in society where women are less valued than men. Australia simply isn’t the utopia of equality people seem to think it is. Just today the World Health Organization released a study showing that one in four women in Australia are victims of intimate partner violence whilst one in six have experienced non-partner sexual violence. On a global scale the number jumps to more than one in three women.

WonderWoman Gender Card

We have to reflect on the past weeks events and realize they form part of a continuing problem both on our shores and in the world. We have to stop pretending it’s not real and all just in women’s heads. We have to develop a basic level of respect towards all women irrespective of the power or position they hold. And we simply have to stop accepting such blatant misogyny and sexism from our politicians, commentators and sportspeople.
In response to the ADF sexism problems, Lieutenant-General David Morrison eloquently stated “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”. Accuse me of using the gender card if you will; but I am not going to be one to ever accept such a low standard. Frankly, you shouldn’t be either.

An open letter to my puppy:

Dearest Tesla,

Tesla3I realize that being a 7-month old Golden Retriever, the chances that you will both read and properly comprehend this letter are slim; but at this point I’ve run out of ideas for communicating with you and am pretty much willing to try anything.
So please consider this an intervention and a place where we can talk openly and share our feelings without screaming or throwing poop like usual.

Basically Tesla, what I’m trying to say is that your recent behaviour has been less than acceptable.
Not that your track record is anything to brag about.

I know it’s not completely your fault, and I have to share some of the blame. I acknowledge that naming you Tesla was a mistake. It placed unrealistic expectations on you. Ones you couldn’t possibly live up to. You have to know though, I never expected you to speak 8 languages or invent a new type of electricity. I just expected that it would take you less than 4 tries to pass the 1st grade of puppy school.


Tesla dear, no matter how much you chase it, your tail will still always be there.

I know you tried though, so there’s no hard feelings about puppy school. Sitting on command can be hard, especially when you get distracted by your own tail every 8 seconds. We can’t all be academically smart, I respect that. You’re more about street smarts.
Rather than being ‘friendly’ or ‘obedient’, your teacher described you as being ‘unique’ and ‘having a quirky temperament’. There’s nothing wrong with that. Individuality is something to be proud of.

What’s more Tesla, it’s obvious you’re a social butterfly and a natural born leader. You used puppy school as a place to socialise and master your escaping skills.
You quickly realised that you were the common denominator, the puppy everyone else compared their puppies to. I think when you realised this, you really upped your game. You no longer just ignored a command, you learnt to do the exact opposite. ‘Sit’ meant ‘run away’. ‘Shake’ meant ‘eat your own poop’. The other ‘parents’ were so proud of their puppies when they saw you. I admit this was a little disheartening and embarrassing for me, but I knew you were just doing the other puppies a favour.


Also, how is this a comfortable sleeping position?

Still, I think we should talk about another one of your ‘quirks’ that became apparent in puppy school; your distaste for sharing. I’m an only-child too, so I understand how hard the concept of ‘sharing’ can be, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.
Tesla, why is it that every time we give you a new toy to play with, you run off, dig a hole the size of a small European country and then bury the toy? I know I initially found this behaviour endearing (and it did wonders to accelerate your digging skills) but now it’s becoming a little annoying. The yard looks like a large family of wild badgers inhabit it and every time we want to play a game with you, like fetch, we have to buy a new ball.

Speaking of fetch, what part of that game don’t you understand exactly? The idea is that I repeatedly throw the ball and you repeatedly run off and and bring it back to me. I know you understand the principle concept as the first time I throw the ball you manage to bring it back. So why is it that the second time I throw it you just sit there with a look that says “You threw it, you go get it?”


You used to be so little and innocent…what happened?

These are all little things though, and I can live with you never learning to fetch and even with your desire to spend your days digging to China in the yard. What I can’t live with is some of the bigger ‘incidents’ you caused.

Need I remind you of the morning poop incident? That time when you did a poop on your puppy pad, then proceeded to roll you body in said poop, and then made it your mission to touch every surface in the house with your poop covered body? Do you really think I had nothing better to do than clean the entire house and bathe you that morning? And did you really think I didn’t have better things to do the second time you did the same thing!?

Now, I think we should also talk about the wooden stairs you systematically ripped up and ate (how is still beyond me!) And the countless pillows, blankets, flowers and brooms that have all gone to heaven due to your teething (all whilst your numerous teething toys remain buried in the yard). That being said, I still think the 8 piece dining set that you single-handedly turned into splinters is to date, your biggest achievement.

But despite all your exploits Tesla, you and your cute puppy dog eyes have a power over me. You suffocate the life out of me, yet I still love you.

Tesla Thus Tesla, I’m sorry I yelled at you when you ate my socks. I didn’t mean the things I said, it’s just that they were my last pair of uneaten socks.
It’s unfair that you’ve learned how to open a draw but not to sit on command.

I’m sorry I threatened to take you back to the store when you woke me up at 3am for the seventh consecutive night because you’re scared of a possum. It’s not like I would ever actually go through with it –  you were very expensive and I can’t get a refund.


Just your typical play session with a watering can.

I’m sorry for actually enquiring if I could get a refund.

I’m sorry for punishing you when you stole and ate the steak I had defrosting on the kitchen counter. It’s just that that was my dinner, not yours.

I’m even more sorry for yelling at you when you vomited that steak up. But I still would have been less upset if you chose to vomit it outside rather than on the carpet.

I’m sorry I put you on a stringent diet when the lady in the park called you fat. It’s not your fault you’re big boned.

And I’m really sorry I googled “puppy + sedative”. Twice.
You’ve got to understand that you’ve grown so much that you can’t jump around and go crazy like you could when you were little. Now when you jump on me, it literally knocks me over and it hurts.


Tesla, I know you’re currently hellbent on destroying as much property as you can, but I really hope you outgrow this stage soon. Or at least stay as cute as you are so I forgive all the death and destruction you cause.


The hand that feeds you.