Friday, September 24, 2010

Connecting Epiphanie's Highlights of Japan (Map)


I would start in Tokyo, and progress to Nikko, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and finally Nagasaki.

I estimate that I would need 39 days for this trip.

Overwhelmed by Information

I turn on my laptop
Tune into the flow
Of electronic information
So many streams I follow
I know not how to extricate
From this neverending gush
Of bits and phonemes and pixels
Till I know I've had too much

A few weeks ago I unfollowed a whole bunch of people on Twitter, and the information seems much more manageable now. I have more time to read links provided by Richard Florida, and really take them in, just one of the ways in which I feel I can better concentrate.

Of course, I still have more information coming in than I can deal with when I have The Big Three - Gmail, Facebook and Twitter - open, but... to tell the truth, I kind of like it. I'm never bored because there's always something interesting to look at; I'm always on, always inspired, the world is constantly full of endearing connection-making, ablaze with activism or blissfully sedate, pumping its progressive fist or dreamily recounting lessons learnt.

4 new Tweets since I started writing this... nothing clickable, funny or mind-blowing.

I am getting back in the business of blowing my own mind.
I'd like to discuss the barriers I put up whilst hanging out with Rune with him, but I don't know how.
I realise that I have an issue with the way I look. I feel sufficiently out of the mainstream in terms of body mass. I never really acknowledged this before. Sometimes the emotions it arouses in me are difficult to deal with, just because I'm somewhat in denial, still.

I remember being so enchanted by G-Force for MusicMatch Jukebox when it became available... it greatly fueled my creativity and even made it into my screenplay concept (for the credits). It would be cool if a film were shot realistically, but then a layer of a G-Force-like animation was juxtaposed on top of it, which coloured the film in alternate colour combos and used certain shapes (circles and lines) to emanate from or play with/around.

Socially Acceptable Unease

I guess I'm not feeling guilty enough
Let me consume the culture of blame
Sip on the chalet of a vague sense of shame
Affect an eagerness to defer
Self-depreciation is preferred
Even if it distorts my comfort zone
Maybe I should simply play along(?)

*

The Conflicted Feminist

In the course of her short career, Lady Gaga has gone from defensively rejecting the label 'feminist' to warming to it enough to identify with it.

* (I think I'll do a 'mood essay' on Gaga...) *

The Ethics of Smiling / Dispensing with Authenticity, the notion / Cafe culture as sign of innovation (Vienna, Melbourne, Paris... but what about Vietnam... it's not particularly innovative) / Anti-Meta Measures Taken by society (the people vs. postmodernism, who's afraid of postmodernism)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looking through my photos...

The Korean alphabet lacks the charm of the Chinese, due to the lack of flowy lines in Hangul. It's all squares and circles, with little asymmetry.

I had a brief language swap session with a girl from Taipei, and learnt how to say ju(r) - se, or purple colour. I'm sure that will be really handy, lol.

'Vacilando – according to glossary.com, it’s a Spanish term for the act of wandering when the experience of travel is more important than reaching the specific destination. John Steinbeck (in Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962) wrote: ‘In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.’" (source: Lonely Planet article - http://www.lonelyplanet.com/denmark/travel-tips-and-articles/75937?affil=fb-fan)

 

I had forgotten how lucky I was... I vow to stop complaining about Sydney and enjoy every moment as much as possible...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Fountain of Data

Did you know that Seattle is the 8th most innovative city in the Americas according to 2thinknow, an Australian Innovation Agency? Copenhagen is listed as 5th in Europe and 8th in the world, Hong Kong is deemed the most innovative place in Asia and Oceania, ranking 18th in the world, closely followed by Melbourne at 19th in the world... you can find all this and much more at the Innovation Cities Indices, here.

For another perspective on innovation, there is an India-based information source called the Global Innovation Index, in which Iceland emerges as the most innovative country in the world, with the other Scandinavian countries all in the top 10. New Zealand, Canada and US take spots #9, 11 & 12 respectively.

Then there's Newsweek, which offers you their perspective on the best countries in the world... Finland is #1, Australia is #4, USA is #11, and South Korea scores a little bit higher than France (15 and 16 respectively). One of the coolest things about this interactive infographic is that you can compare countries by factors such as 'gender gap' and 'freedom house' (which includes freedom of press). It gives you a big picture look at how countries perform in fields like education, political environment and quality of life.

For much more detailed discourse on the worldwide gender gap, look no further than the Gender Equality Index. Sweden, as we already know, comes up on top, with Rwanda and the Bahamas being surprisingly similar to its result... Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands round out the top 10 with the usual Scandinavian suspects. 

Since we're comparing cities, check out which are the cleanest cities in the world. If you were to relocate solely using this factor, Calgary would be the destination of choice. It's followed by Honolulu and Helsinki.

You want to know about 'the world's most livable cities'? Wikipedia has information on not one but three of these indexes! Check it out here. Cities mentioned by two out of the three surveys (in the top 10) are Vienna, Vancouver, Munich, Sydney, Melbourne, Zurich, Auckland and Helsinki. Vienna was actually mentioned by all 3!

And the final set of statistics I'm going to throw at you is that of the United Nations' Human Development Index, and The World's Happiest Countries.

Hope that gives you as much food for thought as it continues to give me! ;o)

Choices, Choices, Choices...

Apparently buying a property in Austria can also get you a citizenship to that country... hmm.

I'm a rather indecisive sort of person. I can count 52 books that I have openly begun to read in my library (about 2/3 are on travel or travel-related themes). So much choice! I could probably put them into categories... postmodern philosophy, postmodern fiction/poetry, European travel, Asian travel, American travel, Middle Eastern travel (I have two of these, and I'm not even all that interested in Middle Eastern travel!), African travel (ditto on both counts). Amongst these are two books by Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, Tony Griffiths, Jose Saramago, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco, Jeanette Winterson and Friedrich Nietzche each.
Then, I have about 35 DVDs I haven't yet seen to watch... some of the titles include the first four seasons of The Wire, U-Carmen, Power Yoga, Happy Together, Schindler's List, Billy Elliot, P!nk (live in concert) and probably the odd one out, He's Just Not That Into You (hey, I need my Scarlett Johanssen eye-candy).

These texts have all been carefully selected to enrich my inner world... which is just as well, because I have to stay in Australia for a month or two longer before I can escape, hot and happy, to Thailand. I can honestly say that while the culture may let me down, all I have to do is pick up a book or slip a DVD into my computer to be immersed in another culture.

It's a real shame that Open University only allows you to study 3 languages (Mandarin, Italian and Indonesian)... if they had Spanish, I would take it immediately. It's not that I don't want to learn Italian (or Chinese, for that matter). It's just it's not my first priority, and if I'm going to put in a lot of effort to learn a new language, it might as well be Spanish, or, my second favourite choice right now, French. Chinese would be sooo useful, but it's astoundingly hard, and since I don't intend to move to China, Taiwan, Singapore or the like... It would be nice to improve my Japanese, or learn Swedish or Danish, so it's disappointing to realise I still have so few choices here.

What I do have a choice in is how to spend my next year, decade, and entire future...

Can I see myself basing myself in Thailand for life? I could keep moving around, staying in guesthouses/hotels all over the country, which would allow me the opportunity to leave, for short periods, anytime I like. I could spend the dry season abroad or something.

Stream of consciousness... (you know, this was meant to be a CHoice A, Choice B, Choice C post, where I list the endless directions I visualise myself as being torn by, but I believe that is a superficial response... I know that I choose to be at home, searching for my next lightning-bolt revelation, I choose to be static in some ways so I can jump around in others, and I know that even though it matters how quickly I learn Spanish, if I ever continue studies at any kind of university, whether I take a course on photography, or consider it a choice between two languages and two different lifestyles (Thai, which leads to more Thailand, or Argentine Spanish, which leads to South America and ultimately Spain), work overtime to produce an overflow of work, push myself to my limits or bludge along, only using a tiny portion of my potential... even though all these things matter, I can't abandon my everyday life of learning, my deeply ingrained commitment to deriving inspiration, my daily attachments to the raw produce of highly specialised information sources... or writing for the non-profit cause of myself my readers, for the sake of free information and a lack of censorship or editing. A lack of 'helpful suggestions' and 'unintentional butchering of my work'... if this blog had AdSense ads, you would now get some very colourful results due to the word 'butcher' and perhaps 'raw produce'. The beauty of being free from the all-pervading Ad generation system is that my words are the sole words that inform the page... external content doesn't bleed into them and disturb their melancholy elegance or defensive optimism.

Where was I again?

If I was to go to Argentina I would no doubt fall in love in ways I can't possibly expect. I would no doubt be turned off in ways which dismay me like nothing I could have ever imagined. If money weren't an issue it would be my next destination, but perhaps I'm lucky that all looks good for an Asia-bound imagination. After all, I find few countries more agreeable than Thailand, and from there I plan to do something like the following:

3 months in Thailand (Nov, Dec, Jan); 1 months in Laos/Bali (Feb); 1 month in Vietnam (March); 1 month in Japan or Taiwan (April); Malaysia (May) ... the options are limitless, what with AirAsia flying to Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Tianjin, Chengdu, Yangon, Bali, Laos, Clark (Philippines) and also London. (I doubt I can talk my parents into purchasing a ticket to Tehran for me, interesting as going to Iran would be.)

When I go to Thailand I hope to write about my experience on Eccentric Travels, my other Blogger domain. Speaking of my other blogs, if you want to read what I wrote to two members of parliament who partially hold the balance of power in Canberra, please check out my first, not forgotten, blog, Postmodern Critic, here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self-acceptance

The only person who will always agree with you 100% is - you.

Don't wait for other people to love and accept you - you need to do it yourself.

I love the bump at the back of my head that means I would never look good bald.

I love the way my hair falls into waves, waiting to be arranged according to my artistic vision of the day.

I love the way I feel protected from physical coercion due to my large size.

I accept that I am not perfect, but always do my best.

I accept that I make mistakes, but am very eager to learn from them.

I accept that I stumble, and I learn how to move on more quickly all the time.

I love that I am free to be me, even if that means that I am attacked by people who don't have the same freedom.

I try my hardest to accept myself as I am - some parts are easier than others. I am both expectant and defensive when it comes to accepting others. 

I know that life keeps getting more simple and complex, and I intend to keep coming up with new questions to make the most of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thank Gaga for the Postmodern Lady

I happened to read an analysis of Lady Gaga by Camille Paglia today which I felt needed some deconstruction... let's take a look at some of the uninformed arguments she makes:

She [...] has escaped serious scrutiny.
 
Actually, fans and/or academics scrutinise her work in great detail, comparing screencaps, evoking theorists and having all sorts of immersive experiences in response to the texts.

Although she presents herself as the clarion voice of all the freaks and misfits of life, there is little evidence that she ever was one.

It's all about how you feel inside, not what your status might suggest. There is just as much a market for people who feel comfortable in society, so the fact that she's self-identifying that way strikes me as genuine. I believe one of the reasons Gaga 'felt like a freak in high-school' (as she announced while being interviewed by Barbara Walters) is that she identified as bisexual and Christian. Unfortunately we still live in a culture where being non-hetero-normative is seen as an undesirable variation, mainly due to the corrosive social influence of intolerant religions (i.e. the majority of the ones I know). You'd think Paglia, who writes of being attracted to women, would understand this, had she done much research on Gaga.

Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality

I'm sure Gaga would welcome that analysis. She appears to be reveling in the manufactured aspects of her career, celebrating and problematising at the same time. 


Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? 

Gaga is an icon of her generation because mainstream audiences are receptive to her entertaining them in ways that challenge pop music and performance norms. We already know the pop princess formula off by heart - relentlessly seductive, unproblematically feminine, constantly striving to be the ultimate heterosexual male fantasy. Gaga said in an interview that women are ugly as well as beautiful. She is performing the complexity of her tortured personality, and the conditions for her popularity is that she must both embody and mangle the conventions of female pop spectacle. Her posturing as grotesque, monstrous, murdered, murderous, horrific and otherwise off-putting are all part of a multifaceted performance which has intrigued the many millions who are fed up with the record labels getting away with giving us the same thing every time.

Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft? However, the main point is that the young Madonna was on fire. She was indeed the imperious Marlene Dietrich’s true heir. For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; she’s like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture. Alarmingly, Generation Gaga can’t tell the difference. Is it the death of sex? Perhaps the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over…

I believe Gaga has appropriated Madonna in ways that, while familiar, are also innovative in their context. For instance, while Madonna's pointy bras challenged what it was to be feminine and provocative, Gaga wearing guns on her breasts is a sign of her indoctrination by gay men with phallocentric defense systems which are so rigid that militarism seems an appropriate metaphor. It's more symbolic, perhaps, than what Madonna was doing.

It must be said that Christina Aguilera released the video for 'Not Myself Tonight' at around the same time as Gaga released 'Alejandro', which is even more of a homage to Madonna, however lacks the ingenuity of the latter's innovation. So if you're going to accuse people of copying Madonna, Christina is the #1 suspect. 

Surely if you're looking for a straight-forwardly sexual celebrity, the media will not let you down, Camille. Gaga is boldly subverting people's expectations of her as a sex symbol in order to shock them a bit out of the expectations every single other pop star has led them to develop over the decades. I think it's refreshing that Gaga is as guarded as she is over the top. It doesn't surprise me that Gaga fashions her "poker face" to go with her audacious ensembles. It's a layer of protection, and an appropriate way to respond to being in the spotlight almost 24/7.

Gaga seems comet-like, a stimulating burst of novelty, even though she is a ruthless recycler of other people’s work. She is the diva of déjà vu. Gaga has glibly appropriated from performers like Cher, Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Gwen Stefani and Pink, as well as from fashion muses like Isabella Blow and Daphne Guinness.

It's called intertextuality, or as someone wrote 'wearing your influences on your sleeve'. Reveling in the simulacra of the iconic, Gaga is the hyper-icon, brandishing forever a stance which is contrived from her predecessors yet also strikingly original.

Marlene and Madonna gave the impression, true or false, of being pansexual. Gaga, for all her writhing and posturing, is asexual. Going off to the gym in broad daylight, as Gaga recently did, dressed in a black bustier, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels isn’t sexy – it’s sexually dysfunctional.
 
Is Paglia saying asexuality is dysfunctional? Anyway, sexual dysfunction, as Gaga knows, is part of many a mainstream experience, and she happens to appeal to various types of it. Problematic, but very interesting.

Generation Gaga doesn’t identify with powerful vocal styles because their own voices have atrophied: they communicate mutely via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages. Gaga’s flat affect doesn’t bother them because they’re not attuned to facial expressions. 

I am something of a singer, and I believe Gaga does in fact have a powerful vocal style. This was discussed in an interview with Ellen, who complimented on her vocals. Gaga responded by saying she was surprised by how many people didn't expect her to have a good voice, matter-of-factly pointed out that it was her profession to be a singer. I also think these two sentences carry gross generalisations which are not relevant to me or any of my friends. As new texts appear in the world, they become studied in high schools, so I'm pretty sure your modern day technologically savvy girl or boy consciously uses different skills to extract maximum meaning from a face and an SMS.


The exasperating article (exactly how much research did she do for this article? Does she have anything positive to say?) continues at another address, but your truly has lost interest.

Now, back to Gaga Stigmata...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The World of the Local

Constructing Intricacies >

Is there a place in the world which is most strongly suited to my needs? Although my needs keep changing, sometimes in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways, is there still a city or town which is a 'best fit' for my personality? If I keep asking these questions I am forced to conclude that I don't really want to live in any one place very long; and yet, my parents are home owners and I will be a home owner myself someday... since I do own property, should I keep it in Australia, live off the rent elsewhere as suits me and return to Sydney only for my medical needs (and the annual urge to consult my library?)?

Before I forget:
Yesterday I saw the end of a documentary on transgendered people in Denmark called Nobody Passes Perfectly, followed up by another Danish doc, Hello, my name is Lesbian. Both films were a celebration of living your life outside the binary constructions which pass for comforting in society. The second documentary finished with a woman rejecting the question "What is a typical lesbian like?" both verbally (her face scrunching up, not engaging with the thoughts she expected to hold in order to reproduce the worth of the question) and non-verbally (saying something along the lines of 'I don't even know how what that means'. Her refusal to engage with the discourse of cultural stereotypes is evident in her lack of compartmentalisation of self - she considers the questions and finds it ultimately irrelevant to her search for self, and that of others.

In Nobody Passes Perfectly, a man who has had numerous heterosexual relations rejects the concept of masculinity, feeling that he doesn't want to conceal his existential crises or his vulnerability. He can't appreciate why his dinner mate, a female who longs for a male identity physically as well as mentally-emotionally, would want to take on a greater degree of masculinity, and suffer the emotional distress of the trappings of mainstream male behaviour.

Recently The Guardian published this very important article. It presents recent findings that it's conditioning, not genetics, that determines how men and women behave. I believe that while the article is out there, the implications of it are largely ignored or under-unpacked, negligibly conceived or too vague to mention. There is no norm for female behaviour as distinct from male. I find that men and women are equally responsible from stepping back from stereotyping each other and finding new ways to respect the vulnerable individuals that we all happen to be. Men might say 'women are too emotional' or women might say 'men don't discuss their feelings' - well, it's all in the way people have been brought up to follow the acceptable social codes of the gender society recognises them to be.

I feel comfortable enough with my gender to feel uncomfortable with it at times. I have been mistaken for male both physically and mentally on two very different occasions. (When I was about seven or so I was mistaken by a group of kids I was playing with for being male... they asked for 'proof' of my lack of penis, so I unzipped my jeans and quickly revealed the lack of a bump through my undies; in conversation with an older Hispanic male who had few examples of strong, intelligent women in his life, it came out that he was coding my online presence as one he couldn't reconcile with my female identity... in his a Freudian slips, he referred to me as a 'boy'.

Back to the notion of Place...

Yesterday I made a little table in the hope of illuminating my search for a permanent home outside Australia further...

I came up with 12 countries which attracted me, 9 of which I have been to and 3 of which I anticipate I would enjoy (places I haven't been to are with a star). Below I list the communities that interest me within each nation.

*Argentina: Rosario
Denmark: Copenhagen, *Aarhus, *Aalborg
France: Paris, *Lyon
Greece: Santorini
*Iceland: Reykjavik
Italy: Rome, *Calcata
Japan: Kamakura, *Kyoto
*Portugal: undecided (not enough information)
Spain: Barcelona, *Sitges
Sweden: *Goteborg (Gothenburg), *a university town, Stockholm
Thailand: undecided (possible candidates: Phuket, Nong Khai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, *Pai)
United States: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, *Boston

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that Iceland was the perfect place to spend, say half the year (I would be traveling the rest). It doesn't seem to have Tall Poppy Syndrome / Janteloven, it's sort of in the middle of New York City and London, (or, perhaps more importantly, Barcelona/Paris/Copenhagen and Boston/Toronto) it's been unofficially recognised as 'the most feminist country in the world' due to its banning of strip clubs and its gay female president, its capital city is both small and very innovative (in fact the Global Innovation Index 2009-2010 found that Iceland is the world's most innovative country, a tiny bit above Sweden), it doesn't have a large Muslim immigrant community (unlike Sweden, Denmark and the rest of Europe), it doesn't get too freezing due to the country's unique weather, the population is very artistic, educated, and harbours its fair share of eccentrics, it legalised same-sex marriage earlier this year with no opposition (actually the mayor of Reykjavik dressed up as a drag queen for the Pride event), it didn't participate in the 'war on terror' and hence has few enemies, and it's the most atheist nation in the world.

Although Thailand has a lower standard of life than most of the other nations I have listed, it ranks high on my list of desirable places to go away to every now and again. It also provides a much needed reminder that most of the world works unflinchingly hard for a pay packet Westerners see as embarrassingly low, and how a developing economy can be very satisfying in everything from infrastructure to customer service to food quality. What I love about Thailand is the friendliness and openness of the people, the enormous variety of tasty food available everywhere, the abundance of natural beauty (beaches, greenery, rivers, flowers and more), the beauty of the ubiquitous temples, the liberal use of colour everywhere and the tolerance of non-heterosexual identities (even though the legal system hasn't caught up with the global gay rights advancements). To finish on a somewhat surprising note, I recently discovered that Thailand has greater gender equality than South Korea or Japan, although these nations have a much higher quality of life and economic prosperity. There's just something about Thailand; the 'lucky country' of Asia?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hanging Out With The Enemy, Part 2

Like everyone else, I had seen The Lord of the Rings, and fallen a little under its spell. I mean, sure, I was a less into the trilogy's fantasy plot line and more into Aragorn fantasies featuring other male cast members, but despite my offbeat approach to LOTR fanhood, I had a lot of fun reading the slash fan fiction and getting used to the idea that many girls were also fantasising about the homoerotic aspects of the interactions between the actors. This brought up some interesting questions, such as Why are females drawn to performances of male homosexual love?, Is an international cast one of the keys to innovative performances? and Who on earth would inflict the exquisite-looking but utterly untalented Orlando Bloom upon other sentient beings?

These questions had to be put in the back of my mind while I attempted to put together a volume of collected essays on MTV, tried to teach English to primary school children in Hong Kong, and moved to Stanford to live with a disabled actor, all over the period of a few months. I was being pulled in greatly differing directions, and struggling to find comfort in the big, wide and mostly indifferent world.

As a response to all these rapid changes, I found myself avoiding many of the people in my new and irritating environment (Stanford is a conservative think-tank, according to Lonely Planet) and focusing on online activities in the privacy of the small but comfortable student accommodation.

Nevertheless, Brad insisted on my mingling with his Drama grad friends on certain social occasions, events which I had come to approach with a sort of morbid curiosity because, with the odd exception here and there, I felt everyone who opted to study in Stanford was not worthy of my attention.

Brad made no secret of his attraction to Mr. L, and regularly sought him out for company... we watched the Bush vs. Kerry debate in his luxurious Palo Alto house, drove around the Californian landscape together, and met up for tortuously vacuous lunches on campus. I learnt, amongst other things, that Mr L. had once been a fireman, and that he got kicks from identifying abandoned cars, driving them fast for some distance, and parking them in a different public location. I learnt that his recently deceased father had been an academic at Stanford before him, and that he had helped out Brad during some tough periods. I wanted to like him, but was something in the modernist mindset, the snobbishness and the hard-to-pin-down-overall-lack-of-decency that kept me far from jumping on Brad's bandwagon.

My favourite times during the eight or nine months I spent in the Bay Area were when I got the chance to sneak away to San Francisco... it was a splendid city, and I loved walking around the colourful neighbourhoods and participating in its innovative culture in my own 'alien' way. It was a welcome break from the tedium of Stanford, and a beautiful introduction into what is now one of my favourite cities in the world.

One day, as I was on my way from a movie theatre in a big shopping mall downtown, I saw a familiar white face staring out at me from a the dark background of a movie poster. The film was called The Kingdom of Heaven and there was Orlando Bloom, represented as the sole star of the movie. My dismay at seeing the actor I regarded as the least talented in the industry being thrust into such heights of superstardom was short, because my time hanging around Mr L. and the other superficial, status-seeking, immoral Drama people had made me realise that if people could get ahead by associating themselves with someone famous, they would. It didn't matter who the celebrity was, the point was to participate in Hollywood culture, climb the ladder, know the right people. Orlando Bloom may represent everything that was wrong with popular culture but people in the industry were hungry for work, and would embrace all that and more in order to get it.
I had had to travel to Northern California to answer my question: I could easily imagine people like Mr. L, all appearances and no scruples, collaborating with him without a second thought.

A month or two later, Brad came back from dinner with Mr. L to tell me that the Golden Boy had 'just come back from an interview with Mr. Bloom' in regards to a TV show project. I thanked my instincts and did my best not to crack up until Brad was out of earshot.

The movie Kingdom of Heaven received scathing reviews for its male lead performance. As far as I know, there is no TV show with Orlando Bloom in it. He seems, in this day and age, to have been largely forgotten by the Hollywood film industry.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hanging Out With The Enemy, Part 1

They glanced my way with mild curiosity under the dim lights of the Vietnamese restaurant, and I tried to meet their gaze with an inner animation I was all too aware I didn't feel. I couldn't wait for this tedious dinner party to be over. In a typical display of extravagance, Brad had ordered every single dish on the menu, and now a small portion of the Stanford Drama department was assembled around me, happily munching on the various delicacies. Mr L and his wife sat directly opposite me, making polite but affected chit-chat in an air that let me know I was welcome to join in anytime. Mr L. luxuriated in the laid-back arrogance indicative of his Northern Californian "Golden Boy" upbringing. His wife, who came from a lower class, had a blonde bob and a rather ordinary style of speaking, the details of the facial features fading from my memory.

Upon being informed by the person who had brought us all there that one of my passions was actually the continent of Asia, the two stared at me uncomprehendingly.

"What do you like about it?" Mrs L decided to play.

Unable to gather up the enthusiasm for complex metaphors or comparisons this time, I began to rattle off key words: The people, the weather, the culture, the social dynamic, the food... The incredulity in their eyes increased with every addition.

"We went to the Phillipines on holiday, and we didn't like it," Mrs L channeled distaste at the thought of the distant nation quite clearly.

I think about where she might have been coming from. I have heard that Philippinos, like the rest of South-East Asians, were quite friendly. Mr & Mrs L were in possession of wealth. The host (my victim and oppressor) had told me that their philosophy of travel was to go "north in the summer and south in the winter," indicating that they travelled regularly and often. As first time visitors to Asia they would have gone to luxury hotels and spent their money on top end level goods and services - the sort of things that tend to isolate you from the local culture of the everyday person of a new location. They wouldn't have gotten to know any of the lean figures with world-weary gazes as individuals, learned about the stubborn will to succeed that they have cultivated from birth, learned that they are still soulful, kind, friendly and generous even though they live on a fraction of how much Americans earn back home. They would have seen statistics, as superficial an impression of Philippine life as can only be gleaned from the plush comforts of beach side resorts.

I feel sorry for these people who hadn't had the experience of appreciating the warmth and magnetism of the Asian culture that has so informed my adolescence and early adulthood. What could I say? I merely gave an absent-minded smile and waited for someone to change the subject.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Making the most of each place

Over the last eight years I have found myself exploring diverse aspects of four continents. I've been from Adelaide (2003) to Nimbin (2009) in Australia (read: a very slow, quiet major city to a small village thriving off tourism based on its creative residents who produce high qualities of innovative artistic products and host a festival dedicated to marijuana each year), from Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, Vietnam to Kamakura, Japan (a motorcycle-congested, unbelievably polluted, Communist commercial capital to a beautiful small town known for its Zen garden and religious statues, beautiful nature and peaceful demeanour by the sea), from Los Angeles, California to Buffalo, New York (read: one of the most south-westerly points on the West Coast to one of the most north-easterly ones just off the East Coast), and Santorini to Copenhagen (will fill in the comparison later).

These last eight months, especially, have catapulted me back and forth between Asia, Europe and Australia in ways which - yes - both irritate and soothe. It's no secret that I don't like living in Sydney, but I do appreciate the hard copies of books I have here, my laptop, and my CD collection. Even more than that, a place I don't have to move out of in less than two weeks, not because I enjoy the recurring sameness of this apartment but because it can be irritating to pack up and leave just as you're starting to figure out the hidden potential for comfort a room can provide, and the way you manage your pleasure levels by going in and out of it.

In writing the last paragraph I realised that I should do what Rolf Potts is doing and get Kindle, so I can download books to my smartphone (I was planning to get rid of mine), get rid of my laptop and manage everything through my phone (maybe with an attachable keyboard, as Rolf has - although he has a iPhone, whereas my Blackberry makes it easier to type on the device itself (or does it?), and store all the music I have on my computer on another kind of portable device, like an iPod or smartphone.

The fact that I'm afraid of losing these, and, in so doing, my livelihood, makes me wonder if I've thought this whole thing through... but how else am I going to spend my entire life (or as much of it as possible) on the road?

At any rate, I'm in Sydney for the next one and a half months (maybe even two or three, goddamn it), and I want to take advantage of it by savouring my soft, soft bed, a fridge stocked full of food (is Thailand starting to spoil me for any location that doesn't thrive on street food?), the buzz of the most innovative suburbs (hello Darlinghurst, Newtown, Surry Hills and Paddington), the well-meaning but distracted and somewhat soulless company of my parents, which nevertheless tells me I am cared about (will they ever evolve to higher emotional IQ?), and the general friendliness of the populace.

Making the most of Sydney is a lot easier when you know you're not rooted to it. When you know you have the power to leave reasonably soon after you've landed.

And now, dear reader, I'm heading to Oxford St to celebrate the first day of Spring! Hope you're feeling similarly optimistic.

Why are so many same-sex attracted women accountants?

I recently attended a gathering of same-sex attracted girls and women in Sydney and was surprised to learn that, out of the nine or ten of us in the group, one was an accountant and another was contemplating a career in this line of work. It took me back to my reacquaintance with my old girlfriend, who had given up working as a counselor and is now 'analysing futures' and who now has an accountant girlfriend. It also reminded me of how even in Paris, the lesbians we chatted up in a gay bar were accountants.
Perhaps it's not surprising that women, who are usually paid less than men, and no longer want to be dependent on anybody, let alone families who are selectively approving of their sexual orientations, are looking to one of the most stable of jobs out there.
I'm just hope that this traditionally not so entertaining job doesn't interfere with the girls' creative development...
Or is there something appealing about the straight-forwardness of accountancy that same-sex attracted women are drawn to? Since I've never wanted to become one, I have no idea... thoughts?