Sunday, May 29, 2011

React first, story later

What a relief it is to wake up this morning to Sunday papers telling us all how outraged we are. I don’t know about you, but whenever I worry that I’m incapable of developing my own informed opinion, I breathe a sigh of relief that some media organisations are superbly happy to do it for me. It’s always so much easier when someone tells you how to react to a story, and then tells you the story. It’s like someone telling you something’s funny, before the telling of the funny thing, or providing large handwritten cue cards inscribed with the instruction ‘LAUGH’.

For example, I wouldn’t have known that Cate Blanchett was the love child of some out-of-touch, Communist plot with a thirst for the destruction of every ordinary man, woman and child if the newspapers hadn’t informed me of that fact. If only they had provided Blanchett with a moustache to twirl as she graced the cover or, at the very least, devil horns… why be subtle, when you can be absurdly transparent in your agenda?

I love being told:

“The millionaire Hollywood actress has been accused of being out of touch by spruiking the benefits of the tax which she can afford to pay, unlike many hard-up Australians.”

I’m all for telling the news, but this gives us so much more.

You can imagine the debate about what to call her. When she wins an Oscar, we call her Our Cate. When she returns to take part in the local entertainment industry we call her Aussie Cate. But suddenly, a political stance has made her Hollywood’s Cate.

Then strike one up for alliteration, the headline informs us she’s Carbon Cate (Hanoi Jane eat your heart out).

Huzzah for airing people’s concerns, but this doesn’t seem to be about airing people’s accusations, so much as making the accusation in the first place. We have a cart, we have a horse, but which one shall we put first?

I’m probably being old-fashioned, thinking news should provide us with… news, which is to say information. I find conspiracy theorists icky (like an un-sexy version of vampires, they need more sunlight and less moldy, darkened corners to wallow in), but if I didn’t know any better I’d think we’ve stopped discussing carbon tax in the media and started waving pitchforks around. Was there a meeting in which we decided our audience was over the environmental fad, and the only way to deal with the topic was with smug snorts of derision?

Why have an informed debate when you can just gather round and tar and feather someone instead? It’s so much more entertaining.

I don’t know what to make of all this Carbon pricing business. It’s really hard to develop an informed opinion when everyone’s yelling so bloody loudly. News is no longer helping me make up my mind; it’s helping me realize we have a whole separate problem when it comes to the media.

I’m sick of this bunker mentality, this meaningless point scoring agenda. I’d love to have a conversation instead. But I suppose we’re past that now. Australia has become a hysteria spouting parody of itself.

Poor Cate, maybe she’s better off with Hollywood. At least until the media mob moves on to another punching bag.

Painefull Out

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nice Day For A White Wedding

It was actually a nice day for a white wedding. The weather in the Hunter Valley was superb as I barreled through Cessnock in Albus the albino Toyota. I was running, as I always do, rather late (on the scale of bizarrely close to on time, to missing the plane, I was somewhere in the middle). As this wasn’t an elaborate dream sequence, and therefore not my wedding, my tardiness wasn’t going to leave a groom weeping at an altar.

I may have been running late, but no one could fault my meticulous preparation. The day before I had bought the gift, purchased a new eyeliner, and then undergone one of the few experiences more painful than bra shopping – strapless bra shopping. Perhaps the ultimate Joke Garment, for the more ample woman I’m quite certain the strapless bra merely serves the purpose of providing discomfort and uncertainty in equal measure. It can’t possibly fit, and it’s fighting a losing battle with gravity without its most faithful companion in such battles – the strap. Perhaps foolishly, I opted not to visit The Bra Whisperer* for this purchase.

Then, the morning of someone else’s big day, I bit the bullet and confronted my legs with a razor. That was when I realized how easily Winter tricks you with its jeans and its flannel pyjamas. It’d been too long. The closest thing I can liken it to is shaving a bear. Shaving my legs was like shaving a bear.

I screeched into a parking space, ran into the accommodation I was sharing that night with three friends, and threw some make up at my face. Then I stole some food from a pregnant lady (the pregnant lady is a friend, if there’s any way that could possibly make that fact sound better).

Despite my speed, the four of us were still late for the ceremony. That would have been fine if it hadn't been the CREAKIEST CHURCH EVER, thus our attempt at a subtle, muted entry prompted the capacity crowd to turn and ponder us as we took our seats. We’d missed the walk down the aisle which, unlike the opening credits of a movie, is quite crucial if you want to get a good look at the Great Dress Reveal. Suddenly, with a tap on the shoulder, the couple’s rings were handed to us. They were being handed around the church during the ceremony so everyone had the chance to pray over them... except we missed the part where they explained that, so we just thought we were all being given a chance to admire the rings (and dutifully did so).

It wasn’t long into the vows when the Pregnant Friend I Stole Food Off began to tear up. This was remarkable when you consider she couldn’t actually see anything from where we were seated, and I was quietly narrating the events as they happened for her. I like to imagine it was because I gave such a beautiful, moving account, but let’s be honest hormones probably played a much bigger role.

One lovely, personal ceremony later, driven by the quirks of a priest who was part minister, part entertainer (he was a ministainer**), we were headed toward the reception. When a KFC establishment loomed in the approaching distance we did the respectful, classy thing – we opted for drive thru.

The rest of the evening was filled with those wedding staples. My shoes hurt me so much I wanted to chop off my feet. Wine was in abundance. Speeches got emotional. A bouquet was tossed and a garter was removed with teeth, and no one looked even remotely embarrassed by either exercise. Then, as the bride and groom cut the cake, there were actual, literal fireworks.

It should be noted the bride looked stunning and the groom looked besotted. All the things you really want to see at a wedding.

I even had a momentary lapse in which I found myself thinking marriage could be nice. That moment passed as quickly as it came.

I had more immediate tasks. Like driving back to Sydney for work at 7am the next day. My drooping eyelids forced me to stop at a petrol station halfway, park, recline my driver's seat and have a 20 minute nap. I awoke drooling to the perplexed look of some 10 year old peering through my car window at me. I may have actually muttered "Bugger off"***. Fortunately the window was closed.

Painefull Out

* = The Bra Whisperer – a mysterious woman in a certain shop who can glance at you once and then present you with the perfect bra.

** = An irrelevant and unfunny joke unless you have an abiding love of Joey in Friends.

*** = I may have muttered something worse. But I was half asleep, so who’s to say?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Calliope Seeks Date

There’s the tiny lies we tell ourselves – they’re acceptable and necessary (like “Of course money would make me a better person” and “I can totally imagine taking in foster children when I have my own family”). The small un-truths we tell friends and family are merely routine and expected (such as “You’re right mum, I’ll do that tomorrow, first thing” and “I had no idea this was a costume party, otherwise I definitely would have made the effort”). No one actually wants complete honesty, and if ever there was a time where the truth need not apply, it would be the time for dating.

Calliope, a gorgeous bi-racial butterfly, is looking to get back into the dating world, and so, being a modern woman, she’s taking the modern route. Hello online. Hello eHarmony.

This most ancient of sports has always been light on facts, and heavy on initial impressions. But technology has now given us new ways to mislead at first-profile site. And so, as Calliope opened up her page for Peta and I to view her potential love connections, we couldn’t help but point out an obvious flaw in her handiwork

PETA: But Cally… you’re not white.


P: You’ve said you are on your profile – you’ve selected white.

C: I didn’t really like any of the other options…

P: So when you actually meet them, are you just planning on telling them you have a really good tan?

C: Maybe they won’t notice.

P: Yes, yes they will.

ME: Hang on, won’t they notice when you put up a photo of yourself?

C: I don’t really want to put a photo of myself up. I don’t want guys to decide by what I look like.

ME: Didn’t the 3 of us just decide you should reject a guy because it looked like he was posing as David Caruso in CSI: Miami?

After some negotiation, and a brief flirtation with the idea of adding my albino visage to her profile, Cally opted to tick a more racially accurate box. But how honest must we be when it comes to online dating? If the answer is, only as honest as we would be in real life dating, then perhaps Cally is in the clear. As long as she never actually meets the people she’s dating. Unless it’s the Eastern European Horatio Caine who seemed all set to solve crime while crouching in an unknown garden somewhere – according to all available evidence he never removes his sunglasses, and thus might never notice Cally’s pigment deception.

Horatio has no hope though – Calliope has established as least one rule in her quest for love. CSI need not apply.

Painefull Out

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Top Hat Is Akin To A Man With A Baby

When next you see me, if ever you see me, don’t be alarmed if I’m wearing a top hat.

I managed to unwittingly double book myself last Saturday night, rsvp-ing in the affirmative to both a 30th and a Farewell. Not wanting to disappoint on either front (though, my lack of arrival anywhere could never truly be titled a ‘Disappointment’ of any variety) I decided to break my Cardinal Going Out Rule.

Painefull’s Cardinal Going Out Rule (CGOR) = Never, ever change venues. People will disperse, your feet will be sore, everyone will either sober up or get messy and you will develop an irrational hatred of whatever music is playing.

The second challenge of the evening, following from the breaking of the CGOR was that while the Farewell required me to come as myself, the 30th demanded that I go in costume… which now that I think about it, is probably in direct violation of my 2nd Cardinal Going Out Rule.

Painefull’s 2nd Cardinal Going Out Rule (CGOR2) = Never dress up in costume to attend something outside of your own home. This is either a rule you understand implicitly, or not. If not, you’re probably not averse to caroling or aggressive PDA either. I think that says a lot about you.

Of course I’ve broken this rule before, but much like setting off a fire alarm or running naked between a bathroom and a bedroom, it should only be done in cases of emergency or confidence bordering on smugness. When breaking this rule I tend to go for the minimalist option – less is less, but it’s also probably more comfortable. I once attended a house party with a Bond theme, and did what I could to blend in by writing the letter ‘M’ on a piece of paper and sticky-taping it to my jeans. I was shocked by how many people had to ask me who I was.

The theme for the 30th was Circus. Jim, who lives for a themed party and relishes an opportunity for a home-made costume, decided to be a Lion. He crafted himself a tail, a mane and some ears, and completed the look with elaborate face paint:

ME: (wandering past the bathroom, and forced to do a double take) What are you doing? Are you… shaving?

JIM: (appalled I have to ask, turns to reveal half his face covered in white paint) No. I’m putting down a base.

I love it when other people over-commit to a dress-up party – it allows me to stand near them while making almost no effort, all the while appearing to make great effort. I simply wore regular clothes and donned a black top hat. Suddenly, Jim’s a Lion and I’m a Ringmaster (“Wow Painefull, you look great, loving the team costuming!”… is how I envision the internal monologue of all who see me under such circumstances).

In all fairness to me, aside from the hat (which I have had resting on the back seat of my car for over a month, for a completely unrelated reason), dressing up as a ring master is kind of tricky. How do you ask friends if they have a whip you could borrow? And do you really want them to actually say ‘yes’?

So first up, the 30th. Lions and Tigers and Mimes, oh my.

Then on to catch up with the Farewell, which has moved on to a rather dodgy establishment (one where I once discovered that, despite any possible soberness, I do indeed own a drunk look). Jim and I assumed we wouldn’t get in. Mostly, we assumed Jim the Lion wouldn’t get in. But for some reason, the shock of his appearance seemed to stop the bouncers from objecting. Then came this exchange with the woman collecting the cover charge from us.

WOMAN: (to Jim) What are you meant to be?

JIM: I’m a lion.

WOMAN: Oh. (turns to me) Are you the wardrobe.

Pause as Jim and I look at the woman quizzically.

ME: Oh, you mean… from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe? Well I suppose it was either that or the witch…

WOMAN: What?

ME: (offering my wrist) I’ll just… take a stamp thanks.

Once inside the establishment, and when not distracted by Fi almost having a rumble with an angry Cougar (while watched by a cowardly Lion), I discovered something odd was happening. Not one, not two, but many men proceeded to approach and engage me in conversation. Like a moth to a flame, they simply couldn’t help but ask about the top hat.

Fi and I were marveling at it. It was the only explanation for the sudden onslaught of male interest. And then, just like that, Fi had an epiphany.

A top hat on a woman is akin to a man with a baby.

As women find men holding babies both sensitive and masculine, men find women in top hats both bizarre but intriguing.

There was practically a line to talk to me. It’s like guys were dying to misunderstand my quips about pulling out rabbits. Who knows, I might have even picked up, had the dance floor not cleared and I suddenly decided to give a Broadway performance (I was in a top hat after all – you can’t just ignore an opportunity like that when you’re in a top hat).

So, given all the benefits, not to mention the show tune opportunities, don’t be surprised if I find a way to fold the top hat into my everyday wardrobe.

Painefull Out