Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day 1: Birthu-pulaysu of Astro Boy or: Help! I Can’t Stop Adding U’s to Everything I Say!

Japan looks different from the sky to anywhere else I’ve ever been. Flying in to Tokyo we came within touching distance of these lumps of forest. I don’t really know how else to describe them. They looked like the heads of broccoli: dense, impenetrable and very, very green.

Very Miyazaki.

A-ha. We are in Japan.

I’m rather smug because we navigated the train system like pros, rubbing our very tired eyes in case we were just imagining all the white shirts. Seriously, it’s like one of those kids books where the tops and bottoms of animals/people have been separated so that you have to flip the two halves until you match them up right. Only someone made a mistake and every top is white, no tie, rolled up sleeves.

The Astro Boy theme tune blared out when we arrived at the station. The charming little lad was born here in Takadanobaba, where we’re be staying. (Apparently the locals call it ‘Baba, but I wouldn’t dare.)

Walking out onto the neon street was pretty exciting. I tend to try and be very worldly when I travel, you know, nothing could surprise me in the least. But I just gave in to the daggy grin on my face, because I had just emerged into Jap-furickingu-pan!

Tama Ryokan (a ryokan is like a family inn – they fix up some rooms in their house and let it out) where we’re staying is kind of perfect. It’s got wood frames, paper doors and little vases with clippings of ivy in the oddest places. Eiko, our hostess, was born here.

She was very nice, showing us how everything worked at least 5 times (I do not exaggerate, she is a master of rote learning) in case her English/our thick heads got in the way. By the tenth time she had wiped her mouth with a wet cloth Ken was starting to wonder if she was OCD, but I just put it down to her being Japanese.

I should note here that because this trip is first and foremost a holiday, to which being in Japan comes decidedly second, I have excused myself from being a sensitive traveller. I am not here, I have decided, to understand Japanese culture/compliment the Japanese people by my exulted presence in their company/pretend I’m not a tourist.

What I’m saying is: bring on the generalisations! And it’s quite possible I might have some racist days (the only thing that kept me sane when I lived in Berlin. Nothing vents feelings of isolation quite so well as allowing oneself a whole day to blame those feelings on everything but oneself.). I will also probably visit scandalously few museums and other cultural icons.

Anyway, my tummy is full of ramen, and the lights are out, making our little room feel like nothing so much as a sophisticated tent.

woman’s prerogative?

so chaps, here I am, changing my mind.

What was I thinking? Who wants to read about my trip to Japan after I come back home? I tell you what, in this digital age, nothing’s of any importance unless it’s happening right now!

(Like, for example, you can’t really get away with calling it the “digital age” unless you’re being faintly ironic, because that’s so not current anymore. “Digital age” aged on its way from what’s actually happening to being what’s really happening according to what someone wrote. I digress.)

I’ve been writing my posts as I go anyway, so will begin posting them now. Wasn’t sure we would have internet, we do.

The one fly in the ointment/cockroach in the sushi is that I didn’t bring my camera lead, and thus can’t upload photos till I get home. (Er, you’re in Japan, I hear you say. Can’t you just buy a new lead? It’s worth some thought, I reply, cursing myself for my stupidity.)

So here goes…

the letter generation: Part l

I’ve just been rifling through my old journals and letters as I like to do occasionally, and the things I’ve found hurt my heart and make me infinitely grateful I managed to not be gen Y. We started emailing in highschool, I guess, but letters predominated. Hundreds, thousands of letters from the breaking, devastated heart to the boredom of English Lit.

If these had been emails they would be gone by now, I suppose.

There are many, many letters from the boyfriend I had when I was 16. Not as romantic as I remember – more long, annotated lists of mixed tape playlists. Also:

I hope you aren’t TOO angry at me, but I showed part of your letter to my best friend “Nick”. He’s sort of an analyst and he was pissed off that you wrote nothing’s serious at 16. He said “16 is the most serious age!!! Nothing is more serious!”

Wherever you are, “Nick”, if that’s even your real name, I AGREE! A woman ten years older than me was the one who planted the idea that I was only 16 and shouldn’t take our relationship drama too seriously. For anyone out there dispensing advice for same, heed our analyst “Nick”. I think his vehement defence of teens everywhere proves that there’s nothing “sort-of” about him.

adventures in a(nother) country town

this time I’m in Ballan, Victoria, with my brother and his two kids. In the way of country towns, this name is not pronounced the way you’re saying it in your head – the locals pronounce it to rhyme with Milan, as though it were exotic somehow.

Maybe it is…

All I’m saying is, there are cows.

This morning we went to visit the mineral springs at Daylesford. I’ve never drunk real spring water before, and I tell you what, it’s zingy. Until you get to the really sulphurous stuff and then it bypasses zingy and goes straight for a battery-on-the-tongue effect.

After that we ventured into the old bathhouse cafe – a beautiful, dilapidated building with cold tile floors. We arrived on the tail end of a government function and scored free scones with jam and cream, which we scoffed down sitting in front of the fire.

Then Ella and Benji climbed the walls.

We drove through a cloud to arrive back at the little brick box of a farm house and now the kids are off to sleep for the afternoon, but first I need to read Benji the next few chapters of The BFG.

That’s all for now, no moral or thoughts or anything!

Oh, and good news from the frontier: my niece appears to have forgotten that she hates me.

Mozart, I love you for this

I’m not exactly musically educated. I love to sing and I sing what’s put in front of me, but when the other members of my choir say “This is really interesting, for Mozart,” I simply have to believe them.

The song is No. 8 (from the Requiem) Domine Jesu, and it’s apparently the kind of stuff he was beginning to write when he died, making his death more tragic than it otherwise might have been. A bit like Heath Ledger, I guess, dying just as he was getting really interesting in his art.

The song is also beautiful. Amazing to sing. Here it is (like us, if we had a big hall, an orchestra and bad 80s hairdos):

is romance soft porn and does it really matter?

I realised I don’t really buy into this debate much because I feel like I’m not educated enough about porn. Like is it pro- or anti-feminist these days? Is it exploitative or empowering?

But I think that not knowing what academics and politicians and other vocal, public people have to say is a really bad reason not to figure out what I think.

Firstly, I haven’t looked at much traditional porn in my life, but I’ll admit that the few times I did it kinda turned me on. And if they weren’t terrifyingly seedy I would probably go to an x-rated cinema in the middle of the day one time all by myself to satisfy my curiosity. But I guess aside from having a mildly benevolent outlook, that kind of porn doesn’t really interest me.

As far as I can tell, most of the problems people have with that kind of porn is the exploitation/objectifying of women. And maybe further down the list (much further down) comes an unease about feeding purely physical sexual desire.

When people call romance novels soft porn, their problem seems to come from the idea that women sitting and enjoying (often graphic) sex in the privacy of their own brains is somehow wrong/distasteful/degrading/unnatural, maybe even scary? No one’s being exploited here, as far as I can tell.

I’m really curious – does it matter if someone enjoys a sexual fantasy?

Personally, I love skin and boobs and bums and all the other lovely, fleshy bits of the body. I think desire is healthy, and romance novels promote a healthy, adventurous, brave relationship to desire that is rarely voiced elsewhere.

(For those of you who’ve never picked up a romance novel, the non-consensual quasi-rape thing really isn’t in fashion anymore. I don’t think it has been since the 80s.)

I love the idea that, thanks to the more than 200 years of women who stood up for all women, I have a real say in my sexuality. I also find the idea that I can be a woman to my husband’s man disarming and wonderful.

What I don’t like is that it’s hard for me to say that, for fear that I’ll sound unempowered, unemancipated. Like I’m undoing all the work of all those women.

I think romance novels these days are exploring that fine line between being sexually powerful and acknowledging what fantasies are made of.


this post is about Landmark Education, which could be quite controversial. If you google it you get as many people calling it a brainwashing cult as you get testimonials that it changed someone’s life.

Tonight I signed up for the communication courses, the first of which I do in August, so for the curious and undecided, there’ll be progress updates then!

I’ve done a lot of the curriculum, and found it positive and most of all incredibly useful. I feel like some of the times I was most alive, most effective in my life, and most deeply connected and driven have been during Landmark courses.

I sometimes look back on conversations I had in full Landmark throttle, and oh how I wish I could take them back. Like the time I gathered all my very practical cousins so that we could share what being family means. And then I think: Looking back on my life when I’m 80, with the certainty that I’ll die soon and this life won’t exist any more, I’d much rather have given it a shot.

I also think the two biggest transformational moments of my life happened outside of Landmark.

The first was when special k hit rock bottom three months into our relationship and said: I’m not playing games anymore. What are you doing?

The second was when we got engaged and I’d jumped over that line with both feet and couldn’t take it back. I seriously didn’t think I had commitment issues until that moment. Ha.

It takes something pretty extraordinary to make us actually re-evaluate and begin the painful process of change. I don’t think it happens nearly as often as we think it does.

conscience off, dick on: true blood is back

I just finished watching the first episode of season three and I’m so happy this show‘s back. I love the whole concept of a racist south being the backdrop for the introduction of a whole new species into society.

Er, that species being vampires, for anyone who hasn’t quite caught up yet.

Special k watched about ten minutes with me and then snorted, shook his head and generally made his disgust known. He thinks it’s total trash.

I also watched the pilot episode of The Sopranos today and it occurs to me that The Sopranos is literary tv to the trashy romance of True Blood.

Though, to be fair, special k was very Sam Vimes about it, and was equally disdainful of both.

the face, the lips

special k has been growing a beard for a couple of months now. A BIG beard.

It’s been fun because I could grab him under the chin in a most satisfying way. It also made him look older and a bit distinguished. It made him husband-k, businessman-k, adult-k.

It also made kissing difficult.

Tonight he finally shaved it off, and as I watched his lips emerge my tummy went weird. It was like seeing the 23 year old I fell in love with suddenly standing in front of me again, and I wasn’t quite prepared.

thursday night is choir night (or, the microcosm)

I love my choir. It’s often the best part of my week.

But good God, my fellow choristers are weird! And I’m allowed to invoke His name, because I’m singing in one of His churches. That’s pretty much like personal permission, right?

Geoffrey, our choirmaster, wears big-heeled boots, sings cabaret and plays the organ like a madman. The height of humour was that one time he played the bass and tenor parts a half tone down from the alto and soprano parts on the piano.

Ahaha. Hilarious, right?

Though only slightly less so than that other time we re-conjugated all the latin verbs in William Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus.

Then there’s the inimitable John, who was the first ever Australian ambassador to Iran, where he sang opera with their principal diva. He wears cravats and also, I suspect, dies his moustache.

My fellow alto Catherine has a spine-tingling voice, a huge romance novel library and bright pink stockings with cats on them. She holds monthly Shakespeare readings and makes things like jelly eyeballs to eat, depending on the themes in that month’s play.

Catherine and I love to sing together, though too often other people get inserted into our midst.

Which is where the microcosm comes in.

Tonight I had to sing first alt with Soprano-Anna. She is just about the most stylish middle-aged person I know. Or maybe just the most stylish person I know full stop. She also just goes for it when she sings which I totally admire, but is a bit frustrating when she doesn’t really know the song.

Then I long for just a bit of tentative subtlety on her part, or just to be singing alone. Then I think: this is how life is. You work with other people, and because everyone’s different, other people will inevitably annoy you from time to time.