(Get off the Internet!) I’ll meet you in the street!

For the last few years I’ve been thinking about my relationship with the Internet, something I have access to every day, something I use fairly compulsively, something that caused a fight in a cafe in our hotel in Vegas when Kel quite rightly pointed out that it’s really infuriating to sit opposite someone at a table over a meal and have to wait while your companion Tweets or Facebooks or emails. It’s incredibly anti-social and it’s incredibly rude and it’s something I do all the time and for someone who would list as one of her greatest pleasures sharing a meal and some wine with friends and discussion and debate, it makes no sense that I choose to spoil such moments by habitually being on my phone.

Recently I’ve come across two pieces of writing, one Twitter-specific, and one about the entertainment industry in general, which confirmed (and made more succinct) some of the things I don’t like about the development of modern technology, and which cemented my position not to leave it, but to use it differently, even if in the beginning that is something as simple as not touching my phone when I’m spending time with friends.

The first piece was written by Barrie Cassidy about Twitter’s response to a pre-election debate between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott:

The Twittersphere twittered its usual cynical group-speak, with each person trying to be cleverer than everyone else in a few words, and most commentators gave analysis not of the debate, but of how the worm saw the debate. All up, the participants delivered far more value than the commentators – The Party Thieves, Barrie Cassidy.

The second, a much longer analysis, is from an interview David Lipsky did with David Foster Wallace over a period of several days on Wallace’s book tour for Infinite Jest in 1996, in which Wallace discusses the danger of entertainment technology:

The technology’s gonna get better and better at doing what it does, which is seduce us into being incredibly dependant on it, so that advertisers can be more confident we will watch their advertisements. And as a technology system, it’s amoral. It doesn’t … it doesn’t have a responsibility to care about us one whit more than it does: It’s got a job to do. The moral job is ours. You know, why am I watching five hours a day of this? I mean, why am I getting 75 percent of my calories from candy? I mean, that’s something a tiny child would do, and that would be alright. But we’re postpubescent, right? Somewhere along the line, we’re supposed to have grown up.

***

What has happened to us, that I’m now willing – and I do this too – that I’m willing to derive enormous amounts of my sense of community and awareness of other people, from television? But I’m not willing to undergo the stress and awkwardness and and potential shit of dealing with real people. And that as the Internet grows, and as our ability to be linked up, like – I mean, you and I coulda done this through e-mail, and I never woulda had to meet you, and that woulda been easier for me. Right? Like, at a certain point, we’re gonna have to build some machinery, inside our guts, to help us deal with this .

***

Because this idea that the Internet’s gonna become incredibly democratic? I mean, if you’ve spent any time on the Web, you know that it’s not gonna be, because that’s completely overwhelming. There are four trillion bits coming at you, 99 percent of them are shit, and it’s too much work to do triage to decide. So it’s very clearly, very soon there’s going to be some economic niche opening up for gatekeepers. You know? Or, what do you call them, Wells, or various nexes. Not just of interest but of quality. And then things will get real interesting. And we will beg for those things to be there. Because otherwise we’re gonna spend 95 percent of our time body-surfing through shit that every joker in his basement [has written] … I tell you, there’s no single more interesting time to be alive on the planet Earth than in the next twenty years. It’s gonna be – you’re gonna get to watch all of human history played out again real quickly – Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, David Lipsky.

Interestingly enough, reading these two pieces coincided with moving and deciding not to have a television. It’s very hard for me to waste away hours before bed now, and while it’s not been easy to break the habit, or in my case, the sense of habit, in the past week the amount of reading I’ve done has been phenomenal. I’ve made my way through about four issues of Vanity Fair, finished three books and the end of a fourth that had been sitting idle for months and I’ve started writing stuff and not just blog stuff, but fiction, which I’ve never found very easy or devoted very much time to, yet I find myself needing a pad of paper and a pen beside my bed.

A year in books: 2011

Since 2008, I’ve been keeping a list of every book I’ve read. The lists for 2009 and 2010 are here and here. This year I did substantially less reading and for that I blame the Internet and my now vanquished concentration span.

Nevertheless, I read some really fantastic books this year (and a few really bad ones), and here is my 2011 list:

The complete list:

  • Dust – Elizabeth Bear
  • It Sucked and Then I Cried – Heather Armstrong
  • The Plot Against America – Philip Roth
  • The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon – Tom Spanbauer
  • The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
  • The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
  • The Fran Lebowitz Reader – Fran Lebowitz
  • Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible + Fried: My Life as a Revolting Cock – Chris Connelly
  • The Great Shark Hunt – Hunter S Thompson
  • Generation of Swine – Hunter S Thompson
  • Songs of the Doomed – Hunter S Thompson
  • Better Than Sex – Hunter S Thompson
  • Happy Birthday Jack Nicholson – Hunter S Thompson
  • Bossypants – Tina Fey
  • The Book of Royal Lists – Craig Brown and Lesley Cunliffe
  • Monkey Grip – Helen Garner
  • The First Stone – Helen Garner
  • Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner
  • Girls Like You – Paul Sheehan
  • Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
  • Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three – Mara Leveritt
  • Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial – Janet Malcolm
  • Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  • Palimpsest – Gore Vidal
  • Capote – Gerald Clarke
  • Hitchens vs Blair
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace
  • You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead – Marieke Hardy
  • The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson
  • The Party Thieves – Barrie Cassidy
  • Townie: A Memoir – Andres Dubus III
  • Consider The Lobster – David Foster Wallace
  • The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
  • Blue Nights – Joan Didion

2011 will go down as the year I discovered David Foster Wallace and will now be heavily critical of everything I ever write; the first year I read one of The Big Russians and actually enjoyed it; the first time I read all the Gonzo Papers back-to-back, and the year that ended with a renewed itch (thanks to Didion) to revisit some of The Big Americans.

2011: A Recap

This is a little something my friends and I have filled out at the end of the year for a couple of years now. Some of the questions are a little bit trite, but it’s a good way to quickly summerise a year and its bits and pieces.

1.What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

– travelled to the US,
– shot a gun,
– drove on the “wrong” side of the road,
– spontaneously decided to move,
– went on a date.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I can’t remember if I made any this year. If I did, they were probably weight-related, the most boring of all resolutions and I did okay-ish with that insomuch as I discovered I kinda like going to the gym and I really like doing weights.

I have one broad resolution for 2012, the minute details of which I won’t bore you with, but which is that in the new year, I am going to try my very hardest to never rest on my laurels.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My maternal grandmother after six months of a fairly debilitated life, post-stroke. Her illness last December and the subsequent health scares at the start of this year really threw life into a tailspin and I don’t think I really recovered from that until the last few months. It was hard to find rhythm this year with such a dark cloud hanging over us.

5. What countries did you visit?

Seven states of the USA!

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?

Control of my anxiety, a better work/life balance, a better budget for my money, a sense of challenging myself and of achievement and a really long list of books I’ve given myself time to read. I’d also like to cook more, really, I refuse to believe it’s that hard and every meal I cook at home is money saved for a trip later in the year (this is me publicly bribing myself to cook, I know).

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I am horrendous with dates. I can never remember which of two dates in March my mum was born. Investigation with her led me to discover she wasn’t born on either of them.

I’ll have a hard time forgetting the evening we sat on the dunes at Death Valley watching the sun set, or the rainy day we spent wandering around Portland, or the night we saw Shellac in Vegas, or drinking away long evenings in Tucson. Most of the memories I’d like to never forget were crammed into a short space of time at the end of this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Saving for the US trip, which almost always meant I was living pay day to pay day, yet I never folded and blew my budget. I did; however, miss out on a lot of fun by always being broke, and that was a big factor in my decision to try sharehousing again.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I don’t think it was a failure, because I’ve made solid and smart decisions to deal with it, but my stress levels this year were pretty off the charts and I’m fairly keen to avoid that needlessly again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got diagnosed with Old Man’s Disease and I’m constantly covered in bruises from mysterious accidents, but that’s it really. I am generally pretty gung-ho heath-wise, which I shouldn’t be, considering my penchant for no sleep and less than ideal food.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A plane ticket to the US, a bottle of wine from Maynard Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars, books including Christopher Hitchen’s Arguably, a skull-shaped ring in San Fran, my Prada glasses and any meal that I shared with friends.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

My parents, who, as trite as it sounds, are always there when I need them. I had a few friends and members of my family who talked me off the ledge, so to speak, when I couldn’t think clearly and see that every problem has an obvious path to solution and one or two people who have been ridiculously encouraging this year. These people are all The Good People and I hope that in the future I can provide for them what they have for me.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled?

I wasn’t really appalled, but my own behaviour left a lot to be desired. There was a lot of missed opportunity this year and I gotta stop sweating the small stuff.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent and saving for the trip. And a lot of chicken and cashew nut stir-fries. A lot. By which I mean more than should be humanly possibly to consume. Why my local Thai place never mocked me, I will never know … though right before I moved, they did close down. Maybe my habitual eating was all that was keeping them going. Vale Thai Delight.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The US trip, Tucson, Portland, meeting SJ of I, Asshole fame in Seattle and Melbourne date night.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?

‘Monsoons’ by Puscifer and ‘In My Time’ by Kurt Vile.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
a) Happier
b) Thinner
c) Richer
Happier, thinner, richer. Sounds like the title of a Radiohead song.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

F5-ing the Internet.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I went to my parents’ farm. There were eight adults and one almost two-year-old. It was kinda crazy and awesome.

21. What was your favourite TV program?

I didn’t watch a lot of TV this year. I caught up on some Mad Men and I liked what I saw of Sons of Anarchy. I’ve been told over and over that I need to get into Breaking  Bad, so that’s my next TV move.

22. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I find this a weird question, like if I say no, I’m somehow failing. I need to be more active in my hating obviously. I don’t really hate people, there are people who are relevant in my life and people who aren’t; people I love spending time with and people I honestly don’t care if I never see again, but it’s a much more passive feeling than hatred.

23. What was the best book you read?

Infinite Jest. My mind is still reeling from that one. I don’t think a book has ever sunk its hooks in quite like this one did. It was frustrating and disturbing and brilliant and painful. Afterwards I read two books of essays by David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster and was terribly envious of just how talented DFW was.

24. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Kurt Vile.

25. What did you want and get?

Halloween, albeit a weird one, in the US!

26. What did you want and not get?

Less stress.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

I really enjoyed Ides of March.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 29 and went to The Dip with a small group of people and ate amazing hot-dogs and drank amazing cocktails.

29. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Great friends, new/old people.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

Blërg. A few weeks ago I got rid of a third of all of my clothes and put another third into storage. Come winter, my personal fashion concept is Daphne Guinness.

31. What kept you sane?

Lifting weights (I seriously can’t explain how good the buzz is after half an hour of weights), heckling Chunklet, blagging, laughing with Mush and long phone calls with Kel. Also, Jeff.

32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Is there any answer to this question that isn’t Ryan Gosling?

33. What political issue stirred you the most?

Opposition to gay marriage and the continuing lack of accountability for the GFC.

34. Who did you miss?

My paternal grandparents, deeply.

35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.

The worst possible outcome is rarely the actual outcome. Also, I’m good at some of the things I love doing. I should devote more time to them.

36. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

In my day I was young and crazy
Sure I didn’t know shit but now I’m lazy
One day I won’t know what was better
Then again and now I want much of nothing anyway
Two of us, one on each shoulder, I’m tryin’ to turn
We’re pullin’ over, in this shoulder, ain’t driving
I know when I get older, I’m dyin’
Well I got everything I need and now
And it’s fine now.

‘In My Time’ – Kurt Vile

Despite how it sounds, I’m in a really good place and I’m really happy. I feel ready for 2012 and making stuff happen rather than waiting for it.

My favourite albums from 2011

Much like last year, I really don’t have it in me to do a huge thesis on what music I liked this year and I admit to forgetting to keep track of a lot of music I bought in 2011, but there were a few standout albums that I listened to a whole bunch. I’m not going to force myself to list some arbitrary number and I don’t claim that you should love these albums or that they were even the best albums released this year. They are just the ones that had a chorus, or a line or a brief moment of music that made my skin buzz.

The Jezabels – Prisoner

I really dug the Dark Storm EP and so had pretty high expectations of this album and initially, it didn’t meet them. Prisoner is a bit of a grower, and as seemed to be a theme for me and music this year, it wasn’t until a particular moment travelling that the music finally clicked. In my case, it was driving along in the early morning on our way to Monument Valley and just as I drove up over a peak in the road and the sun rose about the mountains in the distance, the chorus to ‘Endless Summer’ built and everything just seemed perfect:

Kurt Vile –  Smoke Ring For My Halo

Argh. This album is just so quiet and intense. I’d never heard of Kurt before Fi played me this album over good food and wine one night last winter. It’s an album for certain hours of the day, an album for days of a certain pace. It’s an album I know I’ll be coming back to in ten years time.

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

PJ Harvey is the last of the female musicians from my teenage years who’s yet to disappoint me, last to not become a media whore, fall apart or freeze her face with botox and whose music I still listen to on at least a weekly basis. I prefer her backed by a band and admit to longingly searching for a ‘Long Snake Moan’ or ‘A Perfect Day Elise’ on her most recent albums, but Let England Shake is amazing. It’s definitely an album not to be picked apart, but to be listened to in full each time.

Puscifer – Conditions of My Parole

This album was the biggest surprise of the year. I really like Tool, am pretty indifferent about A Perfect Circle and really didn’t like what I heard of the first Puscifer album. I actually bought this out of politeness because I was in the Puscifer store in Jerome when we went to the Caduceus wine tasting room on our trip and I felt obliged to buy something and I’d heard ‘Man Overboard’ and thought it was kinda catchy. Turns out it’s the weakest track on an album that is equal parts tender and angry. It’s also one of the only albums I’ve listened to compulsively since I was about 23. Did not expect that from this band. ‘Monsoons’ is absolutely gorgeous:

13 & god – Own Your Ghost

13 & god is a collaboration between The Notwist and Themselves. So…German indy/electronica and American absurdest hip-hip. In my perfect world, everyone would have bought this album had their mind grapes blown. It’s a slow-burning intense album and doseone is, in my humble white girl opinion, one of the most interesting emcees in current hip-hip. ‘Armored Scarves’ should be listened to the evening, on your porch, with your choice of beverage and friends:

And I feel fine…

I am moved and I am still vaguely sane!

I now live in a lovely old house with an amazing front porch, which I’ve already commandeered as a reading spot while I try and make my way through a huge pile of Vanity Fair magazines that have stacked up in recent months while I was fretting and travelling and having enormous amounts of fun and then spontaneously deciding I didn’t want to live alone anymore. I also have a dining room and a backyard and a new house cat called Stanley and a room with a high ceiling and friendly neighbours and more restaurants than I can ever hope to eat at, all within walking distance of my door.

It’s been a madhouse around my neck of the woods. There have been date nights in Melbourne (Date nights! Melbourne! Really, date nights and Melbourne go together like chocolate and peanut butter and Kahlua and vodka. Genius), amazing cocktails (pear, vanilla, cinnamon – it’s all I ever need to drink again), the passing of yet another of my literary giants and now all I can think about now is making it through this week and Christmas and getting dinner and amazing treats from the David Jones food hall and New Year’s Eve plans that come with promises of “delicious noms and wine”.

I think 2012 is going to be my year of making sure there’s always something to look forward to.

Eleven More Sleeps

Every year I try to buy myself something for Christmas. Mostly it’s some ridculously large piece of jewelry, by which I don’t mean expensive, though I admit, I once bought a pair of earrings that cost more than my weekly rent did at that stage and I was very poor and had buyer’s remorse and could barely look at them, but now I love them and wear them all of the time so it’s justifiable. When I say large, I mean large. If a ring isn’t big enough to do some serious damage in a bar fight, that ring is not worth wearing. I am sitting here right now with hoops in my ears that are big enough to put my fist through. Go large, or go home.

I think it is safe to say that I am not one for delicate or understated jewelry. I think, in part, it’s because of the face I was born with. There’s nothing understated about my face and once I’d gotten over that early teen thing of wanting to look exactly like everyone else, I was realised I needed to step up and own it and so I decorate it with as much loud stuff as I can, which combined with chronic bitchface, I think has prevented me from being shivved on multiple occasions.

This year I want to buy myself something from L.S.D (Little Sister Designs), a jewelry designer from New Zealand, who makes very solid and orgasmically macabre pieces. Charlotte is away at the moment, so there’s not much stock on her Etsy site, but when she’s back, you best believe we’re going to be talking about her rings, some of which she adorns with human teeth (for the record, although I understand that some people might find that off-putting, I grew up in a household where there was a jar of human teeth, so I don’t find the idea of wearing them particularly repulsive or strange).

However, because the jewels are worth a pretty penny and I’m about to give away many pretty pennies to removalists and real estate agents, I decided today I might need to downgrade for Christmas and gift myself a new ring as a Congratulations You Survived Moving, You Idiot present next year and so I was left  wondering what to gift myself for Chistmas. Then I saw this:

Now I just have to find that sucker.

Some short and sweet things:

+ I saw Ides of March last week and the more I think about it, the more I realise how clever the script is. Ides/Ida, the double crossing, the themes of loyalty and betrayal, how sometimes an act of betrayal can be the ultimate show of loyalty. Clooney did a great job of directing, espcially the last shot of Gosling, his pupils dilated, unblinking as the camera quietly envelops his face. It made me want to watch The War Room and West Wing and read All The President’s Men again.

+ I wrote a few pieces about our US trip for  Crikey and they’ve started to go up, along with some photos. The first one is about the time we spent in Death Valley and the second is about Halloween in Salt Lake City.

+ There are four sleeps until I go to Melbourne to see Tom Stoppard and Neil Gaiman, which is pretty much all that’s keeping me from going insane in between now and Thursday when if I’m not finished packing my life into boxes, I’m in a huge trouble with my parents, my siblings, in-law siblings, the removalists, my new housemate, my real estate agent, friends, enemies, and my cat. You would think this would be motivation enough, but you’re looking at a person who sat frozen in fear (read: asleep on the couch and waking up in huge fits of panic, which I dealt with by falling into more restless sleep, followed by waking up in huge fits of panic and repeat) on my couch yesterday and actually started talking aloud to the cat (read: to myself, but I have a cat so I can pretend at least I was talking to her) about how it was all going to be okay. I think I have learnt a lesson in all of this: I really don’t like moving.

This will be the 18th place I have lived. That means on average I have moved every 0.6 years of my life. That’s a lot of packing and unpacking of boxes. I always manage to move in summer. After years of roping friends in to help with promises of pizza and beer, grossing them out with a taxidermied deer head with a very full set of antlers and stressing them out with copious long-winded emails detailing how I imagine the move will pan out, I’ve decided to use removalists for the second time. Sure, they might smell pretty bad and be grossed out by your taxidermied deer head with a very full set of antlers, but you’re paying them, so if it can be lifted, they pretty much have to lift it.

Anyway, it’s enough to drive me to drink, which is why I was extra special happy to come across a bottle of gin yesterday. So tonight I am going to drink it. And pack my clothes. And cry a little.

See you on the flip side, punks!

The Great Move of 2011

My life at the moment is basically one long list of things I need to do by December 15.

Some of it is fun, like Tuesday night’s Kurt Vile gig. Most of it is not fun, like several appointments with my crazy Russian doctor.

I have spent a lot of time with The Russian this year. I am constantly perplexed by her inability to emote and her love of extracting blood from me. She is constantly perplexed by my inability to follow convoluted medical instructions and arrive in her office without tripping over my headphones. I also cannot for the life of me remember the name of anything I’ve ever been prescribed. We’ll discuss my blood pressure and I’ll eagerly remind her that I take however many milligrams of the first medicinal name that pops into my head. She’ll dourly inform me that that drug I just mentioned? That’s a contraceptive pill and if I’m taking that for high blood pressure, I might as well eat a meal of Oportos and Krispy Kreme and die right now, on the spot.

However, I feel that there’s a warmth growing between us now, and I no longer pee a little when she barks ‘JULIA?’ into the waiting room. She also has a matronly bosom, though I don’t think we’re at the stage where resting my head on it would provide comfort. One step at a time.

Really this is just a short note to say I have many things to say, many tales to tell and hopefully by the end of this week I’ll be slightly more on track with everything I need to get done for my move and I can tell you all sort of things like how it felt to meet my blogging idol goddess is Seattle and how my first ever bra fitting went (separate events, people, separate events. There are some dreams that will never come true).

In the mean time, just know that while you’re out doing fun things, most nights I’m at home, vacantly staring into space, holding a copy of Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised in my slack right hand, trying to decide if I really want to keep a copy of one of the greatest lit-wank pieces I’ve ever struggled through, while also wrangling a cat who’s taken to 3am temper tantrums.