mercoledì, aprile 23, 2014

Kiddie love

Thailand isn't like anywhere I've been before, and I don't really want to leave. That's notwithstanding that Bangkok is kind of gross, environment-wise. I haven't seen this many rats, nor such big ones, since I was living in Paris, and it is simply too fucking hot - a natural 35 under a heavy blanket of humidity and car exhaust. And I can't eat as my id would bid me because of my allergies.

But everybody is being so sweet to us, I think because of Godzilla, though generally I've never been anywhere where absolutely clueless foreigners (that is, us) are treated with such kindness and forebearance. It's like Spain or something - everybody making such a fuss of babies and being so tolerant of their noise and importunities. I feel sort of bad for raising Godzilla in Australia and planning on raising him in Germany, places that I think have little surfeit love for little people. I can't imagine Germany is worse than Australia - their school system is too evidence-based and fun relative to the Australian ones, that pack them into military formation and chuck the three Rs at their head way too early in a politicized fashion, in the vengeful-on-the-young spirit of "I was miserable at school and so shall my children be, damnit."

More later. I've got a living to earn.

giovedì, aprile 17, 2014

And so the planing begins

We are off to Thailand tonight . . . all of us. I'm travelling for work again this year and taking the boy, and sometimes the man, with me as I do - very curious about how it's going to go. Godzilla was a pet flying back and forth from New Zealand and Canada last year. This year? He has Thailand, China, Canada, Italy and Germany. Getting him used to flying now is either the best or worst idea ever. I'll let you know in October. I know it's a luxury in any case. But is it one of those luxuries like cocaine, that just makes my head hurt and feels like I'm pissing money away? Time will tell.

One thing that is better about travelling now than when I was a kid myself, making my mother's life difficult every summer - e-readers. I don't generally have much use for them, but I've got the complete works of Proust in my carry-on saved on something smaller and lighter than a notepad. That's fucking awesome, especially in these days of carefully weighed luggage and carting stuff around for another human with high needs and indifferent bag-carrying skills. I wonder if the complete works of Proust even fucking exist anywhere in Australia in the original French.

Speaking of books, I'm pretty bummed about Gabriel Garcia Marquez being dead. I didn't exactly set out to, but I ended up reading so many of his books and loving them all, each a little differently. Sort of a Dickensish flavour about that; you can't help coming across and reading his books if you read books, even without seeking them out, and fuck me if they aren't all that. If I had to choose a favourite, which I can't, it might be News of a Kidnapping; he has this reputation for magic realism but that reportage was so compelling and touching.

It feels like someone I knew and respected died. One of my better university professors, maybe. It also feels like one day if I have literate grandchildren, they'll be impressed I was alive at the same time as he was. A giant of a writer about whom you can say "now he belongs to the ages" with a straight face.

giovedì, marzo 27, 2014

German homework

German classes are going well. It's really gratifying how quickly I feel like I'm picking things up, for which I should thank Chinese for being so slow and difficult to pick up. In comparison it's as though I'm studying a dialect of English, though more properly I guess English is a pidgin version of German - all the tough bits removed. Grammatically it's striking how similar German is to "poetic" English - like reading a Walter Scott novel sometimes - and between a study of German and French I feel like I'm getting a whole new understanding of English, which is fun.

More about that another time. One of our bits of homework last week was to watch Free Rainier, a bit of television-grade, good-enough left-wing feel-good fluff about sabotaging the TV ratings system in Germany, which I got a little bit of extra enjoyment out of by virtue of having worked in the television industry back in the noughties, around the time the film was released. The really significant thing about it, though, was it mentioning Fassbinder, and me recalling that I was pretty much ready to start watching Fassbinder films as the F-word had been bothering me to do for years, to see what everybody meant about how great he was and what an interesting perspective he had on women and all sorts of things.

Well, fuck.


We started with Martha, which I've since been told was probably a bit of a heavy place to start. It made me laugh out loud and want to vomit, and I'd say I don't want to see it again but the lead actress was such a comedic genius that she made it really watchable. I don't think I've ever seen such a movie before. It had the sort of heavy hand of a parable, archetypes rather than characters, and - blessings - wholly simple, if deeply disturbing dialogue that helped with language acquisition. And making me want to vomit. And laugh.

A long time ago I watched and blogged about a film called Secretary, which I liked. It was based on a short story, which I later read and didn't think much of. The author accused Secretary's makers of making a Disney version of her story. Well, no, they didn't, they made a better, more developed story about a dominant/submissive relationship and gave her money because both of them had a secretary in it. They did make a Disney version of Martha. Secretary was cute while Martha has big, damning things to say about being bourgeois and being a woman and all sorts of heavy shit while being funny.

Anyways, I couldn't stop there. While I was still processing, I decided to watch Veronica Voss. That didn't make me want to puke, and it had nice simple dialogue again, which was great for language acquisition, again. I don't have as much to say about it besides that it might have been the best film I've ever seen. Performances, cinematography, everything. It probably also made a bigger emotional impact than it might have otherwise because I saw it while reading Gabor Mate's In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which I started to help me deal with a friend's descent into terminal alcoholism. Sometimes it gets so irresistable to dismiss somebody's behaviour - and hence them - because of their addictions, even if you reckon you're doing it "compassionately" by considering their addiction a disease instead of a wilful, stupid, stupid choice. But it's not that simple, is it?

Not that the presentation of addiction in Veronica Voss wasn't simple, which was probably down to Fassbinder being a dedicated addict himself and seeking to see himself as a victim of chemicals, rather than of anything more personal or internal. But it made you stare rather unflinchingly at addiction in a way that was more than watchable, and ultimately, even funny. Sometimes.

lunedì, marzo 17, 2014

Things that matter

Well, I'm procrastinating here. Our Italian babysitter is, strictly speaking, hours I don't need to get my job done. They sure as hell help, especially at the end of the quarter when I get busier, but they're not strictly necessary. I explain the expensive to myself by Godzilla's bilingualism, and the fact that I need a little extra time for my job just by virtue of its importance for our family; I wear the moneypants, which is fine with me, but it does mean I should probably find new and better ways of being awesome at what I do.

At the moment, though, I have another project on the boil. The intensive editing - basically, the writing - of a pop version of a friend's doctoral thesis. It's going to be quite good, although I don't know how broad its appeal will be. And much as I love my day job, and I do love it, at some point I'm probably going to get burned out over finance and industry and want to write pop versions of doctoral theses all the time.

And it will definitely eat up all the extra hours of babysitting we're getting with the Italian sitter. Once I start. Which I need to. Now. But here you are, procrastination, because this is something that matters for more than just money, so I'm apparently a little nervous, or something, and arguing with my cousin on Facebook about how Game of Thrones is no more fundamentally feminist than The Bold and the Beautiful.

Okay. Procrastination done. Here I go.

lunedì, marzo 10, 2014

Home help

We are managing parenthood, largely by hiring people to help. 14 hours a week of babysitting. It's not terrifically cheap at this point - probably a little more expensive than daycare, after subsidies, from what our neighbours tell us about the apparently really good Montessori place up the street. But I feel like Godzilla is just too young to go out of the house and go all Lord of the Flies with a bunch of other kids.

It'd be different if I worked outside of the home, I guess, but I don't. This way I can hear Godzilla, I can be there if he bumps his head or needs a nurse or cuddle, I can know he's okay all the time . . . yeah, there's a lot of "I" in those sentences. It's also for my sake that I've insisted on him getting care in our home and not in a nursery. Well, fine, officer, you caught me, I like having my own son around. I don't see any reason to put him and myself through the stress of seperation when I'm lucky enough to have a full time job I can do from home while he's having a lark in the next room with the babysitters. That will come with kindergarten, and come soon - a year in August - he can get all socialized then. And this time that I get to have this gorgeous little kid around all the time will never come back again so I'm going to enjoy it. 

And also, I like having chosen the carers, which you can't really do in an institution. The Italian lady who was doing all the hours before is only doing one day a week now, as she's working elsewhere as well. Still, hopefully its doing its job to shore up Godzilla's language - the F-word is still keeping up with the Italian too.

The other 11 hours a week we've got another terrific girl, white as potatoes but lovely, gentle and warm. Both of them are very young and quite inexperienced (and god, does the white girl remind me of myself when I was 19, with the key difference that she's actually quite beautiful, which fills me with curiosity; what would my life have been like if I was beautiful? I really have no confidence it would have been better) but that doesn't matter, because I'm around anyways, so it's not like the house is going to catch fire. So I could hire them based on the warmth of their personalities and how much fun Godzilla has with them, which is a lot. He likes spending time with them - he's thrilled when they get here and sad when they leave.

The world is full of assholes, including in Godzilla's own family, the poor mite . . . he'll get enough of them by default that I'm happy to spare him any in his infancy.