I said it would happen in threes.

Train explosion

Yesterday, I wrote that something seriously weird was going in the world. First we had a plane crash from an otherwise safe airline, and then we had a surfer injured by a whale on a beach better known for reality shows about life guards.

I wrote that these events had a similar eery quality to them: they both represent some of our biggest fears (plane crash and aquatic attack) yet ones that we usually excuse, safe in the knowledge that they “never happen”.

I said that this felt like the sort of thing that would come in threes. And then it did.

On the train to work this morning, I read about the train explosion in Canada. It has all the markers of a very worst fear: a small sleepy town in the middle of the night, a runaway train, a horrific explosion. Authorities still do not know what caused the train to leave the station; the driver had checked the breaks that very evening. It combines so many worries. What if I never wake up? What if our house burns down?

Let me be clear that I do not mean every fear can fall into this category (that I am lumping three unrelated incidences into). If your house burns down because you left a fire burning and went out, or fell asleep smoking a cigarette, or there is a bushfire nearby, then these are all explanatory. You understand there is a certain amount (if minuscule) level of risk by living in a bushfire-prone region. Or smoking in the house. Or having a fire place.

What happened in Canada cannot so easily be explained. What happened in Canada is a tragedy that has roots in economic and environmental concerns, but I would argue it is among “the ridiculous” that we ration away when we go about our daily lives. I won’t be swallowed by a sinkhole, we reason. The bridge won’t collapse. A runaway train won’t crash into my house. The airplane won’t catch fire.

Maybe I’m creating something out of nothing. I’ve never predicted anything to be true before (I wouldn’t last ten minutes inside a casino) but this morning the news spooked me. It’s just been a spooky 24 hours, I guess.

All my thoughts are with those in Lac-Megantic, on board the Asiana Airline flight, and particularly with those who have died. I hope the surfer is recovering well.

Spare a thought for the train driver, too. I’m sure he is a decent person, and decent people were not made to withstand that much guilt and self-loathing. We don’t know yet whether it is or is not his fault, which means he likely does not know either. I can only imagine his agony.

Photo credits:

Image 1: Explosion – BBC News

What’s in a name? Everything. Kate and Wills, please name your future baby Alexandra.

Kate and Will

So. Alexandra is the odds-on favourite name for the imminent royal baby. It’s beaten royal classics like Charlotte, Diana, Victoria and Elizabeth to the number one spot.

Can I just say, I really, really hope Kate and Wills decide on Alexandra? You see, it’s the Queen’s middle name – but it’s also my own.

I’ve been an Alex most of my life, but I haven’t always been happy about it. While other girls got pretty names – like Emma, Claire, Rosie or Poppy – I was stuck with Alex. By the age of ten I’d lost count of how many people had said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” Combine it with an unusually masculine surname, and you’ve got a case of mistaken gender identity every time somebody meets me after learning my name.

I’ve toyed with changing it in the past. In Year 3, I made my entire school call me Jo. Yes, it was another boy’s name, but I’d just finished reading about a gypsy-girl called Jo in The Famous Five, okay? Jo was cool.

I moved to America the following year, and left Jo behind with Australia. To the American’s I was this strange English/Australian creature, and exotic enough that I didn’t need another name. I went back to being Alex, although I was never fully satisfied.

When I moved back to Australia four years later, I experimented with the more feminine sounding Lexi. That lasted approximately 30 minutes. Now, I’d love to be an Alexa, and take on my mother’s maiden name. It’s a far better name to say. (Is it weird if I tell you my mother’s maiden name? I’m not sure.  I won’t for now.) Alex Bruce-Smith is difficult on the tongue. My new name would roll right off it. It would be feminine and powerful. The perfect journalist name. As it is, I doubt I could ever be a radio journalist because my name is just too damn difficult to say.

The trouble is, Alex is powerful. Strong. Masculine. No one wants (or needs) to protect an Alex. Combine that with being taller than average and the eldest of three, and I’ve never gotten to be the young, cute one. And I really want to be the young cute one.

Pregnant KateBut let’s get back to Royal Baby Alexandra. (Look, I know we don’t know yet if it’s a boy or a girl, but for argument’s sake let’s go with it being a girl.)

It’s no secret that we go through waves of popularity with names. (Alexandra was the 13th most popular name in 1990 Australia, which explains why I’ve come up against so many in my life. I was once in an English class with six Alex’s and one Alexis.) And it’s no secret that celebrities and pop-culture have masses of influence when it comes to naming our children. There’s Bella and Jacob from Twilight, Arya and Khaleesi (yes, really) from Game of Thrones, and no doubt we can thank Poppy Delevingne, Sienna Miller and Chloe Sevigny for the rise in popularity of their first names.

And Kate Middleton has turned out to become the biggest trendsetter the world has ever seen. Every single item of clothing she’s been snapped in has sold out in seconds (with the added advantage that’s it’s mostly high street and therefore affordable). Even her blue engagement ring inspired fakes within days.

If Kate was to name her baby Alexandra? Thousands would follow. Literally, thousands. Her influence on the rest of the world is out of this world.

And if Alex became a popular girls name it would change people’s perception of it. All these cute little babies called Alex? People would start to go goo-gah at the name. Alex would forever be associated with a baby princess. (Actually, my parents supposedly named me after a Russian princess. But it’s not quite the same, is it.) The name would be more attractive. More feminine. More liked.

So Kate, if you could just go ahead and name your baby daughter Alexandra, that would be great. I’ll be celebrating with the other Alex’s of the world (we meet up once a month). And maybe one day, I won’t despise my own name so much.

Either that or I’ll legally change it to Poppy.

Photo Credits

William and Kate – eonline

Kate (polka dotted dress) – Pop Sugar

First San Francisco and then Bondi Beach? There must be an extremely pissed deity out there.

Whale splash

In the past 24 hours, two of the public’s worst nightmares have become reality.

The first is the San Francisco plane crash. While Australia slept, an Asiana Airlines flight from Seoul, South Korea, crash landed at San Francisco airport. Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that two are dead, while a further 140 are injured.

The second is the surfer who was rushed to hospital after being knocked unconscious by a 15-metre humpback whale this morning at Bondi Beach. It might not be a shark, but a whale is still a very real threat in the water. I imagine running head-first into an elephant would be a similar experience.

The thing that strikes me about both of these incidences is that they’re threats that cross our minds, but we wave away with the reasoning of “Oh, that never happens.” Crash landings from reputable airlines never happen. Being attacked by dangerous sea creatures never happen. If we couldn’t reason away these very real possibilities, we’d never board a flight or swim in the ocean again.

Plane crashI’m not a nervous flyer, but the take-off and landing still freak me out. There’s always that weightless feeling as you take off, where you suddenly realise that you are in a giant tin bucket several hundred feet above the ground and there’s no possible way physics accounts for this shit. (I calm down and remember my physics lessons approximately 30 seconds later, or as soon as the stewards stalk walking around.) And when you land, there’s always that bump, when you think, “Hmm. Will the plane topple over? Will we crash into the terminal? Oh well done, they’ve landed safely again.”

I can’t say I’m as calm about the ocean. I mean, I love going for a swim and all but the entire time I’m having a mild panic attack, imagining all sorts of sharks/sting rays/jelly fish/blue bottles/crabs/seaweed that could brush against my foot. I live in Australia, so this is a very real possibility. (I did see a shark once. It was approximately three feet long and probably couldn’t have bitten my pinky toe off, let alone a leg. Doesn’t matter. I’ve never sprinted out of the water so fast in my life.)

As much as our imagination goes into overdrive when we’re flying, or swimming in the ocean, or looking for lost children or Googling vague medical symptoms, reasoning is what brings us back to reality. Landing planes is practically all done with technology, anyway. If there was a shark in the water, there would be a warning. The lost child has probably wandered over to the toy section. You probably have a mild cold, not cancer.

But today, we’ve had two nightmares come true. Granted, this is nothing compared to what’s happening in Egypt, or Turkey, or even Australia’s shambles of politics. But these are fears of a different type altogether. This is along the same lines of hearing a bump in the night, only to find out there actually is someone in your house.

Which leads me to believe there must be a very pissed deity somewhere. Or perhaps its collective bad karma. Or maybe it’s just a chronological hotspot of bad luck. That seems like the sort of thing that comes in threes, doesn’t it? The mystical and the magical and stand up jokes always come in threes. These incidences feel very much like they fit into the category of threes.

We’ve already had two. I wonder what’s coming next?

Photo Credits

Bondi Beach: Sydney Morning Herald

Plane Crash: News.com.au

That time I interviewed Midnight Juggernauts.

Midnight Juggernauts

I’ve been a fan of Midnight Juggernauts since my final year of school back in 07, so when the chance came to interview them I jumped. Hard. Like, I was bouncing round my bedroom when I got the email confirming everything.

They were touring in South America, so the interview was all done over Skype. Now, I don’t know about what “the professionals” do, but I record  every single interview on my iPhone. There’s none of this fancy pants equipment (let’s save that for Radio class), just me, my laptop, and my phone pressed right against the speaker.

There’s also the case of where to conduct the interview. Where do the professionals do it? In their Pinterest-esque study? Their living room?

I didn’t have either option – living with my family and a distinct lack of beautiful study – so it was, of course, my bedroom. Oo-er.

I spent a good portion of the morning streaming their new album Uncanny Valley while making my bed, shoving miscellaneous clothes and shoes into a hidden corner, and ensuring I looked decent enough to be interviewing someone while not over-doing it and looking like I was on the pull. I could have spent a bit more time, you know, getting my questions together, but it was vitally important that the Midnight Juggernauts not think I was some disgusting slob who hadn’t even washed her hair.

In the end it didn’t even matter. He Skyped from his phone – no camera.

I transcribed the interview later, and the number one thought running through my head was: “Holy hell. I sound like a total prat.” But you know, I had envisioned myself TALKING to them. Face to face. I was in FACE TO FACE talking mode, not on-the-phone talking mode. They’re completely different things. Obviously.

And my Dad walked in half way though the interview. Like oh my god Dad that’s so uncool, don’t you know I’m talking to rockstars? And trying to be professional? But also I would really like a cup of tea, thanks.

The interview is now up on The Australian Times for all to read. I suggest you do. If nothing else, you may be intrigued to find out what these electro-rockers listen to when they’re not making music….

And have a listen to their new track, Memorium. It’s pretty trippy stuff. The whole album is influenced by the idea of robotics and humanity and technology. The name Uncanny Valley comes from legendary roboticist Masahiro Mori. It’s a hypothesis he wrote in 1970, which states: “I have noticed that, in climbing toward the goal of making robots appear human, our affinity for them increases until we come to a valley, which I call the uncanny valley.”

Heavy.

Short & Sweet // Feminist Taylor Swift

Feminist Taylor Swift

A Twitter account popped up four days ago that appropriates Taylor Swift lyrics and gives them a feminist message.

Yes. YES! This is why the internet was invented – to spread amazing ideas. And telling a whole generation of young girls that men and women are equals, only “yes” means consent and to stand up for what you believe in? Amazing.

The Twitter account already has 50,000 followers. And judging by the ridiculous amount of trending topics about Justin Beiber and One Direction, I’ve come to the conclusion that Twitter is 5% celebrity, 3% businesses and 90% teenage girls.

(The other 2% is normal people like you and me. *cough cough*)

So maybe these teenage girls will start to get a taste of feminism young. When I was a teenager I thought feminism was all about butch lesbians in the 70s who didn’t shave their armpits. Like, gross.

Here’s a selection of the best ones:

T Swift 1T Swift 6T Swift 5T Swift 4T Swift 3T Swift 2

All I can say is, for the love of god KEEP THEM COMING! And also that whoever you are, love your work.

I wonder what T Swift thinks about it?

The Friend Zone, and why it needs to die NOW.

Ted MosbyRoss Geller and Rachel Green. Severus Snape and Lily Evans. Ted Mosby and Robin Scherbatsky.

What do the characters from Friends, Harry Potter and How I Met Your Mother have in common?

They’re all classic cases of a man in the friend zone.

The friend zone is the mythical place a woman puts a man she isn’t romantically interested in. The man wants a relationship, while the woman wants a friend. If dating were a sport, the friend zone is the bench. Your role is to watch and cheer while the other person scores (ooh-er). If you are a man who likes a woman who only wants friendship from you, then you have been friend-zoned.

Phew. Still with me?

Ross and Rachel were the ones who started the whole phenomenon. Way back in 1994, when Friends was in its first season, Ross was in love with Rachel. Rachel, of course, had no idea. In a rare moment of insight, Joey explained to Ross why he was never, ever going to get with Rachel.

 

Joey: It’s never going to happen.

Ross: What?

Joey: You and Rachel.

Ross: [flusters around in typical Ross-fashion] …. Why not?

Joey: Because you waited too long to make your move, and now you’re in ‘The Friend Zone’.

Ross: No no no, I’m not in the zone.

Joey: Ross, you’re mayor of the zone.

RossThe fashions of the mid nineties may not have stuck around (thank god. Have you seen Ross’s turtlenecks?) but the concept of the friend zone has. It’s been making brief appearances in pop culture, but really kicked up a notch in the last two years. In typical internet fashion, it went viral – and stayed around in our collective consciousness. Today not a reference goes by to a man and a woman being friends without the accompanying caption, “stuck in the friend zone.”

And you know what? I’m sick of it.

The idea of the friend zone is laced with bitterness. It basically implies three things:

  1. That men and women cannot be friends, as the man is always trying to get into her lady pants.
  2. Men deserve sex simply for being nice to a woman.
  3. Women are bitches who heartlessly keep men around to exploit their feelings, turning them into a useful male friend who will come round to fix things and deal with spiders.

It’s crap. The friendzone is complete crap. And we need to stop using it, like, yesterday. Let’s look at what it’s implying a little more closely.

1. Men and women cannot be friends, as the man is always trying to get into her lady pants.

8 out of 10 cats friendzone

You know what this means, right? Every single friendship you’ve ever had with a person of the opposite gender has been a lie. Yes, even the man you were able to fart in front of and ask why your date never called you back.

Lies, all lies!

It hasn’t been about your winning personality, or the fact that you can properly challenge them in Mario Kart, or that you once helped them move on a Saturday morning. It’s always been about them trying to trick you into bed with friendship.

Whoops. I should probably write a letter to every male friend I’ve ever had, apologise profusely for my behaviour, and then explain that as I don’t fancy them we should never see each other ever again.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I ask you this: who is deceiving who?

Is the lady deceiving the gentleman with false promises of romance… or is the gentleman deceiving the lady with false promises of friendship?

Trust me boys, if a girl is into you, you will know about it. We’re a lot less subtle than we like to think. If you don’t suspect we’re into you, then there’s a decent chance we only think of you as a friend. But really, who is the bad guy here? Are you only pretending to be our friend until such a time as we decide to bone you? I think that makes you the liar.

The solution of course is to only be friends with women, and keep men reserved for sexual things, but that would be eliminating 50 per cent of the population in what otherwise could have been a beautiful friendship.

2. Men deserve sex simply for being nice to a woman.

Wonka

We’ve seen this over and over again since childhood. Hero saves the world, then gets the girl. Think every Disney movie ever made (except Brave. You go Brave.) Think every action movie, every coming of age tale, every television show with the ‘will they, won’t they’ plotline. The male lead is good, attractive, brave, intelligent, and kind… but more importantly, he is nice. He’s not the jerk the girl originally goes for. He’s the nice guy she ends up with, once she’s realised that the jerk guy is a jerk and she should have been with the nice guy all along.

What does this say to boys? It says that if they are nice enough, they will get the girl. There’s nothing to prepare them for what happens if they’re as nice as they think they are, but the girl decides she wants to date someone else. Or not date anyone. Or just thinks he’s an awesome guy that she would like to spend time with, but doesn’t want to sleep with, thank you very much.

We all know how the couples I mentioned at the beginning of this article end up. (Several years old SPOILERS ALERT!) Ross and Rachel start dating, break up, argue about whether they were on a break, get married in Vegas, get divorced, and finally, after ten seasons, get it together. Ted only takes a year to convince Robin that he’s the one, and she only takes a year to realise that he isn’t. Snape and Lily never got together, but that could be a little more to do with the powers of evil and her falling for the good guy, rather than any effort on his part.

The friend zone is a hard place to leave, but pop culture teaches us that with time and persistance (and a lack of Dark Lords), it can be done. And everybody cheers when it happens.

Well, screw that. This theory basically implies that men are owed sex for being a decent human being. John Mix Meyer, a gaming writer, said it best when he tweeted: “Girls are not machines you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.”

Well said, John. Whatever happened to being a decent human being because, you know, it’s the right thing to do? Besides, if you’re only being nice to a girl in order to get her to sleep with you, you might want to reevaluate how ‘nice’ you think you are.

3. Women are bitches who heartlessly keep men around to exploit their feelings, turning them into a useful male friend who will come round to fix things and deal with spiders.

Guys I'm not going to bang

There’s a phrase that does the internet rounds from time to time that explains this statement perfectly:

“Slut” is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say “yes.”

“Friend zone” is how we vilify a woman for exercising her right to say “no.”

We really can’t win. Either we’re a slut for sleeping with the multiple men we call friends, or we’re a bitch who friend zones every man we meet. There’s not a lot of wiggle room here. The only solutions are to stay away from the male population altogether, or get married quick smart and flash your wedding ring every chance you get.

In an ideal world, there would be no hurt feelings, no broken hearts, and no lost socks in the washing machine (sorry. That one just gets to me.) But this isn’t an ideal world – for starters, it’s populated with people. And people are, in general, nice. We want to hang out with other nice people and we definitely do not want to hurt someone’s feelings.

Telling someone, point blank, that you have no interest in them whatsoever? That’s cruel. That’s the stuff nightmares are made of. That’s the story we’ll tell our therapists in ten years time when we still haven’t gotten over it.

So we drop hints. We pull away when you pull in. We express interest in another guy, or hell – we might even be dating another guy. Gentleman, here you have two options: accept that you are always going to be ‘just friends’ and actually be a friend, or pull away. We’re not deceiving you into false friendship, and you shouldn’t be either.

And yes, if we’re friends and I’m home alone with a giant spider, I’ll probably call you while locked in my bathroom fearing for my life. But afterwards I’ll say thank you, and we’ll have a beer together – because we’re friends.

To every review of The Great Gatsby.

The-Great-Gatsby3

I’ve become addicted to reading reviews of The Great Gatsby. I’ve almost unconsciously followed every piece of media, every leaked photo, every interview with Baz Luhrman and finally, every review. This film… it’s been a few years coming.

And there’s one thing I’d like to say to all of these Gatsby reviewers: Can you please, for the love of all that is holy, just SHUT UP ALREADY.

If I read one more time that “Baz didn’t even read the book,” (he listened to it on audiobook), or that “the beauty of the book is in the prose and that just doesn’t translate well into film,” (duh) I will literally tear my hair out and then the paper in half.

Well done you. You made these very clever and original insights. Of course, tell me ALL about how the other The Great Gatsby films ‘failed’ or how much you loved the book. It’s not like I haven’t read it all before.

Cover ArtI’ve read that Luhrmann doesn’t have the subtlety of Fitzgerald. I’ve read that it is over the top, with in-your-face references to symbolism. I’ve read that the film being bookended by Nick Carraway’s recounting of this time period to a therapist is clunky, doesn’t work, and – more specifically – isn’t in the book. I’ve read that people take issue with the text that appears on screen, with the references to the green light, with Jordan Baker not getting enough screen time. I’ve read people literally tear apart every aspect of this film.

To those people, I ask you one thing: have you forgotten that the director is Baz Luhrman?

Baz of Moulin Rouge. Baz of Romeo + Juliet. Baz of Australia, of which I think I was one of only a few people in the world who enjoyed the film.

Baz is big. He’s over the top. This isn’t some other director only known for Hollywood blockbusters or period dramas. This is Baz Luhrmann, known for hyper-emotive, colourful, oddly paced yet busting with raw emotion films. Films that depict in the large-scale what we human beings feel at the core of our being.

James Franco got it right, when he wrote:

“The critics who’ve ravaged the film for not being loyal to the book are hypocrites. These people make their living doing readings and critiques of texts in order to generate theories of varying levels of competency, or simply to make a living. Luhrmann’s film is his reading and adaptation of a text—his critique, if you will. Would anyone object to a production of Hamlet in outer space? Not as much as they object to the Gatsby adaptation, apparentlyMaybe that’s because Gatsby is so much about a time and a place, while Shakespeare, in my mind, is more about universal ideas, ideals, and feelings. Luhrmann needed to breathe life into the ephemera and aura of the 20s and that’s just what he succeeded at.”

I saw the film, and guess what – I loved it. Not because it was an exact replica of a book I’d read and loved, but because it was fun.

It was like going to a glamorous party, which I’m sure is exactly what Luhrmann intended. The anticipation, the arrival, the first sip of champagne, the nods to old friends and the eavesdropping of strangers, the second glass, the realisation you’ve perhaps drunk too much. The retreat. The hangover. The sobering realisation.

The novel has such popularity that no movie could ever do it justice in the eyes of its fans. But Luhrmann didn’t forget them. There were nods after nods to the text – the original cover art was used as a billboard, the original text made up dialogue, even Nick Carraway recounting his experiences to the therapist had something of the book in him. After all, if someone needs to recount, why not give him someone to recount to? Nick even takes the place of Fitzgerald, penning the novel The Great Gatsby.

Yes, the film can be erratic, has euphoric highs and heart wrenching lows, is at times painfully obvious and at others surprisingly deep.

But you know who else was? Jay Gatsby. And what fun he was.

Gastby, Daisy and Tom

What did you think of the film? Have you seen it yet?