Didion Redacted

April 29, 2009 by

“We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption, a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”

I blush at this because it’s just so breath-takingly good. Oh Didion, your way with words is a joy and a curse.

Like P&C I too feel slightly withered after reading her, it’s painful to be confronted with writing that puts all one’s own petty attempts at it into sharp relief – she sort of buffets you about the head with the smallest (and weightiest, I like that term) of phrases and she leaves you sighing and melancholic and buffeted and wishing you could drink straight bourbon like she can.

Are keepers of notebooks really a different and lonely and rearranging breed though? I’m not too sure about this but I do like her point about this breed of hers being awash in ‘some presentiment of loss’ – I know this feeling, I don’t always observe things and then worry they’ll be gone (or already are) and go and write them down in my notebook and try to thus fix them and keep them so I don’t lose them but I know that compulsion well, and that feeling of losing moments exactly in the instant I experience them.

For me, this essay captures so well the paradox of the notebook (or diary, or pensee record, or journal, or blog etc etc), the one that often stops me from filling one up with delightful bon mots and charming anecdotes and profound insights; that is that in writing in one, one is always so conscious that it is both the most self-indulgent/pointless/navel-gazing/dripping in upper middle class angst/privileged way to spend one’s solitary moments AND that it is, as Didion says, a delightful way to resist the expectation to always put others before ourselves, to ‘affect absorption in other people’s favourite dresses, other people’s trout.’

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.” This is the lesson I’d like to take from her precisely because I’m certain I do everything I can to stay far far away from my previous others – like the one who tried to start a ‘movie diary’ that’s now a recipe book and which I grimace over every time I flip to the review of ‘Lost in Translation’ [the one that says it was ‘bittersweet’ and ‘altered my perception’] instead of to the recipe for chickpea casserole.

But yet, my latest notebook isn’t going much better if I’m honest – it starts with ‘profound’ quotes from GUESS WHO? Erm, Joan Didion of course along with some David Foster Wallace (I seem to think quotes can speak for me better than I can speak for myself – is this just another example of my diffidence to others’ thoughts and ideas as Didion points out?) and apart from that, there are some random PhD related rants hidden towards the back; apart from this I am actually TOO SCARED to write in it – I actually don’t want to mess up the nice clean pages with what I already assume will be a combination of derivative drivel and quotes…sigh…I’m not really getting anywhere now am I?

Maybe when my others appear “…hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night”, instead of picking up my notebook, I’ll just pick up Joan instead.
[I could also just chill the hell out and start messing up my prissy clean little pages with some mind strings – F**k Yeah]


Joan Didion’s ‘On Keeping a Notebook’

April 29, 2009 by

Now that I’ve read this, I wish I’d written in notebooks during my life. I’ve kept some ill-fated diaries, books of bad writing, scrapbooks, teen boredoms and notebooks of mundane lists from time to time, but nothing resembling Joan’s slivers of everyday life that obviously honed her acute powers of watching and her sense for the weighty and the dramatic in minor events between people. The fact that reading this essay first made me feel awed and then ashamed for not being as cool as her pissed me off because what that says about me is that the first thing I do with a thoughtful, wonderful piece of writing is to wish that I had written it and despair that I never will. Which may just be a sign that I am a writer and therefore a solipsist. Or it may be a sign that I don’t yet have self respect, as characterised in ‘On Self Respect’. But since the latter remains a bit opaque to be, I can’t be sure. Explain it to me.

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss.” I can understand the urge to rearrange the truth by writing down a version of it that better suits yourself, but how does keeping a notebook indicate you are afflicted with a presentiment of loss? I suppose Joan’s referring to the creative impulse of those who are compelled to write or draw or carve wood or be creative in whichever way necessary – the urge to remake the world. What I like here is the slightly neurotic inference that notebook-keepers are a bit belligerent, that they are grumpy to find that everything is as bad as they had suspected and are intent on making a new truth as a sort of correction, an antidote to disappointment. Notebook keeping or storytelling as a rebellion, a refusal to accept things as they are.

I think this essay is about the act of writing as a way of remembering. “To remember what it was to be me.” Joan distinguishes between the boredom of writing a diary and the act of keeping a notebook by equating diarising with recording mundane events and large details, and note-keeping as observed details, the embroidery of experience, the moments caught then lost, the breaths of truth, the shit that we don’t remember. I think she was saying that not only did she keep notebooks to remember what it was to be her, but to remember what it was to be alive, what it is to be alive – to grasp onto the greasy pole of mortality by recording a moment even as it slips through our fingers. Like grains of sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

Some random extracts from the notebook I currently keep in my handbag so as to always have somewhere to write things down:

– A story idea during my placement at the Taranaki Daily News: “Waitara river entrance improvements: feasibility of reinstating half tide wall at Waitara following submissions from users”
– Description of a bar I was reviewing: “Fabric of a Lisa Ho dress, granite, cross section of turd, ant farm, lava, chain mail curtains”
– “For a certain group of young NZers, Helen Clark is not just a political figure, she’s a cultural icon”
– pina colada necklace
– Leonie: “Relationships are all about bringing the other person down.”
– $73.78

KNOWING… what?

April 13, 2009 by

I saw this movie last week.

The scenario is that this man finds this list of numbers that predicts all of the big disasters of the last fifty years and then sets about trying to prevent the last three predictions on the list. His whiney little son is somehow involved. There are also a couple of horrific and unnecessarily realistic and graphic scenes of mass death. At the end, the whole world gets fucked by a giant solar flare. Yes. Everyone dies.

Reasons why KNOWING is a pile of horseshit. (NB. KNOWING must always be written in capitals to denote its weighty sense of its own importance and deepitude).

1. Why is Hollywood so obsessed with disasters? Whether it’s natural disasters or otherwise, apparently we can’t get enough of random death on a large scale. Why is this? Granted, the knowledge of your own mortality is a terrible burden and it’s scary to think that your death will probably be random and pointless, blah blah. But is it really necessary to dwell on all the ways that we might die violently at the hands of nature/terrorists/a virus/monsters/freak accidents? Is this really entertainment?

2. Why is Hollywood so obsessed with numbers? We seem to be in the thrall of people who can make sense of numbers and mathematics and physics and shit and revere them as gods. Mathematicians. Numerologists. Austistic people. In a funny way, I think it’s the same as our fascination with disasters – both seem unknowable and incomprehensible. We are intrigued by an autistic person who knows thousands of prime numbers in the same way we are mesmerised by horrific tsunamis unfolding on the evening news. The random strikes again. Maybe if we break the code, we can stave off our own impending deaths.

3. Nicolas Cage. What happened? You were so good in Moonstruck and Adaptation. We know you can do better. So why do you make movies like National Treasure 2 and KNOWING? I truly don’t believe that when you die, you will feel like you made your contribution to society. You will feel like made a shitload of money. And foisted this nasty, stupid mish-mash of a disaster-death-fest on us. Dick. By the way, you don’t make a very plausible physicist.

4. So, at the end, this little boy and girl get taken away by some creepy guys with silvery skin and bleached hair like Spike from Buffy. The dudes then shed their skin and turn into glowing beings re: The X-Files. They take the kids onto this big spaceship thingy that looks like a crystal or maybe some sort of mystical cactus. They then drop the kids off on a new planet, and the children run away over a paddock towards a tree. I assume this is The Tree of Knowledge or some shit. I almost expected the little girl to like, EAT AN APPLE or something else really SYMBOLIC.

It was so heavy-handed, I felt like I was being hit across the face with the Bible. But not in a religious way – in a stupid way. The writer of this movie seems to think that God was an alien. Or that angels are aliens. Or something.

At the very least, he seems to be having some deep thoughts, like: we think we know stuff, but actually, do we REALLY know stuff?? Are aliens real? Is there A God? Are they THE SAME THING? Also: We’re all gonna die someday.

Like, whoa.

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24, 2009 by
I RULE you Babbage!

I RULE you Babbage!

Holy cow, how fricking excited do you think I am about discovering that not only is today Ada Lovelace Day but that I can partake in this crazily awesome day by blogging about a Techie Fembot who is imbued with the Lovelace spirit that has smashed technological patriarchy’s lilly-livered ass since 1815??
VERY EXCITED let me tell you

Now I have blogged about this Fembot before but in the spirit of Lovelace, I wish to draw your attention again to the techie/smashing/misogynistic-media-excoriating/awesome/hilarity-inducing Fembot that is:
Sarah Haskins…

No caption needed

No caption needed

Check out Target Women
My favourites so far are Yoghurt, Wedding shows and Vampires
Follow her on Twitter if you are so techie/fembot inclined
Dearest Ada, I hope you appreciate my miniscule contribution to your awesome patriarchy smackdown legacy…
I hail thee

My new nickname

March 18, 2009 by


My sis calls me this now

Choice eh?

Ancient Babes

February 17, 2009 by


Listen to this crazy good podcast about Plato’s symposium and erotic love – so awesome!
I must have learnt about this at school but Plato’s speech from Aristophanes about the three genders (not two, three I tell you!) and how we all used to be spheres with four arms and legs and two heads?? It’s giving me conniptions it’s so good!
Also, Alcibiades sounds like the hottest babe EVER plus he was in love with Socrates so he gets even more hot points…

Ancient Babe

Ancient Babe

Why Alien(s) are the best movies ever

February 17, 2009 by


1. Because they are claustrophobically scary as hell

2. The soundtracks add to the terror by about a gazillion percent

3. The build-up to the chest-bursting scene in Alien, dear god, it’s crazy how good it is. You (and they) think it’s all ok and they’re having a nice meal back on the ship and then, KABLAM, blood and viscera and freaky alien spawn!

4. Apparently the actors all knew the alien would be bursting out of John Hurt but didn’t know there would be fake blood pumping out of his chest so all their freaking out is for realz!

5. Also apparently Ridley Scott wanted the end of Alien to be way darker – like, he wanted the alien to tear Ripley’s head off, then sit in her chair and start talking in her voice, some evil message for humankind – ahahahahaha!

6. The flamethrowers in Aliens, the shitting scary tomb for all the human victims, the Queenie, the fact that Ripley is undermined and scoffed at by the idiot, white, male corporate bastardos and then totally kicks serious ass and saves humanity. Plus she totally rules that Power Loader!

7. The fact that these films are so DEEP man. Mary Ann Doane (1990) argues that the film deals with “…the revolution in the development of technologies of reproduction (birth control, in vitro fertilisation, artifical insemination, surrogate mothering etc.)” and she also writes that these technologies “…put into crisis the very possibility of the question of origins, the Oedipal dilemma and the relation between subjectivity and knowledge that it supports.” Interestingly, Christine Cornea (2007) argues that the films are about the role of the feminine in the creation of masculine subjectivity and identity  – Heavy duty shit yo!

I could go on…..and on

I just wish a female director could have made at least one of the films…I give props to Scott and Cameron but still. I reckon Alison Maclean should direct a new chapter of the franchise, she’d be bloody good.

Alien and Aliens at IMDB


February 12, 2009 by

Boy oh boy is this lady shi**ing awesome…


Fembot depression

December 12, 2008 by


My Fembot power took a battering over the weekend when I read the Observer’s special Women’s issue. Those rape conviction stats were about the most disheartening thing I’ve read in a while and by the time I got to the comments from a young British decathlete about how she was empowered by wearing fake tan at the Beijing Olympics, I was just despairing about the plight of the feminist cause against the particularly virulent strand of conservative postfeminism which Britain is currently steeped in.
Two things have saved me from my own depression though…
Firstly, Sarah Haskins: boy oh boy this lady gives me hope, she’s fucking awesome – check out her yoghurt schtick, priceless.
Secondly, I’ve been listening to Le Tigre’s album Feminist Sweepstakes – holy crap talk about excellent, fembot lyrics, like this song ‘FYR’ (which stands for Fifty Years of Ridicule):
“Feminists we’re calling you. Please report to the front desk. Let’s name this phenomenon. It’s too dumb to bring us down.”
Dyke March 2001 is also a great great song, I listened to it this morning as I walked past a KitKat billboard that read: ‘165 calories, A Gift for All Women’. Fuck off Nestle.

I wouldn’t say no to Edward Cullen.

December 10, 2008 by

I’ve been trying to resist for ages but last weekend I finally gave in and read Twilight. It’s a shit book – badly written, unimaginative, long-winded, irritating and boring. BUT I couldn’t stop myself from reading to the end.

It’s a compelling story because it’s fucking romantic.

Twilight is simple teenage girl wish fulfilment: lonely, bookish, clumsy new girl at school is the object of desire for several eligible guys on campus, but she spurns their advances because, like, she just wants to be friends. She also has her eye on the mysterious stranger in the corner of the lunchroom who happens to be a stone cold babe. Girl turns out to be object of primal, uncontrollable desire for babe. Babe also happens to be undead. Big deal! Babe and girl fall passionately in love and are the envy of all their peers. He saves her from peril, she takes care of him and rescues him from himself. They go to prom. They do not have sex. Ever!

Edward and Bella’s relationship is exactly what every girl wants in high school – a gorgeous supernatural being to save us from the boredom and awkwardness of adolescence, convince us that we’re special, kiss us coolly and have absolutely no desire to get in our panties.

Unlike The Guardian, I don’t think Stephanie Meyer’s series is pernicious, anti-feminist or dangerous (it’s a bit much to label two-dimensional vampo-babe Edward a proto-rapist). Even though there are definite pro-abstinence messages in the book, frankly, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing for young women and girls who are becoming acquainted with sex and sexual behaviour at an increasingly early age. Sure, Bella is pathetic and annoying, but at least she’s independent, interested in reading, doesn’t wear g-strings or Playboy t-shirts and is a nice person, unlike any of the characters in Gossip Girl.

I’m trying really really hard NOT to start reading the second book in the Twilight series, New Moon. But I’m losing the battle. I dig a fucking good romance! I don’t care what you say.

Oh yeah and this article in The Atlantic has an interesting take on it.

And has anyone noticed the ridiculously obvious origins of the name Edward Cullen???

PS. Robert Pattinson is a babe.