Note to self for Christmas day – don’t go all stress-balls, okay?

Fried chicken done in baking-soda puffed batter, a home-grown basil pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and Spanish olives, thyme and rosemary infused BBQ baby octopus, apple cabbage carrot and creme-fesh coleslaw, a marshmallow strawberry mousse, pickled cucumbers, and delightfully bitter-sweet Campari cocktails…

That’s what I’m whipping up for Christmas lunch this year, my contribution to the yearly feast that’s replaced the focus on gifting – although we will have a tree (plastic and over 10 years old) and some inexpensive pressies, less than 10 dollars from the op shop I reckon.

It’s at my place too so I’ll have to clean the loo…plus sweep the floors and get rid of the cobwebs, plus put all my clothes away and sort through the papers on the table, oh, and clean all the glasses and find enough bowls and keep the benches clear and synchronise dishes, and greet family guests and get them a drink and arrange all the chairs and light up the BBQ and refill the ice-cubes and keep an eye on the chicken and most of all…

…I’ll try to remember to not go all stress-balls.

 

Design, built-in failure & the case of the annoying bandaid

When you’ve got able, fully-functioning hands you don’t spend all that much time getting angry at packaging. But, for whatever reason your hands don’t grasp objects easily, a simple task like getting a bandaid out of its protective wrapping can be a complicated undertaking, and far more complicated than it need be.

Because of bad design. Because of the teeny, tiny flap so ungenerously provided to open the inner covering (not the outer covering covering the covering otherwise known as the box). There’s no way in hell my fingers are nimble enough to get a strong hold on that miserly 2mm strip, so, I employ a mouth-based maneuver I’ve developed lately – I grip the flapette with my teeth and pull oh-so-very-smoothly with the tips of my two index fingers (taking care to exert even pressure without veering off to the side) until the ubiquitous bandage is open for consumption.

But my studied technique doesn’t always reap rewards, and the high degree of difficulty makes me suspicious – makes me wonder if the teeny, tiny flap was designed to be close to useless – and not just for people with differently-abled hands but for the population in general, after all, bad design makes good business sense.

I keep my failed attempts in their own special box, a rag-tag collection of unused strips trapped beneath jagged half-opened covers, patiently awaiting liberation via a pair of scissors. But can I really be bothered with all the edge-snipping I’ll have to perform in order to release them? Wouldn’t it be easier to say…just chuck’em in the bin and buy another pack?

It’s ironic that a product supposedly designed to soothe and provide peace of mind has such a glaring and annoying fault. I’m giving this one a big thumbs down.

 

 

Is Australia sexist? Or is the answer to that question way too obvious…

I just saw the SBS documentary, Is Australia Sexist? So, now I’ve seen it – am I now in possesion of the answer? Yes. The answer is yes. But I already knew that. Derr…

Australia is sexist and so am I. Because I live in Australia and Australia is sexist. Because Australia is a country on planet earth and planet earth is sexist. (Can’t speak for the flora or fauna of the world, but us humans sure are). A more important question might be, what is sexism? Or how is Australia sexist? Not that this documentary doesn’t expose some interesting territory. The objectification of women as sexual objects for example – the experience of sexual harassment in the street, the wolf-whistling and unwanted staring women experience at various times in their lives – or repeatedly on a daily basis for that matter.

My most memorable personal experience of this type of sexism (treating women as objects rather than humans with a right to go about their lives without harassment) happened quite a time ago. It was a lovely spring, sun-shiny day and my spirits were high. I was about to cross the street outside my house in Carlton when a man, leaning from his car window called out, “Hey sexy!” (or something like that) When, in return, I yelled, “piss off,” (or something like that) he screamed at me angrily, “Ya fuckn ugly slut!” before revving his engine and speeding off like a true hero.

Yes. Delightful. First I was sexy (and thus worthy of attention), and then, when I dared to step out of the frame -become a subject with the right to respond – I immediately became undesirable, ugly. Disgusting. I remember the sudden shock of it clearly, feeling angry, violated, shaky, and later, an uncomfortable feeling lingered…perhaps he was right. Perhaps I was…ugly.

Right now I’m tossing up if I should post this at all. I don’t want to ‘invite’ trouble. I’m very aware that some troll might respond by calling me an ugly bitch who needs to be raped. That I deserve everything I get because I have a vagina and dare to speak my mind.

In Is Australia Sexist? A woman confronts a man for making the comment, “nice long legs…” He says it in a rather detached tone, as though describing a race-horse in a parade. He then defends himself, says the comment was just a ‘compliment’, the implication being that she should (presumably) be grateful, not upset, angry, intimidated or fearful… He then goes on to say he ‘couldn’t help it’ – after all, she was committing the crime of walking past – she invited the unwanted attention apparently, simply by having the temerity to exist.

Of course we all love to look at others, admire forms and faces, but I think some men have been so thoroughly conditioned to gaze shamelessly, I don’t think they’re aware they’re doing it. I used to live on a street that shared a corner with an old-style coffee shop – the type where men gathered to play cards and socialise. They would hang around outside, not to smoke (smoking was allowed inside) but just to look…

In order to get to the main street I had to walk past one or more pairs of ogling eyes, so, to combat this almost daily dose of objectification, I developed a technique to make me feel less powerless…I found that if I stared back boldly – without flinching – then they (eventually) looked away! It felt great to turn the tables, flip the power dynamic so they got a dose of what it’s like to be seen primarily as an admired/reviled object. Yep…it’s not very nice.

So. A top tip for men who care about equality. For men who want to make society a place where women feel safe – If a woman you find attractive walks past (or indeed exists in the same vicinity as you), don’t say a word about it. Please keep your thoughts to yourself. Keep in mind that a woman is a person. Not an object. And it’s best not to stare – to gaze shamelessly as though she’s nothing more than a two-dimensional picture on a screen. Please avert your gaze, give women some psychic space so they can go about their business as freely as you do.

 

 

Flogging & Blogging – What’s the Point of all this Blagging?

Good question, she says, shuffling nervously and buying a few seconds of time…Er-herm…Well, the uncomfortable truth is: like millions of other online entities clamoring for attention in the ever-expanding binary cloud, I too seek to build a ‘presence’.

Because if you plan to to flog anything these days, it seems you have to flog yourself first. Even if I do manage to eventually snag a deal with a traditional publisher, they’ll most likely expect me to do some of my own promotion…Hence this little HungryBrain blog I’ve pulled out of my arse for your enjoyment (and possible edification). And one day when my intelligent and witty historical romance is released (my challenging dark, satirical novella Top model Hotty is available now), I’d like more than just a few people to know about it…not just the two followers I’ve collected so far – both plastic surgery clinics in India – their interest clearly generated by brain-free bots totally missing the gist of my anti-surgery post.

So, if I want to expand my following the experts suggest I write content of value to an intended audience, and devote my focus to a single theme instead of spouting haphazardly from day to day – what’s got my goat lately or put bees in my bonnet…

“It’s like a diary,” I told a friend when asked what my blog actually was, “…just one that anyone can see…” But it’s not like a diary at all. A diary has no intended audience – except perhaps one’s future self or the closest of friends. And diaries are safe havens for private thoughts, not public forums open to hateful trolls or potential employers seeking to eliminate weeds, so, with that in mind, I won’t be droning on about hopeless love affair no. 7, or getting philosophical about ‘the point of it all…’ And I certainly won’t be battling double-vision after downing a bottle of Tyrell’s Long Flat Red and a dozen Peter Stuyvesants at 3 in the morning, scrawling indecipherable woe-is-me monologues about my chronic lack of identity – ENOUGH!

No. Times have changed and I’m old now. Oldish…well, much older than some and much younger than others, but thankfully wise enough to know that writing and drinking isn’t the greatest cocktail ever invented – even with the convenience of auto-correction and font-lettering to disguise the scrawls of high blood-alcohol.

And I have to admit – I’ve jumped on this blogging bandwagon in true amateur fashion, or to put a little spin in it – organically…There’s no business plan underlying my actions, no ‘intended’ audience I can identify at this stage, but if I want to capture followers I must quell my distaste for predetermined shapes, I must offer ‘value’ to my customers…or, as I discovered from the Netflix documentary, Follow Me, I could just cut to the chase and well…buy some…

Yes, that’s right folks – if you’re feeling a little unpopular you can reach for a cash remedy and boost your viability, ‘for sale’ followers available in two flavors apparently – the cheaper fake variety, or the more authentically expensive ones…and, as the salesperson in Follow Me cheerfully pointed out when pressed to explain the difference between the two, the real followers would (potentially) interact with you, whilst to the fake ones would not…Sigh

Blogging has become a very serious matter, evolved from its grassy-roots to its current incarnation of sales generator – a fact that becomes plainer by the day, with advertisers more than willing to splash wads of cash at individuals with huge followings. The result is this: bloggers have become blaggers, and the evolution of person as product continues on its merry way…

Okay folks, better get on with my flogging…

Silly-bits in the grit: verisimilitude, suspending disbelief & other Bodyguard problems

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.

During the two Bodyguard episodes I’ve watched so far, my viewing has been halted (mid-episode) on two separate occasions. The first interruption was during the extended terrorist-on-the train scenario, and the second, during the getting shot-to-the-shit in the armoured-car blood-fest.

But the breaks in transmission weren’t caused by technical difficulties, no, the interruptions were wholly due to a lack of commitment on my part – a failure to suspend disbelief to be precise…Suspending disbelief – it’s a term I first encountered in Cinema Studies at La Trobe University (is it still called that?) back in the years when the sun was setting on free tertiary education in Australia. Another fancy word I learned back then was, verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real.

In my opinion, Bodyguard, the 6-part series currently screening on Netflix, suffers greatly from a lack of it. Because there’s only so many bullets a mere mortal can dodge without arousing suspicion – is Sergeant Bud, (the PTSD affected protagonist in Bodyguard) actually an escapee from more fantastic genre? An imaginary place where super-powers are the norm and no-one thinks twice about breaking the verisimilitude barrier at the speed of light?

Because in the armoured-car blood-fest scene Sergeant Bud not only manages to evade a veritable hail of bullets, he also has the wherewithal to pop his arm up like a demented meer-cat and take a sneaky snap with his phone – thus pin-pointing the gunner on a distant building, driving backwards in the shot-to-the-shit car, and successfully tracking the baddie down.

It’s the kind of action scene that makes me think, now that’s a bit silly in’it..? And silly scenes don’t fit well in the desaturated reality of this so-called ‘gritty’ suspense/thriller/action/drama. Yes, I understand, Sergeant Bud’s fearless impulsiveness and razor-sharp reflexes splice nicely with his military history and associated trauma, and yes, his ultra-heroic actions act as a counterpoint to his many human flaws and evoke crucial viewer empathy – but this over-the-top action kind of ruins it for me. Kind of. It’s a pity the action scenes weren’t dialed back a few notches – we’re a tad less…well…silly.

Not to say I won’t be watching the rest of the series. Because despite it’s significant silliness I’m eager to witness (and judge) the plot twist that’s been promised at the end. I’ll just have to string up a few ropes and start suspending my disbelief – accept that there will be silly bits within the blue-grey grit…

* (an extra note for the pedantic among us) If the gunman was shooting at the armoured-car from the top of a 6 or 7 story building, then the bullets would have entered the car from a higher angle – not horizontally as depicted, therefore, it is very unlikely any of the three occupants would have survived.

 

Mind-blowing innovation ‘changes the way we drink water’

There’s a new ad campaign invading our screens that’s so incredibly stupid, it really deserves to be called out for what it is – a load of utter bullshit.

Apparently Twinings the tea company has invented a product that will change the way we drink water. Wow now that’s quite a big call, and the mind boggles with possible scenarios – what on earth could this new ‘way’ be? What is this revolutionary product now available for consumption?

Now let me think…is it some sort of skin patch? A slow-release system metering out precise doses adding up to the prescribed 8 glasses a day? Do we drink the liquid through our noses instead of our mouths? Or has Twinings discovered a new orifice somewhere on the human body? A specialised water inlet perhaps?

No. Hold on to your hats everyone, because Twinings has invented…A tea bag!

But Infuse is not your ordinary baggie, it comes in a screw- top jar, not a cardboard box. And the great revelation is, the bag is designed to release its natural fruity flavours into…cold water! Gasp! Who woud’a thunk it! Cold water! Wow! Surely this amounts to nothing short of a total revolution in the way we drink water.

And it’s good for the planet too. Saves you from buying all those nasty plastic bottles filled with flavoured waters. Now you can just pop a mango or strawberry baggie into your own body of water…and that’s why Twinings has released its own branded plastic container, the Infuse reusable bottle, designed especially for the retaining of cold H2O, and placement of said revolutionary baggie.

Let’s break this down to see the error in their message. Adding an ingredient to water does not change how we drink it, it changes the water itself. If we accepted Twinings’ logic, then the same claim could be made by just about every beverage made from water, and that means, ALL of them. Beer changes the way we drink water, coffee changes the way we drink water, cows change the way we drink water (they make it into milk) etc etc etc.

But the wonderful world of marketing isn’t concerned with logic, its aim is to prey on desire, the human longing for health and betterment, for innovation and progess. Well here’s an idea for you. If you really want to change the way you drink water – stop sucking down liquids from plastic retainers full stop. Get your hands on a pre-existing ‘cup’ and use that instead. Or stick your head under a tap and have an occasional slurp on that.

Shampoo, toxic pyjamas & the stinky fragrance loophole

I’ve just watched the recently added Netflix documentary, Stink (2015), about the current regulation, or rather, lack of current regulation of chemical ingredients in consumer products in the USA.

After releasing some very chemically-smelling pyjamas from their packaging (clothing bought for his two young daughters), the host of the documentary, Jon Whelan, embarks on a mission to identify the chemicals responsible for the stench, and, more importantly, to find out if the chemicals are harmful to the human organism.

Mr Whelan gets on the phone and starts dialing. He gets the run-around of course, is politely shunted from person to person until he decides the only solution is to get the offending pyjamas tested himself. He then takes the disturbing results and confronts an executive from the clothing company responsible for the toxic PJs, he demands an explanation – why use a fire retardant (banned in the EU because of its toxicity) in the production of children’s clothing? Especially as the chemical has been shown to interfere with hormone regulation in females.

The executive squirms, avoids the question with a pathetic worming that stinks suspiciously of complicity. And when Mr Whelan takes his concerns to a higher level – hunts down a lobbyist for the chemical industry in unknown corridor x – we get to witness denial in its more professional form – artfully cloaked in doublespeak and delivered without the slightest whiff of shame.

Companies are not required by law in the USA to disclose every chemical used in the production of their products. For example, chemical concoctions can be grouped under one very handy umbrella and simply listed as ‘fragrance.’ As it stands now, chemicals don’t have to be proven safe before they’re launched onto the market for human consumption, it’s the other way around – we’re the guinea pigs in this back-to-front system.  It’s the same situation in Australia, and this sneaky, stinky, loop-hole is of particular interest to me – you see, I have a personal aversion to many of these manufactured, toxic pongs.

It started back in 1988 when I worked night-shift, packing supermarket shelves (back when shops weren’t open 24/7 and young people were paid half-decent wages). I was the only woman in our small team, and, presumably, due to my status as a human with a vagina, I was alotted the task of stacking and ‘facing up’ the personal care isle, all the long-bodied bottles filled with stink designed to prevent and/or disguise our very own natural animal stink. And it was a difficult isle to manage I might add – due to the unstable design of the phallic, long-bodied containers, prone to tumbling like 10-pin bowls.

As I unpacked soaps and powders I would sneeze. Even now I feel my nose begin to tickle as I rush past the laundry section, the evil stenching boxes of OMO or triple-action Vanish. And in my mid 20s I suddenly developed an aversion to a perfume from The Body Shop called ‘Oceana’. It seemed odd that a smell I’d found delicious enough to purchase suddenly became repulsive to me. And the same visceral reaction began to happen around other stinky things as well – shampoos, new carpet, freshly unwrapped item A, B or C, new cars, the general plastic smell of Kmart itself, fresh paint, other people’s perfumes and OMO-infused clothes – and lately, pretty much all items of brand-new clothing (presumably sprayed with something unpleasant before being packaged for export in odor-trapping plastic).

For myself and many others, these unidentified chemicals trigger unsettling bodily sensations. For me, a light-headedness combined with slight nausea, and a general feeling that is best described as something’s not quite right. It’s my body’s own way of waving a red flag, a stand-in for the warnings currently missing from packages – THIS  PRODUCT MOST LIKELY CONTAINS CHEMICALS HAZARDOUS TO HUMAN HEALTH.