Sunday, March 20, 2011

The blank page

In academia it is called writer's block. That itchy, terrifying, disturbing feeling of simply having no words to jot down; no clever things to say. Pen in hand, and the whiteness of the page stretching further and further, growing into a gigantic, vast iceberg of empty that should preferably be full of words. At first it is not so bad; you can still recall the last piece of writing you did that you were proud of, not more than a couple of weeks ago. So you keep blaming it on your busy life, school work, social life, bartending; and you are most likely in your full right to do so, because life is, in fact, busy. There are places to be, people to see, and after all, there is no such thing as losing "it". The excuses, however, slowly evolve into desperation. You're willing to write about anything, even if it has to be about those ridiculous 18 year olds that you have to sit and listen to in the Friday afternoon tutorial at university. The Performance Studies table that always has something to say because, gosh, they're just feeling so damn creative and alternative all the time. You try to think of a funny twist to the story, a mocking voice that could make it all better and at least provide you with some words added to the iceberg, but time and time again you cannot seem to find anything amusing about those horrid teenagers in row two of the Narrating Selves class. You think of your last week experiences and try to pinpoint something, anything, that could be deemed at least a tad funny or entertaining to your now very limited audience, but soon realise that the week consisted of work, school, and an immense amount of sleep deprivation. So you continue to search in the pool of creativity, the one they're teaching you so much about in school. Maybe that's what it is; maybe that idea of imagination having to be believable has killed my flow. A rather odd statement, if you ask me, but the lecturers persist in their argument of all creation being influenced by some other form of creation. There is no such thing as pure, unique imagination in anyone; it is all a mixed drink, with far too many ingredients, like the Squashed Frog shot at work, of someone else's mix. Eventually, you sit down in front of the computer and wait for inspiration to fall into your lap after a long day at uni. And when all else fails and has failed, you write a blog entry on the inability to write anything.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coffee dates and silly questions

Coffee, I have recently learned in my first two weeks of uni here in Australia, is absolutely essential to a student's life. Apparently. It almost seems that like there is a code of fashion at Curtin, there is a code of coffee. If you're one of the cool kids, preferably from the western suburbs (to those of you not from here, those are the posh ones), you go to Concept Coffee (cause "oh my god, their coffee is the best!"), right in the heart of the student guild area. If you're a humanities student, who is at times overly consumed in being alternative while at the same time laid back, there is the Coffee Patch, with a lovely old lady to take your orders, and an outside seating area covered by tall, lush trees, perfect for the Curtin Creative environment right by building 209 (the humanities). Lastly, there's Cafe Angazi, at the end of the guild promenade, situated very close to the business buildings and hence filled with smart-looking people who are always in a hurry. But, no matter which code of coffee you're from; which cultural coffee group you belong to, coffee is a big part of your life at uni. "20 minutes till class, guys, let's go for a coffee, yeah?". And then, suddenly, an awkward, almost piercing sound enters your years: DING! 5 dollars. "Duuuuude, I'm so tired from last night, wanna come for some coffee?". DING! 4 dollars and 50 cents. "Okay, I seriously need to talk to you, you have a free to go to Coffee Patch, right?" DING! 5 dollars again. By the end of a day at uni, unless I'm hanging out with my friend Cameron who hooks me up with free coffee from time to time, as a student at Curtin University who is not careful with his or her coffee money, one can easily have spent between fifteen and twenty dollars on COFFEE. On coffee. Which leads me up to the silliest question I have probably ever encountered in my life. With a coffee cup in hand and a half-awake gaze, my Engaging in the Humanities fellow student Danen turned his head towards me today and whispered "So, why do you even work?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tipping is not a city in China....

The sound of forty cents joining the rest of your tips at the bottom of a tumbler glass must truly be the favourite music of all bartenders while at work. It can't be beat by the coolest band or the most charming compliments; tips is our freeway ticket to some extra, tax-free bucks, and the easiest way to get a smile from one of us (though most patrons seem to have missed out on this simple fact), is to leave the bloody change with a confident "Keep the tip". You'll have us walking on sunshine for the rest of the evening.

Tipping remains one of the great puzzles of the hospitality business to me. Some customers are most adorable creatures, who at the end of a lovely conversation and orders for 49 dollars and an odd number of cents will still wait around a good 30 seconds for the 50-dollar note change. Others are cranky and unhappy with their drinks, but still, out of principle it seems, leaves a dollar or so to join the tumbler fun. I shall have to study this cultural phenomenon further; nationality, gender or any other typical classification of people have not been enough to conclude upon any ground rules on the nature of tipping. It is an intricate relationship between individual, finance and custom, and the bartender becomes a beneficiary or a loser depending on the combination of these different and complex factors in each and every different patron. I did make some tips this weekend though, from all kinds of lovely (mostly drunken) people, and can conclude only upon this: thank God it's Sunday night...

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Solitude of the Writer

'There are many things I want to tell you,' she once said, when rather there were many things I wanted to tell myself. I have for long been intrigued; caught up in a quote by artist Imogen Heap: "I couldn't care less/I'm transfixed in this absolute bliss". That concept of being transfixed not just in a bliss, but in anything, drew my attention today.

My business is to create; to observe; to notice. My business is to be transfixed in everything. A heightened sense of things, so to speak. To be inclined to notice what goes around me is an asset to my writing. It clarifies the blurry and provides me with enough detail to portray a situation; a sensation to the extent I wish to describe it. Like how my feet feel on my shoes or the sound of a bird taking off and flying into the distance; the interaction between a couple two tables away or the rate at which raindrops hit my terrace rail.

The dark side of this quality, however, is the constant state of observation it leaves a writer in. A continuous notice of how long its been since someone you love called you; an utter awareness of the tone and sight directions in the guy I'm prepared to fall for. The discontinuity in a friend's argument or the sounds of my bedroom cooler at night. And because my imagination is supposed to work for my profession, it runs wild in my reality. This can be in terms of needing no more than a description of a thriller movie scene to have troubles falling asleep at night, to immediately assuming that a friend has gone missing because she didn't call me when she said she would. An open cupboard means something supernatural might have been lurking around my apartment and the sound of footsteps on leaves behind me at night can be explained only by a mysterious character having entered my reality. Everything becomes a story; a conflict; something to tell and wonder about until the narrative has a beginning, middle and end, preferably with an acceptable solution to my highly imaginative and entirely absurd questions. It becomes a conscious choice of every day to control that imagination and utilise it strictly in and for my writing.

But that was not the point. The point is the detached reality of writing. Disconnecting oneself from the world and its content and observing it, narrating it, critiquing it. A critical view on your surroundings can turn out to become poison, as it leaves no room for that childish bliss and naïve thoughts. No one or no thing is safe from being picked apart by the writer and evaluated for the sake of a story. I find myself no longer being able to simply accept a statement as fact; I need to question it, to come up with a narrative I can tell behind it. And with this need for imagination, stories and fiction, also comes a strong feeling of complete solitude, as it seems no one asks the same questions as I do. Not to say that other writers don't ask questions. It is merely difficult, close to impossible, to find someone who not only observe and reflect upon reality, but to find someone who do it within the same frameworks and contexts as me. I am immensely excited to see if any such person will exist among the many interesting characters I have now embarked upon university life with.

Reverse weekend/week

There is something profoundly and essentially wrong with the concept of working on the weekend. Of course, there is the classic part-time job, five-hour Saturday shift to earn bucks necessary for a movie with your date or a year-long saving plan for a pair of really hot shoes. But the principle of working for 20 hours starting on Friday night, the glory night of The Weekend through all of time, is wrong. I find myself in such a situation, and cannot come to any other conclusion than that of the necessity of reversing my core perception of the week and the weekend. It should of course be noted that my contact hours at university are a ridiculous twelve per week. Twelve. That's one half of a day over five days. I have no classes on Tuesday and am never at uni for more than three hours at a time, each of which have all been cut down ten minutes due to Curtin policy of "recess in class". Also a strange concept, which I won't dwell on now. My point with these ridiculous contact statistics, is that I am currently experiencing the infamous "chilled out week", while at the same time having to power through the notorious "hard core working weekend". In other words, reversing my idea of what the week and weekend is and is not in terms of sleep, relaxation, socializing, working, studying and fun, should not be too hard. And yet, changing these core cornerstones of my view on reality seems to be much more challenging than I had thought it would be. I look at the top right corner clock on my laptop screen, which shows Fri. 18:07, and my brain automatically tells the rest of my body that it is time to get ready for some seriously fun action. It takes about three seconds for a slower part of my brain to remind itself that it is the partypooper of my life, and must make it clear to the rest of me that I am in fact starting my eight hour long shift in less than two hours. It's like battling instinct with reason. About the weekend. One of the many challenges of student life. Apparently.

Demand and supply

The concept of demand and supply is certainly one of interest in more areas than that of economics from where it originates. It seems fairly simple, right? High demand and low supply equals to value and vice versa. It is one of the most basic principles in the school of profit, and seems to have worked perfectly, of course with a few glitches here and there, throughout history. I do not understand, however, the necessity of making cooling fans a valuable status product in Perth, Western Australia, and it is from this my argument arises. In fact, I cannot grasp the concept of moving simple contraptions that are designed to cool a state in sweat up the ladder of status goods to sit on the top shelf next to worldwide desired products such as diamonds and oil. It remains a mystery to me why thousands of people should be forced to fall in love with the cold water tap in their bathroom shower because of demand and supply. Because honestly, making more cooling devices and shipping them to WA would not be a work of importation art; it would be a work of logic that even my basic level of comprehension in this mathematical branch can manage to grasp fairly well.

Apparently, my argument is beat by the annoyingly simple counter claim of basic concepts such as climate and seasons. Running around in the soothing air conditioning of Myer, Perth I eventually found the cooling section, and finally discovered a grand selection of three products staring up at me, only two of which were actually cooling devices. One of these again, was put on hold for a Mrs. Elizabeth Gold till the end of the day, and hence I was left with a portable air conditioner, the option of which would cost me 700 Australian dollars. I looked in desperation around the appliances section, knowing too well the horror of 36 degrees Celsius waiting for me outside, in search of someone who might guide me to the more interesting advertisement for a portable cooler situated at 120 dollars. I worked my way to the counter and asked politely a woman named Grace whether she could offer me any other cooling contraptions than those three situated in the surprisingly limited product sections, particularly considering the weather we were experiencing. Though polite, Grace laughed at my request when I asked what time to expect the next batch of products coming in. “My dear,” she said, “it’s March; officially, autumn’s already here, so we won’t be receiving any more fans until the end of the year for summer 2011/2012”. My heart dropped to my feet and beyond, I said “Thank you”, and started slowly working my way down the levels to #1, which leads to the train station. Well onboard the Fremantle line I breathed in the wonderfully air-conditioned oxygen, looking not so much forward to the 30 degree heat of my bedroom. I could hence conclude that even with cooling fans, the good old profit concept of demand and supply benefits only the product provider rather than the customer. I would also like to raise the question: Where the hell are they hiding all the cooling fans of WA?

It's called unrequited love...

The shittiest feeling in the world is most likely that of unrequited love. Kate Winslet’s character Iris had it damn straight when she narrated the story of falling in love alone, in Nancy Meyer’s “The Holiday”. While I am neither in love or have been hopelessly so for several years, there is inevitably something utterly frustrating about unbalanced affection. And at some point or another, I am quite sure girls and women of all ages and character experience this; that petrifying, irritating, gnawing feeling of being more fond of a guy than he is of you. It starts off with ridiculous smiles at the thought of him, and heartbeat skips when the phone rings. I truly relate to the character Gigi from the romantic comedy “He’s Just Not That Into You”; there is something dreadfully annoying about the incapability of doing anything about your increasingly disturbing obsession with a guy you like. And usually, that’s all it is: you LIKE him. The opposite sex tend to think that our desperate behaviour is a direct product of falling in love. The irony is that their obsession with our obsession is what ultimately ruins any innocent flirt and turns it into a Shakespearean style drama of the Middle Ages. What girl doth not sigh at the beauty and wonder of love? And so we excuse our ridiculous hopes and fantasies; with fierce reference to that ultimate love of loves. The one that will sweep you off your feet, preferably by a knight in shining armour, and carry you into a rainbow full of fairies and shimmering stars.

Unfortunately, we are no longer in a time of chivalry, wooing or Victorian balls where two small dances could be enough to merit a heart. We are stuck in the modern world, where messengers have been transformed into Facebook messages and event invitations. Sex on the dance floor is merely worth a mention and any kiss was definitely the result of far, far too many Jagerbombs. We are the victims, or rather the inhabitants, of a world almost entirely stripped of good old-fashioned roses and kisses love.

Love is still all you need, of course, but that simple “I like you” has been far too exaggerated in recent years for guys to take such a statement as little less than a marriage proposal. And so we are stuck, with the same giggling old school desire for romance and excitement, where such hopes are responded to with “Just take it easy, baby”, “We’re just going with the flow” or my personal favourite “Chill out, it ain’t nothing to worry about”. So we desperately try to be laid-back and pretend not to care, while our heart skips those beats they did back in the Middle Ages, and have been doing through every period in history. And I can’t help but wonder how this modern love, as Bloc Party so eloquently put it on their Silent Alarm album, won’t break us. Three day rules, Facebook rules; rules here and rules there. Why are guys desperate for freedom and girls for commitment? What happened to the laid-back, non-horrifying and completely natural view on the wondrous simplicity of affection?