Thursday, 31 May 2007

I'm It!

After much wheedling, Hazelblackberry has prevailed upon me to participate in one of these blog-meme whatsits, and as I had nothing better to do I finally agreed to grace the online public with fascinating insights into ‘Why I blog’. (Actually, we all know I’ve been hopping around on the balls of my feet, hand in the air, pleading, “Pick me! Pick me!” to the well-connected and oft-tagged since I first started blogging, so I’ll try not to widdle with excitement while I set down for your perusal my raisons de blog.)

1) It was on my list of ‘Things To Do Before I Die’, and seemed somewhat easier to achieve than fluency in German from a ‘teach yourself’ cassette tape, or finding someone to publish a book with only two completed chapters. “Ich trinke wein in Wien,” and “Scheisse! Zis vill neffer verk!” is about as far as I have gotten with those latter two objectives.

2) I can pretend I’m keeping my creative writing juices flowing, instead of acknowledging the car that is my novel is stranded in the Nullabor Plain with an empty petrol tank. And the tyres are punctured. And it’s rusting to dust. And the Department of Meat Products road train is ruthlessly bearing down on it, ready to flatten it into sheet metal. And I’m too lazy to heave it out of the way because that would mean less sleep for me and I’m oh-so-tired here in the desert sun with two children moaning at me and a report on the proportion of saturated fat in brawn to complete.

But that’s what’s great about blogging, isn’t it? I can whine about how in forty years’ time when I’ve retired from the Department with my gold salami in hand, I’ll be saying Brando-style that I coulda bin a contender, because:

3) A blog is a great medium to whinge and complain, especially if you specify that your blog is a cathartic outlet for pent-up rantings. I can gripe as much as I like about whatever I choose, whether it be work, in-laws, anal probes, in-laws or work, and no one else can really complain because, well, I’ve made my manifesto clear. Caveat lector and all that.

4) Everyone needs a hobby. Various ones have come and gone in my life, but until I took up blogging, nothing so efficiently combined my propensity for physical laziness with my love of anonymous venting. When I’m too bitter even for this, I shall move on to writing parochial letters to the editor, and calling television network feedback lines to bemoan the waste of my tax-payer dollars on avant-garde tripe instead of more programs about old people pottering around at home.

5) Blogging is the new Crack. How sweet were those palpitations of excitement induced by the very first comments on my blog! How frabjous was the day my blog at last became google-able! How gratifying it is to my pathetically insecure ego to welcome each new reader, each return visitor! How delightful it is to pretend I’m in the league of the more talented and amusing people whose blogs I frequent! That’s why, when I can wangle it, I sit for hours in front of the screen, reading avidly, typing feverishly, finally stumbling to bed when my dark-encircled bloodshot eyes can stay open no longer, happy that I’ve secured my fix for another day.

What’s that? Nothing very revelatory in what I’ve just told you? I’ll change the rules, then. The topic is ‘Five things you never wanted to know about me’. You’re it.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Art Of Diplomacy

A university lecturer of mine once told me I’d make a great diplomat because I laugh a lot. As well-intentioned as her comment was (she meant, I think, something along the lines of laughter setting a good vibe and making people happy and relaxed), she was overlooking some crucial traits a great diplomat ought to display, such as subtle political sensibilities, a commanding influence, and prowess in the delicate art of high-stakes negotiation – traits which are conspicuously lacking from my character. Contrary to her opinion, I harbour grave doubts about my ability to broker a history-making solution to the Iraq problem by chortling loudly at Dubya’s unfortunate mispronunciation of ‘Shi’ite Muslim.’

We should therefore all be grateful that I am not involved in minimising ethnic strife in Africa, mediating between China and Taiwan, or securing the disarmament of rogue nuclear states. However, there is still the issue of the petty politics of my daily life, which could clearly benefit from the wise guidance of a career stateswoman, but which, alas, I must navigate alone.

The two major obstacles to diplomatic d├ętente, as I see them, are social ineptness borne of shyness, and a stubborn, proud refusal to lie about my feelings and opinions. I’m not so concerned about the former even though most people think I’m an utter twit for saying things like, “Yeah, she has a lot of mental problems,” when what I mean is, “She has a lot of issues weighing on her mind”. I just cross my fingers and hope they can see my verbal vomits for what they are – flustered attempts at conversation, with no malicious intent.

What gets me into awkward situations is the latter character flaw, when I’m forced to express some sort of opinion which, for the sake of ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ I’d rather not. I dread pregnant acquaintances excitedly announcing the names they’ve chosen (“Neptune for a boy, and Rubella for a girl!”), or new parents proudly showing off their babies (every baby is beautiful – even the ones that look like weird little Jim Henson puppets). I fear being asked what I think of someone’s outfit or hairstyle. I’m ashamed to recall my final farewell to a roommate with whom I’d had a rocky relationship (she hugged me and said sincerely, “I really like you, you know.” I would never see her again and had the chance to release some good energy into the world by saying I liked her too, but instead I submitted limply and replied noncommittally, “Hmm”).

It’s one thing to be true to my feelings and express sincere opinions, but platitudes and evasion will not stave off a breakdown in diplomatic relations forever. I’ve come to the conclusion that sincerity is a two-edged sword that must be tempered with tact and John Howard-style non-core truths. It’s either that, or kick someone under the table next time they ask me in front of three bosses, “So, are you glad to be back at work?”

Monday, 7 May 2007

Problems Of The Privileged

I’m very grateful I have access to good health care and can afford it. That’s why I’m trying really hard not to complain about the administration of the dental practice I visited today, or the size of the refund I received from my private health insurance.

At least I’ll be covered when I burst a blood vessel from the effort.