Ironic License

Are you a despondent rapper, sick of horrified gasps and scandalized swooning over your evocative vernacular? Are you tired of prudish outcry against your self-expression? Well hold onto your grills, because you’ve just been given a mandate to degrade, disgust and demean to your heart’s content, free from public censure. And for every profanity you throw in, you’ll even be awarded a few extra IQ points.
It’s called “irony”. In a recent interview on US radio NPR’s Fresh Air, Jay Z boasted that the joke was in fact on his bra-burning critics; while the seemingly derogatory lyrics of his ‘Ninety-Nine Problems’ had feminists preparing picket lines and protest marches, his repetition of that b word was actually ironically-intended. The buzz word was strategically placed there to lead subscribers of the “offensive rapper” stereotype “down the wrong path”, scoffed Jay. If only they were a little more open-minded, they would recognise that his use of the term “bitch” is not denoting a woman at all, but rather a drug-sniffing canine. And if you play the track backwards in slow motion, you can actually hear Jay Z yelling a triumphant, “gotcha, girls!” 

Well, call me egotistical, but I still can’t shake the feeling that the lyrics were on some level directed at my species. It could have something to do with the line “if you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got ninety-nine problems but a bitch ain’t one.” Jay Z’s brand of irony seems to me the most negligent excuse for anti-social behaviour since some psychologist hoping to get millions out of Russell Brand decided sex-addiction could be classified as mental illness. The star is setting a dangerous precedent for the free articulation of prejudice under the guise of heightened social awareness; “I don’t really believe owning a Lexus makes me a better person, I bought it out of irony. Didn’t you know I grew up in the Western suburbs?”; “I don’t genuinely think there are too many foreigners in Sydney, I was being ironic. I actually eat at Chinese restaurants all the time,” and so on and so forth. Next thing we know, Rihanna will be claiming irony to excuse condoning female objectification in her latest single, ‘S & M’ - oh wait, she’s already used the “metaphor” line. 
Sorry Jay, but this girl problem just ain’t buying your “irony” claim. And since as an English major, I’ll be lucky to wind up in a loft above some dingy pub, while you sip champagne in a Hollywood mansion without so much as a high school certificate, you’ve at least got to let me lay claim to a better grasp of language techniques as my consolation prize.


Aid and (Personal) Development

India: the new Spiritual buzz-word. Mention a recent trip there, that your anklet was hand-crafted in Mumbai (then traded for 5 cents and a turnip and shipped to Tree of Life who abused your consumer impulses and sold it at fifty times the original price), you’ve been experimenting with cumin in your cooking, you once dated a guy who was one-twelfth Indian (but don’t worry, he never made me pay for dinner) and in the eyes of hipsters everywhere you’ll be instantly transformed into an ethereal being, vibrating on a heightened level of awareness of self and the world. 
India’s growing reputation as a cultural and spiritual treasure trove is largely attributable to the philosophy of Vipassana, realized in a silent meditation retreat in the Indian village of Igatpuri. Getting there requires of the average Westerner thousands of miles of travel, a year’s hard-earned wages, and a vicious loathing of the left side of your brain critical to surviving the mandatory ten days of meditative silence. And before you even ask, no, you cannot achieve the same results with a much more economical trip to your uninhabited living room, how appallingly rational of you. 

You might remember Vipassana from such films as Eat, Pray, Love, that distinguished cultural artifact which inspired white women everywhere to give up on their careers and  abandon their families to develop their inner selves through the mass consumption of spaghetti. I’m not saying I wasn’t impressed by Julia’s dual possession of breathtakingly large mouth and microscopic waistline, especially given her setting in the carb capitol of the world. But I have a little difficulty esteeming a woman who travels through the desperate streets of India, peers out from her air conditioned bubble at the starving children clambering after her cab, and then goes and spends her days in an isolated room contemplating how to improve her own position in life. 
I get that, as an Indian tradition, silent meditation is a means of embracing the wisdom that lies beyond the precariously self-sufficient West. Indeed, our civilization of obsessive-compulsive communicators would no doubt reap more benefits from staring at a blank wall for ten days than following Charlie Sheen’s latest tweets. But taking the prosperity we’ve received simply from geographical fortune at birth and sewing it into our own personal happiness on the home turf of a nation suffering a 40% extreme poverty rate smacks of Western narcissism. If we’re set on the third world as an indispensable factor in the magical equation of spiritual enlightenment, we might just find that we learn more through getting our hands dirty in an Igatpurian village than gazing into the shallow chasm of one’s navel on a removed hilltop. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones whose got an innie, there’s only so much to be found in there.


A Letter of Complaint to the Sydney University Hipster

Dear Sydney University hipster,
You are making me feel uncool and frankly I’ve had enough.
As someone who once spent an entire pay packet on flared jeans the week before Kate Moss spread-eagled the side of every bus in Sydney in skinny legs, no-one was happier than I to observe increasing displays of outfit unorthodoxy, heralding a progression into a post-cool era. Anything goes in this blasĂ© new world, where even the most obnoxious displays of individuality are more warmly received than Oprah by the Australian tourism industry: mentally unstable politicians can don cowboy hats in parliament; women can dress as men (Ellen Degeneres); men can dress as women (Justin Bieber); Gaga can adorn herself in a dress of rotting meat or mutilated Kermit The Frog dolls and still inspire twenty-seven “official” fan sites; Prime Ministers can have red hair. 
But thrift-store-browsing, Warhol-worshipping, right-brain-using hipster, your insistence on the continuing existence of “cool” imperils our society’s progression. Your androgynous army, assaulting the law lawns in identical hair cuts presumably sculpted by the rim of the same bowl, sacrificing fertility for ball-smothering skinny jeans and making sure the rest of us can’t get our hands on a Campos coffee without a forty minute wait in line, is selfishly imposing a universal standard of cool. Your growing conscripts are robbing the rest of us of the rare opportunity to feel legitimate in glasses worn for vision correction rather than to make an ironic statement, or a hat worn for sun protection rather than in imitation of a codeine-addicted dead guy from the sixties, in what would otherwise be a post-cool era.
Almost as confounding as trying to discern the gender of one of your waifish, over-sized-shirted specimens from the behind view, is the reality that your movement began as a counter-culture, a rebellion against the vacuousness of mainstream fashion and out to promote independent thought. Maybe it’s a coincidence that your asymmetric fringes all fall at the same 45 degree angle (from left to right, of course), and perhaps there was a special on thick-rimmed tortoise shell glasses the same day you all happened to stop by American Apparel. But you seem to be struggling a little with the practical side of being alternative in unison with the rest of your clan, thus inevitably ending up the same.

I’ll concede that your movement has not been an utterly unqualified strain upon the advancement of our society; your obsession with “eco-chic” may have turned a few minds to the issue of sustainability. But like the US ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein and then marching the country into a new era of violence and ungoverned pandemonium, what’s a stingy splash of good in a sea of oppression? One can only imagine the new heights of tolerance and social inclusion our post-cool society could be reaching if it weren’t being besieged by a sub-culture-turned-mainstream insisting that buttoned to the lymph nodes is the only way to wear a shirt. If you really value freedom as much as the message on your vintage tee proclaims, disband and liberate Eastern Avenue from this fashion autocracy once and for all!
But since one of the most widely recognized qualities of the hipster is a spectacular lack of self-awareness, you’re probably chortling along at “them hipsters” right now, so I won’t be holding my breath.
Hipster Hater Number Four Thousand and Sixty-Three, who may or may not tend an entire shelf of Penguin Classics, most of which she hasn’t read.


Don't throw the bath water out with the baby

For a man who wore leggings, you’d expect that Commodore Perry would’ve gone about making Japan’s acquaintance with a little more civility than trampling the “Display Only” sign on its West-facing doors, flailing his rifle and screaming “GIVE US ALL YOUR SUSHI!” And a little civility probably would’ve paid off too, for in all his screaming and rifle-flailing, the Commodore over-looked a cultural gold mine: communal bathing.

While in the West public nudity is embraced only upon nudist beaches by male perverts and the occasional hippie, our Oriental counterparts know how to get naked at any age or intimacy with the penal system. Buried deep behind Kyoto’s largest Family Mart (an illuminative experience in itself if you didn’t know you could buy the entire body of a squid sealed in glad-wrap with a quail egg in the place of its brains), my very first onsen experience saw me wedged between two eighty year olds comparing arthritis across my naked body.

I soon discovered that the crystal waters of the onsen is the ideal place to make some Japanese friends; nothing breaks the ice like a spot of nudity between strangers. As our muscle tension melted away in the 45 degree water so too did any tension over atom bombs, harpooning of endangered mammals or Gwen Stefani’s ostentatious prancing about Harajuku, (though I will say the energetic miming and flailing of limbs customarily employed to overcome the language barrier can become a little problematic when performed nude). But though I always made plans to meet my new onsen buddies for a plum wine, they rarely came to fruition; once you’ve shared a naked D & M you’ve kind of taken the friendship as far as it can go.

It was in Osaka, amidst the Octopus Balls (yep, that’s a food) and men with hair care regimes to rival Miss Dally herself, that I discovered my true destiny: Spa World. A delightfully brazen adulteration of Eastern custom by the Western maxim that bigger is better, this place was the Disney Land of onsen. I’m talking 10 levels, different themed, water of every colour of the rainbow, any temperature your heart desires, rose petals, muscle relaxant, coconut oil, even those little fish that suck the dead skin off your feet. If you can just get past the fact that everyone is wearing matching moo-moos and there’s a 100m² room filled with nothing but those reclining chairs that only old people buy, you’ll quickly stop feeling like you’ve suddenly graduated to a nursing home and start getting your relaxation on. I’m telling you, you don’t know the meaning of the word “relaxed” until you’re so Zenned-out that the fact that you’re sitting starkers in the Spa World cafe in a seat that’s met with hundreds of other naked butts being served edamame by a waitress who’s fully clothed doesn’t trouble you in the slightest.

It was my first day back at my Sydney clerkship, a lightness in my heart and a smile on my face as my boss condemned me to life as a street performer over my substandard positioning of a staple, that I realised the long term benefits of the onsen upon the spirit. Communal bathing could be the solution the Western world has been waiting for to its most abstruse problems. Would we really suffer the same neurosis towards our bodies if we grew up before a heterogeneous array of cup-sizes, muffin-top radii and intriguing mole locations? And how about that revelation that stress is a causal factor in seventy-five percent of all illnesses? And would we have needed water restrictions if the whole population shared the same bath water? And do you really think Justin Bieber would’ve assaulted us with his autobiography if he’d had the chance for the genuine self-reflection that only a long soak can deliver? Except perhaps my cousin who spent his summer detained by the Brisbane River with a game boy and a lone box of Weetbix. More water might not be so great for him. 

Note: An article celebrating water in Japan takes on particular significance since the tragedy of the recent natural disasters. My prayers are with that great place and its amazing people.


I smell a a polka dot dress.

Marketers, producers, authors beware: this is the generation that learnt to say “resistant reading” before we learnt “mama”. Our highly sophisticated crap-filters, honed by a steady diet of search engines and wiki pages that may well have been written by that paranoid aunt convinced the Boxing Day tsunami was born of a U.S. bomber, will see right through your attempts to exploit our minds as your own consumer playthings. So unashamedly devoted to critical pedagogy are we, that the universal third person will always be referred to as “she” over “he”, no matter how wanky it inevitably appears to our reader. But there is one chink in this otherwise impenetrable armor of cynicism and distrust: put a doe-eyed little mouse in a polka dot dress and we’ll be eating out of its hand like it was James Franco at a cougar convention.

Evidenced by the hundreds of thousands making the yearly pilgrimage to Disneyland; the soaring price of real estate in the Disney town of Celebration; the thirty thousand weddings hosted in Sleeping Beauty’s castle; and the steady number of Arts enrollees who evidently gobbled-up the Disney message that dreams - even those as far-fetched as a career in the arts - do come true, Disney is the Achilles heel of our generation of pop culture insurgents, even into our adult lives. And who could blame us? Simba exerts more sex appeal than any Hollywood superstar as he makes the transformation from pre-pubescent cub to strapping young lion in that log-crossing scene (is it weird that I’ve long nursed a crush on a cartoon animal?) At any rate, in an era that’s all about equal rights and the emancipation of the marginalised, it’s difficult to do anything but adore a rather camply-attired duck with a speech impediment. And in a society more afraid of aging than Peter Pan himself, Disney provides a pain-free alternative to Botox. As Henry Giroux writes in The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, the adult viewer “often discovers some nostalgic connection to their childhood when they enter the Disney cultural apparatus.” Just one session with the mouse in the white gloves will wind back years on the psychological clock.

This association with childhood, however, is the exact ingredient undermining our offensive as pop culture insurgents. It works to bolster Disney’s image as a paragon of innocence, whose fairy tales operate in an infantile zone beyond the insidious reach of social convention. Thus we turn to Disney for an escape from our adult world, leaving our Gen Y crap-filters at the door; but with a controlling interest in twenty television stations, ownership of the largest radio network in the US, three music studios, the American ABC television network, and five motion picture studios, the Disney empire is more realistically associated with the word “monopoly” than with “freedom” - and I’m not talking about the game. Funny, then, that old Walt described his company as “emphasising the story of what made America great and what will keep it great,” given the threat to modern democracy posed by such expansive corporations. As former Disney executive Michael Ovitz reflects “Disney isn’t a company as much as it is a nation-state with its own ideas and attitudes, and you have to adjust to them.”

Cue the slapping of “Biggest Killjoy Since the Hunter that Killed Bambi’s Mum” label across my forehead. But trust me, I’m not advocating a Disney bonfire - this would leave me with very limited entertainment options, since I never really liked vampires. I’m simply reminding you that a rodent in an adorable little polka dot dress is still a rodent. Simba, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I’ll always be a sucker for guys with shaggy manes.


If Mozart had Facebook...

In a rare break from the beloved tradition of blaming my parents for each of my ineptitudes, asymmetrical eyebrows, and the fact that I am not an elite gymnast (if only they’d been gangster enough to force fifty hour training weeks upon their five year old kid), today I summon Mark Zuckerberg to the stand. Before you call me the most unoriginal bandwagon jumper since The CW made The Vampire Diaries, allow me to bring my case. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I’m pretty sure I’d be retired by now and rolling around a mansion with those ridiculous stone lions guarding a front door with a knocker in the shape of an Ancient Greek’s head - completely unnecessary since I spend most of my time floating in my dolphin-infested pool and so won’t hear you knocking the Greek head. Instead, each time I dust-off my thinking cap, ready to conceive some miraculous invention that’ll bring in the billions, I am assaulted by an onslaught of images of strangers lounging on deserted beaches (oh how I regret accepting that random add from the Maldives); acquaintances from my English tutorial winning crab races at Scubar; single forty-something male work colleagues at Rihanna concerts (although this explained a lot, it’s the unexpected ones that really twist the dagger). It’s mighty difficult to sit alone in my room and concentrate on inventing an umbrella with built-in water harvester (who needs desalination plants?) with such constant reminders that I am the sole human being not out at the biggest party since Woodstock. Of course there’s no disclaimer warning that Facebook delivers a distorted reality and people don’t post about vacuuming or shopping for laundry supplies (with the exception of Kim Kardashian who has made a career of mundane banalities). Zuckerberg, on the other hand, makes his billions by ensuring that the rest of us aren’t doing anything productive so as to win them back from him. And as Lynn Tan’s “Summer Lovin” album has me packing my bags for the beach instead of finishing this post, I rest my case.

Creative License and Registration, please.

So perhaps I’m not as serious a Sufjan aficionado as I would like to think: I may or may not have mistaken his supporting act from Toronto for the man himself (to my defence I forgot my glasses that night and, at the extreme peril of my personal safety on vacation in North America, I still can’t tell the difference between the Canadian and American accents). Notwithstanding, if you’d asked me what I was expecting from Stevens, King of the Banjo, at his Sydney Festival gig, I can safely say that synthesized chants to ancient volcanos performed in thigh-hugging fluro would not have crossed my mind. Nor would an oversized auto-tuning helmet, producing a noise homogenous to what I imagine it would sound like if T Pain and that annoying dancing hamster they turned into a ringtone had a baby. 
Judging by the random eruptions of laughter from alternating regions of the audience, promptly morphing into coughing fits once the perpetrator realised they were in fact witnessing a profound moment of artistic expression, my fellow spectators were equally surprised. Nevertheless, Sufjan still inspired a standing ovation and after years of being denied by prudish old women and their Galilean binoculars, the Opera House seats finally got some action from boogieing behinds. Thanks to a decade of dependably disarming melodies and haunting lyrics, Sufjan has earned himself a creative license stocked with more demerit points than a Supreme Court judge.      

Surpassing the driver’s, gun and even the pen license on a scale of one to liberation, the creative license is a portal to social irreproachability. While the ordinary citizen who attempts a similar maneuver might be thrown in a straight jacket or sent to a government position in Tasmania, those in possession of a creative license can excrete into a can, sell it for its weight in gold, and be deemed sophisticated for doing so - as filthy (‘xcuse the pun) rich Italian artist Piero Manzoni knew only too well. 
Our generation is particularly flippant in awarding creative licenses (see: Lady Gaga and her meat shoes). Perhaps we believe that, like shopping at recycled clothing markets and eating acai berries, listening to experimental this-might-be-awesome-but-pretty-sure-its-the-most-negligent-thing-since-the-“iSnack2.0” makes us better people; indeed, as Triple J ratings propel the station into the mainstream, the perpetual quest to achieve the divine status of “alternative” is being pursued more fiercely than ever; though most of us are still stuck on the question of how to be alternative from everyone else being alternative. We’ve all experienced that violent self-loathing in a musically geared conversation as we fight the urge to rattle-off a bunch of obscure bands composed of three men and a lesbian and a pretentious oxymoron in their name. But if we can’t all be artists with licenses for incivility, the next most virtuous thing is to appreciate them. And since that darned spinning woman just wouldn’t turn right for me, I guess I’m in for more Sufjan tickets next time he visits.


"All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word" - Sir Winston Churchill

Alright, I’m going public: I love to abbreviate. While “totes” and “maybs” are my guilty pleasures, I‘m not afraid to improvise, rolling out brand new words before you even have time to ask Far East Movement ‘how exactly does one “get slizzered“?’ Abbreviations are my portal to a whole new social hemisphere: like Peter Parker donning his Spider Man suit, when I produce an adjective liberated of its cumbersome appendage I’m transformed from bookish law student to dynamic woman of the world.

But thanks to ambassadors like Ke$ha and Rachel Zoe, us abbreviators are not generally known for our intelligence. So as Gen Y throws up more abbreviations than Johnny Knoxville throws up wasabi-coated aliments in Jack Ass, I’m here to defend this revolutionary breed of communicator; to prove that condensing the vast spectrum of human emotion to fit the screen of an iPhone is not a tragic reduction of our powers of self-expression, but a pragmatic advancement in English expediency; to reinforce the revelation of Kyle Sanderlands, faithful devotee to the sound of his own voice, that there is no direct correlation between intelligence and sentence-length.

George Bernard Shaw might be writhing in his grave if he knew that Gen Y’s favourite pass time was the mutilation of his beloved English language. The subversive George Orwell, on the other hand, would at last be dreaming sweet. Those who denounce Gen Y’s communication revolution as a destruction - born of sheer laziness - of centuries of human progression and refinement are obviously unfamiliar with Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. Our generation is finally tearing down the barrier to precision in communication that presents itself in flowery phrases and resonant rhetoric. Our “phenoms” and “whenevs” are infusing our society with integrity, filling in the potholes in our language where politicians, Daily Telegraphs and Tracey Grimshaws alike have cunningly buried the truth beneath bewitching poetry. The minimalism of the Gen Y dialect will hail in a new era of transparency and sincerity in communication.

While there will always be purists, reveling in their sanctimonious smirks like Neoclassicists short-sightedly condemning a Van Gogh whenever they hear a “whatever” shed the oppressive weight of its last two letters so that an understated “s” may blossom in their place, most of us have sufficiently advanced to appreciate the abbreviation for the innovation that it is. Just as the French overturned the viciously-indulgent opulence of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the time will come when such conservatives will be exposed for the syllable-gluttons that they truly are, depriving the rest of society of communicational prosperity.

But in the meantime, if I am to begin using these words more flagrantly in public, I suppose it would be in my best interest to dye my hair a few shades darker and perhaps start wearing my glasses more often.

End note: In the case that my words strike a chord and we experience a forcible wave of pro-abbreviators, let me take this opportunity to thank you for your readership, for since the cumbersome phrases of this blog probably won’t make it into the new era of language, it may be my last.


I'm a Mouse, Duh.

One more invitation to a fancy dress party and I’m moving to the moon where the only type of dress-ups they have are compulsory suits to prevent suffocation. Not only for the sake of my empire-waist dress, still bearing its tags and desperate to get out of the closet and work it’s magic where that extra Tim Tam is beginning to show, but also for the social welfare of our generation. You may not see the acute danger in a night out dressed as the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, but I speak from experience when I say that fancy dress parties are up there with the mullet, denim on denim and Perez Hilton as one of the most critical social hazards of our time. The last thing I’d want to be is a kill joy; my aim through sharing my own traumatic experiences is education on how to enjoy the upcoming festive season responsibly.

To understand the obsession with dress-up parties, we need search no further than the insightful tween epic, Mean Girls. While perhaps not conventionally acknowledged as a product of high culture or featuring alongside Dead Poet’s Society on the most inspirational movies of all time list, there is a multitude of wisdom to be unearthed in this film. Like a 21st century Gandhi, Cady preaches that “Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like total sluts and no other girls can say anything about it.” For a generation addicted to exhibitionism (to reiterate, I’m talking about self-broadcasting, not self-disrobing, though you’d be forgiven for any confusion given the topic we’re discussing), fancy dress is to Gen Y as prison is to Lindsay, as Ray Bans are to white people, as new-release-better-than-the-version-you-bought-last-week is to Apple. Not only do they provide an opportunity to dress as a sexy little bow peep without so much as a raised eyebrow or a “I’m pretty sure traditional shepherds would have found 6-inch stilettos and 2-inch skirts highly impractical when rounding up sheep”, but they are the perfect excuse for Gen-Y exhibitionists to abuse the homepages of their facebook friends with a bombardment of offensive self-snapped close-ups in awkward poses. It would be sacrilegious to go to the effort of sewing 10 metres of tule to bow peep’s underskirt and not post at least a 78-picture-long album showcasing your hard work; if it’s not on facebook, it didn’t happen. Never mind that those primary school students you tutor who found you on facebook will now have the image of you posing suggestively with the shepherd’s crook lurking in their minds as you teach them the radius of a circle - this is the inevitable carnage of achieving facebook popularity. 

Apart from encouraging the exhibitionist tendencies of those who need no encouragement, fancy dress can produce some serious social fallout. Gossip Girl would have us believe that an encounter with a masked stranger at a fancy dress ball inevitably leads to an exhilarating melange of mysterious strangers and thrilling scandal. They lied. It’s actually just really awkward. I thought I had rid myself of this problem once and for all after affectionately administering a dead-leg from behind to my best friend who was in actual fact my university lecturer forced me finally to face the fact that I was more short-sighted than a labour voter who believed Gillard’s promises on climate change and get myself some lenses. But the last fancy dress party I attended involved a cozy hug with an individual in a full-body chicken costume who it turned out was not the guy I sit next to in lectures but a complete stranger, after which I had to endure sniggers from him and his friends every time I passed them during the night (cruelly fated that they had taken up camp beside the snacks table). Whether it’s a wounded self-esteem beneath a bombardment of giggles from complete strangers, or a re-fueled exhibitionism as we ignore the angry threats if we don't "put the camera away!", fancy dress is damaging to each of us in our own way.

Despite negativity to rival film reviews of the latest Harry Potter, I will admit to owing at least one positive outcome to the fancy dress party: while the night began standing amongst a group of clowns and circus freaks in the rain outside a night club telling us we didn’t quite fit the dress code, the costume eventually paid-off. After being separated from my similarly-adorned friends, alone on the dance floor dressed as Bozo, a number of strangers commented on my unusual sense of style, one of whom mistook me for someone alternative enough to lend a hand on his film set and offered me a job. It has, however, been exhausting to keep up the pretence of alternative film buff and I’m pretty sure that after he saw me use an iPhone and then choose a meat dish over tofu at lunch the other day, he’s catching on to my lack of alternativeness...

So please, for the social welfare of a generation and for my un-christened empire dress, don’t make your next party a fancy dress. If you couldn’t care less about my empire dress, then at least do it for the sake of our creativity; after years of endless dress-up parties, it’s getting more and more difficult to come up with an original costume, especially when every second theme is “what I wanna be when I grow up”. There’s only so many times a guy can don the cross-dressers outfit before it stops being funny and people start asking questions. A new low for me was cutting arm and leg holes in my foam mattress to a “letter M” party. While it may have hidden the extra Tim Tam even better than an empire dress, it is nice to be able to sit down at a party. 

Kim Beazley, I salute you.

I am beginning to regret sniggering at a rejected and dejected Kim Beazley back in 2004 in an arrogant disregard of the rule about not kicking ‘em when they’re down. He might come from Perth with a voice almost as vexatious as the ideas it articulates, but as I lick my wounds following the university election season, I have a new found respect for the big guy and his chronicle of losses. The close of the polling booths of the Sydney Uni Law Society election - i.e. the campaign that forces itself upon the facebook home pages of engineering students, social work students, Brisbane University students, and your Zumba instructor alike, despite the fact that only law students can vote - marks for me the end of one, long, drawn-out losing streak. 
There’s a lot at stake during a university campaign; sleep-ins, egos, uni marks, friendships, fashion sense, sanity. And yet our generation gets on board year after year. Of course, at the height of a campaign, there’s nothing you’d rather do than wake up at 5 am to cover your campus in posters which will probably end up in the bin by lunchtime the same day. Once you’ve lost, however, it’s difficult to find meaning in all those Saturday nights spent mixing chalk. And the red mark on your forehead from that time about seven hours into election day when you decided the “I voted STRIKE” stickers were meant for your face is a cruel reminder of your failure that takes a few days to fade. How KBeaz dealt with getting beat on a national scale not once but twice, had his weight problem rubbed in his face with daily news features of his vanquisher on morning jogs around Kirribili, and then still put his hand up for more I’ll never know.
By engaging in a university campaign, you’re taking a significant social risk. I didn’t realise I was capable of inspiring cold-blooded fear in the hearts of my friends and acquaintances until I crossed the law school foyer on election day gripping a wad of campaign flyers. Of course, ostracism did have its advantages: the line for Taste Baguette was always much more bearable after we cleared the room with our campaign T-shirts. And to be fair, I have gained 15 new facebook friends from amongst my ticket (hopefully enough to make up for the plunge that occurred the day my profile pic was changed to a campaign logo). 
Perhaps the most depressing part of the whole ordeal is realising that this thing you’ve poured your heart and soul into, nobody else could really give a crap about. From the epicentre of a campaign, the lack of water coolers in the library seems like a more pressing issue than global warming and the world hunger crisis combined. When you emerge from the campaign cocoon, you’re left with a multitude of baffling questions; why doesn’t the uneven tiling outside room 104 get anybody else’s blood boiling!? Why don’t you people care about the calendar clash between the competitions grand final and interfaculty sports!? But your questions fall on ears deafened by the speakers of last night’s SubSki event, rubbing in the fact that the only thing that really gets anybody worked-up on campus is the socials agenda.
One thing Kim Beazley could have improved upon was his ability to see the positives in a situation. His description of his role in the Labour party as “Lazarus with a triple bypass” doesn’t exactly smack of someone on the lookout for a silver lining. But unlike Beaz, I don’t see my election experience as entirely negative; flyering on Eastern Avenue, trying to block my opponents from reaching the next potential voter before I got to them was excellent training for the netball season. And with a wardrobe bursting with campaign T-shirts, I never have to buy pajamas again. 


Us, intolerant? Never!

Earlier this year the United Nations denounced Australia as a place of “entrenched” discrimination. But we sure proved them wrong in the latest election. Not only did we get ourselves our first female prime minister, but she’s a ginger. To borrow an expression from Chandler Bing, could we be any more inclusive?
Having grown up with the political buzz word “tolerance” ringing in our ears, Gen Y prides itself on its social inclusivity. That incident in Cronulla aside, we like to think of ourselves as pioneers of a multicultural society where the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside, and the fact that Eurasian couples make hot babies is honestly just a bonus. The number of student societies dedicated to social inclusion on our university campuses has rocketed so high that they have degenerated into competition: whichever society can get the most white North Shore kids on a chauffeured coach to a rural school to tell kids born of eighteen generations of agriculturalists how great it is to attend Sydney University wins. And some of them even have a few members completely uninterested in resume padding. 
Gen Y’s revolutionary attitude may be traceable to the post-modern wisdom of Foucault and friends: nothing gets a Gen Y-er worked-up like an absolute statement against somebody else’s belief system. If you’re sick of hearing that uni student in your workplace talk about their iPhone and that “Charlie bit my finger” YouTube video, there’s one simple and effective way to destroy the friendship: tell them you think Islam is wrong. They will be shocked by your narrow-minded exclusivity and respond by ostracizing you from the office social agenda. But if all you need is a little relief from the latest installment of Awesome Things I Did On My GAP Year, rather than complete destruction of the friendship, it will suffice to tell them that you think Christianity is wrong. Denouncing a Western belief system always goes down much better than any foreign option; that way you appear much more open-minded and nonconformist. (This has been kindly modeled for us by the diplomatic statements made by Hockeyroo Kate Hollywood on Delhi’s Commonwealth games, taking a more positive slant on the security fears, dellapidated accommodation, an outbreak of dengue-fever, and the collapse of a footbridge next to the main stadium when she said, “they’ve really started off with a big bang!”) Such comments will buy you a few days of the cold-shoulder before your Gen-Y buddy will be positively bursting to tell you of the magnificence of Campos coffee again. Just try to constrain the impulse to tell them that it’s not fair trade, that would probably be the last straw.
But if you’re a religious evangelist, by no means should you see this display of tolerance as a green light to share your beliefs with Gen Y in the public forum. Just because you can’t denounce other religious beliefs, doesn’t mean you can confirm them either, unless you’re prepared to be labelled small-minded and conservative quicker than Sheik Hilali on International Women’s Day. The only politically-correct form of public monotheism is Apple worship, and even that company was co-created by two individuals. 
Confused yet? Considering whether standing as still as possible and trying not to blink is a plausible means of escaping the terrifying attention of a tolerance-Nazi? Wondering how it ever became appropriate to conjoin the words “tolerance” and “Nazi”? If there’s one golden rule to remember, it's that there is absolutely no absolute truth. As long as you can ignore the fact that this breaks the other golden rule about not showing favouritism to Western world views, you’ll be on a chauffeured coach to the outback in no time.


Are you even listening to me?

“I’m jealous of the dog: my mum loves it more than she loves me.” 
Words I discovered on the back door of the toilet cubicle on the lower ground of the Carslaw building. It was pretty uncomfortable to have such an intimate, heartfelt message blaring at me while I was engaged in an activity equally as intimate. Even in the most private of settings, Generation Y can’t help but share its thoughts.
Facebook is often hit with the blame for raising up an army of exhibitionists, mercilessly launching a reign of pointless comments or dull narratives (for most of which “you had to be there”) over the home pages of users innocently trying to make a new friend. But if we’re letting Bert Newton off the hook for spawning an epicurean woman-basher, it doesn’t seem fair to pin the blame for an entire generation’s ego problem on the creators of Facebook. They were just smart enough to tap into and become filthy rich off the already rampant exhibitionism in our society. 
For we are the children of the self-expression movement, whose parents celebrated our food-throwing tantrums, furniture finger painting and lack of cleanliness as evidence of creative genius. Similarly, the thrill of an audience was something we came to expect in tender infancy; I’d like to meet a female Gen Y-er who didn’t spend the greater part of their childhood stuffed into glittering bumble bee costumes at dancing concerts with about three layers of make-up more than should ever be seen on a pre-pubescent girl, and four rows of family members in the audience snapping pics. 
Reality TV producers are another cunning breed thriving off Gen Y’s unique ability to project their own opinion onto anything that crosses their path. Don’t try and tell me that people are genuinely entertained by a middle-aged man fretting over the rise of his soufflĂ© or an obese person struggling up a hill. If you’ve ever watched Master Chef with a real chef or Survivor with an experienced adventurer, you’ll know the primary reason any of us watch reality TV is to criticise the participants and talk about the better job that we would do if the producers were smart enough to pick us for the show (except for the watermelon launch episode of the Amazing Race: that’s just plain hilarious).
The paradox of our careers as self-promoters is that the universal pre-occupation with voicing our own opinion leaves very few to actually listen to those opinions. I wonder how many Facebook wall posts are motivated by a desire to give our own wall a bit of extra padding when the person is obliged to reply; how many Twitterers have “become a follower” because they are genuinely interested in what that person ate for lunch, not because they wish to increase their own pool of captive readers. I would like to thank Ellen Degeneres, the sound of whose voice never ceases to give me indigestion, for perfectly illustrating my point for me when she told the audience of her talk show, “I think people talk too much anyway. Sometimes people are talking to me and in my mind I'm just like "shut up, shut up, shut up...blah blah blah blah blaaaaah." Oh, the irony.
Just as Britain smiled politely at the German troops it ushered into the Sudetenland in 1938, Gen Y seems to have missed a clear warning about loving the sound of your own voice: K Rudd. Busy dazzling himself with streams of Chinese and uplifting self-talk about how it was Obama’s loss for rejecting the invite, he barely even noticed the grumbles of discontent around him, until one day even his own wing(wo)man had had enough. One day we might miss the friends we lost when we were too busy updating our statuses about the latest funny thing we said to our bus driver. But since this blog itself is probably a shining example of exhibitionism, most likely the only person I’m preaching to is myself.
Disclaimer: The term “exhibitionism” is used in this article to refer to unrestrained self-publicists. It is not intended to connate the medical term used to describe the psychological condition characterized by a compulsion to expose one’s genitals to an unsuspecting stranger - that important topic will be addressed in later blogs. 


My core's harder than your core.

It would be pure torture for a Baby Boomer to have to choose a favourite from amongst their cherished collection of Gen Y criticisms. But the “commitment phobe” insult would definitely rate high on their "Most Relished" list. Disregarding the fact that the demographic condemning this Gen-Y character trait is more than likely responsible for its inception, since from the midst of our tender youth we watched them pioneer the loftiest divorce rate in the history of mankind, it may not be so far from the truth. With an average of fifteen career changes in a single lifetime, Gen Y-ers are the Tiger Woods’s of the job market; the average marriage age, for the declining portion that do decide to tie the knot, is increasing like Liberal voters in a GFC; having grown-up in a global village, as more and more of us pack-up and move our lives abroad, we are by far the most territorially promiscuous bunch around.
And yet, our generation has absolutely no problem publicly declaring undying love for a musical ensemble. If you’re after a laugh, all that’s required to watch your peers behave like jealous lovers is to mention that you were a U2 fan all the way back when Bono’s glasses were not blue-tinted, but orange; a Muse fan way before Stephanie Meyer’s vexatious attempt to pin the blame for her inspiration for Twilight on the band; a fan of The Middle East back when asking someone if they’d heard of them would generally provoke a response of, “Um, yeah...have you heard of Europe?” But don’t broach the topic if you’re in a hurry: such statements will only ever result in an impromptu round of lyric trivia backed-up by a bout of verbal roulette as you sound-off the occasions you saw them live. It’s the only way to determine which fan’s core is in fact the hardest. University bell curves won’t stop us sharing notes, and even the most violent game of badminton will end in a friendly handshake, but put an enchanting melody with a sweet soprano and Generation Y will transform into a pack of blood-thirsty competitors. 
Apart from the occasional hysterical Britney fan appealing to the hearts of the YouTube world to leave the girl alone (honestly people, obviously she shaved her head cos she wanted less attention...of course she could’ve sold-out a 20 000 seat arena on sheer talent and a completely sound mind) this phenomenon is particularly apparent amongst the Indie crowds. Perhaps those of us who are still telling ourselves that the Indie movement is not mainstream are trying to bolster our own alternative image. Are we like the emos of the early naughties convinced they were a minority, sitting by the thousands on town hall steps to collectively reflect on their solitude, to empathise with each other about how no-one understands? 
It could be that I’m just not comfortable thinking of myself as an angsty teenaged boy wearing eyeliner, but I’d like to believe that this inter-fan rivalry has more to do with genuine passion than image. It’s just a little glimpse of the dedication our generation is capable of in a world showcasing the dangers of commitment. When we’re moved by profound lyrics and the soft strum of a banjo, we can’t help but give our heart to a band. So naturally, when they take that offering and jump all over it on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people, it hurts like hell. When The Temper Trap left for the States, I think I understood how Jen felt watching Brad upgrade to Angelina. And when they announced a show on every continent, I finally got what it was like for her to see the new couple collecting their tribe of rainbow children. But as the saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all. 

We'll have our vocational cake, and eat it too.

I recently sat through a lecture in which a university professor had the audacity to suggest that we weren’t all going to be CEOs by the age of 25; that everyone has to start at the bottom and work their way up; that we were in for many long years of slogging away at the dirty jobs no-one else wants to do. The nerve of the guy! If he wanted to engage in some public dream-shattering, he could at least make it constructive and go inform Katter and his cowboy hat that he’s a politician, not the main character from Toy Story (although I think the New York Times may have beat him to it...) 

Clearly this lecturer hasn’t heard the messages of Gen Y’s primary school teachers, careers counsellors, adoring parents and Disney movies, that dreams do come true. But he’s a professor, hasn’t he at least seen the statistics? Your average generation might be content with just one measly career path in a lifetime, but not Gen Y. We’re inspired enough to pursue fifteen. And hasn’t he noticed the masses of people enrolling in Arts degrees? A bit of faith in your own abilities is all it takes to prove that Arts is more than just a dead-end degree producing graduates with remarkable abilities to squeeze impressive quantities of adjectives into a single sentence and absolutely no employable skills. Sure, the same Arts students dreaming of becoming poets also see images of yachts and waterfront homes when they close their eyes. But as the door nob in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland so wisely put it, “nothing is impossible" if you set your mind to it. 

That’s not to say that motivational messages should come without their warnings. There are those whose fanatical dreaming is coming dangerously close to spoiling the fun for the rest of us. Was it really necessary for Miley Cyrus to attack our cinema screens after she had already made an admirable attempt at contaminating our radios and defiling our TV sets? And has she no mercy for the poor mothers looking-on in horror as their tweens wreathe themselves in items from her clothing line? 

Caught between Gen Z’s rorting the dreaming system, and a few prominent killjoys acting on behalf of the Baby Boomers (mining tax, anyone?), Gen Y is a shining example of dreaming done at it’s best. Just please, no-one tell Hamish and Andy about the whole “fifteen career paths in a lifetime” thing. Word is they’re planning on bidding adieu to radio in order to pursue TV, and I’m just not sure how I'd cope on the drive home without them... 

Disclaimer: This blog is in no way representative of the writing style of Arts students. It should not be taken as evidence that all Arts students unexceptionally possess remarkable abilities to squeeze impressive quantities of adjectives into a single sentence and absolutely no employable skills.

I lost my friend to Twighlight.

Last month was a difficult time for me. Not just because we realised we were actually going to be forced to choose between a dull prime minister or an overbearing one in a fast-approaching election; nor because John Farnham announced yet another final tour. Rather, it was the Australian release of Eclipse, the third film in the Twighlight saga, that drove this period of hardship home. 

Neither the pain inflicted by screams of swarming girls balanced precariously on the border between childhood and adolescence, nor the merciless blows dealt by Kristen Stewart’s attempt at acting could compare to the flood of painful memories the film brought rushing back into my life. For though Twighlight has robbed the magic from cinema, it has stolen something much more precious from me: a very dear friend.

It was after the release of Twilight that my friend first discovered that he looked like a vampire. It was after Robert Patterson came to Australia that he realised he could make this work in his favour: this pale kid who never smiled could pull chicks. From that moment everything changed. My friend’s clandestine missions to his sister’s bathroom cabinet to capture bottles of fake tan were abruptly aborted; he now wore his glow-in-the-dark skin with pride. The guy who had asked his sister to his high school formal was now perpetually surrounded by a gaggle of giggling tweens. And as his ego grew, so to did the height of his new bouffant hairstyle. 

Our friendship has never been the same. It’s kind of demoralizing being around someone who doesn’t laugh at your jokes because he believes the grimace is more becoming, and no fun at all entertaining a guest who spends the whole time hissing at your dog. 

I could comment on the irony of a generation that doesn’t have time for real-life romance obsessed with a fantastical story of forbidden love. Or the paradox of a generation of women who seem to have finally broken through that glass ceiling, whilst simultaneously tearing through books starring the ultimate damsel in distress. But really, I just want my friend back. Stephanie Meyer, give me back my friend.