Sunday, 21 December 2014

Off Topic: Nativity Plays, or the Trials and Tribulations of my Four Year Old Self

In the neighbourhood where I grew up, there is a small church that is connected with a kindergarten and a child care centre and a few other community based programmes. Every year at Christmas time, they put on a concert for the families of the children who use their services and the whole thing is kind of a big deal. One of the highlights of the concert is the nativity play, which is acted out entirely by four year olds. Or, to be more realistic about it, the play is the highlight of the show if you happen to be one of the lucky kids who was chosen for a part, or if you're the parent or grandparent of one of those kids. When my oldest brother, Ben, was four he was chosen to play the part of a tree (don't ask). My next brother (and the middle kid of the family,) Damien, got to play a donkey. So, given family tradition, coupled with the fact that I was probably the shyest four year old that you would ever meet (or not, if I could hide behind mum's/dad's/grandma's legs fast enough,) I doubt that my parents had terribly high expectations of me being cast in the play at all. 

So, naturally, I got a speaking role. 

And I didn't just get any speaking role. I got to be the inn-keeper. Basically, I was the arsehole who told a heavily pregnant women to piss off because the hotel didn't have a room for her. And not only was that woman pregnant, but her child was the son of God. At the time, probably wouldn't have put it quite like that, but I knew the reality that the inn-keeper was the closest thing that the story had to a villain and that no one in their right mind would want to be one. Anyway, I don't really remember all that much about rehearsals, but I do remember on the evening just before the play, walking inside the kindergarten with my mum, and freaking out. I remember thinking that my own costume (in reality, one of dad's old shirts,) was pretty cool. Some of the other kids had massively elaborate costumes that their parents had probably spent days working on, to the point where I barely recognised the kid behind the costume. And, inside the kindergarten was another scary thing ...

There were mothers hanging around. Everywhere.

The whole place was a hive of activity and mothers, as the parents  and teachers prepared for the kids to make their debut at the Sydney Opera House (in reality a small Lutheran church,) and I started to get scared. There was so much noise. My friends were dressed differently and acting differently to what they usually did. (I, meanwhile, was just me in one of dad's old shirts.) People were whispering, giggling, parents were pointing and taking photographs. Lots of lots of things were happening. The play got underway. It was my turn to walk to the stage. And then ...

And despite what my parents will probably tell you, what the kindergarten teachers would have told you and what every other parent in the church was probably thinking, I stand up there on the stage, silent, because I forgot my lines. I didn't go silent because I was shy. The truth is this.

I just didn't want to say them.

I mean, who wants to be the biggest arsehole in the whole Christmas play, in front of everyone? 

Anyway, one of the teachers pushed the line out of me. The girl beside me offered Mary and Joseph some lodgings inside a stable and the play, and life, went on. 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Review: Franny by J.D. Salinger

Franny is J.D. Salinger's short story about a young woman seeking spiritual enlightenment that is usually published alongside Salinger's novella Zooey in a single volume titled Franny and Zooey. I decided to re-read Franny recently (not a huge task, as the story is approximately twenty-eight pages long,) after discovering that originally, it was published as a short story, a whole two years before Salinger published Zooey. I wanted to get a real sense of this one without it being eclipsed by the longer (and arguably more interesting,) Zooey.

Franny feels both very old and dated, yet oddly relevant to the modern world. Franny is suffering from a crisis of self. Although coming from a relatively privileged background, she is seeking deeper truths. Or, it is entirely possible, she is simply having a mental breakdown. In any case, she is questioning everything about her existence and the world around her, she is feeling ill and the whole experience is more or less ruining the lunch that she is meant to be enjoying with her equally privileged boyfriend. 

Similar to Catcher in the Rye, in one sense, Franny is a book about first world problems and the desire to find enlightenment. I won't pretend that I loved this one, because, in all honesty, I didn't. It's an interesting, and realistic, enough account of someone who is going through a crisis of self--Franny holds the world around her in contempt and seems to be using religion and enlightenment as a crutch--but I found that I that I had no strong feelings about the character or her situation. She came across to me as yet another self-centred young adult who thinks that they, and they alone, are the first to question the world around them. However, I feel that what really bothered me was that there is nothing, or no one, that really counters the character and her experiences. On the other hand, this weakness does make it the perfect lead in to Zooey, which continues the story of Franny's breakdown through the eyes of her brother. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: Cityglitter by Carla Caruso

Cityglitter is a bit of fun, lighthearted reading with likeable characters and an amusing set-up. Twenty-something Christelle is living the good life in Sydney, she has a good job and invitations to a number of A-list events. And then her annoying little sister Trixie turns up uninvited and threatens to spill Christelle's secret--that she and Trixie are half-human and half-fairy. Can Christelle keep her identity a secret? Can she stop the naughty Trixie from meddling with her life? And what will happen if Christelle's boss, the very sexy Jasper, do if he finds out the truth about Christelle?

As I said, this one is a bit of fun, lighthearted reading. I read the bulk of this on in one sitting and found myself quite amused by some of Trixie's antics, particularly what she did with the nasty Lillian and the New York snow globe. There were a couple of unexpected plot twists in there, in particular the true identity of one character. But this really is not a book that warrants a great deal of analysis, it's one to be read purely for fun. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love, the eighth novel from bestselling New Adult author Colleen Hoover, is a tale about the ugly side of sexual desire, juxtaposed against the healing and redemptive nature of romantic love. Tate Collins is a nursing student, new to San Francisco and too busy for a relationship. Miles Archer is a pilot with few friends and a tormented past that no one is allowed to ask about. Initially the pair cannot stand one another, but the sexual tension between them is obvious. The pair soon strike up a friends with benefits arrangement, but when emotions get in the way, things soon become ugly ...

I think by now, most readers know what to expect from a Colleen Hoover novel--tainted pasts, sexual tension and a dash of good, old fashioned melodrama. Ugly Love has all of this in abundance, though the nice girl heroine, Tate Collins, seemed to me to fall a little flat. Miles' backstory, told in short, poetic chapters, tugs at the heartstrings--it is a story of a forbidden teenage relationship that comes to an abrupt, heartbreaking end. (And not in the way I was expecting.) Most of the present day relationship is told through the eyes of Tate, an otherwise intelligent and capable young woman, whose affair with Miles goes against her better judgement. I think the story could have been improved had the author gone into a bit more detail about Tate's background and if she had properly addressed why Tate was so willing to enter in to her arrangement with Miles, when it was clear that what she truly desired was a relationship. What part of her knew for certain that he was worth it? Then again, sometimes the magic in these books is not to answer the why, but the way the author tells a story of that one-in-a-million romance that worked out despite a number of obstacles.

The event that eventually leads Miles to discover the redemptive and healing powers of love is a surprising one. There was enough material in this book to keep me reading well into the evening. 

A bit of melodrama that tugs at the heart strings, that will no doubt be enjoyed by loyal fans of Hoover's previous novels.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Around Adelaide (Street Art)

This canine shutterbug is getting into the Christmas spirit. The bronze sculpture is one of four "dog paparazzi" to decorate the lower ground floor of Adelaide Central Plaza. I took this (slightly fuzzy) picture back in 2013. I wonder if he has his Christmas hat on again this year?

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Off Topic: Am I a Stalker?



a person who pursues game, prey, or a person stealthily.
a person who harasses another person, as in a former love, a famous person, etc. in an aggressive, often threatening and illegal manner:

Hollywood stars often have security guards to keep dangerous stalkers at bay.

If you are reading this because you are concerned that you may have, quite accidentally, done something that another person might interpret as stalking then chances are, you are not a stalker. Stalker is a word that gets thrown around a lot, and tends to have one meaning in a social context and quite a separate meaning when put into a legal or psychological context.

From a social perspective, stalking can be defined activity that pertains to discovering information about another person without their consent, or trying to establish a closer relationship with that person when that person does not welcome it. From a legal perspective, stalking involves a persistent pattern of behaviour that would cause another person harm, or do things that a rational person would consider to be an invasion of their privacy. For example, someone cannot be arrested for viewing the photographs that another person has made public on their facebook account, because the owner of the account has opted to make those photographs available to the public. (Ditto if you look someone's name up in the phone book.) However, if someone was to intentionally photograph that person without consent, that would be stalking. (As would using their address and telephone number listed in the phone book as a means of further surveillance.)

As I previously stated, stalking involves a persistent and intrusive pattern of behaviour. A stalker will not necessarily know or understand that their behaviour is wrong and nor will they back off when told that their victim does not like it. According to an episode of Insight that ran on SBS in 2013, stalkers fall in to one of five categories:

The Rejected

Someone who has been rejected by their partner and cannot let the relationship go. They resort to stalking as a way of staying close to the victim.

The Intimacy Seeker

The intimacy seeker becomes fixated on a stranger or casual acquaintance, or perhaps even a celebrity, applying desirable qualities to them. The intimacy seeker believes that the stranger is their soul mate and considers any solid evidence to the contrary (such as their victim already being in a relationship,) to be an obstacle that they must overcome. 

The Incompetent Suitor

The incompetent suitor knows that their victim does not want a relationship them. However, this type of stalker believes that they can somehow win their victim over and prove their devotion by stalking them. 

The Resentful

The resentful stalker is any with the victim for some kind of slight, real or imagined. Stalking is their way of getting back at the person they believe has done them wrong. 

The Predator

The most frightening stalker of all, the predator hunts the victim with the intention of hurting them. 

As a rule, most of the people you meet in your life time are not going to be stalkers and most of the dumb things that you may have done that annoy other people probably do not make you a stalker. Stalkers often believe that they have a special connection with their victim, or they are driven by the motivation to hurt them. For example, the following scenario would probably not be considered stalking:

Lisa is in grade ten. Although she is very shy, she enjoys the classes with her young, charismatic English teacher, Mr Blake and looks forward to them every week. Mr Blake sees Lisa's potential as a student and encourages her, along with several other students. However, Lisa feels that the attention that Mr Blake gives to her is special and she begins to develop a bit of a crush on him. Consequently, she works a little bit harder at each of her assignments, talks more in class and keeps finding excuses to hang around the classroom. Lisa feels this crush very acutely, believes that it is mutual and this is what 'real love' must feel like. 

Aware of what is going on, Mr Blake takes care to only speak with Lisa when there are other students present. Lisa plans to 'confess' her feelings for her teacher but her plans are foiled when she overhears Mr Blake mention to another teacher that he has a fiancee. Lisa is hurt and disappointed. After talking with her mother, she discovers that it is normal to sometimes have crushes, feels a bit silly about the whole thing, and is relieved when, the following year, she is placed in a different English class. 

But when does a crush become something more? Consider the following:

Lisa's younger sister, Michelle, is placed in Mr Blake's English class. She too develops a crush on her teacher. Lisa becomes aware of what is going on and warns her sister to stay away, adding that Mr Blake has a fiancee, along with the advice that her mother gave her about crushes. Michelle ignores her sister's advice. She believes that her feelings for Mr Blake are mutual and that the only reason he is ignoring her is because she is not trying hard enough. Michelle repeatedly makes a nuisance of herself following Mr Blake around the school. She sometimes secretly photographs him with her phone. Eventually, the school intervenes. Michelle is transferred a different English class. A sympathetic teacher advises her on boundaries and healthy relationships. Together, they come up with some strategies of how Michelle put her fixation with Mr Blake behind her.

That evening, Michelle goes out to dinner with her parents and sister. As the family leaves the restaurant, they encounter Mr Blake who is walking inside with his fiancee. 

Now. Imagine that you are Michelle. What do you do?
A) Feel very embarrassed. The whole thing was dumb of you and look! He has his fiancee right there. What more proof do you need? You stare at your feet, do your best to avoid him and remember all of the strategies that you and the teacher came up with. 
B) Mutter a quick hello, but do not really look at them or try to engage them in conversation. You contemplate asking your parents if you can change schools. 
C) You feel very annoyed. So the jerk doesn't want to date you? He doesn't need to follow you to the restaurant and bring his fiancee just to make his point. 
D) You say something insulting. The jerk deserves it. 
E) You figure that Mr Blake is here because he wants to see you. It's a sign that you're meant to be together after all!  
F) You consider it to be a huge opportunity. You take down the details of his fiancee and her car. You make an excuse to go back to the restaurant and find her name so that you can look her up on the internet and find out as much about her you possibly can. You turn up at her workplace the following Monday and warn her to stay away from your man.
If you picked A or B then you are not a stalker. 

If you picked C you are not a stalker, but you really need to get a better handle on the situation. Stop fixating on the guy. Not everything he does is about you.

If you picked D, you're not a stalker, however, you need to consider if this is the most appropriate course of action. 

If you picked E, you are severely infatuated and may sliding toward stalker territory. Sometimes people with extreme infatuations can jump straight to this conclusion, purely because they are desperate for any kind of positive sign. If you feel this is you, then you need to talk to somebody about your feelings. 

If you picked F, then beware. This is stalking behaviour. 

* * *

So are you a stalker? Probably not. However, if you do feel uncomfortable with your own behaviour or think that you might have done something wrong, then I strongly suggest that you stop whatever is that you are doing, or talk to somebody you can trust about the way you are feeling. And then, just move on. Come on, I'm sure you have better things to think about anyway ...

Disclaimer: This post has been written purely for entertainment purposes. I am not a qualified psychologist and nor am I offering legal advice. This article should not be considered legal advice.