Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

('Meet me in St Louis' aired on Christmas Eve when I was about 8 and I fell in love. I think I watched it every second day all through the following month's summer holiday.)

I love this time of year. I know that's probably a bit naff, but I really do. In my experience (and that includes my years of retail and hospitality work) people are generally pretty good and friendly, trying to get into the spirit of the season. I think people want to do the right thing this time of year: buy the perfect gifts, make the perfect meals, avoid all the usual fights and arguments. Of course it's impossible. 

I actually find a measure of comfort in the imperfection of my Christmas rituals and in my wonderfully obnoxious, dysfunctional family. I know that at some point we'll fight over the lack of space in our tiny house filled to bursting with too many people, and that my older brother will eventually push my buttons so that I lose my temper, but we all love each other and that usually comes home strongly at several points throughout the day. 

I spend Christmas Eve night singing my heart out in a beautiful chapel in the inner west of Sydney. We sing beautiful music, including all my favourites: 'Lo', How A Rose 'Ere Blooming', 'The Angel Gabriel', 'The Cherry Tree Carol' and 'Jerusalem'. Christmas morning we have a new plan, as my mother and I and probably a few others from my family will visit my maternal grandmother in her nursing home. Then we'll have lunch together, all 7 of us, open presents and then let my sister run her ritual: Christmas trivia, which is what it sounds like, with questions about Christmas related subjects. Apparently this year we're introducing a new game too, called Festive Fetch, which will involve this guy:

Of course my biggest Christmas ritual is the mix CD, copies of which are already winging their way to several of you readers. It's always a satisfying moment when they're in a pile in front of me, ready to go. 

Happy Christmas, guys. Love you all heaps. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014


This week I had a change made to my many medications. It's too early to tell if it's helping, and it means blood tests and all sorts of unpleasant things, but my attitude to medication has always been 'whatever might help' and I trust my specialist. It was made after I had to beg my mother to drive me to my specialist's office for an appointment I was offered very last minute (when I should have been at uni) because I was having trouble leaving the house. 

This is not uncommon. I have spent the better (and worse) part of the last few weeks holed up in my bedroom, ordering home delivery food or just having sandwiches, alternately binge watching TV or curled in a foetal position. My anxiety is such that I am having trouble getting to work, the few hours I do work, getting to uni, for the few hours I need to front for, and seeing people generally. I spent my 31st birthday distressed and alone, although this was mostly because my sister bailed on me in the evening for a movie. My head is barely above water right now.

I'm being this brutally honest because it's Mental Health Week and hey, why the hell not. I write this not to attract pity, but rather to try and explain what it's like to live with a mental illness that just won't piss off and leave me alone. It's an illness that has me in its grasp so firmly that it feels like my life will always be this way, that my life will be an endless cycle of doctors' appointments, takeout food, the odd trip to uni or town for a class or a meeting with a friend, and curled up in bed just wishing to be held and loved for just a little while by the right person. It's getting worse, not better.

My new medication arrived in a heavy bottle (home delivered, of course), filled with 250 of the tablets that are meant to help alleviate this dread and anxiety which rules my behaviour so entirely. For some reason this surprised me - I had always expected this medication to be in wafer thin blister packs, in quantities of 25 or so at a time. Instead it's this substantial bottle you could whack a mole with, and one which keeps drawing my eye to my bedside table. 

For me, my illness dictates that my entire existence is predicated on the idea of tomorrow. I HAVE to believe that tomorrow will be a little easier, a little more manageable. That I can get a jump on the day and leave the house and face the world. Without this belief, the simple truth is that I just wouldn't be alive. I have to believe that if I try hard enough, that if things get just a little better, then there's a suitable job and life waiting for me, one that doesn't involve quite so much anxiety and guilt. Tomorrow it will be better. 

Because it has to be.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twenty One

Drea from The Maiden Metallurgist played this twenty questions game a friend tagged her in, and I thought it might be fun to play along.....except that I added a question of my own at the end. I haven't blogged in a while and really wanted something easy to start off with, so here goes.

Question 1: How tall are you?


Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?

Does pissing people off count? No, seriously - probably my ability to pick good but cheap things off a menu, both food and drink. 

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Master bloggers who run businesses and have copy editors but still manage to have far too many mistakes in their posts. And don't care. 

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?

Willful ignorance. Cynicism. 

Question 5: What’s your favorite song?

I think this one comes down to which song do I really wish I had written, so I'm going to run with this one by Patti Smith. 

Kid by The Pretenders or Television's Marquee Moon would probably run a close joint second. 

Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?
Shadow Jewels sells beautiful rhinestone earrings, although she doesn't have many in stock right now, and she provides wonderful service and prompt delivery. The same can be said of the wonderful Sea Babe Jewellery, from whom I have also purchased multiple times.

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

Freebasing on a TV show or curling up in bed with an amazing book while it rains outside. Respective favourites are Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and Richard Flanagan's beautiful new-ish release 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North'. 

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food?

Haigh's Chocolates, and not just because of their often charming salespeople. 

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

My family has a dog called Aslan (I swear I am not responsible for the terrible name). Here's a picture:

He's much bigger than that now, but whatever. 

Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?

I'm going to pick two fiction: 'The Sound and the Fury' by William Faulkner and 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' by Michael Chabon. Third place goes to Marilynne Robinson's 'Housekeeping'.

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product?

My Lancôme Rouge in Love lipstick, Corail in Love. I'm also super fond of the Tarina Tarantino Hyperlight I received in my Wantable box last month (see last post), it works both as a concealer and an illuminator. Is that possible? I don't know, but it's great. 

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

I had a conversation with my mentor and wasn't able to translate the Italian he put in front of me. I'm also worried I had lipstick on my teeth. 

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Coke Zero. Brain tumours be damned.

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie?

Three way tie between Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Little Miss Sunshine. 

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

Loner/nerd. But who cares? It was a long time ago now, and when it came down to it, I realised I really did have friends when it counted. 

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

This is a hard one, given I haven't travelled. But for future job hunting: Melbourne, New Zealand, Scotland and parts of Italy. 

Question 17: PC or Mac?

PC, but I do love an iPad.

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

Christ, too long ago to remember!

Question 19: Favorite celebrity?

Jon Hamm. Always Jon Hamm. Preferably with his blue yeti pal.

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want be best friends with?

I decline to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.
Wait, I'm Australian. We don't say that. I'll just tell you to bugger off. 
(Anyone on the blogroll at right. Especially Lyn and Kirsty.)

And my question: Question 21: What do you have hung on your wall that you adore?

I've played this game before, see this post.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like playing link below and tell me. Or just tell me how much you love Jon Hamm and the blue yeti. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Magic Box

So I'm doing something completely different today. I'm a bit of a beauty product junkie, I just don't have the cash to usually indulge. I've been on financial lockdown for several months, so when I got a new part time job a few weeks back (the interview for which is a whole other story in itself) I decided to go a little nuts and try out some beauty subscription boxes. Part of it was motivated by the fact that I was running out of most of my basic makeup and needed to replace it, and partly because I LOVE getting stuff in the mail. I mean, who doesn't?, but given how often I post stuff to other people I feel like I'm getting mine when something arrives in the post. 

Some of the stuff I got is really exciting so I thought I'd review two of the four boxes here, 2 of which were Australian boxes. I only bought a Lust Have It box because it was $7.95 and the contents aren't even worth talking about, while I get the feeling Bellabox was having an off month, so I'm keeping my subscription with them for a little bit longer and giving them another shot. 

On the other hand, Violet Box came through with the goods in a big way. With two full sized products and some great samples, the $12.95 I paid for the box (as an introductory offer) was more than recouped.  Included in the box was the Laqa & Co. Lip Lube (RRP: $20) in Bees Knees (lucky me, I got a shade I can actually wear!):

and the So Susan Flutter Mascara in Black (RRP: $32):

The lip lube, despite its terrible name, is great and glides on like a buttery gloss and is quite sheer, so you need well buffed lips for this product to work properly. The So Susan mascara has a small wand, which works great on my little lashes. Given that I needed a new mascara, this Violet Box was worth purchasing just for that alone, although I am also enjoying a tiny vial of Bioderma's Pore Refiner and some Sukin Hair Treatment samples, among others. 

And then, my friends, it gets even better. I tried out Wantable, a Milwaukee based company in the States, that offers highly personalised beauty boxes (although they also do accessories and intimates). I bought the one off box for $40 plus $10 shipping, but as the total value of my box was more than $100 US, I was very happy with the value of the products received, especially as several of them replaced items recently emptied in my beauty bag. 

Getting this box in the mail was truly very exciting:

and on the inside: 

So the four products I received in the Wantable box were Geri G's Innocent Foundation in Light, Elisabeth Mott's It's So Big! Mascara, Tarina Tarantino's Eye Dream Hyperlight and Vincent Longo's Velvet Riche Lipstick in Carnelian Red. 

The great thing about Wantable is that you can customise the box to the nth degree. You fill out a very detailed questionnaire on what you love, like and dislike and you are guaranteed to never receive anything you dislike, which for me means never getting eyeliner, bronzer, nail polish or tools. But it also means never receiving any lip glosses, or loose eye powders, or brow pomade, because you can customise the products even further within the broad categories of lip colours, eye shadows or brows. It's pretty freaking great, and I loved every one of the four full sized products I received. I was pretty strict with what I said I liked, and I think that's how I ended up with a box I loved. 

I needed a new foundation, so the Geri G. (RRP: $38) blends like a dream and was very welcome, as was the second mascara It's So Big! (RRP: $19.99) because I really needed to replace those. The Tarina Tarantino Eye Dream Hyperlight (RRP: $22) was very exciting; it's essentially an illuminating concealer and a very welcome addition to my makeup bag. It seems I finally might have found a concealer that works for me! Finally there was the Vincent Longo Velvet Riche lipstick (RRP: $23) in Carnelian Red, which looks really good over a regular lip balm.

It's worth pointing out that these items have a higher dollar value here, beyond that stated on the invoice, given the significant mark up on cosmetics here in Australia, particularly those from the US and the UK. So I really feel like I got more than twice my money's worth on these products. The Wantable box is too expensive to buy every month, but maybe every three or four months I'll shell out the dollars for one. For now I'm subscribed to Violet Box, and if the box is this good value every month and filled with items I need and use anyway, then I will stay subscribed.

If you're Australian, I highly recommend the Violet Box. And if Wantable ships to your country you should definitely give it a try, it's like beauty Christmas time!

And if all else fails, Violet Box's packaging is the perfect size for my meds collection:

Friday, July 11, 2014

You Gotta Have A Gimmick

By now you're all aware I'm a big music fan, and someone who spends what little disposable income she has on live music where and when she can. One of my favourite acts, both on record and live in person, is the songwriter of the hour, Sia Furler, more commonly known simply by her first name. Yes, she's reached the point of Cher, Madonna and Kylie - Sia is enough to tell people who she is. She's just that famous enough.

Except that, unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of months, fame is exactly what she's trying to eschew. 

The massive single from her new album Chandelier is everywhere right now, at least in Australia - shops, radio, spotify hit lists, being sung randomly by buskers on the street - it seems you can't go anywhere without hearing her soaring vocals belt out the party girl ballad of a woman who's reached her breaking point. And then the requests from talk show hosts came rolling in, and the press campaign suddenly exploded and that's when, according to the popular narrative right now, Sia decided she didn't want to be famous and started hiding her face from everybody while performing. She famously went on Ellen and sang into a dark corner while the little girl from the (very weird) film clip pranced all over the set. Sia didn't even face the audience when Ellen came over and hugged her. Then she did the same thing on Jimmy Kimmel for a couple of songs while little Maddie danced again. At the same time, she's stopped doing press interviews, leaving commentators to speculate as to whether this sudden shyness is a gimmick or something more serious. (For just some of these columns see herehere, and here.)

I'm here to posit that it's something more serious. In fact, I think it's perfectly understandable. Nor do I think that this 'sudden' shyness is really all that sudden. 

As far back as 2 years ago Sia was on her twitter account saying that she, regrettably, would no longer tour her music. Her fame was already on the rise thanks to penning major hits for Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, David Guetta, Rihanna and Kylie, and she didn't want a bar of the fame that those artists experience. She has several illnesses, one of which is bipolar, and has repeatedly stated in the intervening months that performance is too much for her to handle, let alone the fame that goes with having a monster record. It's also worth pointing out that Chandelier went viral a month or so before the press for her new record started in earnest, so her refusing to perform according to the usual rules was not a gimmick to sell more singles. Her music was good enough to sail on its own.

I'm going to declare some biases up front. I love Sia unashamedly, for her talent, her voice and her attitude. I'm also a performer who suffers from a mental illness of the same calibre, and one who deliberately picks and chooses her work based on whether or not the church a couple is getting married in has pillars for me to hide behind or a gallery upstairs where people can't gawk at me. Understandably I feel compelled to provide a sympathetic point of view on this rather stupid media debate. 

I think the people who are pointing fingers in this instance are not only ignorant of the timeline which has led to this point, but are also unaware of the very real implications of mental illness for a performer. I believe that Sia is a genuine artist, and not playing games with us, however much this latest behaviour may strike us as gimmicky. She has earned the right to have her demons taken seriously, and even if she hadn't, what's wrong with someone doing things a little differently?

And for what it's worth, the new record is amazing and you should buy it. 
Friday, June 6, 2014

State of the Nation (II)

from here.

Why, hello! It is Moz who writes.

After my last blog post I thought I'd be back within a few days to regale you with tales of my university exploits.....and I meant to, I promise! Instead life got in the way, and now I'm writing one of those dreaded 'sorry I haven't been blogging but I have a really good reason' posts. The ones everyone hates to read. 

I'm a firm believer in blogging only when you actually have something to say, and it seems that I suddenly do - a whole heap of things, in fact. But I thought I'd take advantage of a day of relative clarity to update you all on a rather dramatic semester. Because, my friends, that is almost exactly how long it has been since I wrote anything on this here blog - a full 13 week semester and that's not even including the Easter break. Two weeks out from my final exam for Italian, and a few days after passing my probationary period as a postgrad researcher, now seems a good time to stop and reflect on things. 

Juggling the study of Italian with a heavy research load is complicated enough, but thrown into the mix has been my maternal grandmother's health. A few weeks ago it really looked she would die at any moment, but she seems to be clinging on, although it's just a matter of time before her heart gives out. My grandmother helped raise me, and in many ways was more supportive of me growing up than my own parents were.This individual kind of attention is even more impressive when you consider that I am only one of 34 grandchildren on my mother's side, yet she manages to always make me feel special and wanted. Helping take care of her for a few nights in hospital felt like small repayment for years' worth of support and encouragement.

My research has been haphazard at best. My topic is now finessed enough that I was able to pass my three month review panel on Monday, but the real test will come when both the mentor and my auxiliary supervisor give me more detailed feedback. (Given they are both much more familiar with my area of study their feedback is also much more likely to be critical.) My mentor has been on leave this semester, and apart from a few messages back in February to let him know I was accepted into the program we haven't spoken since November. I've missed him dreadfully, there have been times hen his advice would have really helped, and his personal relationship with me always helps when my health isn't good. Put bluntly, I think I've done just enough work to get by, but I will really need the break between semesters to get my work up to scratch. I can't afford to fall behind any more than I already have. 


from here.

Italian has been hard. Learning a language is always tricky, and I really struggle with the listening and comprehension tasks. I am very worried about the final exam, which will likely be very difficult but I think I can do well enough to soothe my restless expectations. 

So that's where I'm at. I want to write about my grandmother some more later in the week, and I have a number of posts kicking around in my head that have to come out sometime. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I promise to be a better blogger or, as I like to think of it, correspondent from now on. Like a lot of you I prefer to write conceptual, thematic posts rather than this little list hastily typed out and thrown on the page, so I'm feeling guilty and like a failed blogger right now.

To any of you still reading, thank you. What have you been up to? And how do you manage to blog so often?!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Welcome To Wherever You Are

I wrote this post last July and never got around to publishing it, I'm not entirely sure why. I'll follow this up with something else later in the week - I start back at uni again tomorrow, so I should have plenty to talk about by the weekend. 

I like my university campus when classes aren't in session - well, apart from the fact that the main library's opening hours are significantly restricted and my supervisor isn't around. I like walking around all the big beautiful buildings and not having to muscle my way through the throng of students all in a hurry. At certain times of the day you feel like it's all yours and no one else is around, that this place belongs to you. 

I don't know about you, but I rarely feel like I belong. Although it took a while, uni was the first place where I felt like I did. Honours has been difficult, and especially since I carried my work over into this year it can be lonely at times, but my work makes me believe that I am in the right place, my place. 

I keep strange hours, mostly. On the days I go in, I leave the house a little after 5:30am for the walk to catch my bus that takes me into the city. I like the walk in the dark, it means I can sing along to my music without being embarrassed. The bus, when it comes, travels along a very old, ugly road that most people dismiss, but I like passing all the derelict warehouses and shopfronts that seem to have been there forever. There's the section of the road that has nothing but car dealerships, and then the section that seems to have nothing but bridal shops, followed by the section with vinyl stores and pubs and novelty shops owned by those that manage to eke out a living in the inner west. 

The sun is usually rising (at this time of year) just as I get out at the second stop near the uni. I wander over to the cult coffee shop that opens a few minutes before I get there around 6:30am. It's a family business that just lost its founder to a heart attack, and the kids and their mother are still recovering. It's still weird to come in every morning and not see the father at his table that was kept just for him, but his picture is everywhere, if not his booming laugh and friendly presence. His daughter expertly makes my coffee and I have her tell me what she's been up to, which is always more interesting than anything I have to say.

I work in the cafe for an hour or two, usually boosted by at least another coffee and sometimes something off the excellent and cheap menu. (During semester this is mostly where the mentor and I have our chats.) Then I take my work over to my department in a building a few minutes' walk away, where I stay for about six hours, trying to get stuff done. Most of the staff aren't around, but even the ones who are leave me alone in the common room, assuming, I think, that I'm a postgrad student and perfectly entitled to be there. It's quiet and, the real plus, kitchenette adjacent, so I can make ten cups of tea a day and play my music as I write.

At about 3pm I head over to the library, which mostly depresses me these days. It's not because it's an ugly building, but rather that the collection was decimated about two years ago and now the library is less like a library and more like a building that just happens to have a few levels of books. To accompany my book run I switch my iPod back on and climb the stairs to the top level, working my way down as I need. My favourite book run music right now is Foster the People's 2011 record, Torches, which for some reason is perfect for the job. Striding about purposefully, my arms full of books, I then try and figure out how to use the self service machine to get them on loan. It's not unusual for me to set off the alarm as I leave and have to try again, the bastard thing. Still - I'm not as bad as the girl who nicked a bunch of toilet paper rolls from the ladies' and then forgot to borrow her books so she got caught.

After my book run, and after I've done some photocopying and scanning, I emerge from the library to watch the sun setting over the most beautiful building on the campus. It's a perfect view from just outside the library, and one which touches me every time I see it. 

This is my patch, I think. I'm going to be here studying a long while yet, it's a good thing I love it so much. 
Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lisztomania (Take 4)

Like so many people, Christmas is all about the ritual for me. I'm not alone - my father adores decorations and usually has our tiny house overflowing with them, crowned by his spectacular lights in the front yard. (This is the part where I'd show a picture as proof, but my phone has a crappy camera and I don't own another one.) My sister has the endearing habit of running a trivia contest on Christmas day for our immediate family, trivia about...Christmas, no less. She buys prizes and everything. 

For what it's worth, I won this year, so I haz bragging rights. 

My ritual is known to longtime readers of this blog, the annual Christmas mix CD. Previous mix CD inclusions can be seen here and here.

This year's effort is outlined below:

Little Houses

Adam and the Ants - Stand and Deliver

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Sacrilege
Haim - The Wire
Palma Violets - Best of Friends
Any Bull - Keep On Running
Poliça - Dark Star
The Griswolds - The Courtship of Summer Preasley
The Preatures - Is This How You Feel?
Vance Joy - From Afar
Jeremy Neale feat. Go Violets - In Stranger Times
Frank Ocean - Lost
Robyn - Dancing On My Own
Pulp - Common People
Patty Smyth feat. Scandal - Goodbye To You