Here’s to Women with Bad Reputations

In 1982, December the 18th to be precise, I went to my first ever rock concert: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts at Festival Hall in Brisbane. I worshipped Joan Jett; she was unconventional and tough and impossibly cool. Joan Jett made my teen years bearable, when my lack of conformity constantly drew out the worst in people. Like Joan, I didn’t give a damn about my bad reputation, and had the middle finger up to the world.

Yesterday, the 15th November to be precise, or almost 33 years later, I heard that song blasted in a huge arena for the second time. This time, though, it was to accompany Ronda Rousey’s walk to the Octagon where she was due to fight Holly Holm in the UFC bantamweight championship. If you’ve had your head under a rock, Rousey is a marvel. An astonishing athlete who’s also articulate, likeable (or hateable if you’re that way inclined), and an outspoken feminist. She is, like Jett, unconventional and tough and impossibly cool. While I wouldn’t say I worship her (I’m a little old for that), I took an avid interest in her; avid enough to book a trip to Melbourne and drop a ton of dosh on great seats to see her fight.

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea

It’s a matter of record now that Rousey lost the fight. Her opponent, sure-footed and precise world boxing and world kick-boxing champion Holly Holm dominated her from the outset. I quite like Holm (in fact, if you read my books, she’s the spitting image of Bluebell). But to say that Rousey has been knocked off her perch is to misread the situation. Rousey isn’t famous simply because she rose to the top very quickly, looking invincible, in a sport that is so brutal and bloody that I covered my eyes a lot of the time. Her perch is bigger than the UFC. She is at the top of the world as a woman who gives us a new narrative, just as Joan Jett did in the 1980s. I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen both these stars when they were shining their brightest.

Today, give the middle finger to the world in their honour.

Advice for my children: don’t believe them

My kids are still a long way off HSC, but the pressure about “good grades” now pervades every level of school, and prompted me to write this letter to my kids about what life might look like if they don’t believe what the system tells them to believe.

Dear child of mine,

Don’t listen when the school system tells you that you have to get good grades.

Good grades say nothing about you, about your value, about your trajectory. They will have you believe that you need to study hard so you don’t get left behind, so you can get into a good course at uni, then get a good job when you leave uni and, presumably, do that job until you retire or become dead inside, whichever comes first (probably the latter).flatline

That is not a life.

I don’t want you to get straight A’s and study medicine.

I want you to leave school and maybe get a job at K-mart, save enough money for a plane fare for Europe. Maybe you’ll travel around working in bars and fall in love over there and settle in London for a few years and work in a bookshop where the heating’s dodgy and your Australian fingers always freeze. Then maybe you’ll have your heart spectacularly broken and come home to lie on my couch and cry for a few months. Maybe you’ll pick yourself up and teach guitar lessons for a while until you find a job you can do and move out again. Maybe you’ll have a great flatmate who makes you laugh so hard that you snort coffee out your nose. Maybe you’ll drink too much some nights and listen to Led Zeppelin so loud the neighbours complain. Then maybe you’ll take a posy of wildflowers to the neighbour and say sorry and they’ll invite you in for tea and tell you about when they were in the army or when they nursed dying people or played in the symphony.

Maybe you’ll decide you definitely don’t want to be a soldier or a nurse or a violinist and you should do a TAFE course to top up your school grades. Maybe you’ll apply to study economics in Melbourne but get there and decide you’ll do arts in Adelaide instead. Maybe you’ll read so much Shakespeare that you start to think in iambic pentameter. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with the Spartans. Maybe you’ll take agin the existentialists. Maybe you’ll jump to science and find music in the elements. Maybe you’ll learn that the greatest gift of education is not a job, but a spirit of curiosity.

Maybe you’ll work in your part-time job too many hours to get great grades but you’ll pull through and take an internship somewhere interesting that leads you to a solid job you can work your way up in, with great people you like and one guy who pisses you off all the time. Maybe you’ll cautiously fall in love again (not with that one guy). Maybe you’ll have an unplanned baby on the way. Maybe you’ll get married in a hurry.fireworks

Maybe you’ll spend New Years Eves looking at a dozen different vistas: rivers, valleys, the ocean, the city, your lover’s eyes. Maybe you won’t always get home for Christmas. Maybe you’ll love too hard and not always people: songs, dogs, books, sports teams, ideas, smells in springtime.

Maybe you’ll have an adventure. Maybe you’ll sometimes find it hard to make ends meet. Maybe that’s okay. Over time, it will work out. It will all work out. Just live.

Your loving mother.

X Files rest of season 1

I have binge-watched the rest of the first season over the last few days, which hasn’t left an awful lot of time for blogging.

Ep 10 was a mythology one that, I am ashamed to admit, I fell asleep during. It was the first appearance, however, of Max Fenig, who I’d forgotten all about. Looking forward to seeing him again. Ep 11 was the cool evil twins story “Eve”, that had the woman who played Bebe in Frasier in it. I couldn’t help but hear all her dialogue said in the voice she used in Frasier, but apart from that it was pretty cool. Ep 12 “Fire” was a great story but made too much of Mulder’s ex Phoebe, who was an all-round pain in the arse, not believable as a woman he’d have liked (not while Scully was standing right there… sigh).

I used to be in the X Files. That makes me kind of a big deal, Gandalf.

I used to be in the X Files. That makes me kind of a big deal, Gandalf.

But Ep 13, “Beyond the Sea” was pure genius, arguably the best of the entire season. Scully’s dad dies, then makes a ghostly reappearance, and a death row inmate seems to know something about it. The death row inmate was played by Brad Dourif, aka Wormtongue from the Lord of the Rings films. He was AMAZING and I think working with another great actor really brought out Gillian Anderson’s chops, which, let’s be honest here, don’t often get challenged by Duchovny.

“Gender Bender”, “Lazarus”, and “Young at Heart” are all solid monster-of-the-week eps, without the emotional character involvement of “Beyond the Sea”. Ep 17, “E.B.E” is a great mythology ep that sees the first appearance of the Lone Gunmen. Yay! Love those guys. I fell asleep in “Miracle Man”, kind of dug the werewolf thread in “Shapes”, but utterly loved “Darkness Falls”, the one where the lumberjacks get swarmed by an ancient parasite they TOTALLY DESERVED because they were logging where they oughtn’t be (at least I think that was the message). Classic characters-in-a-can episode, where the bad thing can only happen if there’s no light.

“Tooms” is notable for the reappearance of Eugene but for the first appearance of Principal Skinner, I mean Walter Skinner (I always got them confused). Great little reincarnation story in Ep 22 “Born Again” and another intriguing twin story in Ep 23 “Roland” (which was, incidentally, going to be my daughter’s name if she was a boy). Then Ep 24, the last of the season, was an epic mythology where something something government conspiracy: you guessed it, I fell asleep in this one too. I don’t want to blame Chris Carter for all my falling asleep as I have recently been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, so perhaps that was to blame. But government conspiracies make me….zzzzzzz.

Onwards into season 2!