Saturday, June 24, 2017

On Being Followed

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there is no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you - Dylan, "Mr. Tambourine Man"
 
I believe there is a basic fear -  inherited from our pre-history -  of being followed.

Hence little kids being scared of their own shadows. Women walking alone in city sidewalks, glancing behind if they hear footsteps. The very concept of unlisted phone numbers - useless now in the age of the internet.

And yet,  following is frequently seen as a positive thing. Just take the number of love songs where (mostly) men promise to "follow" their loved ones.

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take I'll be watching you - The Police, "Every Breath You Take"

I can remember that song  - "Every Breath You Take" - from the eighties. I found it spooky. Yet it was extremely popular, and I think it was meant to be a love song. Or at least a romantic one. Am I being a radical feminist when I state that being followed "wherever you may go,, with "every move you make, every breath you take" is not a compliment but something scary?

I will follow you
Follow you wherever you may go
There isn't an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away - Rick Nelson, "I Will Follow You"

And now "follow" has a new meaning. The Urban Dictionary defines "follow" as "In social media, especially Twitter, it is a subscription of sorts to celebrities, companies, or organizations in order to gain instant access to the thoughts or ideas of said subscription." Adding to the list "celebrities, companies, or organizations" the word "people" and we have a definition that is more apt.

It is not merely people's thoughts and ideas that "following"  gains access to. Let's add in photos. Internet following allows us to give others  "instant access to our thoughts, ideas and photos.

I recently became active on Instagram, largely because I like taking photos and Flickr is so unuser friendly. 

When I set up my Instagram profile I had my privacy option as private. I soon realized this meant I hardly shared anyone else's photos, having very few friends,  with  most of those few not even on Instagram.  I think I had five followers. What a downer! So I changed my profile to "public", and now anyone can "follow" me.

Why did I do such a thing? Am I succumbing to social media - becoming a person desperate for Facebook "likes" and Twitter and Instagram followers?  Have I no friends, no social life? Am I the equivalent of a lonely Victorian spinster, writing in the equivalent of the Victorian lady's diary, on Blogger?

Look at my Instagram profile above. 42 followers - pathetic. And of those, only about five a real people. The others being companies with products and services to sell. Following me in he hope that I will follow them and buy whatever they are selling.

Of course I don't follow such companies, and that is probably why the number of my Instagram followers decreases daily. Following is meant to be reciprocal.. "I will be your friend if you will be my friend" sort of thing. Stuff that for a joke. I am tired of  companies hash-tagging their way into my life.

Calvin Klein Ad, Houston Street, Manhattan
I saw a Scottish TV show last night -  about a hermit who lived alone in a croft in the wilds of the Shetlands. Maybe I should be like him. I can see its positives. No one to follow me, to watch over me. No need to measure my popularity in terms of "likes" and "followers".

But unfortunately, this change in lifestyle is now out of the question. There's no way I would be allowed to live in the Shetlands. After Trump's debacle about the windmills spoiling the view from his Scottish golf course, I suspect they aren't too keen on Americans. And even though I am an Australian American, or and American Australian, I would still feel uncomfortable.

In  any case I can't understand the Scottish dialect. I had to turn closed-captioning on my television even to follow the plot of the TV show. And now it is stuck and I have closed-captioning on everything. I called Netflix to try to get it off, but the customer service guy didn't seem to realize the difference between closed-captioning and sub-titles.

The complexities of modern life.

So I raise my glass to the millennials who know of no other.

"Here's looking at you kids!"











Sunday, June 18, 2017

The First Bite is Free

Walking the dog
I'm just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
C'mon now c'mon - Rolling Stones, "Walking The Dog"

Dog Alert! Dogs and dog lovers read on at their own risk.

When I was in Bali I stayed at a  resort inland, far away from the Aussie bogan tourists. I remember the place well, though I cannot remember its name. The resort consisted of a cluster huts in the middle of miles and miles of rice paddies.

UES dogs and their adoring owners
At dusk the frogs would start to croak. Loudly. I remember asking one of the restaurant staff if he liked eating frogs, and he replied, "No because I have an affinity for frogs".

"An affinity for frogs". It sounds like the title of an early 20th century novel. That, or "affinity" being a  collective  noun such as in "a murder of crows" or "a flock of ducks".

 "An affinity of frogs".

I have several affinities  but dogs are not one of them.

I used to like dogs, my last dog being Sunday who I adopted while pregnant with my first child. Sunday was eventually shot by a farmer near the Victorian town of Bellbrae. She was a sheep dog, just doing her job with his sheep.

No dog has ever replaced Sunday,  and since her death I have never taken to another dog. In fact I can't remember how I ever even liked them.

It is hard to like something that licks other dogs arses and then tries to lick one's face. Yuck. Plus they bite and shed fur everywhere. Definitely unhygienic.

Two weird dogs, Central Park
In  New York there are dogs everywhere. In elevators, parks. On sidewalks. The only place you are safe from dogs  is at the opera or the ballet, though I wouldn't be surprised if besotted owners smuggled them in.

The City of New York even has a "one bite law" for dogs. And yes I know, they have a "one pothole law" ...  But it is the "one bite law" that gets me.

The idea is that the first bite is free. For the owner that is. So if you get bitten by a dog and it is the first (reported) time that the animal attacked, you cannot get compensated for medical costs by the owner. After all, the logic goes, the owner had no way of knowing that the dog would suddly turn into a savage beastie.

Not only that, but  if the dog bites again, then you can only claim medical expenses. No "pain and suffering". No hefty compensation.

NYC Dog Walker
And the definition of "one bite" - it is most likely the same as  the "one pothole law". If your car hits  a new pothole and several cars behind also hit the same pothole,. it is considered one hit.

I was recently bitten by a service dog.  New Yorkers can "register" their dogs as service dogs simply  by filling out a form on the internet and paying a couple of hundred bucks. They get a tag that is attached to the dog's collar.

This means they are able to take the dog with them to restaurants and apply for dog-free apartments. They don't have to be physically disabled. A person can claim you need it for "comfort".

ONE'S OWN comfort that is. I was recently attacked by such a dog in a restaurant.  There was no comfort involved for me!  But what really gets up my nose is that when I back away from a dog in an elevator, the owner invariably says, "Oh but he's friendly, he doesn't bite do you coochy coo?"

I do know that there exist lovely loving dogs. But I am taking no risks. I have no affinity for dogs. They do not comfort me. Ah, now I have a new collective noun, which does in fact relate to the title of a novel - The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan. An excellent read. Much better than any dog.

And now I must go and dress my "one bite" wound.

Till next time.














Saturday, May 27, 2017

Crossroads

Crossroads
Will you ever let him go? (Lord Lord)
Or will you hide the dead man's ghost?
Or will he lie beneath the clay?
Or will his spirit float away? - "Sweet Mellissa",  The Allman Brothers
 
My Dad playing a Greengrocer in "The God Boy"

It two days time it will be my birthday. I am a baby boomer, and hence it is a long time since I earned the title of "a woman of a certain age".

I have  outlived my father. And my mother. And my sweet brother. 

A time for reflection. Crossroads.

Gregg Allman died today. And 21 years ago the beautiful and  sensitive daughter of a good friend. So many lovely and talented people Gone to god.

But I am still here, my friends. Though I think I will call it a day when Bob Dylan kicks the bucket.

There are many people to remember, but today I am remembering my dad. William Thomas Juliff, who died  appropriately on Palm Sunday - in 1983.

Remembering a dad who I was deprived of having a relationship with for all my childhood and teenage years. In fact, as a child I didn't really know if I had a dad. I would write "dead" next to his name when I was in primary school and had to fill out an admission form. Later on, at high school I was more literate and wrote "deceased".

Occasionally a present would arrive in the mail. From New Zealand where my father moved round 1968. I would open it and see the accompanying card, "Happy birthday Katie, from your dad." Why didn't he put his bloody name? I would glance up at my mother, thinking perhaps it was a present from an uncle trying to be nice. But she'd glance away, pretending that she didn't hear. Playing the martyr. Absorbing herself in some unnecessary household chore.

My dad was plagued by a sense of what was wrong with the world. The Catholic orphanage of St Augustine in Geelong,  The Nazis in Europe. Stalin betraying the left-wing. Suffering later in life from alcoholism. From poverty in the 1920s. Addicted to nicotine. And to love. And to lust. And to life.

Fletcher (1986) playing Caravaggio
Was he a "good" dad? I think so. Given the circumstances.

I saw him again last night. In a TV movie streamed on the internet. Called "The God Boy". He played a dead man.  I took the screen capture you can see above.

I posted it on Facebook and I think the people who saw it were horrified.

I wasn't. To me it looked like something Caravaggio could have painted. I think it was because of the fruit and the depiction of debauchery just below the surface. My dad played a greengrocer in "The God Boy" - hence the fruit and vegies.

In any case, it wasn't the only time he played a dead man. He played the hanged bell-ringer in the New Zealand film "Utu". He also played a drunken hotel receptionist alongside Sam Neil in "Sleeping Dogs". He played a used car salesman in "Goodbye Pork Pie".

I don't know what other films or TV shows he played in because he was hidden from me.

We met back up for a week in the early 80's. He was living in a mobile home as we call them now, at the back of the Princes Gate Hotel in Rotorua.  His voice was gone - probably because of throat cancer. He wouldn't  see a doctor.

I was with my boyfriend of the time. We spent every night at the bar of Princes Gate Hotel. Kiwis weren't into wine at the time. But the bar had a few casks.

We drank the lot.

I'm with you William Thomas Juliff. Despite all those lost years.

Like you, I know there is no god looking down upon us. But if there were, I am sure she'd smile as I raise a glass of chablis and toast you.

To my misunderstood and very talented  dad.

R.I.P



























Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Who's That Girl?

Quien es esa nina, who's that girl
Senorita, mas fina, who's that girl
Quien es esa nina, who's that girl
Senorita, mas fina, who's that girl - Madonna, "Who's That Girl?"

One morning a few months ago, I opened Facebook and saw the photo on the left.

Published recently on FB by Australian photographer John Gollings and taken many years ago. Captioned quite aptly, "a baby kate juliff doing a bit of 60's modeling".

I didn't know her. I looked closely. Stunned. Was that really me? My god.
Certainly Wilde was right when he said, "Youth is wasted on the young."

A closer look and I recognize the setting. Macarthur Place, Carlton. The era? "The summer of love". The guy trying to look like Pride and Prejudice's Mr Darcy? I have absolutely no memory of him.

I remember the dress though. I made it myself - yellow and white gingham - right down to the fabric-covered buttons. Despite what the millennials think of us baby boomers now, we didn't have it easy. No lattes for us. We drank tea we made ourselves in teapots. Ate meals we cooked at home. Or didn't.

Who's that girl? What was I thinking when the photo was taken? Trying to look virginal and demure. Sadly, I was probably both...

Who's that girl? What did she eat for breakfasts back then? Was she happy? I know she had a lover. Where is he now? In Spain I think. I left him in London. In the grey suburb of Golders Green. I remember he was sad when I told him I was leaving. I also remember being rather puzzled. "Why was he sad?" I wondered. Unfeeling girl.

Had I no compassion? No feelings?

No, that wasn't it. I just didn't "get" love.

I have thought about that scene, the leaving-my-first-love scene many times over the past too-many decades, and I always come to the same conclusion as to why I didn't "get" his sorrow.

It was,  I firmly believe,  because I was brought up fatherless. The little I remember of the brief periods when my parents were together was of late nights when they were screaming at each other.

I remember my mother at midnight, digging like a mad woman in the garden. Burying some record she'd bought for my father - hiding it  because she had found out he was screwing my third grade teacher.

I thought there were no happy marriages. That it was all come and go, with the emphasis on the go. I didn't think that men had feelings.

Who's that girl?
I try to get inside her mind.

I sit in my Manhattan apartment, thinking of her. She was beautiful and innocent and had her whole life ahead of her.

Who's that girl?

I don't know that girl.

I wish her well, and adieu.

MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it '
Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh no! - Richard Harris, "MacArthur Park"

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hey ! Mister Tangerine Man

Dedicated to Bill Maher who reminds us, "We Are Still Here!"

(Apologies to Bob Dylan....)

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote for you.

Though I know that your hoped-for empire has turned into sand
Vanished from your little hand
Left workers blindly blind to stand  by you while still naively hoping
My amazement amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have others like me to greet
And the old Rust Belt streets are too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

Don't take me on a rip around your madman psycho trip
My senses have been stripped, my mind can't grasp your grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, but you won't have your way
I promise I will stay.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, play a song for me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

Though you might imagine laughin', spinnin' swingin' madly 'cos you won
It's not aimed at anyone, it's just escapin' on the run
And  for southern states there are no walls a-facin'
And if you hear vague traces of skippin' reels of rhyme
In your tangerine mind, it's just your ragged clown inside
I wouldn't pay it any mind, it's just a shadow that you're
Livin' and it's failing.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.

From the Union Square Subway Therapy Wall 11/16
Then keep me disappearin' from the smoke rings of your mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the climate change
The wasted, leaf-burnt trees, out to the shrinking beach
Far from the twisted reach of our tomorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the weeping sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today and all our sorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
I'm not happy but there is no place I'm going to
Hey ! Mr Tangerine Man, stay away from me
On that jingle jangled Tuesday I did not vote  for you.


RESIST!!!! Stay!!! WE ARE STILL HERE!!!
.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

On tiny hands, elves, and other small things

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!" - Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll 1872

I read the news today, and to quote one of my favorite people, "Oh boy!"

Amongst other things, a story about a grandmother in Brazil who has been mistakenly been praying to an elf for many years.

Apparently she believed the little statue she was praying to  was of Saint Anthony of Padua, when in fact it was of a "Lord of the Rings" elf named  Elrond.

Also in the news - another small thing - well maybe not so small, but the representation of a small thing. A Prozac pill. The late Carrie Fisher's ashes  were carried to her final resting place in a Prozac-shaped urn.

A respectful and generous act by her family - acknowledging her life-long work in getting the illness of depression accepted as such; attempting to de-stigmatize people who in many cases have to bear this illness in varying degrees for their entire lives.

Elves, Prozac pills. little hands - well I will get to the little hands L8R ...

Other little things - our new social media icons and acronyms. WFT? We don't need words anymore. Are we going back to ancient Egyptian times when we think and write in hieroglyphs? That is what I am thinking ATM.

One can write a whole sentence in emojis and TLAs. Or announce United States policy using abbreviations in order to tweet a spur of the moment thought in 140 characters.

But no, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about those little hands tapping out U.S foreign policy at 3 a.m. from a tall golden tower in his Manhattan elf-land.

Let's hope that Brazilian grandma keeps on a-praying!