The Heart of a Dying Star

The concept of no longer existing has always scared me. How can the concious mind disappear into nothing after someone dies?

When I was religious, the idea of not existing one day still scared me and not even religion could take that feeling away.
When I was little, I would lay awake at night wondering where we went go we die. I didn’t understand how people could be here one second and gone the next. The concept still baffles me, if I’m honest.

Heaven and everlasting life seems so far-fetched and illogical to me. If Heaven does exists, then what comes after that? Is it just heaven on and on forever? Wouldn’t that get boring? I don’t think religious people have really thought the concept of ETERNITY though. Eternity is a fucking LONG time. It goes on…FOREVER. What if I don’t like Heaven? What if Heaven is like listening to that awful Snow Patrol song? (You know the one, about lying there and forgetting the world? Fuck, I hate that song!)

When I was a Mormon, they told us to be good on earth so we can be rewarded in Heaven for all eternity. But then they said if we do sin, all we have to do is repent the sin and God and Jesus will be totally cool with it (like the total dudes they clearly are) and forgive you ,and then you’ll be back on the waiting list for Heaven.
That always seemed like a bit of a cop out to me. Not only does that mean you should only do nice things in order to be rewarded and if you don’t you’ll be punished, it’s also sort of saying, you can do bad things as long aaaas you apologise. It just makes no sense.

Picking logical holes in religious dogma is like shooting fish in a barrel.

I wonder why religion didn’t take that empty fear away from me when I thought about not existing any more? Maybe the idea of everlasting life is worse than not existing any more?

Even since I thought about my own body as something made up of molecules and atoms…just like everything else is…it made me feel calmer. I might no longer exist one day, but I’ll still exist in some sense.

As Professor Brian Cox once said: “every living thing on the planet was produced in the heart of a dying star.”

That sentence is more beautiful, meaningful, truthful and reassuring than anything I ever read when I was religious.

Thank You for Being a Friend

Lately I’ve been re-watching The Golden Girls. And although there are undoubtedly a selection of silly predictable moments in the show, it was far from being a twee cliché situation comedy. It had some incredibly intelligently, sensitively written and emotionally acted scenes that tackled subjects golden-girls-prostitute-television-television-shows-tv-screen-tv-shows-72759that didn’t (and still don’t!) often get a mention in situation comedy. 

In the mid 1980s the Golden GIrls deeply and sensitively tackled issues such as: race and ethnic relations, homosexuality, disability, the elderly, abortion, the environment, artificial insemination, single parenthood, sexuality, death, gender equality, religion…
These are topics that were not often tackled in situation comedy, especially not on American television. For example, the first openly gay couple on American television only appeared in 1975 ( In a sitcom called Hot l Baltimore)So these issues were still relatively new to television.

Besides tackling these important issues, The Golden Girls were the only all female cast over forty on American television at that time, perhaps even the only all female cast at all. They were independent older women who led full lives, including dating and sex lives, they worked jobs, they volunteered in the community, they socialized with friends…they were portrayed as real relateable people, something that was rare for sitcoms back then.

It is for these reasons that I will always have a great fondness for these characters and story-lines.

This scene (from season 5, episode 2) is one of those wonderful moments that makes you realise that some of the BEST dramatic acting can be found in comedy….do watch….

Internet rampage of the strongly worded pro-choice variety.

From 14th April 2014

I just found a website that is CLEARLY run by anti-choicers*, but they are masquerading it as an abortion information website. I called them out on their bull shit, asked for an explanation and asked exactly who runs the website (does not say ANYWHERE who is behind it).

Watch out for this shit ladies, it’s designed to needlessly scare you . Please find true medical statistics regarding side-effects and talk to sympathetic women and or medical professionals who will give you their honest opinions and share their medical knowledge. 

And most importantly – make up your own mind!

My letter:

“I have just thoroughly read your website and as a person who is not only a pro-choice advocate and activist, but is also a woman who has had an abortion, I am disgusted and shocked that your website is not showing all the facts regarding abortion.

This website contains no medical explanations and uses subtle (obviously not subtle enough!) tactics to scare pregnant women who are looking for information and considering their options (options which they are allowed to have).

This website is incredibly one-sided in its views. You show the “possible side effects” of abortion, listing things such as “death”, but you do not link to any medical studies to show statistics regarding these (rare) effects, nor do you include quotes or information written by real women who have been through the procedure.

Whom exactly is the author and keeper of this website?

I would guess it is not an impartial party or pro-choice advocates or, perhaps most importantly, medical practitioners, but people with biased (perhaps religious or political) ideas and opinions.

I sincerely hope women who come across your website also seek their information else where, and I implore you to reconsider your uncaring, ill-informed scare tactics on this website.

Thank you for your time.”

http://www.abortionclinicssydney.com/

*I like to call pro-life people “anti-choice”, because I believe them to be AGAINST CHOICE. I am pro-choice but I am also pro-life, in the sense that I am ALL FOR LIFE (of course) but that I believe that women have the right to make their own choices when it comes to their own bodies.

I believe that access to safe, legal and free abortions is a basic human right, and when abortions are illegal, women’s lives are lost.

NB: I emailed both the website and the hosting company for the website. I never received a reply.

Shark Cull

Today is the last day of the controversial trial shark cull in Western Australia. However, against the advice of marine conservation groups, the Liberal state government are seeking to extend the cull over the next three summers.

The cull has the following rules set – sharks to be culled are great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks. Culled sharks must be over 3 meters in length, if under 3 meters they must be released.

The sharks are caught by the setting up of “drum lines” places just off popular swimming areas.
Drum lines are unmanned aquatic traps that use bait to lure and trap sharks using hooks. Once trapped the shark must wait to be either released or killed, with a hook in its mouth and probably in a tremendous amount of pain.
The sharks are then eventually killed by a bullet or two to the head, then the hook is removed and the sharks are dumped further offshore (although I have been unable to find any information on the regulations for how far out they must be dumped). The cull is carried out by The Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. 

Drum lines not only mean a long-drawn-out and painful death for the sharks caught, assuming they are the “right” species and are over 3 meters in length, but it means those that don’t fit the criteria and would be released, must also suffer in pain until Fisheries attend the drum line to release them.
Not only that, but it has been reported that an pregnant shark has been hooked and killed, and even several sting-rays have been lured and hooked (and subsequently released) by the WA drum lines.

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Photo from seashepherd.org.au

Apart from being unnecessarily cruel, it seems ridiculous to introduce a shark cull when there is absolutely no evidence that culling reduces attacks and no evidence that an increase in shark population is what is causing the slight recent increase in shark attacks.

There has also been no evidence to suggest a correlation between a decrease in tourism (in Perth, where the cull is taking place) and an increase in shark attacks. (It might actually be the horrendous costs of hotel rooms and the like that are keeping the tourists away in Perth?)

Given that they are slow growing, late maturing and produce few offspring, it can take shark populations a very long time to recover from exploitation. Especially the great white, which is already endangered (and yet, still ended up on the cull list? None were killed or even caught though, as they are so rare because of culls and hunting!)

Sharks are an apex predator and are therefore essential to the delicate oceanic ecosystem. In the parts of the ocean where sharks have been fished out of existence, we can see the dangerous result of removing the top predator from an ecosystem.

So why would the Liberal state government introduce the cull against all scientific advice? We can only assume it’s the old story of the dollar outweighing science, common sense and compassion.

Support the non-for-profit conservation organisation, Sea Shepherd, in their fight the renewal of the WA shark cull and preserve the biodiversity of our delicately balanced oceanic ecosystems.

http://www.seashepherd.org.au/

I am not a “Good Girl”

I used to wonder why I always feel so uncomfortable when a man, always in a higher professional position and always older, says “Good Girl” to me, as a way of showing me thanks or giving me praise.

Surely this is a harmless phrase and is just something men of an older generation say. They don’t know any better, so I should just forget about it, right? I should just roll my eyes and laugh it off, right?

And of course we all know it’s commonplace for women to be referred to as girls and we all do it…I do it myself all the time, so why should that part of the phrase bother me so much?

I know, I know about this stuff and I know those reading this may think I am overreacting. But I still cannot get over how annoyed hearing the phrase “Good Girl “in a professional context makes me feel and it took me a while to properly dissect the reasons behind my not being able to just dismiss it.

I thought about exactly how hearing the phrase in a professional environment makes me feel. It makes me feel the complete opposite of thanked. It makes me feel ridiculed, condensed to and patronized. It makes me feel as if my gender, my age and my profession position are being pointed out to me as a way of keeping me “in my place”. It makes me feel as if I am being dominated by someone in a unnecessarily paternalistic manner.

Another important point is the professional context that renders me unable to voice my opposition in an safe environment. Not many people could “tell off” their boss for calling them a “Good Girl”, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them feel.

Why isn’t “Thank you” or “Good Work” a suitable enough phrase to thank someone for good work? Why attaching an acknowledgment of gender, age or an insinuation of professional position is seen as appropriate?

I wonder if anyone would ever said “Good Boy” to a male colleague? I have never overheard it myself.
And although not overhearing it myself is no basis for believing that it doesn’t EVER happen, I still believe it is an unlikely occurrence. Please, correct me if I am wrong…

So, in order to deem the phrase “Good Girl” appropriate or inappropriate in a professional context, we should first consider the contexts in which the phrase is most used. The first two are obviously dogs and children. “Good Girl” is a phrase widely used to praise dogs and children.
Lastly, it is impossible to deny that there are sexual contexts in which the phrase might be used. For example: in a sexually submissive/dominating situation.

These three common uses, all make it clear to me that this is not an appropriate phrase to say to a grown woman in a professional environment. Especially when you are trying to show her your respect and thanks (and probably GAIN her respect in return).

So, when I think about it, NO – I do not wish to be called a “Good Girl”… because a “Good Girl” it is not what or who I am. I do not wish a phrase meant for a dog or a child or for use within an intimate encounter to be brandished about like we know each other well enough for me not to be hurt, belittled or annoyed by it.

I do not deserve to be patronized because of my gender or my age or my professional position. I do not deserve to feel ridiculed, belittled and patronized simply because you think “Good Girl” is a harmless little phrase or because you think you’re doing me a favor by praising me, however crass and over-familiar the words used may be.

Get Up, Stand Up

For the past few days, I’ve been trying to write a stand up comedy set.

I’ve been flirting with the idea of trying stand up for many years now, but I find writing material incredibly difficult, and have never gotten past the writing stage and onto the…stage.

Since the age of ten when my comedy loving father introduced me to The Young Ones, Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Faulty Towers and countless other brilliant comedy shows (most of them British), I have adored comedy. Over the years as my knowledge of comedy has grown, my interest has developed into a all-consuming passion.

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When I was younger I used to tell people my ambition was to be a comedian (this changed many times over the years…still does), I did funny little skits in front of and with my friends and family, I always enjoyed drama classes at school and several times I was involved in comedy performances at school talent shows. In my final year of high school, I even managed to write my mini-thesis for Society and Culture class about comedy.

I watch comedy both live and on TV/films, I listen to comedy and I read about comedy. I know a unhealthy amount of comedy off by heart and am constantly reminded of and like to quote lines, scenes and sketches from my favourite shows and stand up routines.

I’m interested in the history and the science of comedy (laughter as part of our evolution).  I love to dissect the comedy process to find out what makes comedians and comic actors tick, and what make their material, mannerisms, timing and scrips funny.

So why am I having problems writing my own material?

Stand up is brutal. And it pains me to say so, but it’s especially brutal for women.
Women are the minority in comedy…which can be a good and a bad thing, I suppose. Good because maybe there is slightly more chance of being original if you are fantastic (less competition) but bad because women comedians seem to face much harsher criticism and are overwhelmed by a male orientated industry.
I don’t claim to know why this is, although I have heard some theories regarding the way in which women communicate and that it includes a more flowing conversational humor than that of men. Perhaps this is part of the reason why.

Whatever the reason, it makes me nervous and I have used not being a man as an excuse for not giving it a try. How bloody ludicrous!

I have toyed with the idea of doing character based comedy, musical comedy (something I attempted with a guitar playing friend when I was living in London recently) and improv…but I keep coming back to the idea of stand up.

Recently a friend got back into doing stand up comedy. I went to one of her gigs and was amazed and inspired (you rock, Sarah). And so now, here I am again…pen in hand (or fingers on keyboard), waiting for the funny words to flow.

Surely my love should translate into practical terms, but instead I feel as if it’s just getting in the way…because although I know a lot about comedy, I’m finding it hard to feel as if I’m being original.

Originality is crucial in comedy (especially stand up), but I’m finding it hard to create anything that doesn’t at least vaguely remind me of something else, and then all that’s left in my head is quotes…

I can’t help but think of a line spoken by the character Fran from the comedy Black Books: “It’s not fair. I must be musical; I’ve got hundreds of CD’s!

How ironic.

I will keep trying.

Communication is the key…or something

After completing the first semester of my bridging course at UNSW, I found myself feeling much more able to communicate a measured and considered *argument.

In the course, we did a section on critical thinking complete with a cheesy, poorly acted 90’s instructional video.
I have found that thinking about the process of critical thinking helped me with my communication skills. However, I do still feel as if I have a long way to go.

I’ve always been one of those people who frequently has a lot of thoughts and ideas, but finds it incredibly difficult to sufficiently communicate those thoughts and idea, and as a result worries constantly about being misunderstood, especially over the internet.

Whether or not what’s going on in my head is ever profound or even relevant, is another story.
I don’t think we are a rare breed by any means and I assume a lot of people have similar problems with their communication skills.

Communication is an essential part of our evolution, and the internet (and other technology) has been a blessing and a curse.
On one hand, it’s incredibly easy to be misunderstood over the internet because humans have evolved to rely not just on communication via words, but tone of voice, body language and even eye contact. The internet does away with all of this, and leaves us with words alone. In my opinion, no amount of emoticons or “LOLs” can properly compensate for the complete communication package that is speaking to someone in person.

On the other hand, you can now visually communicate with people on the other side of the world in real time; a relatively recent technology. Holy shit balls, amazing.

When communicating online, I do still find it very hard to use words alone to explain exactly what I mean. I adore the thinking time, but I get nervous about everything else.

If only the issues stopped there. Sometimes I also feel that have problems communicating in person; fumbling for words and constructing several different conflicting arguments at once. I often have conflicting views, and I always wish to communicate both sides of these views, because I don’t want to be one-sided. This can be difficult and confusing when it comes to *arguments.

These aren’t unique problems, I’m sure. And I’m by no mean looking for any solution. I am resolute to the fact we all find communication difficult at times. I can only hope that more study and outlets such as this blog will in time, help me to improve my skills.

Communication is never easy. (How do I finish this blog post even?)

GOOD DAY!

*by argument I mean “a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.” I don’t mean a heated exchange.