Monday, April 30, 2012

Computer Dependency: Are we going too far?

In the past, a computer was a household luxury. If you had one, chances were it was to play games on or to do basic letter writing. The first computer we had at home was a Commodore 64 from my old primary school, complete with games and a word processing program and a dot-matrix printer. No program ran automatically. We had to type in LOAD “PROGRAM” and then respond to the questions. If you saved any work it was on a disk the size of an adult’s hand. It wasn’t absolutely necessary to have a computer at home. We were taught how to use computers starting in primary school, beginning with the aforementioned brand, as well as an Apple Mac and then a desktop not to dissimilar to what we have now. As we were educated, we saw shifts in how we did things. In the early years at school, you borrowed book using a stamp in/ stamp out process. Then came computers and suddenly it was easier to track who had borrowed books when. By high school, everyone was required to at least know how to use a computer. As we advanced in years, we learned how to use different applications because we’d need them in the years to go on. We began to be required to hand in typed assignments, and so our dependence grew. The inclusion of the internet meant that information was no longer just what was printed in the books at our fingers. We could access anything in the world. Now, a computer is a necessity. If you run your own business, you need a computer to keep track of your finances. The art of book-keeping as our grandparents had done it has gone away. I remember when my dad first started sub-contracting, I did his work time sheets on our computer because it was neater and easier. Not many of his co-workers did this. Now, everything is to be passed in on computer page. As a writer, I can’t imagine having to use a typewriter to write my manuscripts over and over again with new revisions. And yet, you have people like my paternal grandparents, who do not own, nor will they ever own a computer. They do own a mobile phone, but it is only turned on if they are going somewhere and it is only to receive and make calls on. For them, a computer is not a necessity, it isn’t a luxury either. It’s just something that they do not think they need. We are dependent on computers. It would be totally ignorant to say otherwise. But as to whether we are too dependent, I think that is really an individual thing. I use mine to edit a manuscript, yes, but it isn’t on the whole day. I print out my manuscripts and edit by hand, before beginning to change the on-screen version. I use it to check emails, social network updates, pay bills or do genera research if I can’t get to the library for some reason. Yes, I am dependent on my computer, but I know that I can turn it off when I need to.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Get them reading

I am sort of biased here. Ever since I was a little kid I was a voracious reader, reading anything and everything that I could get my hands on. It should be no surprise that I ended up being an author later on in life… which also contributes to my bias I suppose. As kids we learn to read, but for some it is chore, something to endure until the ‘fun stuff’ can begin. Reading is a necessity, we are told that and we accept it as truth because of our dependence on language. We need it to read menus. We need it to pass through our education. We need it to communicate with other people. But for some, reading just isn’t fun. For those of us that devour books, reading offers us an escape from the mundane reality. It takes us out of our lives momentarily and takes us to other worlds where our problems are not the central issue. Instead of books, most teenagers worship glossy magazines and reality television shows. How many of them would know that the term ‘Big Brother’ originated as part of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 and not just as a title for a television show? In my teen years we worshipped Ten Things I Hate About You, and those of us who were wise enough to know, knew it was based on the Shakespeare play The Taming of The Shrew and that there are several references throughout the movie to that very play. J K Rowling got a lot of kids reading again with the Harry Potter series. Kids who weren’t inclined to read lined up at bookstores at all hours to read the next instalment. Then came the movies, which as far as movies based on books, are good enough. The Hunger Games series is another that people apparently can’t put down the books, though I am unsure if it is something that I would be willing to read or go see the movie. The Twilight Saga, books and movies, brought even more readers in. Even my own sister, who used to make fun of my Buffy the Vampire Slayer collection, devoured the books and movies. I have the first book, brought to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve read the entire series, but I can’t really get into super shiny, friendly vampires without being too cynical. I also went to see the movie at the cinema, using a freebie ticket from a volunteer thing in the weeks before. I think, when it comes down to it, yes kids do need to read more, but it’s also about finding the books and stories that best engage them, as opposed to throwing books at them constantly and expecting them to find a love of reading that way.
Image taken from:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Beauty Pageants: Exposition of Exploitation

Are beauty pageants exploitative? Absolutely, but to a certain degree, those who participate in them choose to do so. If they’re okay with being objectified, put through pointless competitions to assure themselves that they are prettier than the next person, then who is to stop them? Pageants have been around for years, centuries even, in which the focus of them is to put a spotlight on those who shine just a little brighter than the rest of us in some aspect. In Australia, there doesn’t seem to be the pageant sub-culture as there appears to be in America. We see the occasional baby pageants, where parents dress their infant children up in ridiculous costumes for a chance to win money, accolades and assurances that they have birthed a beautiful child. I remember being back at university, on a Saturday afternoon when my friends and I were channel flicking. We found a broadcast of the Miss Universe pageant. I immediately went on a verbal tirade, spelling out why these pageants were out of date and how fake it all was… And no, I didn’t even go into the surgical enhancements [of which I am sure there were many]. The charitable contributions of these women are off kilter. On the one hand they give their time to charities so, you know, good for them, but part of me wonders if the whole point of their charity work is to make them more appealing to the judges. I love movies that make fun of pageants. From Drop Dead Gorgeous to Miss Congeniality [the 1st movie, not the 2nd], they showcase the worst of the worst, and the best of the best behaviours of pageant administrators, contestants and support people. Are they exploitative? Yes. Should they be stopped so that people can focus their energies on more important things than being known for being ‘beautiful’? Yes, but they won’t be. It’s where the money truly is. From dresses, hair, make up, staging, advertising. People would be out of jobs if there was suddenly an international abolishment of beauty pageants. And don’t even get me started on child beauty pageants. Any time I see images on tv or in magazines of heavily made up children, it creeps me out. It’s unnatural. Kids should be kids, and not focusing on being able to fit into that pretty dress to impress a couple of judges. It’s not really any different from reality TV ‘talent’ competitions in that way. People train for them like they are the Olympics, putting their whole lives on hold just for this one moment in front of the cameras.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blog it out

Nothing is ever as it seems to be.
If I have learnt nothing else over the last five or six years, it’s that.

I’m a well educated, intelligent human being whose skills tend to flow towards the creative. I’m driven, determined to reaching my self-set goals. For the last year I have run a small media support/ writing business in my adopted hometown. I haven’t run it successfully. Let’s be honest about that. When I started it, I truly believed that I would succeed, but I forgot that people prefer not to have to pay an external business for professional services like mine if they do not have to. And if they do, they are really quite indignant about the cost, believing that they alone need to find the money to pay for things. Heavens forfend I provide a professional service and expect to be properly compensated so I can meet my living costs.

In just over a month, or possibly just under, I will be removed from the NEIS program to be placed once again in the Jobseeking one. And I am dreading it.
Once again I will have to place my direct future into the hands of those who won’t support all my career goals, only those that can help them get money. Once again I will have to submit to government-sanctioned-slave labour that hides under the ambiguous term of ‘work experience’ because to refuse to do so equals punishment. I will lose my self-worth and self-esteem, if I ever had those to begin with. I will truly believe that I am worthless, that I have nothing to offer the world because I have chosen a career path that includes writing instead of something simple and straight-forward. In moments of my first meeting, my resume will be attacked so that it fits in with their form, eliminating any individuality or personality from the pages. What I’ve done will be minimised or hidden so that I appear ‘employable’. When I refuse to fit in with their world view, when I point out that it is my future, that I should have some say/control over where it goes, I am ridiculed. I am reminded that these people know what is best for me, that they are only trying to help me. They don’t try very hard.
I have been in the system for about six years. I’ve been through two job networks who shredded my self-belief so much that I thought that there was nothing good about myself. I have had countless case managers, all believing that they will be the one to break my record of unemployment. They will try to recommend self-help courses to help me with the anger issues I may display, not realising that they have no actual qualification to do so. Nor do they realise that it is the environment that I am placed in that causes my behaviour shifts. Hell, I probably have a higher understanding than most of them on psychological issues, simply being that I am a writer and need to constantly research these issues.
I will leave meetings in tears, angry and resentful at those people who, in their belief that they are trying to help me, have failed to see that they are merely just stripping my life from me, making it something that I borrow, not live. Not mine, just something that I rent at the extremely high cost of my sanity.

I would try to publish this piece elsewhere, but no one would print it. Simply put, because no one wants to tell the truth, especially not the big one. Unemployment isn’t a big laugh. Most unemployed people do not lie, for fear of getting caught and punished. Most unemployed people are looking for something long term, but want it to be a job that they can be happy in. That isn’t something that agencies are really concerned about. I’ve been told that directly from one pompous ass who thought that I should trust him with my future, even though he accused me directly of being a liar because he got fed ‘bullshit stories all the time’ from other clients so why wouldn’t I be the same. [If I could have proved this little discrimination through the use of stereotyping I would have]
I blog because I have nowhere else to express these words. I find it hard to verbalise my feelings at the best of times, even to those I am close to. I find it extremely difficult to ask for help because these agencies have shown through verbal and non-verbal communication that I am not worth helping, simply because I refuse to conform.

To the unobservant it appears that we live in a world where very little care is taken to help people who need it. Our world is one where self-esteem, self-worth and anything resembling dignity is pulled away from us, out of reach until we are deemed worthy by someone else, a person that claims to play the role of a ‘devil’s advocate’ but uses that role to bully and belittle others who do not have the power to fight back.

Is it any wonder I’m depressed at the thought of my imminent future?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Response to article "Corset Controversy"

I use the internet a lot for my research when I'm working on a new book. My current project is not any different. In order to understand fashion in the 1900s I had to look up images of what people wore around then.
In my search, I ended up on the Wikipedia page that discussed extensively the "Corset Controversy ().
I know, I know, Wikipedia's not the most reliable source of information, but as a fiction writer I use it more as an idea jumping off point to get the creative juices flowing.
Or the angry juices flowing as it was when I read this piece. My anger wasn't so much directed at the writer of the piece in general, but rather the attitudes expressed in the reference materials throughout the piece. So much so I inundated facebook with bits of trivia that I found, which ended with my observation that I'm glad I grew up in the 1980s instead of the 1880s. Our fashion mistakes were many, but enforced tight lacing of corsets was not one of them.

From the above image you can see that corsets were marketed for infants as well as developing girls and women.
One reference is: "A friend of mine has a wonderfully slender figure, which she says is the result of her mother putting a flannel band round her, when she was only a year old, to mould her soft bones. At six she wore a corded corset with whalebones, and at thirteen her mother had her tightly laced, making her waist only fifteen inches"... A one year old, barely old enough to know how to get their feet working properly is wearing an article of clothing that binds them, all for aesthetic appeal later on in life.

Also the appeal of bondage seems to be in popular thought at this time, as an endeavour to keep teenage girls from cutting the laces on their 'stays' to be able to sleep at night...
"I have a very simple plan to prevent my children cutting their laces at night when they are first put in tight stays, to obtain a temporary relief from the pain which is undoubtedly severe at first. When one of my girls disobeys me by removing her stays, I adopt this plan: — After retiring I fasten her wrists together with a silk handkerchief. This keeps her hands out of mischief, and she soon gets accustomed to the stays."
"I positively smiled at the plans suggested to prevent girls under training removing their stays, such as whipping them or tying up their hands. Mothers, listen to my plan. I get a small chain and a little padlock. When the stays are laced, I put the chain round the waist and fasten it with the lock, and put the key in my pocket, and there the stays have to remain until I remove the chain. Is not that simple?"
The cost of a tiny waist is that you won't get much sleep, but that's okay?

For those who were sent away to boarding schools all over the world, parents also paid for 'Figure training" as part of the girls' tuitions because it was essential to finding a suitable husband.

One woman expressed the opinion that "For the first month the pain from the continued compression was very severe, but nature soon accommodated itself to the pressure and I began to enjoy the sensation of tightness. I have continued tight-lacing ever since, and my health has in no way suffered and the charm of my figure is more than compensation for the amount of suffering I had to undergo.
I have not been without a pair of stays, excepting the few minutes I spend in the bath, for over seven years, so I think I can speak with some experience."
As long as she looked pretty, being in pain was a suitable cost.

Doctors were strictly against tight lacing, citing health risks against it. In this quote, I wonder if he's hinting that a woman's fertility may be at risk... "A girl who has indulged in tight lacing should not marry. She may be a very devoted wife, yet her husband will secretly regret his marriage. Physicians of experience know what is meant, while thousands of husbands will not only know, but deeply feel the meaning of this hint"... Of course, (according to this doctor), being a woman I may be on the wrong track.

Husbands weighed in with their opinions, most coming down in favour of corsets and tight lacing. "When I married my wife she did not wear stays, but I soon induced her to improve her figure and before long, she had a nineteen-inch waist instead of one measuring nearly twenty-six inches, and though it is many years since then, she still retains a charming figure. At the age of seven, my girls were each placed in corsets and they are growing up with small waists that I can nearly span. Putting girls into corsets at a tender age before the figure is formed saves them from the pain induced by lacing at a later period. But I quote the case of my wife to show that even with a girl is grown up she can obtain a good figure with a little pains." Then again, if men had to wear corsets to ensure that their waists were tiny and had to endure the 'little pains', surely the practice would have never reached popularity.

I know this post is a little clumsy, a little unsteady in places.
Maybe my brain needs a corset (she jokes)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Freedom of Speech, Not Hate

The freedom to speak as we choose is one that we take for granted. We can open our mouths and say what we're thinking and no one can stop us. We can sit at our computers and type long diatribes about how we're feeling and who we think is to blame for that.
In some countries, even in 2012, some countries do not have that freedom, which saddens me. I know that there is nothing I can do to change it for them, but I still wonder what an existence is like, where public opinion is the only one that matters and voicing your own would lead to serious punishment.
Ever since the invention of the internet, people have been using it to share and re-share opinions of theirs and of other people. We know so much more than we could have 20 years ago simply by being able to go on a computer with an internet connection.
But when people take the freedom of speech too far, hiding behind it as an excuse to share hate speech, it makes a mockery of everyone else who is trying to make change to the world through the written word.
Just because you have an opinion, doesn't mean that it should be shared. Hate speech is taking the freedom to speak our opinions too far.
The kind of speech that I'm referring to is not simply voicing a dislike of something, but rather a full on, negative verbal/ written assault on another human being whose difference should be celebrated instead of being the thing that we shun them for. Hate speech creates a culture of ignorance where people believe, because somewhat reputable people write/ speak on, such topics that it must be truth instead of opinion.

Freedom of speech, YES. Hate speech hiding under the guide of Freedom of Speech, HELL NO!