5 things about me

I like memes. I know some people don’t but I think a good meme can say a lot about a person without revealing too much. So thanks to Sulz and Ella for tagging me for this one. Looks like fun. πŸ˜‰

5 things found in your bag (I’ll use my messenger bag)

  • Sunglasses
  • iPod and headphones
  • Notepad and pen
  • Latest book I’m reading (The Road by Cormac McCarthy)
  • Chewing gum (or mints)

5 favourite things in your room

  • Bookcases & books
    I had these custom made a few years ago; the carpenters loved them so much they’re using the design. Should I get a commission? πŸ˜‰
  • LCD TV
    I bought this when my insomnia started so I could watch DVDs. I love it; it’s a Panasonic 26″ and it’s like having my own home cinema.

  • Writing desk
    I found this secondhand and grabbed it; it’s a rolltop desk, something I’ve always wanted. It’s where I do all my writing; poetry, letters, blog posts… isn’t it a beautiful colour?

  • Statues & figures
    I love old myths and I’ve been collecting these statues for a few years. These Egyptian ones are made from cold cast resin; the detail is stunning. I also have a collection of pewter statues.

  • King Arthur Tapestry
    This is my favourite piece. It’s based on a William Morris tapestry; the knights have left their shields in the woods, searching for the unicorn.

5 things you have always wanted to do

  • Open a bookshop
    This is something I’d love to do, open a secondhand bookshop with a cafe and author readings… books are what I know best, so I couldn’t think of a better way to make a living. CJ’s Classics sounds good, eh? πŸ˜‰
  • Have a novel published
    This is an obvious one. I haven’t written anything that I’d send away yet, but maybe it’ll happen. I’m very happy with Sleepless and The Galleon; they’re very different to anything I’ve written before.
  • Finish Atlas Shrugged
    I tried reading Rand’s novel in school but couldn’t finish it. It’s something I really should read, so I’ll have to have another go.
  • See more of the world
    I haven’t travelled much beyond Europe. I’d love to see the US and Egypt, especially the Pyramids… I’d love to see Wimbledon live as well.
  • Think of the perfect comeback
    You know when someone insults you and you wish you had the perfect retort? I always think of it later; just once I’d love to say it right back.

5 things you are currently into

  • Cut Copy
    Cut Copy are like a cross between INXS, The Bee Gees and Daft Punk. It sounds odd but they’re actually very good. Their new album is excellent.
  • Indiana Jones
    I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers for Indy 4 for months and I loved the trailer. Don’t know if it’ll be like the others but it looks like fun!
  • Tetris
    I loved Tetris when I was younger and I’ve been playing it again for the last few weeks. Now I’m addicted. It’s so simple but a lot of fun.
  • Audiobooks
    I’ve liked audiobooks for years but I’ve really got into them recently. I just bought Steve Martin’s The Pleasure of My Company and it’s narrated by Martin as well, which is an added bonus.
  • Natalie Portman
    Because she’s Natalie Portman. Do I need another reason? πŸ™‚

5 people you want to tag
And if you don’t feel like taking part, that’s fine. No pressure.

What's wrong with my name?

I could use some advice at the moment. Over the last few days I’ve received a couple of strange comments on an old post and I’m not sure what to do about them. The post still gets traffic and the comments have nothing to do with the post, so it’s bugging me. I think anyone who stumbles across the post will be confused and I don’t like posts being hijacked by unrelated comments.

The comments are strange. They’re all from one person who accused me of “stealing” his name. He thinks I shouldn’t call myself CJ on my blog, like I’m ashamed of my full name because I don’t use it… I just don’t get it. CJ is a nickname my parents use; they’re my initials, so how is that stealing someone’s name? And there are millions of other CJs, have I stolen their names too?

I answered the comments but to be honest they’re insulting and I want to delete them. The reason I haven’t yet is because I don’t want it to seem like censorship and as I’m still not getting WP’s emails, I wasn’t sure if I should keep the comments as a record. So I was wondering what you think? Should I move them to another post or just delete them? What do you do with strange comments?

What I still don’t understand is why it’s such a problem. Is he not used to blogs, so the idea of using a nickname seems strange? Or am I missing something? I use CJ to differentiate between my writing and my offline life and it’s something a lot of writers do for varying reasons; JK Rowling, JG Ballard, TA Barron, PD James, SE Hinton… I could name another dozen off the top of my head.

I know some people don’t like pen names, so maybe that’s part of it. Writers are often criticised for using them (particularly to appeal to more readers) but there are legitimate reasons for using one. Andy McNab can’t use his real name for security reasons and many writers use a pseudonym to write in a different style, like Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine. As a writer I’ve always liked the idea of a pen name. When I first started writing I wrote under different names and I like the idea of writing under a female pseudonym. I might try it one day.

Most writers use pen names for the same reason we do as bloggers; for some anonymity and to let their ideas speak for them, rather than their identity. I hate it when people try to out them, like they’re lying because they want to write under another name. But I suppose it’s natural for readers to be curious.

I wonder how you feel about pseudonyms? Does a pseudonym put you off reading a book? If you didn’t know it was a pseudonym, would you prefer to know? Personally it doesn’t bother me; I’d rather let the book stand on its own, and that’s the same for a blog… but then I never imagined that calling myself CJ would be such a big deal! Hm, maybe Cee-Jay would be better? πŸ˜‰

The modern face of racism

<em>Racism</em> by temi00 on <em>Deviant Art</em>

Image: Racism by Temi00 on Deviant Art

Has anyone seen Lost in Translation? I’ve been catching up on some DVDs recently and I’d forgotten how good it is. I liked it at the movies but I think it plays better on DVD; it feels more intimate somehow. Bill Murray’s performance is wonderful and it’s a beautiful story.

One of the reasons I like it is the feeling of isolation in the film. Murray and Scarlett Johansson play two characters who feel increasingly isolated in Tokyo; surrounded by unfamiliar customs, they become drawn to each other. I wouldn’t say I feel isolated like that but I spent a lot of my childhood moving and the writer in me is always a little distant… I thought the film captured that feeling well, and Tokyo as well.

That’s why I was surprised when I read a past review of it on The Guardian’s website. Kiku Day is part Japanese and criticised the film as racist. She said that anti-Japanese racism formed the backbone of the film, from the jokes to the depiction of Tokyo and Japanese culture. “There is no scene where the Japanese are afforded a shred of dignity. The viewer is sledgehammered into laughing at these small, yellow people and their funny ways, desperately aping the western lifestyle without knowledge of its real meaning.”

Did we watch the same film? Where she saw a film about stereotypes and an exotic backdrop, I saw a film about disconnection; not just the disconnection between the two Americans and Tokyo but also in the direction their lives are taking. What I found interesting was the directorial style; it’s sparse and because the Japanese dialogue isn’t subtitled, it leaves viewers as disoriented as the characters. Perhaps that’s Day’s point as we see what Bob and Charlotte see, not the “real” Japan; but that doesn’t mean it’s stereotypical.

But I’ve never been to Tokyo. It looks like a beautiful city and I’d love to go there one day but obviously Day knows it better than I do. I thought Tokyo was depicted respectfully but perhaps she sees a caricature of Japanese life. I’m still not convinced, though… the film isn’t about Tokyo as much as the friendship between the characters; perhaps because of that it lacks some detail, but I don’t see anything racist in it.

After reading Day’s review I started thinking about the way race is depicted on screen. Some of my favourite actors come to mind like Denzel Washington, Lucy Liu and Zhang Ziyi, films like Crash, Monster’s Ball and To Kill a Mockingbird. But then I wondered about the films and shows I’d seen recently and with the exception of Crash, I can’t think of many which have depicted race well, particularly in Australia. The last Australian film I can remember seeing like that was Australian Rules, and before that Romper Stomper with Russell Crowe. As far as TV goes, the actors are still part of the supporting cast and are rarely very detailed; the way Indigenous Australians are portrayed is particularly troubling. Ideally a cast should be an accurate representation of our culture and it’s sad seeing such a narrow view still represented in the mainstream.

To be honest I thought we’d come further than that. It’s been 40 years since Star Trek had Uhura and Sulu, longer since To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night… shouldn’t we be seeing a more honest depiction of society by now or is that just naive? Perhaps the problem is as much political correctness. Racism has become such a loaded issue that people are overly sensitive to it; most people are respectful but mindful of what they say in case it’s taken the wrong way, and so for most films it makes sense to stick with a familiar cast and not make waves. I think that’s what happened with Lost in Translation. It’s a different kind of film and if you look long enough, you’ll find racism in anything, and Day saw enough to label it such. Really it’s the opposite of that but it does show how much racism is still a part of our society, the feeling it evokes.

I found this short documentary earlier and it’s a perfect example of the impact racism is still having today. It’s filmed by 17 year old Kiri Davis, who examines the importance young African American women place on colour. What stunned me was a scene recreating a 1940s experiment looking at internalised racism, where children were asked to choose between a white and a black doll and the majority chose the white doll. 60 years later it’s still the same. 15 out of 21 children said they preferred the white doll over the black, associating white with “pretty” and black with “ugly”. Worse they saw white as good and black as bad… it’s heartbreaking. No one should feel ashamed of their culture, their heritage, of who they are… but I guess it’s no surprise; how else could you feel, surrounded by such stigmatisation?

What’s so troubling is it leaves you wondering what we can do to change it and to be honest I don’t know. The problem is that racism has changed; it’s become subversive, an ideology permeating the culture that twists noble intentions to its uses. Economics, welfare, gentrification, poverty, all can be used as tools or justification for racism in the wrong hands. How many times have you heard someone say we shouldn’t donate to Africa because the money will be wasted, or that children should be removed from their parents because of poverty? It’s suggestive and almost makes sense, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

The modern face of racism isn’t a group like the KKK or an individual. The truth is that it doesn’t have a face; it uses imagery and ideas to spread hate and often someone is not even aware of their own racism. There’s a test from Harvard which measures the difference between what we think we’re prejudiced against and what our impulses suggest. The results are very interesting; they suggest that most people have a higher level of unconscious bias than they thought. It doesn’t make someone racist but it does suggest a conditioning, which just shows how much racism surrounds us without our knowing it.

Perhaps racism is something we’ll never be completely rid of but I think the only way to start is by realising that we need to change the way we look at it. Racism has changed but we’re still approaching it like we did forty years ago; it’s not just a political issue but a personal one and unless people are willing to change the way they look at racism and themselves, nothing will ever change.

That’s why I’m still stunned by the review. Lost in Translation is a film about making connections and you’d think it’s a film that would create greater awareness of Japanese culture, not damage it… I guess Day sees it differently.

Anyway, what do you think? Do you think racism has changed? Have you ever experienced racism? If you’re interested in the IAT test there’s more about it here; I took it and it’s very interesting if you have time to check it out. And sorry for the long post! If you got this far I’ll owe you a coffee or something. πŸ˜‰

You've got to be kidding me

Update: If you’re searching for images of the Montauk Monster, please see this post. If you are seeing ads with this post, I apologise; it is WordPress who have put them here, not me.

You’ve got to love eBay, don’t you? Between finding a sweater for a bargain in just the right colour or a copy of an old favourite book, it seems like you can find just about anything if you look hard enough. And then there are the bizarre auctions. I’m never quite sure what to make of those. Some are fun… others are so dumb they make your head hurt.

Why would people want to bid on some of these things? I can understand that a time machine has novelty value but buying someone’s used tissue? Or a hairball? Ew. I don’t need the tissue, the thought of it is enough to make me sick. And then today I saw Nana the Banana octopus. “Nana” is a used banana skin which has been dressed up as Nana Walker Bobana, a fake President… it’s so stupid I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

But it gets worse. Just after Nana I saw this: the body of an alien found on a beach in Florida. It’s possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. And it went for $53! Are they out of their minds? If you’ve got too much money, give it to a charity, don’t waste it.

I don’t even see how it’s supposed to resemble an alien. It looks fake to me or like a turtle without its shell… and why are its arms in a superhero pose? I guess it just proves that there’s always someone who’ll buy anything… especially if it’s dried and preserved with “little otherworldly scents”. πŸ˜•

It’s interesting seeing everything that’s been created in the wake of eBay’s success. Most of these bizarre auctions are silly but they’ve become so popular that they’re an entire industry now. Without eBay PayPal wouldn’t have become as widely used as it is now and eBay’s support of Skype has helped it to become successful. It’s spun off a number of online auction tools – and that’s not even mentioning the sniping websites that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Sniping’s the main thing I dislike about eBay. Perhaps it’s the kind of items I bid on (usually CDs and DVDs) but I end up getting sniped in most of my auctions. I don’t mind being outbid but I hate being sniped at the last moment; it doesn’t break any of eBay’s rules but it’s infuriating and if I were a seller I’d be tempted to leave negative feedback; annoying as it is for bidders, the sniped bid is usually much lower for sellers, so they don’t like it much either.

We do have maximum bids, which in theory should protect bidders, but most people prefer incremental bids and it’s really up to eBay to level the field. But they won’t as sniping is part of the experience. And maybe it is… I’m just bitter as I’ve been sniped four times this week and two came in the last five seconds. But more people will do it if it seems like it’s the only way they can win.

I think the truth is that eBay needs a competitor. At the moment other auction sites can’t match its size and eBay’s dominance has allowed its auction services to stagnate even while branching out into other areas. It needs to become relevant again and perhaps competition is the best way to do that, which would benefit the consumer. Whether there’s a legitimate competitor out there, though, I don’t know… eBay might have too much of a monopoly already.

Anyway, I’ve just been frustrated; I hate being sniped and then I saw those bizarre auctions and it reminded me of how bloated eBay has become. I wonder what you think? Do you like eBay? Do you think a new competitor would be good for eBay? Does bid sniping bother you? Is it an alien, a turtle or something else? Let me know what you think. πŸ˜‰

Australians All Love Ostriches

I had another post planned for today but I couldn’t let the WordPress upgrade go by without saying something. I’m a little confused. I don’t hate it but I wish they’d given us some warning. It caught me by surprise and I spent about two hours having to fix my widgets after everything disappeared and then getting used to the interface; if I’d known I’d have copied everything first to be safe.

I’m torn on the upgrade. I like the new features; the gallery and being able to upload several images at once is a big improvement and I’m warming to the layout. The main reason I’m confused is I don’t see why it was necessary to do the upgrade so quickly. Most users aren’t going to know how to use the new features right away; a gradual introduction (like the way themes are added) would have been more successful, in my opinion, and allowed people to adjust.

The main thing I don’t like is that the edit comment link has disappeared from the dashboard; you have to click on the avatar every time to edit it and that’s a pain. Also the font is smaller but overall I don’t mind the new version… I just wish they’d waited a bit longer and ironed out some of these problems first. And the blog surfer.

I spent so long looking at the new features and fixing problems that I haven’t had time to finish the post I’d planned. So I thought I’d post some of the strange search terms from my blog instead. I call them Googleages after Alynda’s old posts and some are bizarre (and not just the grammar). Kind of like my blog, don’t you think? πŸ˜‰

One of my favourites is this one: sulz define. I don’t know how we could possibly define sulz… she’s funny, interesting, talented… sulz is sulz. It’s just weird that the search ended up on my blog instead of sulz’s. Wouldn’t you go to the blog which actually has sulz in the title? Or maybe that’s just me.

Let me know if you have any favourites. πŸ™‚

  • unique ideas for a million dollars
    Ah but if I told you then it wouldn’t be unique now, would it?

  • australians all love ostriches
    A line in our national anthem is often misheard as “Australians all love ostriches”. It’s true, though, we do love ostriches… perhaps too much…

  • new job new sleep pattern no need for al
    OMG! You’re going to kill Al! Why?

  • two words that don’t make sense together
    Actual reenactment. Think about it; there’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. Insane logic and pretty ugly. Recorded live‘s another one.

  • cj is special in a bad way
    Finally, someone who gets me! Deep down I make Voldemort look like a muppet.

  • i want to hold you until i die
    But we only just met. Can’t we have more time?

  • i waste too much time dreaming of you
    I told you, I need more time… it’s not you, it’s me…

  • you occupy my thoughts, dreams and hopes
    Stop pressuring me! Look, the truth is, there’s someone else… Keri. She’s an ostrich.

  • more sleep helps you get longer fingers?
    No idea what post that search must have turned up. I assume it’s not true… if it is I really need to get rid of this insomnia.

  • youre only afraid of death when you real
    I have no idea what that means. You’re not afraid of death if you’re a ghost?

  • cj is gone forever
    No, I’m still here. See?

  • drink myself to happiness poetry
    I don’t know what’s more disturbing – the drinking to happiness bit or the idea that my poetry might drive someone to drink!

  • Is it cut the muster or cut the mustard?
    Cut the mustard, obviously. They mixed it up with to pass muster which is similar. I just liked it that they started with a capital.

  • we make smiles happen
    You’ve been hanging out with the poetry guy, haven’t you?

  • shia labeouf’s penis
    I have no idea where that came from. I mentioned Shia LaBeouf once about Indy 4 and suddenly I’m running a porn blog! πŸ˜‰