Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Secret to Better Sex is in your Christmas Tree

The mark of the Christmas season can mean only one thing: that 2010 is at its zenith. How do you sum up an entire year in words, not just personally but in a generality? It’s one thing to say a year was ‘good’ or ‘great’, but it’s another in knowing what you are truly describing, the year as a whole or just the last few months of festivities? Don’t be bias. How have you grown personally - emotionally, physically, spiritually? Have you digressed at all, is there an area that needs improvement or repair? Are you proud of the person you are entering the new year as, or are you potentially marring it with hang ups before it has even begun? How has the world treated us as a species, was it with kindness and compassion, or has it shaken us with cruelty, testing our mortality? Most of all, have you truly dissected the year so that you are able to accurately determine the thoughts that will run through your head and the feelings that will course through your body during that final countdown next week?

While the developed world poured billions of dollars into a Haiti further set-back by an earthquake in January, the US poured gallons of the world’s precious Veblen-good, oil, into the Mexican sea. The comedy world suffered the loss of parody-king, Leslie Nelson, however, the political-world gained an asset (to us, anyway), Julian Assange, who has evidently shaken fear in the golden slippers of the world’s leaders, perhaps putting an end to corruption and political sneakiness. Only last month did the same hopes and prayers that managed to pull thirty-three men from a caved-in Chilean mine fail to save the twenty-nine lives that were lost in a New Zealand mine. While all of this was happening, the world soon realised that Obama, apart from becoming the first black US president and reciting a litany of long-speeches, hasn’t really done anything, especially on the forefront of the forgotten heroes of 9/11 (Got proven wrong on that one, however, Obama continues to forget those heroes, who have remained abandoned for nine Christmases now). Like any year, we suffered some great losses, but that’s the beauty of a new year. In this festive season, many of us, I trust, have had the inclination to spend generously on our loved ones, but, today, spare a thought for the Haitians, and at that, any other under-developed country-people; for those living near the shores of the Mexican sea; for the families all the families who have fallen short a loved one in the last twelve months; for the less-fortunate; and for anybody else who might not be celebrating Christmas the way they would like to today. The spared thought does not need to be met with anguish; it just needs to be a moment of appreciation for what we do have, and what allows us to celebrate the way that we please, after all, that’s what Christmas is for.

So – global issues aside – the question remains: who am I entering the new year as? I’ve thought long and hard about this year, even before we even came close enough to graze the festive season. It’s been a year of growing. I feel that the person that lived last year died this year. He was bored, blind and bitter, but it was a building experience. The new year helped me shed a layer of dead skin that I had been clutching onto for such a long time. I was already rid of a drawn-out rocky-relationship that was hurting both me and the person I was with; then this year’s milestone-virginity was penetrated when I left a job that I didn’t like, and thusly was not liked at; that resignation only lead me into a year occupied by a small-time job that I enjoy doing and a course with people that I relished being around; I only recently rediscovered a romantic-presence which took me years to realise I’d misplaced; toxicity was disposed of; lost friendships were rekindled; and a minute number of new ones were made, more so than before. Need I even say that it has been a fantastic year on my side of things? The same way that twelve months ago I said goodbye to a painful streak of bad times, it was a year where I essentially laid the first brick of a path to a newer version of myself, I will enter 2011 with the emotional-equipment needed to lay that last brick and hopefully celebrate perpetuated friendships and some form of flourishing relationship by this time, next year – fingers crossed.

The thing is this - an entire year cannot be equally channelled into a word or even a single sentence; I didn’t even get it in nine-hundred of those words. My point in writing this is that there are questions we must ask ourselves in a week’s time. Have we paid the proper, non-partisan respect to every up and every down when giving a sum-up of an entire year our very best shot? Have we considered everything from this year and learnt from it enough to take that first baby-step into the next? If those questions are difficult ones or you dislike the answer – and I assume this will be the case for some - the time is now to get your house in order – use this next week to take a step back and take a look at your own personal 2010 portrait; is it a pretty one? If it isn’t, well, I suggest some basic photo editing software…and quick. Have a very Merry Christmas, guys, and, more importantly, a happy and a cathartic New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Facebook & Cigarettes

Sewn into the lining of any successful smartphone on the market today is social-networking. If social-sites didn’t exist, smartphones would still be in those awkward Windows Mobile 2003 days, just with improved graphics. Kids, teenagers and adults today - we all walk around with these devices that have the ability to call, text, compose documents, organise us socially and financially, yet we have providers who simply market them as social-networking devices with some bonus features on the side, and we use them that way too. There was a time when if you found yourself on a street or at a busy train station and couldn't see someone with a cigarette in their hand, it would be high-time to try that luck with a lottery ticket or a dollar in a poker machine. Today, it would prove a difficult task for one of those same smokers to flick their cigarette into a passing train carriage and hit someone that isn’t visiting a social-networking site at that exact second. On that note, the more train carriages I walk onto and the more I see people on their work-breaks indulging in a smoke while reading about how some guy they haven’t seen in years had to go down to the store to get milk, the more I realise that online social-networking has become so addictive and so widely habitual that it is now the new-age cigarette.

From the previous paragraph alone, I'm sure that you've already surmised that I am a non-smoker to some degree. If we get down to specifics, I vigorously oppose cigarette-smoking. One of the many reasons I protest them so strongly is due to my view on dependency, to be more specific, my view on people bowing down to flakes of ash wrapped in little squares of paper. Once addiction dawns, you’ve backed yourself into an inconvenient corner; you sign yourself onto having to light up the moment you get up in the morning, having to make breaks at work just because you’re itching for a fix, and having no option but to make use of the outside areas of establishments that are more than happy to offer the inside areas to non-smokers; in other words, becoming a routine smoker, to me, sounds like a massive pain in the arse. Not only that, but it also forces your bank account into the minus with nothing but a cornucopia of health defects, bad lungs, bad breath and a displeasing body odour to show for it – well, this is how I am starting to feel about Facebook and any other social networking site.

I have never believed myself to have an addictive personality, not chemically anyway. In putting on my hypocrite-pants, the one and only thing I can admit having a mild addiction to is technology and the internet - I am a colossal geek when it comes to the social-networking and the gadgetry of this beautiful age that I was fortunate enough to grow up in. Evidently, like everybody else, I too had been taking massive drags of the Facebook-cigarette. Several months back, the mobile service which breathes connectivity into my own smartphone began to split the internet data usage into two categories: ‘Mobile Internet’ and ‘Social Internet’. Upon noticing how little precious bandwidth I had been spending on sites that can actually boost my intelligence, I realised that I had furthered a few steps on the hazy path to becoming just like a smoker. Before this epiphany, checking Facebook was like a reflex to me; I was on it while I ate breakfast, before work, on my break, immediately after work, at the train station, on the train, before class, after class, the ride home, and then when I got home...well, you get the picture. I was using my phone for Facebook so much, in fact, that, earlier this year, I had to upgrade my bandwidth allowance from two hundred and fifty megabytes to five hundred just to cater for my habit; it was getting pathetic. In a nutshell, like it would with a smoker, with the exception of the physical consequences, social networking was costing me money, it was costing me time and, essentially, it had become something that was hard to be without. So, in an effort to take a few steps back on that sad and wretched path that I had been strolling down like some moron, this last month, I self-imposed a ban on any social networking website that's not on an actual computer, which includes running to public internet cafes and class computers to get a fix and excludes posting status updates, simply because I use a separate program to do so. Admittedly, it hasn’t put a huge dent in my social-internet use, but it has certainly helped in making my time outside of the home much more productive, and in return makes me feel less like a tool in the public-eye.

It has only been these last five years that the internet has truly been able to jump from our computer screens and into our pockets. We have our Apple's, RIM's, Google's and Microsoft's contributing to the liberation of the internet, but with that said, is that same amnesty liberating us at all? It seems to be doing the opposite. With every second person having a smoke between their index and middle fingers, cigarettes are the cliché of any busy street, and now the Facebook logo is coming in at a close-second, almost like Mark Zuckerberg has us all under some sort of zombie-like psychosocial-hold. I bet you’re wondering where online social-networking can damage our health, well, with smoking has come cancer, and with the growing adoption of online social-networking will come a generation of attention-divided and socially-isolated people, who will then in turn pass such ridiculous social-values onto their offspring, that is, of course, assuming that Facebook has the ‘Procreate’ feature it will most certainly need by then. So, in getting to some sort of an ending, the success of social-networking brought the success of smartphones, and with that, these devices gave the addictiveness of sites like Facebook and Twitter more mobility, thus just adding another internet bill that needs paying and more time wasted outside of the home that needs to be made up for later on. So, finally, without condemning two things that I enjoy too much, social-networking and smartphones: have these two things joined forces only to become another thing that needs to be added to the bucket along with smoking and drugs? Is our society on its way to seeing a segregated group of Facebook-ers, the same way that we see smokers now? Because it would seem like our society has become one that is primarily filled with said smokers and Facebook-ers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Okay, scratch the blood part of that…and the tears…okay, there may be some tears, after all, it is Australia’s first month of summer this December and, to put it in harsh-terms, I loathe this season. It’s a bias of my mine, but of course, does not come without warrant. Not only is my part of Sydney notorious for being the hottest over other parts, but it is hardly within distance of even a healthy patch of sand. So even though some like to glorify it by calling it ‘beach-season’, I personally prefer to stick to more realistic terms like ‘sticky’, ‘humid’ and…‘hell’.

One of my main arguments for my unfavourable view on summer, aside from my distance from the beach, is that in the hot weather, controlling temperature is a significantly bigger challenge than in the icier season. I personally love winter, and I think that it sucks that I have never spent a Christmas with snow on my window seal, it’s certainly one of those things that sit on my metaphorical ‘Things to do before I die’ list; Christmas in winter. The thing I enjoy most about winter is having the ability to simply pile on clothing and be warm, even when it’s cold. I can’t put into words the euphoria that comes when unpacking my woollen cut-off gloves, scarves, ugg boots, thermal socks, heater and even just wearing jackets that I haven’t worn since the previous year. Here’s the thing - I get why some prefer summer; winter is cold, our fingers and toes suffer, people are sneezing and coughing influenza back and forth like a tennis match, but it could be five degrees Celsius outside and all you need to do is put on a couple of layers and incorporate some vitamin c into your diet, and you’re golden. The situation differs in summer. In the hot weather, you could keep stripping off clothes and you will still be hot; hell, you could get butt-naked, which would be hot (pun intended), and, aside from the fact that you are now most probably sitting in a gaol cell, nothing would have changed!

Just for some helpful-imagery, here’s what a typical summer day is here in Western Sydney: it’s about ten days at a beach that is at least forty-minutes away, but when reality intrudes we realise that the one hundred other days of blood-bubbling-temperatures are spent estivating in our homes, worshipping the air-conditioner, working in the heat, virtually getting cooked walking to the mail-box, being grinded by smelly, perspiring men on the train, swimming in dirty public-swimming pools, seeing me with my sexy abs out (say what!), having a 7-Eleven mirage in the middle of a suburban street, having your face gang-raped by flies, not to mention, the food that you’re about take a bite of, having your blood thieved at by disease-ridden mosquitoes after you've finally gotten to sleep after many hours of flipping your pillow over and trying to figure out in your head if there is even a point to a lone bed sheet; it’s essentially having the realisation that it’s…it’s just hot and you don’t like it! Apart from that handful of fun days spent pretending that you have enough money to be a northern Sydney-sider, catching waves and relaxing on the sand, summer just isn't exactly my cup of iced-tea.

So let’s review: In winter, with a mandarin a day and some practical attire, it can be a joy. In summer, with an air-conditioned car…wait, I don’t drive, let me try that again; with a portable air-conditioner…wait, no, they don’t exist; with a whole three months spent inside in the the air-conditioning…oh, wait, that’s right, I have class and a job, one last time; with a…well, hmm…I’d hate to be the bearer of bad news, but does it seem like hot weather is just something that has no practical solution? You’re only real remedy in our heat is to be so rich that you never have to work again, that way you can move your arse to the northern beaches of Sydney, hire some people to build you a garaged-house on the sand, get central air-conditioning installed, buy a nice car, hire a maid to do your groceries, hire some fanners to follow you around the golf-course you probably own or from your car to whatever millionaire’s ball you are attending and you will never be hot again, however, if you never end up being that rich, or rich at all, then no summer of ours will ever be a pleasurable or comfortable one. I also have no doubt that, even if you do live close to a beach or try to spend every second of free time at one, there still will be multiple instances weekly where you will be caught down on your knees, begging the powers that be for nothing short of a cool-breeze. My point in all of this: you could be a hermit crab or you could even live like one in your home, but when it comes down to it, our summers will still only really ever consist of a bunch of salty-saturated people thinking the exact same thing that you are: that they hate being hot!