Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Friday, May 20, 2011


I have spent the last few days at a management "love-in". The executive retreat. It is near impossible to get enthusiastic about something I am forced to do at least once a year every year as part of my day job. It is something I struggle with given my strong hermit leanings. But I did try to make an effort to contribute while I was there, I always do. My mantra: it is worth trying to make the event work, no matter how difficult a personal challenge it is to be there, because occasionally you surprise yourself (and are surprised by what you find).

I came out of the retreat relatively unscathed, probably helped by the fine autumn weather, though unfortunately without any epiphanies to pepper my thoughts on the long drive home. So instead here's a few of the standard features of these retreat events that gives me a perpetual feeling of Groundhog Day every time I head off down the road:

(1) The retreat must be located far enough away from work so as to allow those attending space to reflect in a meaningful and non-distracted way. Reality: with modern tech, especially the crackberry, you can be reached anywhere anytime and when your boss calls you back for a meeting, you go, no questions asked.

(2) The retreat is generally located somewhere upmarket because if you are forced to sleep somewhere away from home, you may as well have the decadence of good food, wine, and Egyptian cotton sheets. Reality: sometimes the fear of the decadence being reported in the media drives the group to cheap and cheerful places within public transport range.

(3) The retreat is usually facilitated well by creative types who are really interesting people. Reality: The types are interesting but speak such a different language that half the time is spent lost in translation...spend the time drawing Mecca cubes.

(4) The retreat is filled with time filler activities because you have to pad out the agenda somehow. Reality: ditto. (Aside: Amazing Race activity in the middle of nowhere resulted in unwanted flashbacks to my highschool orienteering classes, in the past being driven blind folded in a van to the centre of a state forest left me wondering if the driver was a serial killer...the driver says you are several metres off an isolated fire trail, the perfect place to bury a body...oops driver meant here's your compass and good luck...)

(5) The time spent at the retreat is mostly about networking and getting to know your colleagues better. Reality: if I wanted this, I would socialise with them. I am already doing this with the ones I want to spend time around. Revealed preference is obvious really so why force it?

(6) There's a lot of talk about challenges you face as a group, reams of butchers paper to write on with pretty coloured pens about all the things that you can do to solve the problems when you return to the office. Reality: somehow the excitement on the day desolves the moment you are back in the office and the real world smothers your enthusiasm to apply any of the actions that you have spoken about in the cocoon of the retreat.

(7) The retreat provides ample material for story telling well after the event. For me this year, it was the company of a white rat in my bedroom drawn to the warmth of the column heater and the remnant crumbs of consumed biscuits. Waking up to a trail of droppings on the bed side table and all I could think about was how long the rodent might have spent watching me in my sleep. Eek!

I am home now, exhausted with a weekend of social activity ahead of me so no chance to slip back into my shell to recover from the trauma of time spent with colleagues navel gazing before returning to work on Monday. I just want to write (more so given a seriously good session last weekend delivered not one but two sublime scenes and a completed chapter). Will find a way. Need to keep my sanity.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

eye candy quotient

After last week's melancholy reflections on last thoughts in life, I thought I had better venture into something a little fluffier this week to lift my mood. So this week's entry will be a short explanation of my eye candy quotient (ECQ) procrastination efforts.

In between the fiction writing and the day job story telling (advising for a living means I have to pitch ideas based on facts and the best way to do that is to tell a story from those facts), I spend some time reading various forms of electronic media and watching (far too) much television. In a bad week, my viewing habits will reach the double digits in terms of hourly viewing.

I was chatting about new shows with a friend this morning, and ran through with her my current suite of must see and optional viewing. It was several shows into the list when I realised that at least a half a dozen of them fell into the viewing solely for the purpose of enjoying the "talent" of the actors on the show.

"Talent" to me can mean either one of two things generally - the skills of the player and/or the eye candy appeal of their look. I watch Australian Rules Football for both. I seem to watch television and movies for either yet rarely both.

For example, while my interest in a certain tv series, Supernatural, derives largely from an interest in all things mythological (and more recently its delving into a raft of religious mythology), I readily confess that the two male leads on the show are super easy on the eye. I'm never really sure if the over acting is the pair hamming it up or if the pair have managed to get away with their good looks in securing roles and they may never be thespians awarded for their acting prowess. The Winchestor brothers (their characters on the show) allow me to enjoy genuine "check your brain at the door" down time when it comes to my viewing pleasure.

There is such a thing as a good looking skilled actor but I find that the combination of looks and skill together is distracting from any film or television series intended to be more cerebral. I am less likely to take an actor seriously or value their work if they are good looking. I am less likely to think at all if their physical presence dominates a screen. It means that the actors I rate for their skill are far too often known as "character" actor specialists (and rarely leads). This is a bias in my viewing. It took me years to acknowledge Brad Pitt could in fact act well at times. And it is why I rate Ben Foster as a skilled actor (who isn't unattractive by the way, just not in that league worthy of eye candy status).

My hypothesis: the larger my ECQ is in any given week, the lower my IQ is! Now there's an economic regression analysis I might like to test one day but I cannot quite nail my choice of dummy variables or the direction of the correlation (perhaps because I've been supplementing my television viewing this week with YouTube videos of some of my favourite scenes from the shows that do not feed my mind).

I do not think it is a permanent reduction in IQ (like the consumption of alcohol would do), as I was able to have an extended conversation with another friend today about the nature of idea generation, concepts of philosophical spheres, and present another theory about how married life/kids seems to lead to a reduction in idea generation. The latter is based on evidence that shows all the great 'science' thinkers came up with their ideas while they were young and/or single. Nash (nobel prize winning economist) would argue that it was just game theory and the scientists were out to impress girls with their ideas and no longer needed to do so once they had snagged their prize.

I will need to gather more data to see if I can draw some meaningful conclusions about ECQ. And that folks establishes my procrastination parameters for this weekend as I continue writing part 2 of novel number three.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

last thought

I think there is a cecada under my desk at work. It is ludicrous to believe a bug of that ilk could find its way into a 10th floor office, yet its sound churps away with a certain rhythm during the early hours of each day when I sit at my desk alone in otherwise peace and quiet. Hours before anyone else arrives in the office. As others enter the space, I have to listen harder to hear its song, but it is always there in the background. (Perhaps it is only some mechanical thing that makes the sound but I like pretending it might be something else, perhaps even a nanobot bug secretly spying on me!)

The above is not a last thought, it is not even a first thought, it is more one of many thoughts that pop into my tangent world mind during the course of any and every day. Though I have been thinking a bit about last thoughts lately with several high profile deaths being reported in the media recently.

I do not wish to dwell on those particular deaths but the press coverage did prompt my mind to start pondering the idea what are the last words, the last thoughts that enter a mind that is about to cease to be.

One of the comedians I watched during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Hannah Gatsby, spend at least 20 minutes of her show discussing what she might say and think and concluded it really depended on the circumstances in which you found yourself. For example, what you might say or think would be very different if you heard the sound of your rope snap as you were bungy jumping compared to the slow burn last hours of breath after a protracted illness.

I started viewing episodes of Six Feet Under over the weekend. One of the benefits of owning the box set, and with enough time having passed since I viewed the original series, is that I can return to viewing some of the most powerful observations on the nature of life and death. Only three episodes into the fictional story, and my memories come flooding back of people who've come into and gone from my life. And that one day, I will be such a person to someone else. We might "all die alone" (Donnie Darko parlance), and the memory of me may fade with time, but at least for a moment in time, I will be remembered. And then forgotten.

Then I read this blog first thing this morning: Derek's last post called "Last Post" was a note he wrote just before he passed away, cancer taking his life. It was a saddening, poignant picture of a life lived and gone. I cried a little with only my desk cecada within earshot to hear my quiet sobs.

I am reminded of a short monologue from one of my favourite shows about life after death, Dead Like Me, when Georgia is thinking about last thoughts. She says, "Maybe death was the temp job, and life was the vacation. A vacation you were supposed to spend with the people that you loved… with the people who loved you, and if life was that kind of vacation, what then? What would your last thoughts be then?" I shed a tear then too and there was no cecada to keep me company.