Saturday, September 24, 2005

Awake is the New Sleep

Now that the organisation of my week is the same as the majority of the population—that is, 9-5 Monday to Friday with Saturday and Sunday off—today was the beginning of my weekend and therefore all the justification I needed to sleep in as long as I wanted to. I still plan to work this weekend, because I have 100 essays to mark, as well as a crash course of reading into the Creative Industries for my RA work. There is, however, something very fulfilling about rolling over and looking at the bedside clock, noting it’s after 9am, and being able to roll back over and close your eyes, without a care in the world. It isn’t as though I slept excessively, since I was awake until around 1am engaged in my usual occupation of self-doubt, which went something like this: ‘I haven’t read Richard Florida, even though I went to see him when he spoke in Brisbane and even bought The Rise of the Creative Class; what am I doing being an RA on a Creative Industries project? ...’ So then I got out of bed and read Terry Cutler’s Foreword, Florida’s Preface and started reading the first chapter. I also put some Clary Sage essential oil on the light bulb ring for its purported effect to relieve ‘nervous tension, stress ... and mild anxiety’. Is it a coincidence that almost every essential oil I own has this on the label? Anyway, the Clary Sage seemed to work because the reading was reassuringly comprehensible and my mind stopped churning over enough so I could have an uninterrupted rest.

After I got up, I watched the episode of the BBC series Spooks that I taped last night. It was the last in the series, which I wish ran longer. As one of the recent spy dramas that have been produced in the last few years from those countries in the so-called Coalition of the Willing, it does a better job of problematising the human toll of the War on Terror than other efforts. The MI5 officers are shown as experiencing genuine moral uncertainty, or, in the case of Adam (Rupert Penry-Jones), somewhat alarming moral certitude; and lives on both sides are irrevocably ruined because of the business they are engaged in. I still like 24 and Alias for the sheer thrill of their pace and, of course, their production values, but they both get a little ridiculous. I’m not sure why the CIA/APO on Alias are fighting terrorists from the old Eastern bloc countries. Perhaps so no contemporary comparisons can be inferred? But the evil-doers aren’t even Baader-Meinhof types, fuelled by youthful idealism and intent on ending the scourge of Capitalism. No, they’re all megalomaniacs in the mould of Dr No. who threaten to poison water and air supplies in order to accumulate personal wealth and power. I guess the main attraction for me in this show is seeing Sydney (Jennfier Garner) and Vaughan (Michael Vartan) defy death and state-of-the-art security systems on missions in exotic locations (which demand the use of yellow gels), wearing elaborate disguises and speaking with sexy Russian accents. 24 is far less glamorous and its enemies are contemporary—religious fundamentalist terrorists of middle-Eastern origins—but the binary oppositions it invokes are tedious. The only internal struggle Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has ever had is with drug addiction and it certainly didn’t impinge on his ability to seek out and destroy any threat to North America from those who would apparently go so far as to kill their children for their cause. (Please don’t mention that Secretary Heller had his own son tortured: it was for a better cause. And besides he was obviously one of those small ‘l’ liberal types. The long hair gave it away. La la la! Can’t hear you!)

After the drama of Spooks, I worked up enough lather from the remaining few chips of soap to sustain one last shower, which meant that I had to go to the Perfect Potion for supplies. Such a hardship. Oh, place of anxiety reducing potions. I’m partial to the Pure Rose Bar; it always makes me feel that I’m getting something special for a bargain. Rose Absolute in essential oil form costs about $AU400 for a ridiculously small amount (5ml?), so getting that smell and the benefits of the oil in a relatively much cheaper vegetable soap feels like winning a prize every time I shower. When I walked into the shop, I noticed they had a new product: Vanilla and Coconut Double Cream Body Moisturiser. If just hearing the name makes your taste buds water, imagine smelling it. I asked the girl in the shop how one would go about not wanting to ingest it. If there are two favourite flavours that I have in the world, they are vanilla and coconut. It only occurred to me as recently as a couple of years ago that of all the chocolate bars and sweets I like, that coconut was a common ingredient. Cherry Ripes and Bountys and coconut macaroons have always been my first choice. Then there are the joys of coconut cream in Thai cuisine. The vanilla bean is also a relatively recent discovery. I have made custard and ice-cream with the tell-tale black flecks of a vanilla pod, and poached nectarines in vanilla and orange syrup until they attained the most amazing ruby blush. I’ve made my own vanilla sugar to make coffee even more special and I’ve served a rice pudding at a dinner party that I heard about afterwards from people who hadn’t eaten it. Given that vanilla has such a distinctive and pleasure-inducing flavour, I’ve always wondered why the word has been used as an adjective to describe the very opposite in sexual experiences. Clearly whoever first applied the term had only ever consumed generic brand vanilla ice-cream, which does not contain vanilla at all. I hereby announce a campaign to end the maligning of vanilla; by all means use ‘vanilla’ to describe a sexual experience but only if it was out of this world and the thought of it makes your mouth water.

While I was in town, I also got some passport photos taken. Yes! I have reached the age of 36 without travelling overseas—immigrating to Australia from the UK when I was 8 months does not count, I am told. Now is probably the time to reveal that I don’t have a driver’s license either; it’s best to get all of the shocks out at once. From my perspective, the lack of these documents hasn’t been that big a deal, but apparently, to the broader populace, the possession of these forms of identification signifies official adult human being status. Will I have to hold both before I’m admitted as a functioning member? Anyway, I’m applying for an Australian passport—I am also eligible for a British passport—because I might have to travel to a conference for the RA job. It’s not certain that I’ll go, but if it turns out that others aren’t available due to the timing, then of course I want to be able to take the opportunity. The possibility was suggested to me on Friday by Aspro. He dropped by my office... Did I mention I was allocated an office? Aspro said he wanted to go to the conference—since it’s of interest to the proposed research project—but he has family commitments at the moment that make it unfeasible. It was such a strange feeling to be presented with the possibility of international travel for work purposes. It seems to suggest that my employers believe I’m a competent individual. I’m not used to thinking of myself that way, never mind having others—individuals respected in their fields—do so. Aside from lecturing and tutoring positions, I’ve only worked in jobs—up to as recently as February this year—where the underlying assumption is that employees require constant surveillance to ensure they don’t spend too long in the toilet. Now I have senior people dropping by my office, speaking to me as if I really have something to contribute to the task at hand, signing forms to reimburse me for buying books, and requesting my (paid) presence at conferences both here and abroad?! It’s crazy talk. Well, actually, it’s social mobility; I’m moving from the working or service class (depending on who you read) to the knowledge or creative class. It’s still a bit crazy.

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