25 April, 2006


On Sunday morning, Grandma Ashton died, aged 90. She was a beautiful English lass who grew up into a wonderful woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was the matriarch of the very close father's-side of my family. She was the closest thing I have to a namesake. She was much loved, by many.

Death is a hundred different kinds of awful.


Perhaps you have never sat beside the bed of a person you love, who is dying. You are a lucky person. Perhaps you don't know the feeling of a death so inevitable that you sit hunched, waiting - even hoping - for those widely-spaced laboured breaths to finally cease... for this person you love to be granted release from the mass of organs and tissue that is shutting- up- shop around them... for this person to leave your reach forever, and that body to become simply an object to be disposed of in some way which we accept as meaningful. If you've never been in a position to know these feelings, co
nsider yourself lucky.

I have been in this position three times.

My Grandfather - after being expected not to live through one night - lingered in this state, in the stiflingly public space of a hospice, for four days. My family - known for sticking together like glue - kept an otherworldly vigil in his room, as that inescapable breathing kept emanating from the all-but lifeless body in the bed. It is a profoundly fucked-up (for want of a better term) feeling, when you know your loved-one is not going to get better. This is a one-way journey - there literally is no hope, except the hope that it will be as painless as possible. And so you wait. You order take-away food and read magazines. You greet your cousins and - because their energy is usually so infections - you smile and say 'how are ya?' instinctively. But then you check yourself and sigh together... and sit... and wait. Finally, the vigil became too much and the staff suggested maybe Grandad wanted to be by himself. That he was clinging on because we were there. So everyone left him alone in his room, and went home to shower, eat, be normal as best we could. He died within a couple of hours. Alone - as, it seems, he wanted.

My mum, mercifully, was only in this state for a couple of hours, at the very end. This made it gut-wrenchingly short for those of us left behind - those of us who would have given literally anything for more time. But it meant that she was in that terrible limbo - where the body begins decaying before the soul has left - for a very short time, before she let go, never to be ill or in pain again.

This Saturday night, I found myself sitting again by a death-bed. My Grandma had suffered - as far as can be ascertained - a massive stroke and a heart attack. One would have been caused by the other, but no-one can be sure in which order they happened. Either way, my Grandma was in a coma, with a core temperature of 26° and a barely detectable pulse
. Though her body was still (barely) functioning, she had no signs of neurological response. As one doctor said to Dad and I: "If you or I were in this state, it would be a critical condition. And she is 90 years old." So here we were again. The family gathering round. The lack of hope. The laboured breathing. The waiting. We ate take-away food. I read a magazine. I went home to put my sister to bed. As horrible as it may seem, I was glad to leave. I wanted to be there for my Dad and Aunty-S, but I was glad it was necessary for me to leave. I hate hospitals. I hate the fluorescent lights that make everyone look sick, and the nurses shuffling about, and the sterile sounds and smells. I hate the waiting and the hopelessness and the quiet, creeping death.

This was not supposed to be a "woe is me" post. I guess maybe I'm just trying to explain myself. There are books called things like Death: The Last Phase Of Growth, and people talk about the enlightening, inspirational experience of being in the room when someone dies peacefully. I wish I could view death in this way, I really do. But I have experienced death (or at least the lead-up to it) up close and personal, three times in my life of 25 years, and it has never felt like a glimpse at the eternal or a profound epiphany about the world. Maybe this is a fault in me - a symptom of my inability to feel faith. But from all I have seen of death, it is messy and dull and ugly and undignified. Everything you love about a person becomes overshadowed by the numbing, draining excercise of waiting. Of listening. Of being left to hope for nothing but an End.

I do not want to remember the people I love as a dilapidated bundle of bones and organs under a sheet - seething uncomfortably and always surprisingly tiny. I don't want to say goodbye to a breathing corpse, who has long-since ceased to be recognisable as my Grandfather, Grandmother or Mother.


As far as I'm concerned, I last saw my Grandma at Easter, when we all had afternoon-tea at Aunty-S's. I kissed her goodbye - old and deaf but grinning and healthy - as Dad and I helped her navigate the steep steps to the car. She waved goodbye and the car disappeared down the street. And there was no sadness, because we didn't know that this was the last time we'd see each other.

Goodbye Grandma.

I hope I die without warning, in my sleep.


on anzac day

In Grade One, when I was 5 years old, we were talking about ANZAC Day at school.

All the kids were sharing stories about their ancestors who had died in World War One or World War Two. I felt left out. I made up a story. I said that my Great-Grandfather had been killed in World War One. I felt bad for lying, but I wanted to fit in. I wanted some connection to this Day that we were always told was so important, but which I felt no real connection to.

Later I found out that my Great-Grandfather
was killed in World War One. He wasn't an ANZAC, as he was English. But still, I guess I do have a connection to this Day.

I had made up a true story.

I still feel disconnected though. Watching the march or the service frankly just makes me uncomfortable. I cannot reconcile, within my mind, the way the media and the powers-that-be put on such a song-and-dance of honouring those whose lives were wasted in war. Then in the next breath they are doing everything they can to glorify "fighting for your nation".

I was at the cinema the other day. On the seatbelt-strapping that separates the queues at the ticket booth, was printed a row of tanks and the phone number to enlist in the Armed Services. No-one else seemed to understand how appalled I was to see this advertisement for the joys of being cannon-fodder, on display for all the kiddies lining up to see
Ice Age 2. I guess I'm just a filthy peacenik.

I would like to see them advertise what you're really signing up for.

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21 April, 2006

it's like i'm looking in a mirror...

So this My-Heritage thing has been doing the rounds, most recently over at QueerPenguin, I believe. The deal is simple: you submit a photo of yourself, the computery-websitey-doohickey has a gander at your features, and spits out a list of celebrities whom you most resemble.

So... into the computer goes a photo of Munkey, and lo and behold my first result:

KATIE HOLMES - 58% match
Well, knock me up and call me Xenu. Whoda

The site suggests you submit a few different pictures, and see which celebs reappear. Far be it from me not to follow the advice of a website, so I submitted about 5 different pics. The following fine folk make up a summary of my top ten "matches":

BILLY BOYD - 62% match
I really can't see it, but if you say so. I must say he is looking particularly
dapper in this pic.

DEAN R. KOONTZ - 61% match
Maybe after 10 years soaking in the Creepy Tank.

EUGENE LEVY - 61% match
Depressing. Especially because I can kind of see it. *shudders*

GLORIA ESTEFAN - 59% match
It's my lovely bosom that does it.

Well, Byron will like that.

JOSH HARTNETT - 57% match
I wish.

JOHN CUSACK - 55% match
Slightly less so, but again: I wish.

Another one for Byron. I think this is some
kind of joke. Everyone who does this thing seems to get Condi.

Demi will just not stop calling me!

So there you have it, lovers and dreamers. Now if you see me in the street you'll recognise me. Do trundle over and say hello, won't you.

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why are you reading this shit?

"Rubbish"! "Gobbledegook"!

Our esteemed leader - no longer content with drawing our nation into illegal wars, laying waste to workers' rights, redrawing our nautical borders every time a refugee looks twice at us, telling us who can and can't get married, etc etc - is now trying to tell us what our children should be reading in school...

From The Australian:
John Howard believes the postmodern approach to literature being taught in schools is "rubbish" and is considering tying education funding to ending the "gobbledegook" taught in some states. The Prime Minister made the threat after accusing the state education authorities of "dumbing down" the English syllabus and succumbing to political correctness.

Ah yes. Equating postmodernism with political correctness. He's clearly showing the prowess of his own education and reading there... because as we all know, potmodernism and political correctness are Exactly The Same Thing.

He goes on to criticise the inclusion of modern forms of text as part of the study of English. Heaven forbid teenagers should be taught to analyse the world around them. For goodness sake, they might start asking questions or even THINKING, and then where would we be?! Mr Howard feels that there should be more of an emphasis on "Classics"... which is appropriate really, since his entire ideology dates from pre-1950 and he's doing his best to drag this country kicking and screaming into the Dark Ages.

Clearly it has escaped Little Johnny's notice that Classics take time to become part of the literature canon. Nothing is instantly a Classic. (Yes, Shannon Noll may have debuted at Number 1, but that's not the same thing.) Romeo and Juliet was the Neighbours of its day. As the Information Age turns ever faster on its axis, it is more important than ever that we are aware and analytical of current forms of expression - not just those which are tried and tested. We live in a world (yes, Mr Howard, a postmodern world) where we are increasingly analytical of literature, art, events and media as they happen. Surely teaching our kids the skills they need to adequately take in and make their own judgements on this information is no bad thing. But NO says Mr Howard. Rubbish! Gobbledegook! Classics! Classics! Classics!

And watch out you pesky, pinko teachers! Johnny is onto you! Don't you go trying to make the old-school stalwarts of the Literature curriculum relevant or - worse still - interesting to students by applying modern concerns. That's a big no-no.

Just ask Dame Leonie Kramer, who is troubled by "the notion that you have to read, let us say Shakespeare, in relation to contemporary preoccupations such as race and class".

So... we don't want our English classes "dumbed-down". But we also don't want you analysing texts or talking about issues. Is that clear? Because Literature is NOT about issues. For example, there is nothing whatsoever to be learned by modern audiences about race, class, gender or anything else, from Shakespeare. Got it? Dumbing down also includes discussion of "a broad range of cultural and social theory from Marxism to post-structuralism, feminism and queer theory". So none of that either. Just teach the Literature.

Although once you have removed all social issues and any semblance of context from the lesson, one has to wonder what will be left to teach... not to mention, who on earth will care.

Another great day for the Clever Country.


20 April, 2006

my head is spinning like a whirlpool

Lovers and dreamers, I have an important message.


People must FUCKING STOP calling him that. Cunts.

Dizzy Gillespie was one of the most influential musical geniuses of the modern era. Despite his prodigious talent as practitioner and teacher (he was known affectionately as "Professor"), he was also a little nutty - known for his penchant for silly hats, and sometimes taking a break from his trumpeting mid-tune to dance merrily around the other musicians. This eccentricity earned John Neil Gillespie the nick-name "Dizzy".

The other Gillespie is very good at throwing a ball, and sometimes hitting a ball with a stick.

You MAY NOT bestow a previous well-earned nickname on someone completely different, just because they have the same surname. Jason Gillespie has achieved great things in his field, sure. Give him his own nickname. "Mullet" or "Batty" or "Handy-With-Balls" or something. He's NOT ALLOWED to have Dizzy's name.

Sorry. I don't really know why this annoys me so much. As you were.

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19 April, 2006

fortune favours the brave


My beloved Snazzles keeps a slip of paper in her wallet. This slip of paper was received inside a fortune cookie, and reads (approximately):

Now - while for Snazzles this may be good to remember (and I can say that because she knows that her inherent emotional enthusiasm is just one of the myriad reasons I love her and need her like a limb) - it is not advice I personally often need. Munkey is a look-before-you-leap kind of creature. I can often be found gently dipping a toe in the pool and still debating the pros and cons of immersion, long after everyone else has swum off to discover the New World.

This seems to be changing.

Recently, I find my surly sensible brain completely undermined and overridden by the pounding heat of my heart and a profound optimism burning brightly in my belly. A certain someone has charmed me so effectively that I have found myself throwing caution to the wind, and allowing myself to be dictated by emotions that would normally be kept under wraps until things were much more certain. Essentially, I am in deep water and the shore is getting further and further from sight. It is profoundly exciting - like a new lease on life - but also quite terrifying.

However there is a hand holding mine, and we seem to be swimming side by side. Somehow I feel that as long as we are able to continue together, this could be something exquisite - the kind of thing they wrote songs and made movies about in the Old Days. On the other hand, if the journey turns rough and we lose the will or ability to travel as one, I believe both of us will suffer. That is what I'm terrified of. Not just my own hurt, but the thought that someone else so wonderful will be injured as well. This is the kind of thing that sometimes just falls apart. Sometimes
circumstances conspire against beautiful things and destroy them.

BUT, I will not be pessimistic. Frankly, just now, I feel incapable of it. Due to the nature of my brain, I can't entirely dispell the shadowy doubts, but at the moment those doubts are feeble by comparison with the golden light that has been allowed to flood in by this opening-up of potential. Suddenly it seems that something I had all-but resigned myself to never participating in, is happening to me almost effortlessly. And more to the point - though it seems inconceivable - I also feel like I deserve this... that both of us do.

Sometimes, surely, beautiful things can survive the slings and arrows of the world around them, and come out the other side stronger and brighter. I have never subscribed to the "I won't try, because I might fail" mindset. I have been let down too many times by people who won't take a chance on me for the fear that it might not work out. Fuck 'em - their loss. If you're not going to take the chance of failing, how are you ever going to succeed? Years ago, my mother and father gave me a framed piece of calligraphy which still hangs in my flat (although I have taken its advice far too seldom) which reads "Man cannot discover new oceans until he has courage to lose sight of the shore". As I sheepishly expressed my hopes and fears to Snaz the other night ("It might all go horribly wrong!") she was wise and hilarious, as always (a combination few can master, but which comes naturally to her). "It could ALL go horribly wrong! Everything in the world could go horribly wrong," She exclaimed melodramatically. "This meal could go horribly wrong!" she gestured to the Take-Away Chinese we were dishing up for dinner. "We could all get food poisoning and be dead by tomorrow." It didn't arouse huge confidence
in our dinner, but it was a good point.

When something appears out of nowhere, like this (the charming beautiful man, not the Chinese dinner), we owe it to the random winds of fortune - and ourselves, and each other - to grasp it with both hands and treasure it.

(Incidentally, nobody got sick from the Chinese Take-Away. Also, there were no fortune cookies. But that's okay. I don't need a slip of paper to show me the way. Here is my hand, you wonderful person. Let's find the way together.)


11 April, 2006

life is a song worth singing

The interesting and beautiful Lady Lilikens does not (yet!) have a personal blog. However, this evidently does not preclude her from enjoying memes. She has recently sent my friends on a festival of fun stupidity by sharing around this fetching little activity... Put your music-playing-device of choice on shuffle and let the song titles answer the questions:

1. How does the world see you?
We're Not Right (David Gray)
Oh dear.

2. Will I have a happy life?
Not The Girl You Think You Are (Crowded House)
Does this mean I'll be happy, as long as I have a sex change?

3. What do my friends think of me?
Cortez The Killer (Neil Young)
Come on guys, gimme a break - I never once invaded the Aztecs!

4. Do people secretly lust after me?
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd)
Wow, I have that much of an effect, huh.

5. How can I make myself happy?
Parasite (Nick Drake)
Does this mean that I should strive to be a parasite on the world, or that I will only find happiness by inviting a tapeworm to make its home in my colon?

6. What should I do with my life?
Burn Down The Mission (Elton John)
That seems do-able.

7. Will I ever have children?
They Are Night Zombies!! They are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From The Dead!! Ahhhh! (Sufjan Stevens)
I see. So I won't have children as such, but my prospects for raising the dead are looking good. My army of re-animated corpses will be my family!

8. What is some good advice for me?
Give Peace A Chance (John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band)
Well okay, I will.

9. How will I be remembered?
Running # 2 (Run Lola Run)
Because of my hugely successful career as an athlete, obviously.

10. What's my signature dancing song?
Lithium (Nirvana)
Ah yes... a song named after a drug prescribed for mental disorders. That sounds about right.

11. What's my current theme song?
Paths That Cross (Patti Smith)
They do, don't they.

12. What do others think is my current theme song?
Sulk (Radiohead)
Dammit, and here I was thinking I was a ray of sunshine in everyone's life. Back to the drawing board.

13. What shall they play at my funeral?
Superhumans (The Flaming Lips)
Go me!

14. What type of men do I like?
No Aphrodisiac (The Whitlams)
"There's no aphrodisiac like loneliness." Is it just me, or is that not so encouraging?

15. How's my love life?
Fuzzy (Grant Lee Buffalo)
I'm not sure if they mean fuzzy-blurry or fuzzy-furry. I'm thinking the first option is more apt. (How do I adjust the focus on this thing?!)


I'm not going to tag anyone specifically for the meme. If you are reading this, and you think it looks like fun (and it should!), then go for it.
Be well, dear readers.

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10 April, 2006

some kind of bliss

I am disturbed.

Standing in the tea-room, I watched one of my work-mates as he absorbed the front page of today's Herald Sun: a fun-run for Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital. My work-mate was making appropriately respectful noises, which prompted me to snort snobbishly, "Yeh, but it's hardly front-page news." His response, I shit you not:
"Oh I quite like it when you see something
like that on the front page because it means there's nothing else bad happening in the world."
Ignorance is bliss, they say. This, lovers and dreamers, is why John Howard has been in power for 10 years, and why Bush will get away with bombing Iran if he decides he wants to.


In news less likely to make one throw up one's hands crying "for the love of God, what is wrong with people?!", I had a lovely weekend.

Yipyipyipyip Li-Li's Birth-Day! Yipyipyiyip Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Dear readers, the inspirational Lady Lilikens has reached the quarter of a century... AND is on the brink of launching her very first published novel! Definitely cause for mucho celebracionne, so on Friday night, the whole brigade set off for Zum Zum on Rathdowne St and partook of a magnificent banquet with much wine.

On Saturday night my beloved Snazzles came a'visiting. She spoiled me by bringing over home-made soup and banana cake, and together we wiled away the evening playing movie-tr
ivia, watching Futurama, trying to get our Sims' love-lives in order, and generally enjoying the together-time. It might seem like a slightly lame Saturday night, given that most folk our age would be out painting the town red (or ultramarine, as Mr Byron would have it), but frankly this is my very favourite kind of weekend-night: sharing quality time with people you love. (Also it's not quite as lame as what we did last Saturday, but that's a story for elsewhere.)

Sunday was spent traipsing into the hills avec Lili, Snaz, and Jelly to meet Canoe and Shorty at the wonderful realm of Canoe's parental units. Nestled among the gums and frequented by rosellas, this has been the locale of many wonderful relaxed days and evenings. As the first-time visitors soon realised, it is a place where you find your motivation to ever leave dwindling the longer you stay there. On the way home, we sang along loudly to Rent and Avenue Q, and munkey felt an indescribable glow of fundamental contentedness.

I can't put my finger on exactly why... or rather, I could point at a few things that are wrapping my world in a cozy-comfy jacket - however I could also point to some things that should be like icy water dripping down my spine, but for some reason those things just aren't getting through right now. Maybe it's the smell of my childhood that I always sense on the air as the descent into Winter begins, but I feel very at home in the world right now.

World events increasingly scare the shit out of me. The seeming impossibility of adult-life constantly makes me feel like an inadequate human being. Katie Holmes is about to give birth to some kind of AntiChrist...
But for today, I am finding my way by the light I can see, following the beat of the music in my head, and dancing a solo tango by the midnight river-side.
Who would care to join me?


06 April, 2006

and as i climb into an empty bed... oh well, enough said

Lovers and dreamers, it has happened. MindlessMunkey has discovered The Smiths. Be afraid.

The Gods Of Fortune (or the producers of the Truman-Show-esque reality TV program
MunkeyTV, depending on which you believe in) certainly have a sense of humour. Remember this? Well the world has a funny way of deciding to remind you about things - not just once, but over and over again, as if just to really really rub it in. The Saturday just gone was a year to the day since Mr Ryan and I got together. So I was thinking about that and blah blah blah. Then, I suddenly received a completely out-of-the-blue call from one of his former housemates - with whom I remained vague friends. She just wanted to say Hi and see how I was going. Odd timing, of which I'm sure she was unaware. Then, within an hour of this phone-call, I received an email - our first contact in many months - from the "man" himself (and I use the term loosely). No need to divulge details, but suffice to say it began with the phrase, "Who the fuck do you think you are?" Oh goody.

I replied long and proper, but in a very calm, reasoned way. I got quite a few things off my chest... essentially reminding him of the things he did (not just to me, but in general) and the ways in which he's refused to take responsibility for it. Enough with the victim act already! YOU DID IT. YOU ARE NOT THE VICTIM. There has been no further reply. Maybe he couldn't read all the big words. *

To top it all off, The night before the "anniversary" I went with patermunkey, ElectroBoy and Ms Cait to see The Lion King ...long postponed and finally come to fruition, after the original tickets we payed for six months ago mysteriously never appeared *AHEM*

The Lion King was a great piece of work. It was a little patchy - certain sequences were literally breathtaking, while others just didn't quite gel. But overall it was quite exquisite - in particular the costume and make-up design which created the animals without removing or disguising the human actors. The main problem I had was that I wished I hadn't seen the film so many times (thankyou Ms Cait for watching it every weekend without fail for years!). I found myself knowing the dialogue off by heart, and unable not to compare the actors' delivery with that of the original film. Sometimes this wasn't a major issue, just a distraction. Other times (yes, posy pompous dude who played Scar and is certainly no Jeremy Irons, I'm looking at you) it created a frustrating comparison. For this reason I found myself most enjoying the parts of the show that deviated from the film, in particular when it took full advantage of the theatre environment, filling the whole auditorium and surrounding the audience, making me (and I know I wasn't alone) feel like a jaw-dropped wide-eyed child once more.

The rest of the weekend was spent drinking and playing movie trivia with my lovely ladies (during which I was AVENGED over Jelly, after my trouncing on Oscar Night), watching DVDs and listening to music, having a coffee with Mr Stephen, and generally keeping very unseemly hours. Despite not doing much besides watching Kes (wonderful and so sad) and Freaks (such a fascinating concept, such dated filmmaking) and Undertow (mmm Jamie Bell) and reading about the 14th Century, I seemed to find myself staying up all night, then sleeping all day... and of course the much-welcome end of Daylight Savi
ng only wreaked further biological-clock havock. Needless to say awaking at 6am on Tuesday (after a pleasant RDO Monday) was not pretty.

My one big achievement for the week has been writing a new song. I realise that completing one solitary piece of work is no real effort for a supposed creative person, but since it's the first song I've written in literally months, I was quite chuffed. I'm not sure exactly why I was suddenly inspired after all this time, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit it is in some part owing to the encouragement of a certain very talented person. Receiving praise from someone who not only appreciates what you're trying to do, but is a successful practitioner of the form themselves, is quite a powerful force it seems. You know who you are. Thanks.

In other news, a door has closed. Something which seemed to have lovely potential has sort of... fizzled out. But such is life. Better fizzling out than exploding and leaving everyone involved to nurse their shrapnel wounds. This feels like a positive step in the right direction. And hey, the world is full of potential, right?
Right?! Please tell me I'm right! Nah bugger it, I know I'm right. I'm in no mood to be pessimistic and defeatist. There is an antarctic blast gusting through the streets of my life and infusing every dark corner with fresh, crisp air. I get to wear my big black coat like a dear friend once more, it's dark in time for Neighbours as it should be, and munkey genuinely feels capable of conquering the world, for the first time in a long time.

*cue triumphal fanfare*