Tuesday, March 24, 2015

About possession

It's quite common these days for people to get confused over the apostrophe in possessive constructions. I've worked with style guides, written by professional editors, that insist that "girls school" is correct in English. The notion is that it is an attributive construction, similar to "dog bowl" or "fish fry", in which the type of thing is specified by another noun.

This is incorrect though and can easily be demonstrated. Do this if you're confused or don't know whether to use an apostrophe. Simply replace the word in question with "men" or "men's".

If you would write "men school", you are illiterate. You must write "men's school". So you must also write "girls' school".

The difference between the two is not immediately clear. This is because English nouns can refer to either a particular thing or group of things, or to a class of things. So "man" can mean "that man there" or it can mean "the thing in the world that is called a man". Contrast "a man thing", which is a thing to do with men, with "a man's thing", which is usually a thing belonging to a particular man (although one can of course say "a man's thing" with the first meaning also). And it's not that the generic thing must be in the singular. We can say "dogs bark" and we mean the class of things called dogs, not particular dogs. But generally in attributive constructions, one does use the singular: "dog bowl" not "dogs bowl", "life cycle" not "lives cycle", "drug paraphernalia" not "drugs paraphernalia", "kitchen hand" not "kitchens hand".

So I think you could motivate "girl school" or "boy school", although neither is good English. But "girls school" is simply incorrect. Don't write it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Even flow

I wish I could tell you how beautiful an open road late at night can be but sometimes you run dry and there are no words, just a feeling you cannot convey, although it lingers, wordless.

I wish I could tell you how lovely the hazy lights are, the gentle, welcoming glow leading you home.

I cannot tell you anything.


I get rejected a lot. It's a natural outcome of the desire to be beloved being greater than how loveable you are. Not that I'm not loveable but people love the image they create themselves, not the person, and all the person can do is fail.

I get bruised but before the bruises have even faded, I am ready to be bruised all over again. The bruisings never seem to me to be connected. I just let it flow, each in its place.

Sometimes I think I consist in nothing, just an empty space, at best a jumble of concepts and memories that amount to nothing. Sometimes I think I am filled with inspiration and love and have so much to offer, you are lucky I want to offer it to you.

Sometimes I don't think anything at all and get washed by the stream, delirious in the tumbling of my soul in the flow of whatever it is that's happening to me. Sometimes I don't try to make sense of anything and sometimes I break it down to a succession of points.


Sometimes I think I can soar. The trees are beautiful in the late-summer day. The sky is aching blue and the warmth is visible beyond the aircon. Sometimes, just for a few moments, I feel glad to be where I am.

I have dark hours. I sometimes glimpse an oblivion so deep and pure that it sets off an agony that leaves me gasping for air. But sometimes a burst of colour wipes it away and I think that this is how the bird feels as it takes wing, as the salmon feels as it leaves the water.

Sometimes there is no one to be but yourself.


I will always think the best of you. It takes a lot for that to change. I think it is the best thing about me. I don't know whether you agree. People mystify me. There must be reasons they want me to exist but they rarely tell me. They seem not to realise that we all need to be nailed in place sometimes.

I will never stop loving you now I have loved you. And even if I did, there it is, there are the moments, the kisses, the caresses, the urgings, the bleatings, the madness, there they are, little points of light in a universe so still it seems to us it has a flow from one to the next, a deep rolling, but never moves, never changes, has always been and always will be, and so love never dies, no matter what you do.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

50 Shades of YHBT

So I recently read 50 Shades of Grey. I had heard it was terrible but you want to find out for yourself just how terrible things are. And I was delighted to find that far from being terrible, 50SOG is a work of genius.

Wait what? I hear you say. Isn't it one of the worst-written piles of nonsense ever foisted on the reading public and aren't you supposed to be a good judge?

Indeed but here's the thing. If you are reading 50SOG as a serious attempt at literature that falls flat, you are doing it wrong. It is in fact a stunning parody. The writer has run a huge troll on the reading public and has coined it in doing so.

It takes the romantic novel trope of the ingenue who is swept off her feet by the hard man, unleashing the romantic side he has up to now been hiding because he's afraid of being taken for a ponce, and ramps it up to 11. The ingenue is ridiculously disingenuous: she is not just clueless about men to the extent that she doesn't worry about the dude's stalking her, raping her and assaulting her; she is clueless about everything. But it turns out this shy virgin has no gag reflex and is an expert knobgobbler.

Yes, people, she is a dream woman. She doesn't need to be shown how to be great at sex, she just is. She is totally passive. The dude tells her not to touch him and instead of laughing full in his face, she does what she's told. Upon being shown a list of kinks, she's slightly alarmed by butt plugs. Slightly alarmed! Lady, you had your first fuck on Sunday and now it's Thursday and you're wondering whether you would or wouldn't like a chunk of plastic up your arse (hint: you wouldn't; protip, begin with a finger and see if you like it).

Now where can I meet women like this, I want to know? Well, nowhere, and that's the point. And even if I could, I'd need to be a helicopter-flying, hard-charging bazillionaire to get in her lacey knicks.

What I do know is that EL James is very aware that romance novels are inherently patriarchal. They sell women a myth that they should be what men want and what men want is passive women with no discernible qualities except a willingness to suck us off on demand. Or so I'm told. Contrast with the romcom, which takes the approach that the hard man will really like you if you're a complete bitch, so long as you're pretty. Oh wait, that isn't a contrast at all and it's no surprise that romcoms are so often written by men.

James does leave clues. My favourite was the sentence that went something like this: "Oh Mr Grey, you are naughty fellow!" she said with an exclamatory tone.

Yes, she thinks you're an idiot. She thinks you could not figure out that Ana had an exclamatory tone from the, erm, exclamation mark she deployed but needed it further explained. But get in on the joke. Obviously, James does not think you are an idiot. She is parodying the by-the-numbers awful writing that is foisted on you in romance novels.

Perhaps the best part of this work of staggering genius is the dark secret. The romantic novel hard man has to have a secret, obviously, because underneath the abusive rapist is the lovely bloke all women believe is hidden by the exterior arsehole. Come on, you do. Why else did you spend so many years of your life trying to change men who shit on you (literally if they could get away with it)? See, men aren't fooled by other men. If a dude seems to be a wanker, he's a wanker. He doesn't have hidden depths. He really is the bastard he seems to be. We don't do complexity. We wear ourselves like coats.

So anyway we're not totally sure what the details of Grey's secret are yet (I'm guessing you have to read all three books to find out) but we know it involves cigarette burns and a crack whore mother. But of course. He would be lovely if he hadn't been abused. Again, this is a myth men like to propagate. We'd be completely well adjusted and lovely if it wasn't for our mothers and other assorted women who have treated us like shit. Well, sometimes women treat us like shit, but we're arseholes because we're arseholes and we're fooling no one.

Except for those poor souls trolled by 50SOG.

Friday, March 06, 2015

About Looney

A lifetime ago, I used to troll on Usenet. If you don't know what that is, it was a cesspit where fools would daily parade their folly and nasty shits like me would get their kicks by pointing it out to them. Great fun would be had by all.

One particular fool used the screenname Looney. He was a typical American evangelical Christian: rightwing, dumb and opinionated without anything to back his opinions up. So we had a nice joust from time to time.

But a curious thing happened to Looney. He woke the fuck up. Now, most of us never wake the fuck up. we plough the same sterile furrows year after year, learn nothing, grow not at all. But Looney rethought everything he knew. I can't recall what began him on that journey but watching the journey has been incredible. It's like he ripped the blinkers off.

So we became what passes for friends on the internet.

A few years ago, on a brief trip to the States, I met up with Looney in LA. We travelled together up to San Francisco and to his home in King City. I had been a little nervous about turning virtual friends into real people -- me being me, I thought they would not like me in person. But I needn't have been. We got on like the proverbial house on fire.

I realised that in him I had found something rare: a truly good man. Not just because he had adjusted his politics to something more palatable, nor because he had unshackled himself from religion. But because he exemplifies thoughtfulness, kindness and generosity, both materially and spiritually.

Sometimes I get mired in self-pity or self-scourging to the point of drowning in it but one thing has often brought me out of that and back to safer waters: that a deeply decent and genuine man like Looney will have me as a friend. Is it too much to say I sometimes feel his arm around my shoulder? I don't think it is.

When my faith in humankind is running low, when I feel like I am smothered in assholes, when I feel like the shit is neck high, I remind myself, there are good people, I know it for sure. I will never drown while he is my friend. Thanks Looney for giving me that feeling.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

She is mine

I have been reading through some of the things I wrote about Zenella as she grew up. I feel so guilty about how much B hurt her. I have found it very hard to forgive myself. But Zenella seems happier now and has started to warm towards me a little bit. I hope she will grow to love me and forgive me for my selfishness and weakness.

I still feel exactly this way about her:
But she was beautiful in her new school uniform, smiling in the sun. I forget to fear for her, to worry about what a school will do to her lively mind, about finding friends, about bullying, about everything, because all I can think is she is mine, she is mine, she is mine, and she always will be my golden child, beautiful in her new school uniform, smiling in the sun.
 Sometimes I worry about how she will judge me, whether she will when she looks back think I was a good dad, a good man. But you cannot worry about that, not really, because there is only one thing you can do to affect that judgement.  I can only love her as best as I am able, be as good a man as I can, and allow her to love or despise my memory as she will.

I try. Some days I think it is enough to do the best you can within your limits; others I despair at those limits. But we are made how we are and surely, surely, so long as we proceed from love as much as we can, surely that is enough?


When I see her, my lovely emo teen, my beautiful complex girl, my heart sings the same song, it will always sing it: she is mine, she is mine, she is mine.

Monday, March 02, 2015

A life full of love... oh wait...

When I entered adulthood, 30 years ago, I was a big-R Romantic. I believed in love, that I would find it and it would be wonderful.

So how did it go?

Here are the women I've loved. I'm leaving out the fleeting stuff that we more or less all accumulate. Just the decently established ones.

1. A girl who thought she was too good for me and lied to me about our future, leaving me without any future at all. Long story, you don't want to know.
2. A woman who dumped me so she could get a better flat on campus. She also, I strongly believe, had a termination without telling me. That hurt, not because I would have disagreed or tried to stop it but because she didn't even think it was worth bothering to tell me.
3. A woman who dumped me because she thought I lacked ambition and wasn't a Catholic.
4. A woman who when I needed support because I was suffering from crushing depression instead left me isolated and alone, refused to even touch me and when we split up, instead of doing the decent thing and moving to England where I could make a life, refused to leave her dad's home, chaining me to suburban Brisbane and a life of scrabbling for work that would never fulfil me and left me so scared that I will be unable to support my kids that I have to be exploited and humiliated by assholes the whole of my working life. She also took half my money, half the things I worked for while she refused to get a job to lessen some of the stress on me as I struggled in a marginal work environment as a freelance, and my car.
5. A woman who I still don't really understand what her fucking problem was but invented a fake phantom pregnancy to manipulate me.
6. A woman whose only purpose for being in a relationship was to take from me and to make me suffer for whatever she gave, who destroyed my sexual confidence because I couldn't fuck her like a 25yo but never once -- NOT ONCE -- asked me what I would like because she didn't care, who hated my kids, appalled everyone she met and when we finally split, extorted money from me by playing on my insecurities and manipulating a mundane truth into something so ugly and baroque that I started to believe I am in fact the huge asshole she made me out to be. Oh, she also threatened to kill me more than once, which was nice.

So all in all, these days I feel grateful that I still have my sanity, my balls and my life, such as it is.

And I still turn up! I am still the same wide-eyed Romantic I was back then. I still believe in love just as much as I did when I was 18. I still hope number 7 will be "the one".

And I look back at that and think, oh it's me.