Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Ain't No 'Sunshine' (Coast)

Stand by for a whinge…

It has been clearly established that I hate Saturday nights. Whilst it seems to be almost everyone’s favourite portion of the week I am in the minority. This is particularly so when the football season finishes in five weeks time. There are several reasons for this.

I have the misfortune to live in an extremely boring location. The only worthwhile thing to do on the Sunshine Coast is to go see a movie. Even then decent movies are only played three months out of every year because the cultural peek of the Sunshine Coast is the latest Hollywood adaptation of a BBC mini series that aired a decade ago. Why is there nothing to do? First of all, you have to take transport to go anywhere. Second, this area is not exactly a beacon for culture. Basically the Sunshine Coast rivals the Rugby League World Cup for its concentration of the Anglo-Saxon populace (and even the RWC has a few Islanders sprinkled throughout). Consequently, there is no cultural diversity within one hundred kilometers of Brisbane. (Unless you like ‘Asian’ food which I abhor). Readers might say that I am being overly cynical. ‘If you don’t like it, leave’ they might say. To which I can only respond ‘I wish’.

The more pressing disappointment is my constant failure to maintain a well rounded friendship group. If I were that lucky my Saturday Night would not consist of working on my thesis, which ironically seems to the most productive time of the week to do so. As I am on the other side of twenty and I feel like I hardly enjoyed my youth or had time to craft an identity besides my intellectual pursuits. If you asked me what constitutes ‘fun’ outside my computer and my television I could barely answer. It is not as if I am not trying hard.

Time is not on my side. I have lost all the people born in the same decade as me who even once resembled a friend, despite my best efforts. I wonder what I am doing wrong. I don’t deliberately push people away. Perhaps they can only handle my personality in small doses?

Quitting the ALP certainly won’t help matters in this regard.

I need to get out of here, quickly.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Letter To An Author

Dear Marieke,

We conversed a few short sentences via Twitter as I unashamedly promoted your new book last week. I just read the book in its entirety and I wanted to convey my admiration not only for the words you have written but for a few other things too. Apologies in advance if the words that follow are feverish in their praise. Probably the best way to describe the effect your writing has on me is with one short statement: you are my Bob Ellis. Having said that I’m not sure I will ever name a dog after you.

I followed RYWHM since its inception right through to its conclusion. I always loved your mix of humour and honesty within your writing (Yes Christopher Pyne is a wanker!). Since then I have read everything else you have written. Although the bits of your life that you choose to share through your writing are vastly different to mine I identify with you strongly. Not least because rather than regretting your mistakes, you seem to revel in them.

I could list several reasons why my praise should carry more weight that than the other admirers. I am not a writer by trade, but by hobby. I live a unique life relying upon a quick wit, a sharp intelligence that probably cuts far too many people than it should, and a seat with four wheels. What I like to do most is to share my outlook with the rest of the world. So it is only natural when people ask whom my favourite writer is that your name comes up.

I have been waiting for several years for your first book to be published. Then it finally arrived. I was half expecting it to be like a long awaited birthday present where the expectation of acquiring it far outmatched the prospect of its consumption. Thankfully, this was not the case. The book is the perfect embodiment of your writing: never forced, beautiful prose that is equal parts humourous and heartfelt. ‘The Bubble’ of which you refer to particularly resonated with me as you recalled hedonistic adventures and then turned the power of essay on a dime to explore what it means to transition between one phase of your life into another. It is a masterful piece of writing and it was everything I had come to expect from you and more.

Tangentially we share the employ of the National Broadcaster, but if ever I were lucky enough to travel or occupy the same circle as you, I would probably fawn over you an insane amount. At times I fantasized about being a contributing panelist on the FTBC, perhaps discussing the wonderful work of Bob. Alas, it will probably never happen. If you do however devise ‘A Men of Letters: The Crippled Edition feel free to contact me, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

With much appreciation and respect,

Todd

Friday, 26 August 2011

'I'm Not Skeptical....You Just Need A Minor Miracle'

A few quick notes on the ALP Central Policy Forum I attended on the NDIS last night in Brisbane.

The main speaker was the self serving, clueless and arrogant David Barbagallo, CEO of Endeavour Queensland. He gave an almost identical presentation to the one I saw earlier this year, which was once again heavy on theoretical frameworks and economics, but yet again did not highlight any practical policy solutions.

So as of course is my custom I questioned him thoroughly: My concerns included, but were not limited to:
  1. ‘The NDIS is full of garbage.’
  2. If there actually were a scheme, the government is not actually doing anything about it. All they said is 'we agree with the report' That's like saying 'we know there is pollution, but we're not doing anything about it because it costs too much.' Can you imagine the Greens if that happened? And yet everyone is celebrating because the Government finally decided that disability services is under funded and under resourced. Tell me something I don't know!
  3. There's not a clearly defined criteria of who's eligible. Should ADD be included? Or those with genetic heart conditions who are not classified as 'disabled' but require lifelong medical care? It does not say. Nor does it say who determines eligibility.
  4. The process for acquiring funding (the one I'm going through now to try and move to Brisbane) does not change. Its the same process with a different name under a different body. All that changes is the funds are supposedly 'transferrable'. And yet Federal funding is handed to the States like it is now. So the process of 'transferring' funds is left unexplained.
  5. Disability Services need to be nationalized, as I explained in my submission to the Productivity Commission.
  6. I'm most concerned about the role of service provider organisations who are pushing this so hard, but are ignoring all of the above. If the report is any indication there are so many loopholes they can exploit, hence their excitement.
  7. This is because the report is so lax about the actual implementation of the scheme that there are no actual definitive guidelines on how its meant to be done. Sure the government has referred it to committee members (not one of whom has a disability) but there is no terms of reference to make these motherhood statements a reality. If it does take 7 years that is fine. But how was this time line established? Are their intermediate targets?
Of course none of my concerns were addressed directly. Instead there were accusations that I was some sort of policy zealot who wishes to rush the policy process (I don’t). Additionally, my concerns that all this information has been addressed before, with no policy ever coming to fruition were met with more skepticism. ‘This is the first time we’ve had a Productivity Commission Inquiry. Whoopdie fucking do!

The Queensland Minister for Disability Services, Curtis Pitt was equally hopeless. I’m sure he had a sore posterior because there appeared to be splinters on it from sitting on the fence for the whole night.

After the formal meeting was over David came up to me and chatted in his customary condescending tone. ‘It’s healthy to have skepticism’ to which I replied ‘I don’t have skepticism because I know that this policy will not work. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it ever does.’

It will take several miracles, a good kick up the arse, and several more looks of derision and scorn directed my way by the Queensland Co-ordinator of the utterly hapless Every Australian Counts before that happens.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Thirteen Days

The story of my past fortnight is complicated.

A package arrives. It contains pieces I left behind. Literally. And a note. The tone of this note is distant, deliberately so. It dares me to respond. Trying to push my buttons. And it does. Every. Single. Button. This note is everything I’m not. Impassive. I crumble for days. Searching for an ending that will never come, I realise (but for two loose ends) the conclusion has come. I again note that I’m not the screenwriter of this tragic coming of age story. Nor am I its editor. The final reel is running through the projector, the music is swelling. The credits are about to roll. Fade to black. Exit stage right. But wait… 

Logic and emotion are antithetical.

Thirteen days later the plot is retold. It feels like I’ve done this a thousand times. But it has only been three. This is the first time I have gone through the process without being caught up in it. Without knowing what the audience’s response will be. I’m taking a risk, but this is more comfortable than the previous occasions.

‘I get it.’ There is a knowing smile.

There was no hug. No audible gasp.

‘Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance’
'You have to keep trying.’

This is the first time that I feel like I can recover.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Stocktake

As an obsessive commemorator of personal history, I have pondered for several months how I would remember the third weekend in August 2010. This time last year the Gillard Government squeaked into office on the back of the worst ALP campaign in living memory. For the first time since becoming an ALP member in 2002 I didn’t volunteer at a polling booth on the day of a State or Federal Election. I was having much more fun. I was at the apex of my life.

That weekend was part of an awakening of sorts. The first time I felt truly comfortable with myself and in control of my life. The first time I felt whole like my search to discover who and what I was had finally ended. I knew where I was headed, where I wanted to go and who I wanted to go with.

I was wrong. So wrong.

I then developed the bends because I dived so deep and so fast. It was gradual at first, as control was slowly slipping away from me and then my ears popped. I descended screaming to the bottom dragging myself and the people around me to the bottom.

I look objectively at what I’ve achieved in the past twelve months and developed an inventory.
  1. I lost several litres of tears.
  2. I have not moved anywhere (yet) despite two attempts.
  3. I have lost so many friends because they cannot deal with the honest response to ‘How are you feeling?' (The answer 90% of the time is ‘absolutely shit’)
  4. I realise that I continually underestimate the few people I can truly count on of whom number in the single digits
  5. I realised that I am person who needs to find a partner, not to obsess over, but to be a well rounded person
  6. I have concluded that no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I need to try and meet new people.
  7. I can no longer count on former bedrocks to guide my way of thinking.
  8. I need to forgive myself for my mistakes.
  9. I need to channel my pain into positive things.
  10. I have learnt that life is full of continual disappointments so I have to hold onto my few joyous moments.
  11. I am not a happy person.
  12. That I am an intense person. I should be who I am.
  13. That I will have to fight to flourish in life. Nothing is easy and I'm entitled to nothing without working for it.
  14. That I deserve everything I get because of the effort I put in or lack thereof. Both the good and bad things.

Most of all I have to acknowledge:

That I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or what the future holds
 

That it is okay for me to be angry, depressed, sad and yet to be able to love at the same time

I have changed. I won’t be able to forget. That is the way it should be

Monday, 15 August 2011

If I Was on QandA...

Wonders if I should be the next crip to take on Q&A?

If I was on tonight here’s what I'd say

'Ban the NDIS':
Bourke: You are nothing but a NSW right numbers man with no skill:
Malcolm
: I think you should challenge Rabbit:
Lachlan: Let's work together to get KRudd back in the Lodge:
Jackie
: Can I barrow your folding machine? I'd like to make pamphelets on the cheap:
Other Lady: I don't have anything to say to you, but thanks for being the OTHER token guest!

Guaranteed ratings winner!!

Who am I kidding? They'll probably go for Carl Thompson 

GOOD LUCK STELLA!

The Last Cultural Taboo: A Wheelchair?

With my RampUp colleague and Editor Stella Young appearing on Q&A tonight, it brought something to my attention. When was the last time we saw a positive and intelligent representation of someone who has acquired a disability from birth on television?

‘Hang on’ you say. What about Glee? Well the guy in the wheelchair is actually able bodied and the girl with Down’s Syndrome is played like a dumb henchwoman with the nuance equivalent of a flying monkey in the Wizard of Oz. There is Walter Jr on Breaking Bad, who has Cerebral Palsy, but viewers are lucky if they hear four lines from him every episode. There have been a few rare examples of crips on reality TV. Crucially though none of those ever sat in a wheelchair.

If pop culture is meant to represent a mirror into society, why does this gap exist? There has been outcry of a lack of racial diversity in Australian soap operas. Fair point, but have you noticed that none of the houses on Ramsey Street are wheelchair accessible? You may think I’m being silly, but if there are no houses that are wheelchair accessible, there is even less of a chance that a teenybopper could invite her agility challenged friend over for a makeout session at the bottom of the caul-de-sac.

If stats are accurate one in twenty members of this country are classified as disabled. Nowhere near that number are represented on television. When I asked on Twitter which people who sat in wheelchairs my followers most admired, none of those mentioned acquired their disability at birth. Mention a famous person who sits in a wheelchair and responses can range from a pornographer to an arrogant self obsessed wheelchair athlete who uses his notoriety to be a poor little martyr. The latter I particularly find appaling.

So I ask society, when are the crips going to get their cultural dues?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Soul Music For Separation: Marvin's Anger & Genius

On Tuesday night I watched a truly fascinating documentary on the life and work of Marvin Gaye. Like most music buffs, I knew about his Motown glory period, his fabulous duets with Tammi Terrell, the political power of What’s Going On and that he was tragically shot to death by his own father in 1984. What I did not know was the scale of his musical genius and how an album that I had never heard of previously had the power to speak to me and address some of my most painful inner conflict. That album is 1978’s Here, My Dear. PopMatters explains the context behind the album’s conception:

In 1976, Gaye and his then-wife Anna Gordy (the sister of Motown founder and CEO Berry) decided to split after a twelve year marriage. As part of the divorce settlement, the soul singer was ordered to give a portion of the advance money and royalties from this album to his ex-wife. Feeling a bit burned by the whole ordeal, Gaye went on to put his frustrations and anger into one of the most painfully intimate song cycles in musical history and then release it to the public. Think of it as an open letter to Anna—one that would be read (or heard, as it were) by Marvin’s entire fan base.
In essence Here, My Dear is a public and cathartic kiss off. It is the height of self indulgence, and yet entirely empathetic for every person that has ever been hurt by love. This is especially true of my favourite song of the album When Did You Stop Loving Me? When Did I Stop Loving You? which combines all the range of emotions through the stages of an emotional break up: anger, sadness, bitterness, regret, judgment and feeling desperate to recapture the good times: all in just over six minutes. It is possibly the most realistic breakup ever recorded.


Musically the album retains the high standards Gaye set in the early '70s, but you can hear the agonizing strain of recent events in his voice, to the point where even several vocal overdubs can't save his delivery. Stripped to its bare essence, Here, My Dear is no less than brilliantly unsettling and a perfect cauterization to a decade filled with personal turmoil.
And yet despite the album’s genius it was considered a commercial flop upon its release.
Nothing on Here, My Dear is particularly radio friendly (probably one of the reasons Motown had trouble promoting this record), but despite that—or maybe even because of it—it’s a totally engrossing listen. From the call-and-response (gospel-style) of the swaying I Met a Little Girl (on which Marvin somewhat randomly shouts out “1964!” and “1976!”—the years the couple met and split, respectively—sounding like a funky carnival barker) to the shuffling dance groove of the foreboding You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You to the sarcastic title track, it’s all top-shelf stuff. Not to mention the fact that the band he assembled for the album is on fire throughout. Was there any soul album released in the 1970s that didn’t have superior musicianship?
Despite these winning qualities Here, My Dear has almost no resemblance to a traditional Motown album of the 1970s. Noted music critic for the Village Voice Robert Christgau crystallises these contradictions when reviewing the album upon its release.
Seventy minutes of pop music with nary a melody line almost qualifies as a tour de force, and the third side barely escapes the turntable at all. Yet this is a fascinating, playable album. Its confessional ranges from naked poetry ("Somebody tell me please/Why do I have to pay attorney fees?" is a modernist trope that ranks with any of Elvis Costello's) to rank jive, because Gaye's self-involvement is so open and unmediated, guileless even at its most insincere, it retains unusual documentary charm. And within the sweet, quiet, seductive, and slightly boring mood Gaye is at such pains to realize, his rhythmic undulations and whisper-to-a-scream timbral shifts can engross the mind, the body, and above all the ear. Definitely a weird one. B+
The hallmark of the album continues to be the combination of Gaye’s musical arrangements and his honest, emotional and confrontational songwriting.
The emotions explored on this album: while it certainly has its share of bitterness and spitefulness, there are also moments of dry humor, as well as a certain warmth. Obviously, there’s still some love involved if Marvin & Anna were together for 12 years. From a musical standpoint, this album is largely midtempo funk, with elements of traditional soul, gospel, and doo-wop mixed together with a slight hint of disco (after all, this was the late ‘70s). In other words, it’s musically similar to any of Marvin’s albums during his stellar run during the ‘70s.

Along the way, Marvin complains about everything from not being allowed to see his son (on the title track) to having to pay his ex-wife alimony (on the darkly humorous Is That Enough, where he whines “What was I supposed to do? / The judge says that she’s got to live the way she’s accustomed to!”)  Not to say that Marvin was only taking his frustrations out on his ex. Songs like Anger and Time to Get It Together find the singer looking inward, facing the knowledge that he has to do some work on himself before he can move forward with his life.
Here, My Dear represents what all great albums should do. They should be passionate, honest and infectious. Anyone who knows what it is like to experience the pain of separation should experience this magnificent album.
As albums become less and less concept-oriented over time, albums like Here, My Dear stick out even more. It was obviously made in the spirit of true artistic expression and not to reach the masses via a catchy hit single. It’s definitely not an easy listen—you will have to pay attention if you want to enjoy it—but it might just be the second-best Marvin Gaye of all time (and from What’s Going On until his death, he didn’t record a bad one). If you’re a fan of soul music, a fan of Marvin Gaye, or even if you’re going through a divorce yourself and need something to relate to, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Here, My Dear—an album whose appreciation finally seems to be catching up to it’s quality.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The End Is Just The Beginning...

Today the Gillard Government announced that they will adopt an NDIS. The parameters have yet to be established but based on today’s press conference it seems Gillard and Secretary McLucas have been busy photocoyping the draft report into the NDIS for 6 months and little else. The usual suspects are advising and running the show. I have never been so hurt, (yes, hurt) angry and disappointed.

Here's a copy of the final report.

I feel absolutely devastated. I do not feel part of the able bodied community or the so called 'disability community'. Neither group represents my interests. I have not felt so disengaged in my entire life.

Today is the first step in advocating for the abolition of a NDIS and drafting a new and better solution. I don't care if it takes my whole life. From here on out I belong to no group relating to disability. It is just me against the political establishment.  I am yet to decide if I will continue with the ALP, at this stage it looks doubtful.

Turns out those people in my undergraduate days were right: I am a radical. That once upon a time, would have filled me with pride. Instead it is substituted with pain.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Burned

On the eighth day of the eighth month of the worst year of my life unending amounts of salt are poured on my gaping wound that continues to bleed. My life’s work got pissed on today.

I’m contemplating doing the unthinkable. For the first time in 9 years I'm going through an ideological crisis. A party that dumps Rudd and Rann, the two politicians I identify with most ideologically and politically, and (more importantly) a party which supports a National Disability Insurance Scheme is a party in which I question my membership. My party no longer belongs to me, nor does my belief that supporting a major party helps to achieve slow and gradual change. I have advocated to abolish the NDIS loud and long for the entire year and yet my concerns have fallen on deaf and unwilling ears to those who can change the policy's outcome.

The main reason I joined the ALP was to change the disability sector. I am disgusted that the Government is blindly following such ridiculous recommendations from the Productivity Commission's report. The government does this without considering the impact that this disgraceful policy will have on my life, for the rest of my life. You can add a million other people with disabilities with a variety of impairments whom none of us know to that list too.

I have decided therefore to take a leave of absence from the party until I figure out what I want from my political life, because this is not it. In the meantime I will continue to lobby both the State and Federal Government to have the NDIS in its current form overturned. Party colleagues have advised me to stay the course and I probably will, but I won’t be so generous with my time, resources and devotion ever again If I decide to continue within the Party.

The ‘Light on the Hill’ has given me an electric shock today and I have been burned.

Utter Failure

After today's article all but saying that the Government is going to adopt the majority of the Productivity Commission's recommendations for an NDIS, total despair and helplessness has set in. It was expected, but it doesn't make things easier.

To those who thought I only opposed the NDIS to be controversial: you are dead wrong. Quite frankly the arguments that have questioned my motives in this whole debate are far more offensive than an abject policy. I would give up my entire 'career' (If indeed you can call half a dozen articles, a half finished PhD and a blog with 50 reads per entry a 'career') for a policy that will give me the support system I need. Thanks to those who thought I was negative for the sake of it and not a dissenter that used all of the skills I have at my disposal to fight for the cause of my life, thank you  My ego is of course far more important than my ENTIRE way of life.

Congratulations also to those who advocated for an NDIS, you got what YOU wanted. Ask for a dodgy system and that is what you get. Unfortunately I am burdened with it now too, thanks so much. I am sure I'll be thanking you for the rest of my life.

This announcement will force me to revaluate my political ideologies and thought processes. Fighting for my life and losing the war just adds to a year of continual disappointment. As usual though, you have not heard the last of me on this.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Right Person

Perhaps surprisingly there has been more reaction to my piece on online dating than anything else I have written. For the first time I have received personal emails from people who have shared similar experiences due to their disability. Without fail they all look upon online dating as a negative experience. They deride participants as superficial and shallow, and perhaps ironically don’t consider themselves to be, whereas I myself completely ignored people I found to be unattractive (Don’t be surprised, please). My experience with online dating seems to have statistically supported this conclusion. After contacting around 25 people whom I thought appeared interesting only one person responded. Significantly this person works in the disability sector and knows what having Cerebral Palsy actually means. Not surprisingly no one has contacted first.

It is strange when these sort of facts are brought out so plainly. I have contradictory reactions. On one level I’m not particularly bothered because human nature has already weeded out the dickheads and pretenders. On another level it frustrates me beyond belief because I’m at the point where I want to have two different kinds of relationships. Sure I want the deep and long lasting relationship where I meet someone special that I can have a long term relationship with. But I also want to have the occasional superficial one too that everyone else but me seems to have experienced. Consequently every time an even moderately attractive female is just the slightest bit friendly there is this automatic pressure to ‘make it count’. My next opportunity might well be years away. That and I can never tell whether a girl is actually flirting with me, just being nice or showing empathetic pity.

This past year, and in particular the past eight months have proven to me how rare any form of deep relationship is, friendly or otherwise. So when I was asked yesterday where I wanted to be in five years time, for the first time it had nothing to do with career goals.

I just want to be with the right person.   

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Curbing Injustice

My frustration continues to mount with what I see as great injustices. Personally, professionally, and bureaucratically things once again seem to be out of my control.

Thankfully the world has inspiring moments and encourages one to challenge conventional wisdom. So rise up, become insurgents, get pissed off at the world and change it. Knock over people in your way and never apologise for it.

Mr Olbermann, I salute you