Sunday, 22 December 2013

Further Notes on 2013

As discussed in previous posts, 2013 has probably been my favourite and best year to date. Despite this a few key things have disappointed me. Unfortunately life can never be perfect.

Aside from the steady progress on my thesis, this year has been a dreadful one for my profession. The 2013 Federal Election was the worst in my time involved with politics. Two castrated major political parties, led by two uninspiring leaders fought a campaign devoid of policy discussion. It is no wonder voters chose the worst of two very bad options. At least I got my first two writing gigs as a political scientist out of it.

The area that best encapsulated the political failures of 2013 more than any other was the disability sector (again). Predictably, the majority of stakeholders are still holding on to their 'magic beans', otherwise known as the NDIS. This was demonstrated in an article published on RampUp this past Friday attacking Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey for saying that there may be cut backs to the scheme to make it more efficient. As I argued in my (yet to be published) comment to the piece:

While a properly instituted scheme would of course increase productivity, the current model as proposed by the political community just doesn't get the job done. On this score, Hockey, Cormann and Abbott are absolutely correct. And they knew this from the beginning of 2011 (as I did). Back then, I predicted in various forums that this argument would come out eventually.

It was suggested that I was being negative for the sake of it as well as trying to build my reputation on the back of my (correct) stance. The rhetoric on display here demonstrates that no one, not the government, the opposition, nor the feeble
Every Australian Counts has the slightest clue on how to develop an equitable cost effective disability policy that serves the interests of all parties.

There are numerous critics of the NDIS who saw this all coming, have expertise in developing policy and actually know what they're talking about. These people, myself included, were dismissed as radicals and zealots. Maybe now those voices can be heard. The best thing the Government can do now is scrap the whole model in the name of 'fiscal restraint', start again and get the formulation of a new policy right this time.
It staggers me that supporters of the scheme trot out the same ineffective arguments time and again, which argue the wrong points from the wrong perspectives. At this rate, 2014 is looking to be more politically disastrous than this year.

Speaking of disastrous, that is certainly one way to describe my attempts at dating this year. Or rather my failure to generate any interest at all, particularly after a shocking start. Personally, this is perhaps the year's greatest disappointment.

However, for every tragedy, there has been a triumph, which is more than I can say for the previous few years. The biggest triumph is however yet to come. At the end of next year my single greatest achievement will be complete.

Now that will be something to celebrate.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

2013: The Year of Living Properly.

December 27th marks my first full year of true independence, something that was 29 years in the making. As I’ve often discussed, people told me constantly through my childhood that this year would come; I never truly believed it would happen. To me the dream always remained a distant hope, one in which I was not confident in taking. I did not think I could cope on my own without the distant gaze of parental supervision, the ever-reliable cushion that had helped me survive.

2013 was not only the year I proved myself wrong, it was The Year of Living Properly.

One with the necessary help, I have lived the way I have always wanted to. Life for me is not easy with each day providing more challenges than the last. This is why I must give credit to Wesley Mission Brisbane, the real unsung hero of the operation. Though I do a lot of volunteer work for Youngcare, and they get most of the media attention, Wesley Mission are responsible for funding the services, and the salaries of the carers, which comprise more than 30 staff members. They all come from a number of backgrounds, from the young to the experienced. Though their origins may be varied, all of the staff are of the highest quality, without exception (It helps that I have had the final say in recruiting them since I became chairman of the Residents’ Committee in August). Staff often receive huge amounts of unjustified criticism from many Residents, as they perform thankless tasks that we all take for granted.  However, I could not have achieved anything this past year without their help.

For the first time in recent memory I am on top of my PhD thesis, which is due for completion at the end of 2014. Currently, I only have one more chapter to write (an extended examination of Kevin Rudd), mostly because I have been able to consult with my two supervisors on a more regular basis and have had more frequent access to much needed resources.

Most importantly, 2013 has been a year of fun. Though I had been able to attend both the Brisbane Writer’s and Film Festivals in the past, I attended almost triple the number of events this year now that I am a fully fledged Brisbanite. In April, the undoubted highlight was being able to meet Tegan and Sara, my musical heroes. This was only the peak of many concerts I attended, which included a diverse range of artists such as Taylor Swift, Julie Andrews, City and Colour and Mandy Patinkin. I have even managed to catch some live theatre too. On average I have been going to the cinema once a fortnight. It is a simple pleasure I cherish every time I go.

The biggest lesson I have learnt this year is that 2013 is only the beginning. I can do what I want, where I want, how I want without having to justify myself to anyone. It has made the terribly traumatic journey of the previous two years worthwhile.

I made it through the darkness and I’m genuinely happy for the first time in literal decades.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Top 7 Films of 2013

As is my custom I've been ranking my favourite movies of the year since I saw my first one of 2013.

Tonight the Australian TV Show At The Movies began its best of 2013 movie poll. I've added two more films that I saw at the Brisbane Film Festival In November that have yet to be released in Australia and are thus ineligible for this poll.

So in reverse order:
7. The Spectacular Now
6. Stories We Tell
5. This House (National Theatre Live)
4. Frances Ha
3. Slience in the House of God: Mea Maxima Culpa
2. Blue is the Warmest Colour
1. Foxfire

Be sure to follow me on my Twitter feed in 2014, as I will attempt to review every film I see next year in 140 characters with a letter grade from A+ to F

Sunday, 8 December 2013

(She Knows Me) All Too Well: Why I Am A Taylor Swift Apologist

Perhaps the most fitting way to end a year of highlights occurred last night when I finally got to see the wonderful Taylor Swift in concert. When I wrote here about discovering her a few years back it was met by faint echoes of derison. 'She writes for 12 year old girls' some said. Those voices grew louder as the years progressed, particularly as she became a walking tabloid headline due to high profile romantic missteps. Granted, her confessional songwriting style isn't for everyone. After all its not cool to like pop anymore (unless you're a fifteen year old Kiwi who claims to be 'original' but is in fact highly derivative). Though last night the median age of spectators at Suncorp Stadium was young enough to be my daughter, I am a Taylor Swift apologist of the highest order, a huge fan, and she is probably my second favourite artist behind the irreplacible Tegan and Sara.

To me, Taylor Swift is the greatest romantic poet of her generation. Notice how I didn't bother saying the words 'musician' or 'songwriter'? While there are some great musical arrangements on the majority of songs, such notions are purely subjective. Her skills as a writer of romantic prose are however beyond doubt.

The qualities that set Taylor apart from her contemporaries in this genre, most of whom I am ambivalent about, remain her trademark contradictory assets: the ability to make the universal seem personal and the personal seem universal. To her the song may be about Jake Gyllenhaal, but when I'm listening to it, that point is irrelevent. It is about me.

The song that best demonstrates this is All Too Well off of her latest album Red. The song heightens these qualities to great affect, and invites listeners to interpret the story in their own mind. I know each time I do, the same story from my past comes up in my mind, particularly because of a series of lyrics in the middle of the song:

And I know it's long gone
And there was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough
To forget why I needed to...

'Cause there we are again in the middle of the night.
We dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well, yeah.

Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much,

But maybe this thing was a masterpiece 'til you tore it all up?
Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well.

And you call me up again just to break me like a promise.
So casually cruel in the name of being honest.
I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
'Cause I remember it all, all, all... too well.

Superficially these lyrics may seem simple, but behind that first look lies an unmatched specificity and a simile that is particularly devastating: You call me up again just to break me like a promise. So casually cruel in the name of being honest.

This resonates because we have all been here, but have never been able to express such emotions as eloquently. The 12 year old girls going to their first concert, the 30 year old cripple who has been desperately unlucky in love, and the group of 50 year old women cheering to my left for two straight hours have all felt like a crumpled up piece of paper in their darkest moments.

Taylor knows this too, prolouging the set at the beginning of the night by declaring that the audience were going to hear two hours of love songs. You were either one of the 40,000 who attended last night and bought into that entirely, or you dismiss her as another teen pop starlet at your peril. You may not like the romance, but I revelled in her poetry. Despite the million dollar set up, the cherography, the dancers, and the fireworks I could have (and wanted to) listened to her for another two hours just to hear more stories of how I gave my heart away, how it was restored, and then how I gave it away again.