The plug.

On this occasion, O Hallowed Readers, unfortunately there will be no rant/passive aggressive dissection of crazy things in our crazy world. Instead, as a blogger, (albeit how neglectful I’ve been recently… let’s blame uni) I’m going to play to the stereotype of blogging as self-indulgence by giving my first published piece a plug. Yes, I know, small victory. But futility aside as today’s theme, I suppose a start’s a start.

hey, a start's a start

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TwentyOne Is It

I’d always thought that the Year of 21sts was going to be something to look forward to. Something nice, nostalgic– an easy, more adult way to fondly, almost-participate in circles perhaps operating past their expiry date through the beautiful rose-coloured teint provided by the free alcohol and yummy finger food. Like 18ths, in all their cruiser/highschool technicolour glory– except this time, what we’re drinking is a little harder.

While indeed, there is a pleasing lack of chronic alcopop consumption, degrees of caution exerted in the maintenance of social face is dissapointingly familiar.

Sure, at your 21st you want to invite people from your past- distant and recent- because they WERE the people that WERE there for you at various stages of your life. The thing is though, at 21 the only real groups you’ve shifted between are (generally speaking,) high school, and life after high school. Seeing people from your just-recent-but-not-far-enough-recent-for-it-to-be-a-big-deal-past and making chitter chat with them can be a bit of an effort.

Don’t get me wrong, in alot of cases seeing familiar friendly faces is lovely. And the few words exchanged in update really are welcome snippets of information. But in many others, the terrifying easiness of slipping back into  a past social bubble expired (particularly one as potent as high school,) is, well, kind of terrifying.

A recent 21st I attended is a particular standout; a giant guestlist full of faces that were kind of familiar, all dressed to impress and packed into a backyard. As I scanned more and more faces I began to realise that I’d seen these people around before, until suddenly it hit me that what I was seeing was basically an entire network– I’m talking, an entire extended network, completely preserved, in all the complexity only high school allows, thrive and pulse before my eyes.  As if I’d pushed some kind of panic button, I could literally feel my frame of mind shift; re-adopting previous frames of reference, accessing previous pockets of knowledge pertaining to certain individuals and their certain exploits with certain other individuals. Snatches of once-worn gossip I didn’t even know I knew were flashing across my minds eye like moving headlines on the bottom of news broadcasts.

But the thing is, this injection of nostalgia (however arresting,) gives off a kind of ’21st feel.’ That awkward impulse to smile and look pretty in photos with people who you no longer care about appearing certain ways to kind of sums up the whole 21st persona. When at 21sts of more, I suppose for lack of better term, ‘present-tense’ birthday-ees, it feels more just like a regular night out, and when speeches come along you laugh along without really gaining any personal involvement in most of what’s going on.You barely even feel you need to be sentimental on a occasion founded precisely on ‘coming-of-age’ sentimentality.

Perhaps that’s what the 21st milestone is all about. Perhaps that’s what 21sts are supposed to be; a kind of event everyone needs to go through in some degree of ‘foot-dipped-in-the-past-almost-awkward’ blaze. My question is though, where’s the line between re-assembling these networks for a night, making up numbers and fondly re-connecting (albeit temporarily,) with these people that form the (largely past-tense) background of our lives? Since I have no answers I guess I’ll just have to keep my analytical inner monolouge quiet at these things by heading over to the bar.

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We own all your content. Forever.

So I just finished reading The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. Suffice to say, I’m terrified.

Being a student of media itself, obviously I was aware that information written on the  internet is written with a very thick, permanent texta. Being a gen-y-er, I was also ( and am still,)  very much aware of the social politics concerning having a facebook page and maintaining it to ‘x’ degree.

For example, putting too much information in your ‘about me’ section is seen as being too keen, too excited; i.e. trying too hard to police how you appear and encourage people to think of you. The bands and things you ‘like’ are done with deliberate knowledge that everyone else is going to see them, and (hopefully) think you’re either that much more obscure/cool/in-the-know/totally more interesting as a person because you have so many awesome interests. In the same way liking hil-ah-rious groups is just another way everyone can see how hil-ah-rious you are. (Or how incr-eh-dibly deep you are, i.e.-Knowing you love someone more then they love you, but loving them anyway ❤ ) But we all know this, so it’s ok, right? So long as everyone knows everything you post is in the guise of performative exhibitionism, they aren’t really going to take it seriously, are they?

The Facebook Effect talks a lot about Zuckerberg’s idea of an inevitable transparency of information. By this logic, what Facebook is is really just a nod towards what’s going to happen anyway. Throughout the book he asserts that information sharing is at user’s discretion, so we don’t need to start practicing our newspeak just yet. But how much of that should be a comfort is what scares me so much.

Everyone has facebook. Everyone. The only reason I have one is because everyone else has one, and I’ll bet my bottom dollar that more than half the other facebook addicts like me out there joined for the same reason. You don’t want to be left out. Your membership in this cult of information swapping is your social key into your actual, real-life social life. Without Facebook, you miss events. You miss the opportunity to see what all your friends are doing, all the time, in all it’s glorious banality: endless ‘another WYLD NIT3 OUTTT’ albums, ‘ just saw a blue car!! LOL!!!’ status updates, and weeding your newsfeed of aforementioned group-join-a-holics.

And then there’s the stalking.

Facebook stalking is now a vernacular phrase. People we haven’t met, people our friends are going out with, our bosses, anyone. And because we do it so much it becomes ok. It becomes normal. Accumulating information about people we don’t know (and might never, ever meet,) is like crack to us. Put that urge next to the addictive need to see what everyone you know is doing all the time and that’s x + infinity hours of your life you’ll never get back.

The really terrifying thing is though that after reading 300 odd pages about the origins, factual reach and impacts of Facebook, it’s becoming all the more apparent that we aren’t wasting our lives online being anti-social. This is being social. This is social life 2.0, (to make a terribly predictable and nerdy pun,) complete in all the intense commitment it takes. You don’t just need to have friends; you need to know what they’re doing. And having all these lovely ideas about of extinct nature of interpersonal contact and ‘why don’t people just PLAY OUTSIDE anymore’ dribble means nothing because at the end of the day, you can’t really not have a Facebook. You won’t explode or anything, but you’ll be left out. And now that everyone I know seems to have an iphone, without the frequent check-ins people might actually, legitimately think you’ve dropped off the face of the Earth.

Luckily though, there’s Google Earth for that.

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Location, location, location

Long distance friendships are tricky. Not only becuase you miss the other person being in your life as much as they were, but because they have a whole other life where they are now, ( and so do you, I hope,) and so thus the dynamic must rapidly change in order to stay temperate. ( Pun not intended. )

And the trickiest thing of all is that for most, there’s that almost-awkward point where you know eventually, ineviatbly you’re never going to be the same as you were when you were in the same place, and so you don’t really know what to say when said friend may or may not pop up on facebook chat. Unspoken currents of awkward then power through time zones, oceanic regions- stopping nothing until they’ve made you feel so ridiculous you hastily go offline and change browser windows.

Sometimes however, it must work. You go through that same de-attachment process, but there are definately cases where the two lucky individuals strike a happy chord of fence-sitting and can retain what was. To these lucky individuals I say; Please write a book and send it to me via express-post.

Sure, these days it’s alot easier to stay in touch with people. Skype and facebook definately make life alot less wistful on this front. But I mean, if we’re going to be frank, the friendship is effectively reduced to a shared reliance on these tools.

Obviously with tricky things like this there are a number of variables to take into account, but for me I owe every remaining link to my overseas adventure to Mark Zuckerburg, and the globally understood politics of facebook communication- i.e. popping up to much on facebook chat vs the more personal inbox message option. It’s funny how despite all the cultural differences between myself and everyone I met, everyone seems to mediate themselves through facebook in the same kind of way.

Perhaps this is the key to a successful long term, long distance friendship? Perhaps, even, ( get ready for the poor media pun,) this is friendship 2.0?

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“Yeah, I’d say um.. thinking? as one of my strong points.”

I’d forgotten how absolutely demeaning working at, and trying out for mindless jobs is just for student pittance to play with. ( That, plus petrol.) You sit at these interviews, stand behind these counters, fix sandwiches, run plates to people sitting at tables, the whole time wanting to attach a neon sign to your forehead that says IN MY OTHER LIFE I CAN READ.

Unfortunately, not only is this reality, but shit part time labour is part of (from what I’ve come to understand, at least) Aussie student existance. The trouble is, how to display all your worthiness in tiny-time slots for the manager who, whilst not looking at you like they may a young-and-dispensible-16-year-old, (been thurrrr) still have that default ‘you-better-not-stuff-this-up-but-you-probably-will’ scowl on their faces?

I’m still working on that one. Last week I had an interview for this café near my house and the woman was horrible. I won’t go into gory details but she pretended (yes, pretended. and obviously enough for me to be able to discern this,) to take a sip of one of the coffees I’d made, puckered her lips as if I’d put arsenic in there, ( I didn’t,) said ‘mmmm. That’s fine. You can go.’ before turning on her heeled boots and walking back down to whatever it is she was doing. Before I assure you the coffee I make is enjoyable, and did not in fact poison her, let’s just linger on the rudeness of said power-trip, and the profound dent in my time-I-will-never-get-back account.

Today I had a trial for a job that was particularly promising- but, having been a bit out of practice, made a few mistakes I wouldn’t if a. I wasn’t new and b. I wasn’t out of work for half a year living it up on college. I was aware of this, and whilst my superior was nice, I can’t see why she’d take me if she can trial someone who performed better on the day. It’s times like that where aforementioned neon sign would be particularly helpful- I’M GOOD AT LIFE, I PROMISE.

Unfortunatley again, there’s nothing I can do about it except gather field notes concerning supervisor body language and psyche, stop over-intellectualizing what I’m doing and keep reminding myself of all the wonderful things my money will be able to buy me. Maybe there is some kind of formula for making that first impression that says everything you want to neon sign to, without coming in a formal dress with a bottle of Chandon. Well, if I ever discover said formula, I’ll be so rich these jobs and little almost-jobs will serve as quaint little anecdotes over appetizers.

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Aww home, let me go ho-o-me.

So it turns out that cheesy, indie-yet-still-famous-enough-to-be-known-by-everyone type songs have finally struck a chord (pun not intended,) correctly. (ok, pun intended.) This particular victory may be attributed to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

in case you haven't got it yet, the song is 'home'

Yes, home indeed. By home I mean Melbourne, after six incredibly short months of living in Philly and travelling in the USA. It’s been about a week and a half since being home, and let me tell you, it’s the wierdest sensation imaginable.

Of course, on the first tier, there’s the whole, ‘everything’s so DIFFERENT here-‘ phase, where everything better about your way of life in the former place suddenly becomes a point of comparison with where you are now, ( everything worse is conveniently forgotten.) and you have a compulsion to talk about it, you know, to just let people know of the differences out there. Well, you’d like to think that’s the reason, but secretly you feel by talking about it AS the point of reference, your keeping your life there alive and well and don’t have to face the naked reality of naked reality.

Then, the second tier, when you’ve seen all your friends, marvelled at everything you’ve missed and how easy it is to slide back into familiarity, and are left in an awkward anti-climactic lurch. You have absolutely no idea what to do with yourself, awkwardly scrolling through seek.com.au in hopes of a. restacking your finances and b. injecting some kind of purpose into your awkwardly limbo-esque days.

Then, the counter-argument. The willingness of your mind to slip back into what it knows, and how it feels exactly as if nothing has changed with all of your friends. And you know that once you get through this ‘everything here is so borring compared to where I was!’ phase, it’s going to be just like you never left, a thought which all us glass-half-full-ers take as a testament to how strong your ‘real’ life here at home really is/was.

But I mean, it isn’t easy. Whilst I realize this is just natural phase of acclimatization, ( i hope that’s a word,) it doesn’t stop me looking wistfully at things that have some vauge connection with things/people/anyting related to Philly and wanting to stamp my feet like a two year old because I-miss-my-friends-and-Philly-and-I-want-to-go-back-NOW! Add a zero to that two and delete the tantrum and you’ve got yourself just pure, harrowing nostalgia.

I suppose though, from my coveted seat at the head of the glass-half-full assembly, nostalgia (whilst painful,) is in doses a good thing. It reminds you of amazing things you’ve done and whilst they are no longer a present-tense reality, it affirms their existance in your mind. I suppose the next step is folding said nostalgia into the fabric of home, put my violin away and get on with it all.

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America, out

So I realize I’ve been lazy and have neglected to blog about Texas and everything that was California, (i.e, San Francisco and LA,) but alas, now is not the time.

As we speak, (but not as I publish, LAX and ‘free public Wi-Fi’ do not seem on speaking terms,) I’m sitting cross-legged outside terminal 77 of LAX, so that I can use the power point while wolfing down my modest-yet-more-expensive-then-the-remainder-of-my-cash-can-buy dinner.

and mine wasn't even toasted

It’s over. My trip, exchange, me being in America. Being the clever kids we are, my travel partner and I neglected to consider that because of our different flights, we’d be leaving from entirely different areas of LAX, and so had to squash our planned reminisce-themed dinner into a hasty phone call. With an hour and 15 minutes to go before I board the horrid vessel that will take me back to Australia, I think a soppy yet sufficiently closure themed post is in order.

So Texas was the best stop of our trip, no questions. Unfortunately I won’t be able to recall it in the glory it deserves due to my present state of harrowing denial that I’m going home, but here goes.

Austin has the best bar scene I could have ever imagined. We stayed just off 6th street, and so were only a few minutes’ walk from a street absolutely packed with bars and pubs, (significant lack of expensive clubs- monburger says YES) only charging cover for notable shows and max $3.50 a beer. We pretty much just bounced around from place to place, spending next to nothing and making tons of new, friendly Texan friends courtesy of our accents.

Foodwise, the rumours are true. Everything is MUCH bigger in Texas- including gimmicks. We went to this Elvis-themed bar on Elvis’ birthday, and not only did we dine under a giant statue of him that was hanging over the bar, we had the option to order ‘The King’s’ peanut butter and banana fried toasted sandwich, served with cheetos and a glass of milk. You could also get $2.50 ‘birthday cake shots,’ which was pretty much vanilla vodka with a hint of imitation frangelico. For a $2.50 shot as big as we got, you could have given me cheap vodka with a splash of passion pop and I would have still smiled.

elvis atop the bar

The best bar we went to was called Pete’s duelling piano bar- $5 entry, and they have 2 pianos back to back with these crazy-talented (and rowdy,) pianists playing and singing with plenty of audience interaction. My personal favourite was when one of them yelled out ‘Do we have any TEXANS out here tonight?’ to a loud and hearty ‘yEAAHHHH’ kind of sound that ended in people raising up their hands in this gesture that represents the college’s football team.

i believe this is it

We met so many characters I cannot even begin to list them all, and if I did I’m not sure I’d have a sufficient lexicon to properly convey the weekend that was. So instead I’ll solider onto California.

I’ve been to San Francisco before and so was keen to go back- the city is just as beautiful as ever, extremely hilly, and lots colder then when I was there in fall I think 2005. Since California was the last leg of our trip, we slowed down a bit and just kind of spent our days ambling about in the city’s glow. We also met up with a good friend of mine from Melbourne who had also been travelling, so I suppose it was a good semi-ease-back-into-Melbourne-social-scene kind of situation. That plus he was super keen to join us on all our culinary ventures.

"shrimper's delight." but actually

Namely, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. When I was last in SF my sister and I thought it was hilarious that Bubba Gump even existed- and let me tell you, actually visiting it made all my wildest gimmick-driven dreams come true. There’s a sign that says RUN FORREST RUN that you flip to say STOP FORREST STOP if you want the waiter to come and serve you. Terrific idea. Mix that with amazingly fresh seafood that seems to still taste fresh despite being deep fried and you’ve got yourself a franchise.

This is rapidly becoming a volume so I won’t share my thoughts on LA- (and I have a few) we did the same kind of thing as in SF, except that we stayed in East Hollywood. Yeah. Not the nicest area.

So. My plane boards in less than an hour and I’m considering what I could spend my remaining US cash on in further efforts to distract myself from the fact that the best experience I’ve ever had is pretty much over. But I mean, for now I suppose, if we’re being ‘glass-half-full’ enthusiasts. But still- there’s always that inevitable feeling of anticlimactic deflation after something amazing happens. I just wish I were some kind of Zen master and could simply take this thought, spread it over a yin-yang and achieve a feeling of other-worldly content that would make it easier to say goodbye to a place I’ve self-indulgently called my own this past half year or so. Anyway. Enough whinging. I’m just (slightly…) bitter this whole thing is over so fast!

Monburger, out. See you on the other side.

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