Archive for March, 2006

Things that go missing in the night

March 26, 2006

I hate it when I can't find things. 

I'm usually very organised, I keep things in the same place all the time, returning them promptly.  Unfortunately the person I live with does not follow similar rules, meaning things are frequently hard to find.  Especially as my partner tends to leave looking for them until the last minute – usually it isn't my problem, as I'm not the one looking. 

But right now it is me who is frantically hunting for something lost and it's driving me to consider how I would look with just tufts of hair sprouting from my scalp…

Of course I don't think I was the one who misplaced it, but it just doesn't seem to be anywhere in the house and it is needed for first thing in the morning.  I know where it would be if I had used it last (in the hall cupboard) and the fact that it's not there suggests that it was someone other than me who had it most recently. 

Trying very very very hard not to blow my top at said partner right now.  Hence this little mini-vent.  Let's hope it's worked.


Clash of the covers

March 23, 2006

And now for a source of undeniable irritiation, but at the same time irresistable attraction – “women’s” magazines.

For a start I hate that they are called “women’s” magazines, usually disparagingly.  We need to find another name for them – how about “Celebrity Gossip Mags” or “Journals of Images Designed To Make You Feel Bad About Yourself And Hate Your Fellow Sisters”?  Or even “Contradictory And Untrue Stories About Famous People Plus Some Really Rather Good Recipes”?

It’s frustrating.  If you read the back part of these mags, minus the back four or five pages of minor celebrity gossip that didn’t make it on to the cover, they’re actually not that bad.  They have recipes, parenting advice, witty columns, letters from readers, puzzles, and the ever-amusing horoscopes and psychic columns.  Removing the seemingly obligatory weightloss rubbish* and other articles that are bad for your body image, and ditching the “news” about people who seem to be largely famous for having their photos in magazines, would improve them no end.

What never ceases to crack me up is the clash of the covers.  Each magazine apparently competes for the photos and stories that will sell the magazine to the reading public – namely the newest scandal or sensation about a movie star or model and their relationship (or lack of).  And yet, kind of like creation stories, they all seem to be equally false.

Every week the covers will contradict each other, often quite hilariously.  At the height of the Pitt-Anniston-Joulie saga three magazines would have three different messages (and accompanying photos) – Brad and Jen Back Together?  Anniston Finds New Love!  Angelina and Brad pregnant at last!! 

How much of it is true?  Probably none of it.  Particularly this week.  One cover proclaimed that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (the new Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston apparently) were already married (apparently this is a shock and also very important indeed).  Another stated boldly Katie Cracks:  The Trush Behind Those Split Rumours, with, of course a story of a distraught and heavily pregnant Holmes.

I tend to feel sorry for these people, although I probably shouldn’t.  My partner is always pointing out to me that they court this attention and as such should just have to eat it up when it turns on them.  But if I had to conduct my life, and in particular my relationship, in the hot glare of the paparazzi camera, I wouldn’t cope with the strain for long. 

I think about the Anniston-Pitt break-up, and I consider all the rumours, for all those years, running to what must be millions of column inches, predicting a break-up or a baby, scrutinising their body language in shots at a movie premiere, speculating on why they didn’t have children yet, reporting rumours of various affairs or fights.  There seemed to be pressure on them, since the day they were married, to divorce, and even now that that is happening the publicity doesn’t let up.  Some people even seemed perversely happy that their marriage was over – I saw comments online that indicated the sad authors thought they now had a chance with Brad or Jennifer themselves.  I guess when the people on the pedestal fail your own inability to keep a relationship going doesn’t seem so bad, perhaps.

I find it depressing that so many women, who are in fact intelligent and savvy, spend time and money on these magazines, when publications that are a bit less self-loathing and a lot more interesting fail (can you tell I was a Grace fan?)  But ultimately I love having a flick through when I’m at the doctor’s – it must be the pretty pictures because I really can’t explain the attraction.  But as irresistable as a quick look is, I’m yet to give any of my money over the counter for one.  Yet.
* Seriously, if anyone told you you could make your ears smaller by rubbing oil on you’d think they were mad, but somehow if it’s your thighs it’s possible
PS – Picture found on a page with a blog post about the self-loathing inherent in Fashion Week, which seemed somehow appropriate. 

A small question of release

March 16, 2006

It’s been a busy time for me at work, this last week or so.  I’ve been preparing to take two weeks away from the classroom later this term, to go on a block professional development course.  Which means a lot of work before I go, making sure everything will run smoothly in my absence, and minimising the impact for my students.

I’ve been planning, in my head and on paper, for several months in fact, although a lot of it couldn’t really be done until classes started and I knew the dynamics up front.  But I diligently applied for the release in late November last year, through the usual processes, and thought everything on that front, at least, was dealt with.

The usual way things work at my school is that you apply to your departmental head for the leave and then if you hear nothing bad it’s fine.  This was my natural assumption when December, January and February all ticked by with only positive comments about my release from my HOD, as we sorted out how it would work and who would cover my various classes.

Then late last week I got a letter from the Principal, quite nastily written (and as you know I’m rather good at nasty myself, so I can admire it when it’s expressed eloquently by others). 

What it amounted to was that I had applied for the leave quite incorrectly and that while it would be grudgingly (and generously) granted despite my monumental error, I should note for future reference that in fact I am supposed to apply directly to the Principal and the BOT. 

Funny, I thought, I’m sure that’s not what the policy says.  So I checked.  What the policy says is that I should apply to my manager.  That would be my HOD.  What the Principal’s letter states is that I should apply to my employer, which means the BOT, via the Principal in the first instance.  These are two mutually exclusive options.

In addition, the Principal sent a copy of the letter to the PPTA delegate for the school, patronisingly writing that it is often good to approach the delegate for advice on these matters.  She must surely recall that I used to be the delegate a few years back.  (What she doesn’t appear to know is that the teacher she sent a copy of the letter to is in fact no longer the delegate and hasn’t been for some months.  Sucks to be her.)

So basically I was supposed to obey an imaginary policy which does not exist on paper, which in fact contradicts the policy that does exist on paper, and which was only pointed out to me two weeks before the leave, despite the fact that I applied for it four months in advance.

Clearly this is all my fault.


So over all the sexism

March 15, 2006

I’ve had a bit of a browse around some of the NZ blogs while I’ve been doing The Vent Box, and I quickly found Capitalism Bad.  Maia is unashamedly feminist and I like that.  But some of her posts are so depressing – not because of how she writes them, but because she has to write them, in this day and age.

I don’t know how old Maia is but I get the impression she is pretty young (or at least younger than me!)  I remember my mother telling me once that she had been sexually harassed in every job she had ever been in (and my mother is not the type to complain about these things, quite the reverse).  I was aghast, and then I thought about my experiences and realised that, despite the three decade gap, my own employment history is littered with examples of sexism, objectification and abuse.  It is probably at a lower level than most of what my mother experienced, but it’s still here, a normal part of the workplace.  And obviously little has changed even for Maia’s generation. 

Her article about the objectification of women even in “safe” political circles has really angered me.  Why are women’s images so often turned into an opportunity to comment on their appearance rather than the context of the picture?  How dare people treat other human beings with such contempt and disdain?  I would be prepared to bet a considerable sum of money that the male authors of the negative comments about Maia were not Calvin Klein models themselves, and would be highly (and rightly) hurt and offended if someone made similar comments about them in such a public forum. 

What led me even closer to a vein-busting fit of rage (which would have inevitably ended up with my blood boiling clear out of the ends of my fingers in streaming jets if it weren’t for my trusty Vent Box) was what happened when Maia raised her concerns about the comments within the activist community who run Indymedia.  All care, no responsibility, was all they had to say, it seemed to me.

Sexism, like other forms of discrimination, is not just the responsibility of the victim.  Stamping it out is an aegis we all carry, all the time, simply as human beings.  It’s the same with racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression based on intolerance.  We cannot and should not shirk this duty because of some crass belief that all speech is somehow sacred, or due to a naive hope that just because it’s an open source site used by community activists somehow everyone has checked their capacity to be sexist arseholes at the door on the way in.

What is wrong with these people?  What is wrong with the people who make these sorts of comments?  What is wrong with the people who don’t do anything about these comments when they are made on their website?  What is wrong with people who tell someone who has no control over the website that they have to fix the problem themselves?  What is wrong with people who call themselves community activists and state that they are opposed to sexism, but ignore it when it happens somewhere that they don’t want to see it? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE??

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“But they’re too young to be treated fairly”

March 10, 2006

Even though my youth seems to have happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I still remember what it was like to be on youth rates.

It was frustrating, unfair, unjust, and never ceased to stick right in my craw. 

No matter that I often worked harder than those around me, who were, after all, only a year or two older than me, I got paid less, just because I was born after NZ had pulled out of the Vietnam War.  That was how arbitrary it seemed to me at the time, and it still does.

I have no problem with pay systems that are based on experience and skill-base, but I do have a major dispute with paying people differently on the basis of age.  I have friends who never had a paid job until they left tertiary education, in their mid-twenties, while others started part-time work at 13 while they were still at school, and as soon as they were legally able were off, out, in the full-time workforce.  But on the youth rates system the experience of the latter means nothing, while the age of the former counts for extra money in the pocket.  It’s bizarre and unfair.

It makes me angry when I see youth rates adding to the poverty of some of my students.  Although at my school most of those who work part-time do so to pay their cellphone bills or buy a bit of fake bling for themselves or their girlfriend(s), I still find it unfair.  I see them sometimes, working in a shop I’m browsing through, and they really don’t seem to be any more lazy, any less capable, that the university student at the next counter, or the older woman tidying the merchandise.  Imagine how much worse that is for a student, and a family, who actually rely on that meagre income to make ends meet.

For a good rant on the subject, by an actual young person (I think), see Youth Rates SUCK! (it’s amazing what you can find on Google). The comments expose some of the frankly ridiculous arguments that supporters of age-based discrimination frequently trot out to market, as if they were sleek young mares when in fact they are skinny old geldings with ricketty legs.

The Supersize My Pay campaign is also focusing on an end to youth rates, as well as a substantial lift to the minimum wage (to $12 an hour).  They seem to be organising strikes in support of these claims in a number of key youth employers (mainly fast food outlets).  I’ve lifted the picture with this post from their gallery.

The Green Party have put up a Private Member’s Bill to remove youth rates, and Labour have graciously deigned to allow it to go to through the Select Committee process, meaning the public can make submissions on the Bill in the near future.  Keep an eye out, and have your say.


Fear and loathing in the staffroom

March 10, 2006

Time to introduce you to another of my annoying work colleagues, The Old Duffer. 

He means well, most of the time, but he just can’t get over the fact that there are competent and intelligent women in the world, who are under 40 and don’t find him attractive.  Actually I’ve yet to meet a single woman (or man for that matter) who does find him attractive, but I guess there may be others who are prepared to simper at appropriate moments, whilst I most decidedly am not.

The Old Duffer is always correct.  He is never wrong.  I repeat, HE IS NEVER WRONG.  In his own head anyway.

In the real world he is often wrong, he makes mistakes, just like anyone else.  But, unlike most other people, he thinks he is to teaching what the Pope is to religion – infallible and in possession of a direct line to God on all matters, from the best way to deal with that difficult parent, to the school policy on internet use, to the National Party’s views on zoning.

We had a huge scrap the other day about one of the curriculum documents.  Luckily there were only a few other people in the staff room, and to be honest I didn’t want to push it because I didn’t want to embarass him.  It’s pretty clear to me that he’s just serving his time now, until he hits retirement at 65 (mercifully only about a year away now).  The poor Old Duffer can’t let go of his forty-odd years in the classroom, which is understandable, and sometimes I feel sorry for him. 

Other times I don’t.  Those would be the times when he leaps straight up on to the moral high ground without merit, often unflatteringly exposing his arse in the process.  He gets this tone in his voice that drives me mad.  It’s his way of saying, without actually using these words “I know more than you, how could I possibly not know more than you – you’re just a girl compared to me.”  In this, he so often reminds me of my father, even though Dad has never been a teacher.

The contempt The Old Duffer treats me with undermines my best efforts to be nice, and to view him as an old man who feels unsafe and uncomfortable in a world that has changed so much in the last forty years.  Instead I start to imbue him with spite and malice he probably doesn’t truly possess. 

His inability to deal with the world as it is, rather than as it was, and his denial that there is anything about education that he doesn’t know, really reflect his insecurity.   I need to remind myself of that, to avoid bringing along my dear friends Ms Sarcasm and Miss Harsh Tone whenever I deal with him.

I just find his rejection of me so frustrating, because it seems to be solely based on my lack of a Y chromosome and my age.  But ultimately I guess The Old Duffer fears me for those exact reasons.  Just as well I’m white or he really wouldn’t be able to deal with me at all!


When women scrap we fight dirty

March 9, 2006

I’ve been reading this book* about women’s relationships and how we get all bitter and twisted so quickly, resulting in fallout as big as Outer Mongolia when things go bad.  I don’t usually read these kinds of books, and I’m wary of turning into my Mum (at one stage I swear she had three shelves of “self-improvement” books, all of which she had read at least once), but it’s actually quite good.

A few times now I’ve been through this situation where I seem to have a falling out with a friend and then it’s like I shed my skin – with that one friend go a whole lot of others, who I no longer feel I can spend time with, because I assume they will take the side of the other party in the dispute.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they don’t even have the foggiest what in Hades is going on, but nevertheless I seem to end up feeling lonely for a while and then eventually building up a new network of friends.

A therapist I know reckons that these cat fights happens throughout women’s lives, and it’s just the way life is for women living in what is still, at heart, a partiarchal society.  These break-ups reflect needs that women have that they can’t articulate, because the society we live in doesn’t support women putting themselves first, or fulfilling their needs without feeling guilt.

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The glass is half full

March 8, 2006

When I first started reading The Good Pen, I thought maybe it was from another spiteful rant blog, like The Vent Box.  Oh goodie, I thought, a kindred spirit to link to, and share bilesome thoughts with.

But as I read on, somehow compelled (possibly by the second person narrative), I discovered that it was in fact the antithesis of this blog – if The Vent Box is half empty, Good Stuff is indeed half full. 

I realise I haven’t been filling my spite quota much lately.  If anything it’s because I’m too dulled by the low level irritation of so much of my life at the moment.  Work exhausts me, my relationship exhausts me, hell even the cat is exhausting me (I’m sure she doesn’t actually have some irrefutable biological need to get up at 5.30am and miaow viciously).  

But don’t despair dear readers (of whom I know there are none, but I like to keep my self under illusions at all possible times).  The spite is still there.  It is building quietly, waiting for a pressure point, a shifting of the plates, which results in the need for another bloody good vent.  

My early warning system detects particular trembling around that great mountainous wasteland known as The Dumper.  She wore the most hideous cardigan-dress combo yesterday and was in such a foul mood that you would have expected her to be stomping around in Docs petulantly, not clomping along the corridors in those really truly ghastly sandals that drive me insane everytime I see them. 

Hmm, maybe that vent isn’t so far away after all… 

An adventure in the frozen wastes

March 4, 2006

Down, deep down, near the back of the freezer, is a land no one goes to.  It is populated by odd frozen shapes, mainly white, green and orange, which seem so familiar and yet so wrong.  They seem to multiply, and yet I’ve yet to see them copulating.  Horrible, ghastly, mis-shapen and mis-tasting little pieces of detritus.Yep, frozen vegetables.

I can’t believe I’m going to write a Vent Box post about frozen veg.  Surely I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel for material yet? 

Maybe it’s just that none of my current low level irritants haven’t sufficiently ticked me off to be approaching the eye-popping level of rage than induces a post, but all of them combined…  well let’s just say the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

So, focusing on the evil at hand – food that grows in the manner of plants (which is not fruit) and has had all the goodness taken out of it by forcing it to inhabit the inside of my (grotty) freezer.

Why are they so small? 
(Probable answer:  Because that way the veggie companies can use up all the nasty left over bits, while still selling the nice big stuff for higher prices, fresh)

Why are they such odd colours? 
(Possible answer:  Because they are injected with foul, filthy chemicals designed to induce mass frozen vegetable purchasing in those who partake of them)

Why do they seem to multiply in the freezer, to a point where their hegemony seems unassailable? 
(Probable answer:  They don’t actually grow in number, but the frost (Frost-free freezer – HAH HAH HAH) attached to them does, thus making them seem larger.) 
(Possible answer:  Because I can’t cope with their existence, therefore they start to take on epic proportions in my mind to a point where I am effectively hallucinating frozen veggies when ever I reach in for some ice cream or other delectable goodie)

So in summary, in case you are the kind of lazy person who just likes to skip to the ending: 

Frozen Vegetables = All Bad.

Friendships are such fragile things

March 4, 2006

My previous school was not a hunky-dory place.  It was downright unpleasant. 

The Principal was consumed with paranoia and his political ambitions, and the DP was even worse, in the same vein.  She particularly liked to make my life as hellish as possible – some people think you are after their proud, polished spot in the hierarchy, no matter how many times you sincerely testify otherwise. 

It was a school where bullying was rife – some staff carried out the dirty work to avoid the hot pokers themselves, but for the most part we had all been through too much training, around peer pressure for the kids, to turn gamekeeper.

The best way of coping was to pull together – those of us who weren’t happy with the current situation would subvert it as we could, and we kept each other informed of our plans and all the goss.  We started having drinks after work once a week, to get it all out of our system (our flatmates and partners were thoroughly sick of hearing about what seemed quite ridiculous abuses of power, but were daily reality for pretty much every member of staff at Hell High).

One of the other teachers was a particularly close friend of mine.  Estella and I had gone to Teachers College together, years previously, and had even flatted together at one point.  She was a bit out of the direct firing line, because her HOD would run interference quite often, but ultimately the DP hated her guts and would put the boot in whenever she could get away with it.  I remember one particularly petty scrap they had about which room to use for a meeting Estella was organising – the DP had a tantrum about getting her way in the corridor, so Estella had to follow her orders, even though the DP wasn’t actually her boss. 

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