Aug 31, 2013

What makes little girls creepy?

I recently watched the pilot episode of The Walking Dead. Or I should say the first half, because I found it a little creepy and am not sure if I'll continue. (Hey AMC, I don't think this will be the show to replace Breaking Bad for me).

At the very first scene, you know things are going to be bad when you find yourself walking behind this silent, shuffling little girl:

You seriously don't want her to turn around, do you?

The Shining had the creepy ghost twins.  I was going to put a picture here, but honestly, I just don't want it on my blog. You can see it here if you want to get that sick thud heart-in-your throat reminder.

Poltergeist had that little girl's sing-song voice saying "They're heeeere!"

Dawn of the Dead: the daughter zombie right at the beginning

Firestarter: Drew Barrymore being not-so-cute

A Nightmare On Elm Street: the little girls playing skipping rope outside, and chanting "One two, Freddy's coming for you..."

The Others: a bit different in that the "ghost" was a little boy - but the scene with the little girl with the gauze over her head during the seance is the scariest bit in the whole thing

The Exorcist: Forget the head turning and the still-shocking swearing, I have one scene for you: young girl in nightgown scuttling down the stairs backwards. Good God, it still freaks me right out.

The Cabin in the Woods has a ghost girl in a classroom of Japanese schoolgirls, which is a creepy scene all round. It also has zombies, knife-wielding clowns, werewolves and a rabid unicorn - but is the scariest monster of them all perhaps the little twirling pink ballerina girl? (Yes).

And then there is the scariest of the lot.....

I used to love horror films. I kind of still do - sometimes. Then in 2002 I saw the scariest film I had ever seen in my life: The Ring.  Just as Stephen King's "It", many years ago, traumatized me for horror novels forever, The Ring cured me of horror movies for years. And yet, no longer enjoying them but unable to stop myself, I returned for The Grudge and Dark Water. This makes the terror trilogy of stringy-haired ghost girl movies that are so completely, utterly scary. They are scary because of the style and cinematography. They are scary because of the vengeful ghost who punishes completely innocent people (instead of misbehaving teens). But mostly, they are scary because the monster is a dead little girl with long dark hair!

Why are little girls so scary?
Or at least, what makes them a good trope for scariness?

I have two little girls. They are not in the least scary.  But I'm as freaked out as anyone by a scary dead girl-child in a horror movie. They are scary in a way that little boys are not scary. Why is that?

If you Google "scary movies with little girls" you get a lot of stuff. You get a million movies with scary little girls in them, you get a heap of "top ten lists of scary movies with little girls in them", and you get some theories and commentary on why little girls are scary (like herehere, here and here).

I'm guessing the same as most people, that little girls in scary movies are scary because they invert how we see little girls. We invest A LOT, culturally (or perhaps psychologically - maybe this crap is universally human) in seeing little girls as sweet and pure and passive. It freaks us right out when we suspect that maybe they are not all those things. If we lose control of our little girls, we lose control of women, sexuality, reproduction, society, the lot!

Or maybe we suspect little girls hold secrets, or we fear the power they'll have as they grow.

Here's a comment on a "why are little girls scary" thread on a gaming review message board:

"Damn, I could be playing Quake 4 and see giant monsters and not have any reaction at all but a little girl in the right situations creep the **** out of me."

People respond as above, about how we don't expect little girls to be dangerous and it's about subverting our expectations etc, but he replies:

"Its not like she even does anything scary…she just appears and scares the crap out of me."

Then there's this post:

I think that would scare me too.

What do you think? 

Aug 28, 2013

How our lives have changed

From this (2007):

To this (now):

It is truly remarkable how much the smartphone has changed our lives, in such a short time.  It's become a different world in 6 rapid years.

When I go out, even for a walk, it feels natural to me to be holding my phone in my hand. Not in my bag, or in my pocket, but in my hand.

I only walk and read sometimes - mostly I refrain from using my phone while I'm actually walking, because you don't want to be one of these people.

I don't tweet, Facebook, read or text too much in front of the kids, because you don't want to be one of these parents.

I'm only on level 41 of Candy Crush. I have wasted more time than is healthy playing dumb games on my phone, but I've petered off from that now. There is only so much time in the day, and we have less time than ever, so why fritter it all away on playing games?

But so much is so good. Twitter: news, conversations, comedy and reading: I love you, always and forever. Google maps. Google anything. Texts, messaging and email. Postcodes, currency conversions, Greek name days, constellations, world maps, bus timetables and movie screenings at a glance. News, essays, NASA photos, fiction and podcasts 24/7.  Utilities: pedometers, calculators, trackers, diaries, flashlight, remote logins for work.

The only thing I don't use my phone for that much is telephoning.

The other day I went walking and I left my phone at home. Last week I left it on my desk while I stepped out for lunch. It sounds ridiculous I know, but on those two occasions it was like stepping back in time, to the world as it used to be. Pre-smartphone, I didn't always take my phone with me. I didn't have it switched on all the time. I certainly didn't sleep with it tucked under my pillow as"sometimes" do now...

We are all uneasy at being "plugged in" 24/7. We all know that too much internet (too much anything) is bad for us. We all know we have to limit our screen time or we will live our lives plugged into the matrix and not living real life at all.

If you're older than me, you probably find this whole thing quite perplexing, simple or absurd. Baby boomers don't tend to struggle with smartphone addiction. If you're younger than me you probably don't see the problem.  Maybe it's a Gen X thing.

Anyway, it's changed our lives. The smartphone, the internet, and the seductive combination of the two.

Image credit:
@leftsider tweet image from HuffPost Tech "oldtweets" story from 2012: read here.
This image is of an embedded tweet which is public.
Second image: 9Gag

Aug 27, 2013


Today's post is a bit of a downer, and I'm sorry about that. I'll probably regret posting it. But I just cannot shake the sadness right now.

I have two beautiful, funny, loving, interesting daughters. One of them is pretty and funny and clever but is going through her own battles with anxiety and self-loathing (which naturally I feel guilty about - I don't think I model these [really!] but she did get my crappy DNA). The other is happy and resilient and popular and is also tall and thin and lovely; this makes her shorter sister jealous and her father go on and on to me about how gorgeous she's going to be, both of which things irk me no end. But at the same time sometimes all I feel too is an overwhelming anger at the world's treatment of young girls and their egos, and I worry how I can protect her and how she can preserve her happy confident self in a world so threatening and unsafe.

I know, glass half full, right?

I'm not normally like this, I'm really not. I know I can't keep my children safe from all harm, and I also know they are not likely to meet it. I know parents project their own worries, regrets and failures onto their children. I know kids are their own special people and have strengths and abilities we underestimate, and that kids are not just the sum of their parents.

But the past week has contained this:

  • Syria
  • Our corner milkbar was robbed in daylight and the lovely woman who runs it with her husband was attacked and stabbed - she is unable to work and will need multiple operations and plastic surgery to recover. She had to run into the street, bleeding and crying, and flag down a car for help. Her attacker was caught, but she and her family are traumatised. Her husband is manning the milkbar alone, and their lives are changed. These are good, lovely, excellent people. I cannot get over the fact this has happened.
  • Vandals spraypainted all over the school. I know it was just high school kids who used to go there and it's no big deal, but it's still an ugly thing.
  • My daughter A had a big old meltdown at school and required an intervention from two teachers and the visiting psychologist to help her. They did help her, and she's OK, and all is OK, but still.
  • Another horrible, horrible gang rape in India. While it's been only 4 months since the gang rape of a 5-year-old there, and the countless other rapes happening every day
  • Miley Cyrus getting attacked all over the internet with the usual vicious ferocity that rains down on any twenty-year old trying to shake off a cutesy childhood past and try on the sexy.

 I heard Colleen McCulloch on radio once talking about her life, when her autobiography was published, and she talked about the different feelings she had when her son and her daughter were born. With a son, she said, you felt his life and future were so full of promise, that he could do anything and be anything. With a daughter though, you feel a bit like, well, here's someone else who's going to go through all the same shit.

It keeps seeming like things are getting better, and then it seems obvious they are not. These are times when seeing any gorgeous, happy young girl makes me anxious, protective and angry. I know that's not right or helpful, but it does. When I see grown men salivating over girls in their teens, or children playing games where the girls self-censor or are censored by their playmates for being tough, strong or heroic; when I see my girls, and all girls, in all their beauty and promise about to step up into a huge, exciting, wonderful and dangerous world, I am overcome.

How do you shake off sadness?

Aug 25, 2013

Sunday Selections: New Sneakers

Sunday Selections is a weekly meme started by Kim of FrogPondsRock but now hosted by River at Drifting Through Life.

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented

This week I was intending to post some Puffing Billy photos, but I don't like putting my kids' faces on the blog and the best photos have their lovely little mugs in them, so I'll leave those photos for now.

Meantime, today we bought new sneakers. Both kids are rapt: they have got themselves the coolest, jazziest sneakers we've ever seen. 

And I was rapt because they are good quality and weren't hugely expensive and thanks to loyalty cards I got one pair completely free.

A said, "Don't forget the side view, Mum!"

M chose sneakers of such gorgeous garishness that she is in awe of them. They have flowers, peace symbols, sparkles and diamantes. And they light up.

It was only when we got home that I remembered we were supposed to be buying everyday sneakers they can wear to school with their uniforms.

Aug 21, 2013

Plain Speaking Slogans

I commute, and as such I drive past a lot of tradies' utes, small company vans and larger company trucks. I see a lot of company names and slogans.

There are company names and slogans that befuddle me. I can't understand what they do. Some of these have sort of half-descriptive names, reminiscent of  Kruger Industrial Smoothing.

Such as: Supply Chain Solutions. Goodness knows what that company does.

There are others that sound interesting but are still a bit cryptic, like China Shipping.

But there are others that make it really plain, and I love these.

I'm usually driving, so I can't take photos of trucks normally, much as I'd love to illustrate these ones all here.  But maybe you have seen these ones around?

Uretek has trucks with a massive full-colour cartoon of a worker raising a concrete floor, and the large bold statement  We raise sunken concrete.

I am so pleased with these trucks, the giant picture and the plain speaking slogan, that I have made a solemn promise to myself that if ever I need concrete raised, I will definitely use this company. I don't care what it costs!

Zerella Fresh is a company I hadn't heard of before today, but this morning on the freeway I saw one of their trucks. On a clean, plain black and green background are the company name "Zerella Fresh" and its slogan: Potato, Carrot and Onion Specialists.

I find that refreshing - honest, simple and believable. I am absolutely sure you can depend on this company for all your potato, carrot and onion needs.

But the winner so far is this company: Australian MultiWall Bag Co.

Not so much for its name (less than descriptive if you're not au fait with paper bag lingo) but its fine, plain slogan:  Paper Sack Manufacturer.

Now there's a brand comfortable with its product and its advertising. May it live long and prosper.

Aug 18, 2013

Sunday Selections / Everyday Beauty: Winter blossoms

Well, I've finally remembered to post a Sunday Selections gallery!

This is a weekly meme started by Kim of FrogPondsRock but now hosted by River at Drifting Through Life.

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented

This week, I've been struck by the beauty of winter blossoms.

Cherry blossom trees: they look like a bunch of dead sticks 48 weeks of the year, but for those last week of winter leading into spring, they really pay their way.

This one is on our street:

These beautiful blossoms are at Belgrave in the Dandenongs:

As are these:


Aug 14, 2013

Spaghetti with love

When I met Y in Santorini many many years ago, he was working as a cook in a friend's restaurant. He used to make us pizza for lunch with feta, kaseri and cheddar cheese, oregano and spinach. In Thessaloniki he cooked us beautiful stews and soups and made wonderful salads - just as he does now. He always joked (but also meant it) that you had to put love in your cooking.

If I made a new dinner and it didn't turn out well, he would say, You forgot the love!

Tonight I'm making spaghetti bolognese, on request for M. 

We don't eat spag bol very often, because A hates mince meat. In fact she is not keen on red meat at all, and never has been. When we have spaghetti she has hers plain with oil and cheese, and will not even try a mouthful of meat sauce, though every time I give her a bit in a separate bowl and hope that one day she will.

M loves spaghetti bolognaise. 

Lately we've all been sick and M has been hit the hardest, with headaches and sick tummy coming and going. I kept her home one Monday, and then on the Tuesday after I did reading help in her class, I took her home with me again, just an hour into the school day.

We spent the day relaxing and chatting and she watched TV while I got on with some of the household admin that had lapsed while I'd been sick (do not leave an overdue electricity bill unattended for two weeks).

Since then she's been spending a lot of time in the sick bay and I know there's nothing really wrong; she is trying to get the school to call me to come and take her home. Her teacher confronted her gently and so did I, and last night she came clean and hugged me and cried and said she wanted to stay home with me again "just the two of us."

Over recent months A has had some iss-yoos, and we've been working through them and she's going well. But I always knew we ran the danger of neglecting our resilient, capable and confident M. She is so together and independent and mature that this is easily done. I am always mindful of it and I don't think we do neglect her at all - but I think she's been feeling a little squeezed out of the parental energy supply just lately.

Last night she asked me to make spaghetti bolognese, so tonight I am. We'll have it for dinner tomorrow.

You won't usually catch me cooking the night before Y's day off. His days off are my days off housework and cooking, yay!

But tonight I am cooking the best goddamn spaghetti bolognese I can make. I am cooking it slowly from fresh whole ingredients and minding it well as it simmers and reduces to just the right consistency and rich tomatoey goodness.

And it is FULL of love.

Aug 13, 2013

What we argue about

They say that couples argue most about money, children and housework, and that does sum up MOST of the arguments Y. and I have. But it does omit one category, and that is "important things that my husband forgets to put in the school bags or take to the school office on his day off."

I leave lunch boxes, drink bottles and school notices on the kitchen table, where Y and the girls will sit and eat breakfast (or will walk past on their way to before-school care). The lunchboxes are often sitting with the school jackets the kids put on before they walk out the door. Sometimes I put the school bags themselves on the table and the lunchboxes and drink bottles and school notices next to the bags. I put out the notices and non-lunch things the night before, and I say "PLEASE don't forget these," and he says "Okay". I get the lunches out of the fridge in the morning and put them on the table, and I wake him up and remind him again: "The lunches and drink bottles are on the table, PLEASE don't forget them," and he says "yeah yeah, go, go, you'll be late for work", and I say "but PLEASE don't forget them!" and he says "I won't forget. Go!"

I remind the kids the night before, and tell them the bags are their responsibility and they have to help Daddy by getting ready and checking their bags.

I used to put things directly IN the bags, but sometimes they need to note what's going in so they will know to take it out again, and also on Y's day off HE should be doing the preparing and worrying and lunch-making, so I am trying to get him doing at least PART of the task. He's made lunches himself a few times but it can still lead to the same result, which is:

I come home at dinner time to see forgotten lunches/drink bottles/notices/whatever on the kitchen table, and to be informed by the kids that the notice is overdue and we owe $6 to the school office for lunch money.

And I round on Y and say "Really? Really?!" and he says, "I know, I'm sorry" or "OK, so I forgot!"

And I say "HOW is that even possible? They are right there where you all eat breakfast!" and I say "Do I really have to get up half an hour earlier than I already do, and wake up everyone and put everything in the bags myself and show you all what's what?"

And the kids say "It's not his fault Mum!" and sometimes I say "It's OK", and sometimes I say "Yes it is!" and sometimes I say, "It's ALL of your faults!"

And the conversation often ends with my signature line, "Do I have to do EVERYTHING in this house?" which is an unfair line because I know that I don't, but it's satisfying and self-righteous and cathartic and it's my signature line.

It's too bad Y doesn't have a blog to complain about me. If he did he could probably talk about the number of times I set my alarm at 5.30 and then turn it off and get back into bed and wake him up every 20 minutes with the snooze alarm. Because I'm sure that is quite annoying.

But he doesn't.

     This scene is a dramatic re-enactment

Aug 11, 2013

Housework: the eternal battle

I absolutely loved this piece in The Guardian Comment Is Free today:
Housework: let's come clean about who does the chores by Barbara Ellen.

The gist: even though people are doing less housework than they used to, women are still doing more than men. (I know, you're shocked, right?)

First up, I liked that she makes no apologies for tackling what is so often derided as a middle-class or privileged women's issue, but straight-up calls the housework battleground "this incredibly important arena (equality in your home – where you live)". 

Ellen's main point: It's as unfair as it ever was, when women are doing more housework than men, no matter how many minutes or hours that is.
Housework is not about the amount of hours: it's about ratios and percentages – the true mathematics of domestic parity. Even self-described housewives should not be working nights and weekends if their partners aren't. 

What of "the future", when most chores will be done by robots and machines?  She is doubtful (as are we all), but:
Even if it does happen, it's obvious who'll be doing all the button-pressing. Even if we get that farcical two hours down to a preposterous two minutes, it's evident whose preposterous two minutes they'd be. 

Sing it, sister.

Aug 4, 2013

Pending Coffee

I just came across this and I think it is my new favourite thing:

I saw this meme and then googled it, and yep, it's real. See:

What a wonderful thing.


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