Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (5/1/2016)

Happy New Year everyone! And welcome to 2016. Hopefully it’ll be better than 2015. Well, I had a decent year last year (the excitement of moving to another country and all that) but it seems that much of the world seemed to have a pretty shitty time of it, with the terrorist attacks and police shootings and Donald Trump and more than a couple of natural disasters and endless civil war and all the places failing to handle the refugee crisis (Australia included, but I’m looking at you large swathes of Europe. Germany’s cool though). Others had a decent year as well. Change of leadership in Canada seems to spelling good things, everyone around here seems pretty excited. Change of leadership back in Oz as well (the lion got the boot and the tin man took over). Change of leadership in Myanmar. But regardless we should always hope that tomorrow is an improvement over today. ‘Cause that is progress and we don’t want to stop progressing no matter how great things are.

Anyway, NYE has come and gone and there’s plenty to get irritated and outraged about (unnecessarily of course). Like all the end of year “best of…” lists. And “worst of…” lists. And “I think I’m creative so I’m still gonna make a list but I’m gonna give it a stupid theme, ‘cause that’ll be hil-ar-i-ous!” lists. Or people talking up their New Years Resolutions. Or other people talking down New Years Resolutions in general ‘cause they aren’t into that conformist bullshit, man. What’s really getting to me this year has been the number of Facebook and Instagram posts talking about how this year is going to be all about themselves.

It’s the weirdest fucking thing. Like, they’re posting these pseudo-profound sounding statements and e-cards with “I am going to invest in myself” and “It will all be about improving myself” with the odd hint of “in loving myself more I will be able to love others better” on a few rare occasions. That last one’s got the air of “so I’m not going to be a completely selfish bastard.” Because that’s what a lot of these posts seem to be implying. That they’re going to be selfish bastards this year who only give a fuck about their own improvement and well-being.

Here’s the thing though, I know these people aren’t. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they were. Christ, who would? I mean, it’s something I saw a lot of in the tail end of 2015, posts on Facebook and Tumblr telling people to worry about themselves first and other people second. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the number of anxious and generally-in-a-bad-situation people there are who need the boost to their confidence and self-esteem. Funny thing is a lot of those people making those posts are the types who very obviously care about the confidence, self-esteem and mental well-being of others. Certain irony to that, yeah? What’s more, saying that you’re going to take the time to work on your own physical and mental health is great, people need to do that regardless of what time of the year it is.

But please, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t do this by bragging about what a self-centred arse you’re planning on being. ‘Cause I know you’re not a self-centred arse, but others might not.

Happy New Year

Have you ever watched Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show? It’s a hell of a performance. The annual budget of a small Pacific nation is blown away over the course of around twenty minutes in a spectacular display of colour, thunder and light. The Harbour Bridge takes centre stage, its arch sometimes doubling or tripling in size as gouts of yellow, purple, red and green flame and smoke rise high into the night sky, while pontoons scattered across the water provide sideshows and back-up dancers to our main diva.

New Year’s Eve is a night that, regardless of the shit that’s gone on throughout the year, we remember that Sydney loves a party. The club lockout rules are relaxed a little, revellers surge through our streets, public transport struggles to move it all about, the atmosphere is alive and excited. Hopeful. I was so disappointed when my first NYE as an eighteen year old was down in Hobart instead of Sydney, visiting family. Getting plastered with my mates in the city was supposed to be a right of passage, and instead I was slightly buzzed at my Aunt’s friend’s place overlooking the comparatively pitiful Hobart fireworks. Two guys on a raft with a flare gun, I like to half-joke. Most of us just watched the Sydney fireworks on the TV. Mind you when I was eighteen I considered any remotely special occasion where there was an opportunity to get drunk as a right of passage. Eighteen year old me was a dumbarse. So was nineteen year old me, actually.

Mind you, it’s not like I’ve spent every year since getting trashed in the city beneath the fireworks. It’s a pain in the arse getting in and a bigger pain getting out. Last year I spent with the family and neighbours, year before that the guys came round to mine and we played poker all night. They came around again last night, though with a lot more alcohol and more ‘plus ones’ then that term usually implies. Was a lot of fun. There was an NYE where we made the trip to a spot called Blues Point, within kicking distance of the Bridge. We had to get there five hours early and fight for every inch of space against better prepared families who’d erect tents and barriers to guard and expand their territory. It was a dry area, and we expected them to put some effort into keeping alcohol out so we didn’t even try. All the drunken teenagers hanging around the public toilets proved how easy it could have been. The display was spectacular. Worth a five hour wait (six for my friends who arrived before the rest of us did)? Probably not. Worth being able to go to any other city in the world on NYE, let out a haughty, patronising chuckle and remark with absolute authority that “it’s nothing compared to a Sydney NYE display”? Absolutely. You could almost say that was the reason we were there. One of my friends was leaving for Nice (on exchange) not long after, and none of us had really gone to see those bright and tightly choreographed explosions we’re all so proud of before.

It’s all very ritualistic when you think about it. An annual sacrifice of material worth steeped in tradition, performed in front of millions of eyes, imbued with a socially-constructed sacredness, associated with drunkenness and revelry celebrating the death of the old and the beginning of the new, a communal prayer to the secular gods for a prosperous new year or at least a better one than the last. We’re nine condemned men hanging from a tree away from pleasing Odin. But I did a lot of Studies of Religion subjects at university, so that’s what I think about. The problems of the past year or burned away on a giant, kaleidoscopic funeral pyre, and we start fresh and anew. Today is a new day. Today is a new year. Thank Christ and consumer culture for that.

After all, how will 2014 be remembered? “A bit shit,” seems like an appropriately understated answer to that question. Ebola, IS (the caliphate formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) still going strong in Iraq and Syria, MH17 and MH370 (along with all the other planes that have gone down this year), a gunman in Ottawa, a gunman in Sydney, the situation in Ukraine, Ferguson and the resulting (completely justifiable) civil unrest, Gamergate and other attacks on feminism and women in our entertainment mediums. A bit shit. There were definitely joys to be had, 2014 gave us Guardians of the Galaxy after all, but I know I’m not gonna look back at this year too fondly. I may have spent a substantial part of this year going through depression (“may have” because I’m not a fan of self-diagnosis and get a bit rattled at the thought of getting a professional opinion). But that’s me, and any such judgement is entirely subjective. I couldn’t wait ‘til 2014 ended. You may have had a great year. I hope you had a great year. Seriously. I hope your next year is a lot better though. I hope mine is as well. I think it will be.

I’d like to say that writing this blog, for the two dozen or so of you that read it, has been a real joy. You’re all wonderful, intelligent, discerning and startling attractive people. I’ve been trying to maintain at least one post a week, but it’s been a bit difficult lately and will be a bit difficult in the future. I’m moving to Vancouver in a month and life has been busy. So bear with me, yeah?

Yeah. So that’s the barest outline of my plans for the new year, what’s yours? I hope they’re good. Keep the positive from last year, throw the negative onto the pyre, start the new year refreshed and ready. Welcome 2015, fuck off 2014.

And Happy New Year one and all.

Thanks for reading.