Tuesday, 29 January 2008

P is for Party, Peer Pressure and Paris (the Person and the Place)

This past Australia Day Week(end) has been a blast, absolutely fantastic. My good friend Miss K who lives not far from me had a surprise 18th birthday party organised for her by her mother and boyfriend, which I was invited to, along with a couple of our mutual friends from boarding school.

It was a dress up party; the theme was P. I was originally going to dress in polka dot, because I have a cute little black and white polka dot dress I bought for $20 in Melbourne, but decided to be more imaginative (and glamorous) and so dressed as a Parisian (bonjour) in a simple indigo v-neck singlet, long bright pink skirt, a pink beret and those gorgeous heels (all of which I own.) The heels were surprisingly comfortable for their height; I stood and danced in them all night long (from 6pm til 3am), without getting sore feet or blisters, even the day after.

At least I was the only Parisian there. There were many pirates (both male and female, including Gemini), a handful of policewomen (and man), as well as prisoners, and, among others:

Post-medieval samurai
Porn star
Paris Hilton
Poofter(s) – blokes, that is
Puma turned pussy cat
Pink Ladies (from Grease)
Pakistani cricketer
P plater (I toyed with this idea, but decided against it)
(a) Prince (the boyfriend)

…but no prostitutes. The party girl herself was psyched up for another party, and returned to her own house to “prepare,” only to have the door opened by three friends – myself, Gemini, and Miss G – who we hadn’t seen for one, two and three years respectively. Despite another friend mistakenly calling K to tell her that she was sorry she couldn’t make the party, she was completely surprised – and somewhat shocked – to open the door to see us, and some 40 other friends, mostly local school friends but some coming from as far as Sydney. Sara was to come, but was unfortunately struck down by laryngitis.

We dressed her playing pass the parcel (an apt game for a p-themed party, no?) – every layer revealed an article of clothing, accessory or makeup that someone had to dress her in, which included gumboots, a beautiful red dress (she was a princess of sorts), a tiara, a purple shawl, a pink birthday girl sash, lipstick (messily and playfully applied all around her lips by a boy), eye shadow, nail polish (hurriedly applied by “Paris Hilton”), a poodle handbag, and a blue feather boa.

It was a bit awkward in the beginning, because we didn’t know anyone, but K’s boyfriend introduced us, and we got along pretty well with her friends from Sydney, and as the night grew late, we met more and more people. K’s friend D was really cute, and so nice to me – made me get up and dance (which I thoroughly enjoyed, and he knew it, though I wouldn’t admit it), and introduced me to strangers; wish I had as much self-confidence. Charming guy – at least he respected my decision not to drink (alcohol), unlike his sister, who was a wonderful outgoing girl and kept trying to get me to have a drink (but nicely.) I was one of two sober people – the other was Miss G, who doesn’t like to – but I didn’t feel like I was missing out; I think I probably had a better time without it. U (from Sydney) was also pretty considerate about my decision – we got on really well, and according to everyone (no kidding, everyone) he really liked me, which was sweet, but when everyone was urging me to hook up with him it felt a bit weird and uncomfortable; too much like peer pressure and not enough like something I wanted to do. It didn’t help that K’s younger brother A was trying to set me up with one of his friends throughout the night. At one stage, most people coupled up and wandered off into the darkness and I was the only girl left dancing with a couple of boys (T – the p plater – was a great dancer; very entertaining.) At some stage, the Eagles was put on the stereo, and we all started to sing along.

Early in the morning, people starting moving inside with the intention of playing poker, which never eventuated because of the lack of a set. People started playing the piano (some of them well, others not so), and in K’s room people were laid out on the floor, someone was playing the guitar and at some stage we all started singing along to whatever songs struck our fancy.

Someone threw up in the lounge room – wasn’t there to see it – and after that we started to head off to bed, but not to sleep. K, Gemini and I stayed up talking in her room, which is something we haven’t done for ages. Around 4 o’clock, Gemini and I drifted off to sleep – G had to catch a bus early in the morning – while K mucked around with some of her other friends, and got about an hour of sleep at 6am.

I stayed the next night, along with K’s brother’s friend T (the p plater.) Everybody left before lunchtime, so K, her bf, two other friends and I went to McDonalds for lunch, because we are oh so healthy. In the afternoon we napped, none of us having more than a few hours’ sleep. That night we went out for dinner, driving to four restaurants (three of them closed and one of them booked out) before settling on a lovely little café that served great food. We rented a DVD for us girls to watch – Amazing Grace, because Knocked Up was all rented out – which is a really great film that eventually only I stayed up to watch, because K’s mother realised she had already seen it, and K was beyond tired. It’s a film about slavery in 17th century Britain, and the efforts to abolish slavery. Really sad, but has a very uplifting ending.

Speaking of enjoyable films – I saw Juno on Saturday, before the party, which I absolutely loved, and 27 Dresses with K on Monday, which was a great feel good chick flick; funny, bitchy (they totally should have made more of the hardware shop scene between the sisters, but I loved the slideshow), and sweet. Katherine Heigl is both gorgeous and fantastic and co-star James Marsden is equally wonderful and so good looking. I really have to see Enchanted now (I mean, James Marsden and McDreamy? What’s not to love?)

I am such a hopeless romantic.

Juno is a terrific film, which I highly recommend. The trailer really doesn’t make it as intriguing as it should. Ellen Page is fantastic as Juno, a sixteen year old with an alternative taste in music beyond her years who doesn’t give a shit about what other people think and falls pregnant to best friend Paul (Michael Cera), who genuinely cares for her. She goes through the process of finding adoptive parents, after being unable to go through with an abortion, but someone gets cold feet, and along the way Juno tries to figure out what love really is. It’s funny, moving and upbeat, carried more by the weight of the performance of the leads than the story itself. The soundtrack, too, is one of the best I have heard in a while, because it goes with the film; the songs are quirky tales of friendship, romance and life, with amusing lyrics and cheerful tunes.

The best thing I can say about the party – or about the whole weekend – is that I don’t regret anything I did or didn’t do. I had the most terrific time, and it was wonderful to see my friends again and meet K’s friends, all of whom are great people.

Just a girl

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Australia Day Week

Let me introduce Australia's one and only, Sam Kekovich, not to be taken seriously.

If you don't understand why all those nicely dressed kids are standing around, it's a take off of the (recognisable) Qantas ad.

It's all part of lamb promotion by MLA (Meat & Livestock Australia) that started around 2006. This particular advertisement (one of many, that include Vote Lamb during the elections, and broadcasts during the "unAustralian Open") has been hailed as controversial because of certain comments pertaining to NZ's PM Helen Clarke.

That's an Aussie sense of humour for you!

Just an Aussie (girl)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

“Tragic, untimely, accidental”

Those three words – in a statement by his family – ultimately capture the shocking death of Australian actor Heath Ledger, only 28, found dead in his New York apartment yesterday; it is speculated that he died from an accidental drug overdose, possibly sleeping pills.

John Travolta has said he is “pretty devastated,” which I think sums up our reactions to Ledger’s sudden death. Such a young man, a talented and well-respected actor, and a devoted father. It’s just so hard to comprehend, and sad to believe.

A bit of a larrikin – albeit a good looking one – his easy going attitude belied a dedicated actor known for roles in Ned Kelly, Candy, and perhaps most famously, for which he earned a Best Actor nomination, Brokeback Mountain.

My favourite of all his roles is that of Patrick Verona in 10 Things I Hate About You, an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, in which he plays a hardcore and rebellious teenager paid to woo a certain aloof girl. He plays the role with impish ease and a roguish grin, and that’s how I like to remember him.

Just a girl

My problem is, I dream too large

Think global. Dream large.

(You know what that means.)

I received an offer for the Bachelor of Arts at Melbourne University, my first preference!

To complement my acceptance at Melbourne, I was offered a place at the residential college of my first preference and a first year scholarship of $1,500 that I didn’t apply for! (Just as when my hand was shaking when I called my IBC to receive my score, my legs began to tremble slightly while I was on the phone to the residential college.)

I also received an offer for the double Media degree (with an Arts stream) at the University of Adelaide and an offer for the Bachelor of Philosophy (for Arts) at ANU, complete with a $5000 scholarship/year that, again, I didn’t even apply for!

So I’m absolutely on cloud nine about it all; I really couldn’t be happier with my score (well, obviously I would be if I’d gotten 41+, but I’m very satisfied and not at all complaining!) or my offers, which I’ve accepted at Melbourne University. The only thing that’s bothering me is my subject choices.

Monday was Academic Advice Day at Melbourne Uni, which was basically an information day about all the subjects on offer. The more I learned about what I could do, the more I wanted to do.

So now my problem is I want to do too much. There is not enough space on two people’s timetables for all the subjects I want to do. Creative writing, English literary studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, Spanish, classical studies, democracy, from Homer to Hollywood, Globalisation, Internet <=> Society, An Ecological History of Humanity, Introduction to Climate Change, Catastrophes, Cultures, and the Angry Earth.

At this stage, I’ve elected Creative writing (possibly my major), English literary studies (possibly my minor, or a double major), Spanish, from Homer to Hollywood (which I’m thinking I’ll change to Democracy) and Globalisation as my foundation subjects, and An Ecological History of Humanity and Introduction to Climate Change as my breadth subjects. I’m not sure if I’ll continue on with Spanish; I enjoy the subject and I’d like to continue studying it – not to mention it could also be advantageous for me in the area of journalism – but if I didn’t, I could explore other interests, such as psychology and philosophy, both of which I’ve never taken before.

I’m sure I’ll work it out; I’ve another few weeks to change my subjects, and the first few weeks of term to figure out if I like them or not. But the last time I faced this kind of decision – which was choosing in yr 10 whether to do Theatre and/or Design Technology and/or Biology in the IB (or instead doing all three in the VCE) – I didn’t find it so easy, and broke down a bit under stress. I’ll try to hold up better this time.

Any advice?

The rest of our (5 day) weekend in Melbourne was far less stressful and much more enjoyable. On Friday night we saw Shout!, the musical celebrating Johnny O’Keefe’s life, music and role in creating a profile for Australian rock in the 1950s, coinciding with 50 Years of Rock ’n’ Roll in Australia this year. It was very well done, portraying Johnny as a jocular, optimistic young man driven by his ambition to play on stage. He persuaded Lee Gordon to become his agent, and became heralded as the King of Rock ’n’ Roll and the Wild One. He encouraged fellow musicians to broadcast themselves – as he did – through TV by hosting variety shows. Though he never cracked it overseas – but not through lack of trying – he broke the conservative society that condemned such frivolity and indecency. In the middle of his career the lifestyle and pressure became too much, and he turned to drugs, which led to the breakdown of his marriage.

The musical numbers were in the vibrant style of the 1950s, and the ending was a performance which had all of us standing, clapping and singing along as a tribute to a man who did so much but died at 43.

On Saturday night we saw a musical I have long wanted – and waited – to see; Phantom of the Opera. It’s been running for so long that my parents have seen it once before, when I was little.

Just in case any one gets mad, there are spoilers – implied – in this review. They provide an overview of the musical, without giving the story away, but you have been warned.

With five crashing cords, the tragic yet compelling story of one man’s love for a woman he can never claim unfolds in Phantom of the Opera. His identity is a twisted mystery that haunts a Paris theatre, “an angel in hell;” she is the star who lights up the stage. But she is already spoken for; she loves another. And so until she becomes his, the play cannot go on.

Though the man behind the mask may be unforgiving and must be obeyed, his passion and desire becomes apparent in the stirring Music of the Night. By contrast, the Masquerade Ball is a lively affair, a picture of innocent lovers and celebration, but it is overshadowed by the fear of the Phantom and his demands, which force his muse to face up to consequences none can imagine. All of this culminates in The Point of No Return, a coy but blind seduction that leads to the Phantom’s ultimate attempt to wed* his unwilling bride.

Comic relief is provided in the shape of letters to the producers, but for the most part the play is suspenseful, poignant and bittersweet. The set is impressive in both grandeur and its seamless changes; the costumes equally so. But perhaps it is the special effects that are most spectacular in their ability to inspire shock and awe.

Though he can be cruel and manipulative to get his way, we come to empathise with a man who has never known true compassion. Though love conquers all, it is the Phantom who receives the biggest encore.
Sunday night saw us at the tennis, prepared to enjoy two matches, but only being able to see one and a half. The first was Australian Casey Dellacqua, who played well – but not well enough – against 3rd seen Serbian Jelena Jankovic. Tennis is one of – if not the – best spectator sports, because the crowd is so involved. After all, only in a tennis match could a crowd member call Jankovich’s return “out!” and be mistaken for a linesperson, causing Dellacqua not to the hit the ball, leading to umpire consultation and a request for the crowd not to make the calls. Collectively, we ooohed and ahhhed as challenges were played up on the screen, even before we knew whether it was right or wrong. We cheered when Dellacqua’s challenges were correct and when Jankavic’s were wrong. And Dellacqua’s grandmother received the biggest cheer of all when she was shown on screen before the match began.

The second match should have been the better of the two, as it was Nadal (who I had not yet seen play and had been eager to watch) vs. Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu. It began very well, and as Nadal began to hit his stride we were privy to some wonderful tennis. Unfortunately it ended all too soon, with the Frenchman retiring in the second set when he was down 3 love due to some unknown injury for which he had received some attention in the first set. The night matches previous to ours had gone on into the wee hours – Hewitt’s because it started late and went 4.5 hours, Roddick’s was simply a long match – but we got the night that finished early for all the wrong reasons. Ah well. I was happy to see Nadal – however briefly – as I have decided he is something of a dish. I would love to see him win the tournament – it would be great if he came up against Djockavich instead of Federer – but I doubt he will, Federer will probably win again, though I’m not adverse to that, either. I also hope that Ana Ivanovic wins - not only is she pretty, but a fantastic up and coming player who I watched beat Venus Williams in a tight match, but she'll have her work cut out for her in Sharapova, should she make it through the semis, who played arguably the match of her life against Henin, who matched her but just couldn't beat her. (Does the shriek annoy anyone else?)
Any other predictions?

Just a girl

Monday, 14 January 2008

Christmas Lists

It is an almost inevitable consequence of Chrismas and New Year's that we write lists; lists for thank you notes, lists of resolutions and - coming soon - favourites of 2007; books, films, music and so on.

What an Australian Christmas is All About List:
  • Dinner on Christmas night with all the family
  • Swimming on the hot Christmas afternoon
  • Flies
  • Uncle G chewing off my father’s ear with his stories
  • His son Cousin L cracking jokes all dinner long and laughing his distinctive hyena laugh
  • Grandma chasing my younger cousins around the garden
  • Youngest cousin H (nearly 3 years old) taking a pee in the rose bushes, in front of everyone, completely starkers and smiling happily
  • Slightly older cousin H (his brother) impatiently handing out presents, but being too shy to give one to my much older (than him) brother
  • Little cousin J opening presents, even if they weren’t hers
  • Grandpa having his plate piled high with every dessert and contentedly eating it all
  • The youngest cousins fighting for a turn on Cousin L’s Nintendo DS
  • Youngest cousin H chasing and “scaring” everyone with his toy dinosaurs as we left

What I Received for Christmas (Short)List:

How We Celebrated Over New Year’s List:
  • Thursday 27: Drove to Sydney (I drove through the mountains, which was quite interesting considering my 80km/h speed limit, watching the traffic build up behind me, including the semi-trailers, until they all zoomed by in the frequent overtaking lanes)
  • Most days: swam on Manly or Shelley Beach

  • Every night: ate out for dinner; Manly Grill, Ribs & Rump, Café Brisa, Le Kiosk, pizza for NYE, fish and chips
  • Friday 28: walked up around North Heads and army barracks on a clear but hot day; view was spectacular

  • Saturday 29: ferried to the city one day to see No Country for Old Men and shop (when I bought those fantastic shoes)
  • Sunday 30: ran along the beach one early morning; I may not be big on running, but the sunrise was beautiful
  • Monday 31: Drove out to Palm Beach and Whale Beach for a swim, only to discover they were closed due to large surf created by the storms off the coast of Queensland, so walked up and down the beaches instead, admiring the waves

  • Watched the Family Fireworks over Manly Wharf at 9 pm – absolutely stunning
  • Tuesday 1: Saw Atonement on New Year’s Day
  • Wednesday 2: Drove home, finally

Just a girl

Friday, 11 January 2008

Did You Know...?

Worth watching. Worth thinking about. Somewhat mindboggling to conceive as it goes on.

Just a girl

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Columbia Calls

Yesterday I had a phone interview with Columbia which was rather…interesting. I think it was a probably an average interview at best. To begin with, I had to keep asking the interviewer to repeat himself due to bad static on my end.

The interview took about 45 minutes in all, including all his questions and the few that were mine. Among other things, he asked me the following (and I paraphrase) – my answers in italics:

If you were principal of your school, what would you change?
Make more opportunities for student driven extra-curricular initiatives – including sport – by introducing funding and incentives, to make students more passionate about their interests

If you couldn’t get into any university either in America or Australia, what would you do?
Either get a job locally with a newspaper as a journalist or apply for an internship or job with The Age in Melbourne, try to gain experience and work my way up

You say you’re passionate about human rights. Was there an article, magazine or event that you read about this year that strongly affected you?
Burma was something that I thought was terrible, the protests of the monks and the way they were imprisoned was one of the biggest breaches of human rights.

If you eventually end up at Columbia, what do you see yourself doing about the Burmese crisis?
I’d like to be able to join groups – both political and human rights – to advocate and work for change, as I’m already part of several online organisations that sign petitions against such things.

What do you want to be remembered for at you previous school?
I think among friends and teachers alike I’d be remembered as a hard working student. (Chuckle.) I also like to think that I’d be remembered as a friend – I was always happy to help – and as a leader, both in the house and the softball field.

You come from a pretty small country town. How do you see yourself moving to Columbia, if you are accepted?
Having attended boarding school, I feel that I'm able to adapt to different environments, and having travelled quite frequently with my family, I feel I'm fairly well placed to be flexible in a different place and society.

I have a feeling I didn’t really answer all of the questions the way he wanted me too. It’s a relief though. I’d really love to attend Columbia, it’s one of – if not the – best school for creative writing and journalism in the States. But if I don’t get in, I hope I can participate in an exchange there or the University of Pennsylvania, which also has a highly recognised writing program. It won’t be the end of the world if I wasn’t accepted there; if I get into Melbourne, I’ll definitely be satisfied, because while it might not be Yale or Columbia, it’s adopting a new direction in the way they structure their degrees, US style, and it might not be an Ivy, but it’s in the Top 8. The obvious advantage is it’s right in Melbourne, close to my family and friends, and offers all kinds of opportunities academic and otherwise, including the (New Generation) Bachelor of Arts, which I look forward to.

Just a girl

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The 40+ Club

No, I'm not referring to age.

Also known as The 99+ Club, the 40+ Club refers to an elite group of IB students who - you guessed it! - achieved 40 or more in their completion of the IB.

Since results were released yesterday, rumours have been flying thick and fast across Facebook and Skype about who got what, but it was confirmed today by our IBC that 16 people scored more than 40 (including me), 4 people are Duces (plural of dux) of our school and 3 people are
Proxime Accesserunt (plural of Proxime Accessit).

How nerdy are we?

Exceptionally nerdy. (Sorry, couldn't resist; that's an inside/school joke.)

Dancing Feet is part of the club (I hope he doesn't mind my saying so), and I wager that Sara will be too. [Edit: Sara not only cracked the big 4-0h, as she calls it, but the huuuuge 4-5!! Congratulations to her!]

In our IBC's email, it was mentioned that 46 people were part of the IB 2007 session, and yet only 45 received the diploma. Does any one of my exceptionally nerdy classmates know if this refers to our good friend Miss SC, who left us in the middle of the year, or did someone actually fail?

[Edit: to my dismay, I have found out that someone did actually fail.]

For those who want to know what those beautiful Hispanitas look like, here they are, in all their shiny, white, leather glory:

Speaking of photos, I've started a photo blog, which will be an interesting experiment, least of which to see how long I can maintain it - regularly - for. I'll probably link to it occasionally - and vice versa - but otherwise this blog shall continue to document my everyday life. The Impatient Photographer - as I've named it - is my chance to talk about and discuss my photos in another forum, as I have so many photos from so many occasions that I want to share.

Just a girl

Friday, 4 January 2008

Drum Roll, Please

Yesterday I had my driving test for my provisional licence and...I passed! All in all it was fairly straightforward, I drove around town (fortunately a small and quiet town without traffic lights or roundabouts) for about half an hour, doing a reverse parallel park (which I was quite worried about, but usually do OK if I don't mount the curb) and a kerbside stop, which is pretty easy. I was marked on speed management (for which I scored 25/25), road positioning (21/25), decision making (23/25), hazards & responding to hazards (3/3), and vehicle control (25/25). All up I scored 97/103. A pass is 90% or more and no failing conditions (eg not stopping at a stop sign, speeding, etc.) Yay - I am now an independent driver!

But of course, what you all want to know is, as Emma put it, “those pesky IB results,” which I found out this morning. They are good. Very good. I was aiming for 39. I scored 40. 40. This converts to an ENTER of 99.10, which is what I hoped I would be able to achieve. The marks I received in each subject are:

English A1 HL: 6
Spanish ab initio SL: 7 (guess my Spanish oral wasn't as bad as I'd thought)
History HL: 7
Biology SL: 6
Mathematics Methods SL: 6
Design Technology HL: 5
Extended Essay: A
Theory of Knowledge: B

I had hoped to score a 7 in English, but am happily surprised to receive a 7 in history. I’m also very pleased to have scored a 6 in Maths, which was probably my weakest subject, and I’m ecstatic to receive an A in my EE, since I worked so hard on it. Design Tech was one of the hardest sets of papers, and probably the ones for which I was least prepared. I feel that I’ve likely disappointed my biology teacher by only scoring a 6 – I think he believed I was the only person in the class who would score a 7, although I think he only predicted a 6 for me.

My family – aunts and grandma – have been ringing all morning, and they’re all so proud. With such a score, I think I should be accepted into the Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, which is my first preference. Mind you, it’s not all over yet. I’ve also to be accepted into a residential college – again, hopefully my first preference – which I will find out next week, around the time I find out if I receive an offer from Melbourne Uni.

My parents are delighted; my father kept telling me I was aiming too high all year, since I set my sights on 39. He thought it would be far more realistic to aim for 37. And my IB coordinator was also pleased for me, when he gave the results over the phone this morning.

In celebration – and congratulations – my mother has given me a pair of shoes she bought me while I was shopping with her in the city in Sydney. They’re Hispanitas, a cute Spanish brand, and absolutely gorgeous.

So, I’d like to thank all of you for your support throughout the year, especially during exams because, believe it or not, you really helped me through. I hope that all my IB friends – and readers – did as well as they’d hoped, or better.

Just a girl