International Inc.

The intercom buzzed.

‘Hello?’

‘Hello, is Alex there?’

‘Uh no he is not, sorry’

They hang up and I am surprised to be standing there at all.

I had walked past this busy street thousands of times and not once did I ever stop to think that people lived here. This was the city city. It didn’t get more urban than this. Tall, foreboding steel gates marked the entrance. I heard French voices wafting in and out of the building.

Finally my longtime French friend and her French boyfriend spot me from a distance. Alex (who lives in the building) calls out to me.

‘MISS AUSTRALIA!’

‘Are you ready for my house? We are ten people living there….like your house, but instead of three, we are ten’.

‘You must be exaggerating’ I respond, ‘I live in a three-bedroom house’.

‘So is ours’, he said. And so it was. Eight people sharing two rooms, and one couple in another room. They still paid between $160-$250 each including bills.

It wasn’t particularly big. The rooms were as big as the smallest room in my house. Rules were hung up on the wall explicitly stating that they could have no guests or parties, that people must leave before 10pm etc.

Representatives come around to check on the place unannounced (something that sounds extremely shifty, as most landlords need to give two weeks’ notice). It seemed extreme to me. Whoever they were, they owned the whole building and had other students living in similar situations.

We sat around chatting with the French guys and the Argentinian girls. The topic turned to the privilege of living in a city like Sydney. They spoke of how much safer Sydney is than Europe or Argentina.

‘Not anymore for me’ piped up one of the Argentinian girls.

‘I got robbed today in the Chinese markets’.

This was very uncommon and I hadn’t heard of it happening until now.

‘I had my zipper undone because I think Australia is safe and I am relaxed now’.

‘Not like Argentina’, the local Buenos Aires girl offered up.

‘No, in Argentina you have to be very careful…they steal everything, your bag, your necklace from around your neck, even while they’re on a moto. Never wear gold or expensive things…never take your iPhone out or wear headphones because they’ll know you have it and take it’.

‘Yeah they even steal your hair!’ the BA girl offered.

‘WHAT?!’ exclaimed the girl from Cordoba and me simultaneously, mouths agape.

‘Yeah it happened to someone I knew, they can cut off your hair in a ponytail. They love the blonde girls with long hair’.

‘This can’t be common, I didn’t know about it’, reassured the other girl from the South.

I asked them if they had ever experienced danger or theft.

‘Oh no, not really. I had two of my phones stolen, but it’s no big deal’

I clutched my iPhone in a moment of panic..

‘In Argentina we say we are lucky because we are alive and these are just material things and we are not hurt’.

Good point and all, but I was still clutching my iPhone for dear, ironic life.

The other thing that struck me as interesting was how they communicated with one another. The Argentinian girls spoke Spanish between them and the French guys spoke French to each other, even though neither groups could speak the other language. They only spoke English to each other and to me.

I understood everyone in the room and found the dynamic so strange. They actually struggled to speak English to each other and I picked up on so many errors. The problem with this living arrangement is there are no English native speakers there to correct their pronunciation and teach them how to master the language. I cannot stress how important it is to live with native speakers when you live overseas and are trying to learn the language.

As a result of this situation, it didn’t feel like there was much conviviality or life in the house. How can there be with such a big barrier of communication and with angry landlords coming to check that people are adhering to the ‘rules’? If you are an international student or a foreigner coming to Sydney, I highly recommend searching far and wide for affordable accommodation. I know it exists and in far more relaxed circumstances.

I came to leave and felt my dear friend let out a slight and subtle sigh of relief that she was coming back home with me…

rebuild and fortify

words of healing from a dear friend, not so long ago:

‘…whereas I know you’re in the ‘rebuild and fortify’ stage, battening down the hatches, regrouping and planting some motherfucking roses and re-writing what the next few years are going to look like and every time he gets in touch, it’s like he’s knocking a wall down’.

Tiny Answers #3

@Michael asks:

Remember you explained your rules for ages for guys you would/n’t date? What rules should apply to (hetero) guys and women’s ages?

Hi Michael,

I’ll admit your question had me stumped, primarily because I couldn’t remember what rules Past Tiny had handed down to you in the style of Moses and the commandments, but let’s just work on the assumption that Past Tiny was a jerk and take it from there. (You’ve just informed me that my ‘woman’s rule was date no younger man ever’ – okay).

First, let me just say that I’m glad my mum never adhered to this rule, or I would not be here today.

Someone once told me that women and men have different levels of maturity at different ages. For example, a 20-year-old woman would be about as mature as a 23-year-old male (don’t quote me on this theory, I know nothing of its source). It was as though there was some kind of 3-year default maturity gap between them. It might have something to do with women having a biological clock to consider, and so their maturity levels work on autopilot, or something. I don’t know. But someone planted that seed into the head of a very influential and spearheaded, self-perceived mature young woman (is spearheaded an adjective? It should be).

Naturally I took this advice in my stride and struggled to find guys my own age attractive. I saw them as friends or mere comrades in the battle of growing up and nothing more. I was unable to find someone on the same intellectual and emotional maturity wavelength that I perceived myself to be riding like a warrior and refused to entertain the idea of dating someone younger because it would mean being unable to relate to that person, whose interests probably included tackling trees and ramming into things.

Here’s where the spanner is thrown into the proverbial works. Out of sheer stubbornness and faithfulness to this rule (and possibly because I was emitting the wrong signals) I was fighting off suitors who were up to ten years older than me, even in high school. I was trying to convince them that they were possibly TOO old for me. It was a strange conundrum to be in and it backfired on me when I had my first major crush on a guy who was about 8 years older than me. Naturally my reaction to these feelings went along the lines of, ‘Well this makes sense, he’s older but it’s not quite a decade!’ (should have had that emblazoned on a school jersey).

Luckily he rejected my tiny advances on the premise that I was too young. It wasn’t the age difference. It was that I had just finished high school and was starting university and this person may as well have been on another planet to me, that’s how different we were. But I couldn’t see it until I literally moved to another planet (Spain) and found my first boyfriend at the age of 21. He was 31. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

Let the autopsy show that the failed relationship was not the age difference at all. I recently met up with him and discovered he was under the impression that if he had only met me a few years later, things might have worked out (forever the optimist). He claimed that by then we would be at similar stages in our lives. Maybe. But it wasn’t about being at similar stages in our lives. It was about compatibility. Sometimes people are just wrong for you and you don’t have the awareness that comes with years of life experience to realise that they’re wrong. You don’t even know what it is you really want, you crazy humans!

I had more age issues after that with subsequent relationships, mainly because I was a carefree twenty-something just trying to do normal carefree twenty-something things (totes still am), whereas my exes were all in their ‘omg-we’re-on-the-cusp-of-turning-30-and-what-is-my-life-even-about-and-is-this-my-existential-life-crisis?!’ phase. If I had simply dated someone closer to my age (or even younger) I might have been able to better experience things that likeminded folks were going through, rather than constantly being the collateral damage of someone’s ‘Not-Quite-A-Mid-Life’ crisis.

Recently I had to reassess what I was doing and figure out why I kept running into the same problems. My thought process literally roller coasted from legitimate considerations of dating much older divorcee rich moguls just for their money, to eyeing off 22-year-olds and wondering how easy it would be to catch one, like it was as simple as fishing, the logic being that such dramatically different ages would result in perhaps not so much drama. Flawed logic, no doubt.

The thing is, as we get older, we start to forget a lot of that idiocy about rules and dating and relationship bullshit. It’s hard enough without having to worry about inane little things.

Here’s a tiny checklist to keep you on track:

  1. Do you like her? If you answered yes, move to the next question. If you answered no, then do you like pie? I like pie.
  2. Does she like you back? Yes? Move to 3. No? See above.
  3. Is she the opposite of a horrible person? Yes? (See below) No? You know the pie drill.

Congratulations. It’s a match!

Most men and women have issues with immaturity at all ages (trust me I’ve seen it and it’s not pretty). It’s best to re-assess your priorities and figure out what you want and the type of person who will bring out the best qualities in you.What matters most to you right now at this exact moment in time? Will that change anytime soon? How will it impact another person? Do you want to travel? Pursue a particular career path? Have babies? Eat pie? All factors to consider.

What complicates the issue sometimes is when two people want dramatically different things out of life but this can occur with or without an age difference. You have to be honest and upfront about what you both want. I also advise against proceeding if one or more parties has a serious hang up about the age difference, especially if it’s an older woman dating a younger man. She really needs to get over that already, girlfriend! After all, as Aaliyah and R.Kelly proved, both in real life and in song, age aint nothing but a number of years that a person has lived on this earth. Don’t complicate it.

So to answer your question Michael, there are no rules. It depends on the person, the situation and what you are looking for.

And look, sometimes our age theory limits are tested when exuberant, rosy-cheeked boy bands named One Direction start to appeal to women aged 24+ (not even ashamed to admit I’m one of those women). People born in the 90s are really starting to come into their own now, potentially becoming cooler than the previous generation (us). Don’t fight it. Let evolution do its thing. We need to join up with them and form reinforcements, should we ever need to form a rebellion against the older generation. I’m not really answering the question anymore, am I? Okay then. /Tiny out.

‘Is all this made entirely from your own imagination?’

When you glance at the so called ‘mixed reviews’ on The Great Gatsby film thus far, you’ll notice the bad reviews have something in common. They all seem obsessed with critiquing the director and his aesthetic style, rather than focusing in on the actual film itself, which you’d think is some kind of required prescience in a FILM REVIEW and all, but what do I know really? (Well I’ve seen the film, so I do know that half of them barely even addressed it in their winding critiques of Baz).

Hence why I really appreciate this well articulated Baz defence from Brendan Maclean, who, despite playing a fairly miniscule role as Klipspringer in the latest adaptation, still had to work hard to pass it off as the real deal.

The other thing that irritates me with the current ‘mixed’ reviews is how unimaginative and boring they are, just re-hashing the same criticisms that were heaped on the 1974 Jack Clayton adaptation by the far better equipped reviewer in the late Roger Ebert. The following criticisms have occured at one point or another, mainly from people yet to even see the film. You’ll notice Ebert treats the subject in a much more suitable and respectful manner than current day critics. The Clayton version was not the best example of an adaptation, but at least Ebert attempted to focus in on the film itself, rather than all the theatrics and gossip behind it. As he’s only human and obviously also a fan of the original novel, he does get defensive of it at times. The difference is that with Ebert, you really believe that the film could have been better, mainly because he goes to great lengths to explain how and why.

Here are Ebert extracts which sound all too familiar to today’s maddened fans, which is a little ironic given how tame the 1974 version is in comparison to the Baz version:

‘The Great Gatsby is a superficially beautiful hunk of a movie with nothing much in common with the spirit of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel.’

‘I wonder what Fitzgerald, whose prose was so graceful, so elegantly controlled, would have made of it: of the willingness to spend so much time and energy on exterior effect while never penetrating to the souls of the characters.’

‘When the casting of Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby was announced, I objected because he didn’t fit my notion of Gatsby: He was too substantial, too assured, even too handsome.’

‘Oh, we’re told, to be sure: The sound track contains narration by Nick that is based pretty closely on his narration in the novel. But we don’t feel. We’ve been distanced by the movie’s overproduction. Even the actors seem somewhat cowed by the occasion; an exception is Bruce Dern…’

Well if he thought 1974 was an overproduction…! I no longer really subscribe to the argument that an over the top production must be at the mercy of failing to do justice to the original text. I still felt that the Baz version renders many heartbreaking, authentic moments, as well as being visually breathtaking. (My favourite scene: where Gatsy sees Daisy in Nick’s house for the first time…so many flowers! so many tears!) As you can see from the 1974 version, the treatment of this crucial scene is impeccable in comparison.The way he interpreted the ‘beautiful shirts’ scene is also really interesting and dynamic, and I think he pulls it off.

Let’s face it, The Great Gatsby is an impossible book to bring to life on screen, same with any of Fitzgerald’s books, but the essence of it is not lost here. I think Baz does the story justice and you can tell he really tried to stay as true to the text as possible (not as much appropriation here as Romeo and Juliet but still placing it in a modern pastiche). So to claim to the contrary is unfair and presumptuous. It’s a fair adaptation in that he recreates the superficiality of that world in such an entertaining and sensory way and does so by transporting you to whole other decadent era that still feels eerily familiar. And yet, in my opinion, he still remains faithful to the darker undertones of the book. It’s almost impossible to really give any moral commentary on the ‘social decay’ of the time, the way you can in a novel format. And so what if some people come away seeing only the glamorous parties? That’s bound to happen. As for our boy Leo, I’m a real fan of his in this role (I was adamantly opposed to his being cast for so long). I think he did such a stellar job of making you feel Gatsby’s suffering. If you’ve seen Catch Me if You Can, you’ll know how good Leo can be as a dazzling, charming wonder boy with a darker sorrow lurking beneath the surface.

The film might take Gatsby in a slightly different direction at times but is that really worth writing off the entire film? The fact that the main criticisms from the ‘bad reviews’ are just a free-for-all at Baz as a director and the ‘good’ reviews are actually an attempt to refer to the film itself, tells us everything we need to know already. See for yourself:

The Bad

‘What Luhrmann grasps even less than previous adapters of the tale is that Fitzgerald was, via his surrogate Carraway, offering an eyewitness account of the decline of the American empire, not an invitation to the ball.’

‘Because Luhrmann is always thirsting for the next grand gesture — the next emotional crescendo — the book’s subtlety and shading get trampled under his overblown aesthetic.’

‘It’s as if every bit of creativity dried up the moment the deal was signed. Yes, this is exactly what I would expect a Baz Luhrmann ‘Gatsby’ would look like, but is that enough?’

‘This film marks the official moment in which Baz Luhrmann’s signature style has become self-parody. So we beat on, boats against the current, jumping the shark.’

The Good

‘The cast is first-rate, the ambiance and story provide a measure of intoxication and, most importantly, the core thematic concerns pertaining to the American dream, self-reinvention and love lost, regained and lost again are tenaciously addressed.’

‘The fourth adaptation of the Fitzgerald novel scores some hits and wild misses, but DiCaprio nails the bull’s-eye.’

‘The film builds from an early small-scale Bacchanalia in a gaudy pink New York pied-a-terre to the giant-scale choreographed chaos of the Gatsby party centerpiece, the tour-de-force that makes the movie a must-see.’

It is an absolute must-see and it will be seen and talked about, studied, revived and read again by so many people and that is all that really matters.

May: Festival of Gatsby

To celebrate my all time favourite novel (from my all time favourite author) being adapted into the epic, fall-to-your-knees film of breathtaking, haunting and heartbreakingly tragic beauty, I officially declare and dedicate the month of May to all things Great and all things Gatsby (that’s The Great Gatsby for those living sous-rock).

I’ll be posting quotes here and there from the book. Be sure to call everyone ‘old sport’, won’t you now.

QUOTE NUMBER ONE FROM MISS DAISY BUCHANAN:

“I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow… And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 1

 

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