Respect Yourself – the expression of sexuality in popular culture

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In the mid 1990’s when the grunge movement was in full flight a lot of girls (and boys) embraced their androgynous side wearing the requisite uniform of Doc Martens or converse as well as checkered shirts. Heroin chic, was also popular during this period. Waif-like models such as Kate Moss walked the fashion runways, Calvin Klein bought out CK One (a fragrance for both men and women). Marilyn Manson graced the cover of his band’s album Mechanical Animals with feminine features, his head on a decidedly androgynous body.

Madonna who was extremely influential throughout the 1990’s released the album Like a Prayer in 1989. The second single of this album was Express Yourself which urged women not to ‘accept second best’ and to not put material concerns ahead of ‘respecting yourself’. Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier suit, was considered gender-bending and the song was lauded for its Feminist themes and it’s…

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Respect Yourself – the expression of sexuality in popular culture

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In the mid 1990’s when the grunge movement was in full flight a lot of girls (and boys) embraced their androgynous side wearing the requisite uniform of Doc Martens or converse as well as checkered shirts. Heroin chic, was also popular during this period. Waif-like models such as Kate Moss walked the fashion runways, Calvin Klein bought out CK One (a fragrance for both men and women). Marilyn Manson graced the cover of his band’s album Mechanical Animals with feminine features, his head on a decidedly androgynous body.

Madonna who was extremely influential throughout the 1990’s released the album Like a Prayer in 1989. The second single of this album was Express Yourself which urged women not to ‘accept second best’ and to not put material concerns ahead of ‘respecting yourself’. Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier suit, was considered gender-bending and the song was lauded for its Feminist themes and it’s sub-theme of gender equality.

In 1990 Madonna released Vogue from the I’m Breathless album. Channelling iconic old school movie stars in the this video her dancers male and female (and in some scenes Madonna) wore masculine suits. Madonna for every the queen of reinvention, also had the ability to start trends, introducing not only the previously underground dancing style of Voguing to the mainstream but also foreshadowing and defining the decades androgynous flavour by her styling choices.

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Fast forward to 2013. The grunge movement is now retro and Gen Y instead of Gen X are the new ‘youth’. Fashion styles may reference the Grunge movement in their collections, but the spirit of the decade, the slacker lifestyle has faded. The new icons of the now may play with androgyny i.e Lady Gaga but somehow it appears that to be truly groundbreaking means to be overtly sexual.

For example take Miley Cyrus at the recent MTV Video Music Awards where she performed with Robin Thicke. This performance was slammed by the media. Cyrus twerked, strutted on stage sticking out her tongue, touching herself in a skin coloured barely there outfit. This kind of overt use of sexuality is pronounced in the music videos of today. Thicke who has just recently had a hit with Blurred Lines used ‘model’ types in his video. Clad in white outfits and clear plastic they pose and writhe around Thicke like mechanised robots. Even Jessie J has cut her hair, going totally against image in her video Wild.

Mean Girls (2004), written by Tina Fey was based on the non-fiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes is a comedy which seeks to empower women by demonstrating that young women don’t have to be ‘mean’ to one another. The film starring Lindsay Lohan captured the affects of overtly sexual videos have on young children. Lohan (Cady) visits the home of Regina George (Rachel McAdams) head of the Plastics – a clique of girls who rule the school. Regina’s mother has just had her boobs done and as Cady enters the house Regina’s younger sister is dancing provocatively in front of the television to the Kelis hit Milkshake. This was a funny scene but also a telling one.

Listening to the radio today, I heard the lyrics to Dizzee Rascals’s new song from his album The Fifth, ‘I Don’t Need a Reason’.

All I do is flex
I don’t need a reason
All I want is sex
I don’t need a reason
Fly out on a jet
I don’t need a reason
Every day is a never ending Summer season
All eyes on me

Narcissistic? Completely.  Should artists have a responsibility to send positive  messages to their audiences? Taylor Swift embraces her femininity and is a role model to many young women. She is able to ‘express herself’ using her sexuality in a positive way managing to make millions in the process. Call me old fashioned but give me Taylor over Cyrus any day…and dare I say it bring back the 1990’s while you are at it!

Quinoa Salad (Recipe) and Friday Night Pizza!

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Emma’s Art – Inspired be local flora and fauna. A Print on Emma’s (not the artist) wall.

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Friday night pizza with the girls!

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What is a Friday night girl’s night without the drinks!

Friday night! Quinoa salad (made by me, see recipe below) and Pizza made by Em and Liz. Yum! Prosciutto, soft cheese, hard cheese, pear and a bit of parmesan on a pizza base. My quinoa salad which was inspired by one of my brother’s recipes, is a winner. It is a little bit time consuming, but it is well worth the effort. Zingy, fresh and summery it’s great with not only Liz and Em’s famous pear and prosciutto pizza but also fish, a nice steak or seafood.

I have been doing a little bit of research into Quinoa. Having always been a cous cous fan as it literally cooks in 2 minutes in boiled water – Quinoa may take a little longer to cook but it’s packed full of nutrients and it’s nutty flavour and grainy texture is hard to beat.

For all you Quinoa nerds out there 2013 is actually International Year of Quinoa as declared by the United Nations. Quinoa is a seed (vegetable) not a grain but it is usually eaten as a grain. It has been cultivated for over several thousand years. Mainly grown in the Andean countries, quinoa is a staple food of ancient civilisations of the Andes of Southern America.

Quinoa is in fashion at the moment for a reason. It actually has many fantastic qualities which make it invaluable emerging crop. High in protein, low in cholesterol and sodium it is gluten-free, contains essential amino acids and is rich in minerals. Aside from it’s amazing nutritional qualities quinoa is adaptable to a large range of climatic conditions, it is hardy, drought tolerant and resistant to salinity. It also has very low production costs. Super environmentally friendly, quinoa crops have a low environmental impact, contributes to biodiversity and protecting the ecosystem.

In the Andes production remains family based and mostly organic. Production has increased the income of lower income farmers in the semi-arid Andes Highlands. Especially in the last three years as the popularity of Quinoa has soared.

Not only do producers in the Andes win from this surge in popularity but quinoa crops have the potential to aid in the world’s food shortage as it can be grown in difficult conditions. This combined with low production cost make quinoa a crop of the future.

Quinoa, Bean, Corn and Lemon Salad Recipe

Quinoa

2 cups of red quinoa

4 cups of water

2 chicken stock cubes

Salad

3 corn on the cobs, boiled and cut from cob (should produce three handfuls of corn)

1 large bunch of spring onions finely chopped

1 red onion finely chopped

1 large bunch of continental parsley, chopped roughly

Handful of green beans cut into 3-4cm lengths

Dressing

2 large lemons

3 Tbl of extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

There is a bit on an art to cooking quinoa. The first tip is to wash it thoroughly under cold water several times. This washes some of the bitterness out of the seeds. When cooking red quinoa, you cook one part quinoa to two cups of water as a general rule. For this recipe you will need two cups of quinoa. After washing the quinoa thoroughly place four cups of water in a pot with the intention of bringing the water and 2 cups of red quinoa to the boil. At this point add the two chicken stock cubes (this really adds punch to the quinoa seeds). Once the quinoa and water mixture boils turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and cover for around 15 minutes. Any excess water is drained.

Once the quinoa is cooked or if you like to multitask whilst the quinoa is cooking chop the spring onions, red onion,  continental parsley and the green beans into lengths. Next bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the corn on the cob (cut into halves) for 2-3 minutes. Using the same pot of water cook the handful of beans next for 1-3 minutes.

Let all cooked ingredients cool before combining and tossing ingredients in a large open dish or salad bowl.

The dressing is really simple. Add the oil and juice of two lemons in a glass jar with a lid. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the lid on the jar and shake thoroughly. Drizzle over salad. Voila! Salad is ready!

Red Quinoa cooked and ready to go !

Red Quinoa cooked and ready for the salad…

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Green Beans

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Fresh corn on the cob for the quinoa salad

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The finished product!

Strike A Pose

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Photo by: Denisse Cotes

My first experience with hot Yoga was some four months ago.  I had been practising Vinyassa Yoga, weekly with a client when my cousin suggested I try a Bikram class. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised I could do almost all of the poses and was in awe of those students who could do the sequences so gracefully! The heat was overwhelming- it is true, you really do sweat  buckets.

Bikram Yoga was developed by Bikram Choudhury who began practicing yoga at the age of four. Bikram Yoga combines a 26 posture sequence which is practised in a heated room. The heat makes the body more flexible and supple – when you sweat impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin. Bikram and Yoga in general are fantastic for the body – Yoga teaches you not only how to breathe properly but also has several health benefits. Recent Scientific studies into Yoga have found that it is beneficial for a wide range of problems from lower back pain to mental health issues.

The second time I attempted hot Yoga was in a class where the room was heated to 38 degrees. The difference between hot yoga and Bikram is the style of Yoga practiced. Bikram Yoga is developed from Hatha Yoga whilst other hot styles of Yoga incorporate different methodologies. The hot Yoga class I was doing the second time round was Vinyassa or flow yoga which incorporated many of the poses used in Bikram. Having not been to a Vinyassa class regularly, for a while I was really struggling with the poses. Before the class I was told to rest if I couldn’t do anything which is the key to building up to be an elegant hot yoga practitioner. It’s not easy watching other yoga goers do all the poses when you can’t manage the tree pose! I was disheartened the first class went so well! The point though of Yoga is that it is a personal experience, you are at the class to develop and learn at your pace. The root of the word Yoga is the “Yug’ which means to join together. The word yoga literally means union and implies that the individual is united with the Universe. Yoga is the path of witnessing inner states in order to find happiness within – by entering a state of freedom, pure consciousness and enlightenment, also known as samadhi. 

The almost military style of Bikram won’t appeal to everyone and being in a small heated room with thirty other people sweating it out isn’t a lot of people’s idea of fun but hot Yoga or more specifically Bikram Yoga is an experience.  When I walked out of my first Bikram Yoga class I was buzzing and floated through the day. Samadhi? Perhaps not – but on the path – maybe!

According to Georg Fuernstein ‘we are all philosophers’. Fuerstein is a German Indiologist specializing in Yoga who has  authored over 30 books on Mysticism, Yoga, Tantra, and Hinduism. He believed that we all ask the essential questions who am I? From where do I come? and what must I do? 

Abraham Maslow a Western philosopher developed the Hierarchy of Needs Model. In this model he believed our goal was self – actualisation. By meeting basic needs such as the needs for food, shelter and the need to belong we work our way up the pyramid to more developed needs. This person-centred approach to behavioural studies has much in common with Georg Feurnstein’s idea that we all ask the same questions. 

In the West the word philosophy comes from the Latin ‘Philo’ or Love and ‘Sophia’ meaning wisdom. It’s combined meaning is the ‘love of wisdom’. Metaphysics is concerned with the ultimate structure of reality. Typical questions asked in epistemology are does life have meaning? Does God Exist? and How does one event cause another?

Where the Western approach to Philosophy is based on the scientific rational model the East relies more on personal insight, intuition and spiritual discipline alongside rational argument. Whereas in Western ways of thinking we have a linear view of the universe and history based on Christian philosophy, the Eastern view of the universe is cyclical. Whilst Westerner’s are outer-world dependent Easterners believe that there is an interconnectedness between all things. For Easterner’s their beliefs are religious and social systems as well as philosophies. Feurnstein states, ‘ The main difference between Eastern and Western thought is that Eastern philosophy has retained links with psychology and mysticism where as western thought has concentrated on abstracting only those claims that be examined on the basis of reason and evidence.’

Although the West is becoming more ‘Eastern’ in flavour by incorporating Eastern ideas into Western philosophy as Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs Model demonstrates (Maslow’s belief that people strive toward self-actualisation is very similar to the Eastern notion of Samadhi or Englightenment). Western philosophy or ‘love of wisdom’ is still rooted in a Judeo-Christian linear view of the world and history and a rational, scientific, reasonable evidence based outlook on life. Bikram revolutionises the way we look at ourselves and the way we treat our bodies by allowing us to involve mysticism in our lives. Perhaps a step towards a union? East and West? – Maybe.

 

 

Oh what a mess!

The table is a complete mess. The kitchen is a mess too. Clothes are strewn on the 8 seater dining table. Here I sit, with my laptop, H20 (which has not been touched), Ruby Sparks, Acrylic Medium, paint, clay and chinese inspired paper. This is just at one end! At the other is a nearly finished painting. It is one of two that I will enter in the local art competition where my parents live. 

They have a cattle farm which is about 150 km’s south of Perth. They moved to the outskirts of the town some 15 years ago which in small town terms nearly makes them locals! The art competition has been running for several years now. The opening night party is always a blast. Practically the whole town shows up. There are fairy lights and everyone brings a plate.

I’m in this strange headspace of giving up smoking. Yes I’m still having a few, but it doesn’t taste good anymore. So in my head I’ve given up but my bodily habit of sitting down and going through the motions of having a cigarette are still there. I don’t know what to do with all the extra time I have even though there is obviously things for me to do. Motivation zero.

My Bf and I went to my parent’s place to catch up with my cousin and his wife the other night. My mum had made this mega carrot cake that looked really impressive.. So tonight I made dinner for my Bf and I was like, ‘do you want some vegies’ and he said ‘are they crispy like your mum’s?’.  

Mum is usually a really crap baker and she actually had to cut a hole in the carrot cake because it wasn’t cut properly in the middle ( only something she shared with me).  My bf (half jokingly?!) was like ‘ can you make me a carrot cake tomorrow?!!!!!’

Ha ha I told him that he was treading a very fine line comparing my cooking to my mum’s. Super sensitive me came out in spades. And no my vegies weren’t crispy like my mum’s and no I’m def not making a carrot cake anytime soon! As for the house that is tomorrow’s job…

 

‘Only Dags Need Fags’

The 1997 K.D Lang album Drag was a cover album of songs revolving around a smoking motif. I remember this being a bit controversial even back in ’97! Imagine the outcry now if an artist decided to write an album all about smoking! It would be deemed irresponsible, heinous a terrible thing to do. 

 Socially cigarettes have become about as likeable as a cold war socialist regime. Let’s face it – its just not cool anymore. The new anti-smoking ads are grisly and gruesome. No more ads saying ‘only days need fags’. 

 As a bit of a rebel in my youth and with a mother and father who smoked I took up the habit. I had a huge room with it’s own entrance. The entrance was a flight of stairs leading out to the front of the house. I used to light a pile of incense and smoke in the stair well. On the first drag of my camel unfiltered I would get a head spin. Only once did I get close to being busted smoking in my room. I was standing in the stairwell when I heard mum’s tentative knock on the door.  Busted. I was down in the little entrance way that led outside. There was no way I could climb the twenty or so steps in time. When I heard the knock on the door, my heart lept, did flip flops and I’m pretty sure it stopped beating for a couple of seconds. This usually happens when you know you are going to be in deep shit. I butted out my cig racking my brain trying to think of a good excuse as to why I was standing in such a random place.

 Mum: ‘What are you doing?’

Me: ‘Just checking for cobwebs mum.’

Mum:  ‘ Do I smell smoke?’

Me:  ‘No mum that just my sandalwood incense.’

Mum: (highly suspicious) ‘Okay dinner will be ready in five minutes.’

 Mum liked to live in the river of denial. Not that my mum could do much she was a hardcore smoker herself. I used to knick durries from her packs and I’d smoke them with my friends. She never, ever found out until some twenty years later when I told her over a bottle of vino one night. 

 The first time mum actually discovered me smoking with my best friend at the time Sam was when I had knocked a couple of smokes from mum and Sam and I had taken them outside to where we thought was a safe spot. Mum’s kitchen faced a large wall. Standing behind that wall Sam and I lit up.  Not being hip to the fact that smoke drifts (usually upwards) Mum busted us after two drags after seeing the smoke waft up past the wall. She could see everything from the kitchen window.

 As you get older the need to look after your health becomes more important. Moving out of your 20’s into your 30’s you realise you are getting ‘up there’! The big D (eath) is actually a question you have to contemplate as you head towards your 40’s. For a lot of people including myself this is freaky. Once you hit the big 4-0 you are usually about half way through your life. Health begins to matter. 

 After just coming back from Bali where smoking is deregulated and you can smoke anywhere I realised how great is was to have a cigarette after a meal without having to run outside. Clubs, bars, taxis, you name it you can smoke there. 

 Back in the day, at the height of the grunge movement smoking was still relatively cool. These days its like a medieval plague. Really who wants to be associated with that? The plague was carried by rats. I cannot help but thinking that when I smoke I am a rat with an oversized cigar hanging out its mouth. On a recent trip OS my boyfriend and I were relegated to a smoking room in the international airport where along with other members of the public we were cocooned in other people’s smoke. Not a good look. I decided then and there is was really time to give up.  My brother is a die hard smoker and my grandmother still has a puff with her wine. But at the end of the day, its just really nice not to have a trillion chemicals in your body. My nana reckons among is relaxing and calms the nerves. I don’t have the heart to tell her that cigarettes have the polar opposite affect.

 So how am I doing? Pretty well. I’ve cut down drastically and definitely heading towards my goal of not smoking at all. BF? Still smoking. But we can’t have it all!

 

Bali – is it just full of Bogans?

I am not the first and definitely not the last person to go to Bali. Tourism kicked off in Bali in the early 1970’s. Since the 90’s and 2000’s ( apart from the aftermath of the two bombings in the early 2000’s, tourism quite obviously fell). Bali has become a mecca for Australian tourists and a little bit cliched. Picture the first-time Aussie Bali goer with a Bintang shirt, braided hair and a stubby in one hand and you have a fairly good idea how bogan Bali can be. It’s become a cheap and easy holiday for the many but for me Bali holds a special place in my heart. Despite the persistence of tourism Bali’s culture has been particularly resilient and this is one of the reason’s I love it so much.
My first trip to Bali was with the family including my brother Kristian who is one year younger than me. We went with a large group of family friends. We did all the first time travel mistakes. Stayed in a hotel that was Bemo ride away from the main drag. Got our hair braided. Bought too much wood. The thing I remember most about this trip was room service. My brother and I discovered room service in a big way. Wow you can sign a piece of paper and you get all this food! Wow how cool! ( Lets just say Dad wasn’t laughing when he got the room service bill). He did buy a whole suitcase of shoes so he was really doing his bit for the Balinese tourist economy – (Yes he did get given the nickname Imelda).
That was the early 1990’s and I was 11. There have been many trips since.
When I was 15 Bali was a different place pre-bombing. My brother and my two boy cousins discovered Peanuts nightclub which was just up the road from our hotel. On our first night there we took off telling the parentals we’d be back in an hour. Four hours later, a few beers later and a couple of renditions of AC/DC songs up our belt (with band) we were rudely interrupted by mum and Aunty Carol who were getting worried decided to head to Peanuts in their pyjamas. Oh the horror! Aaron hid behind a huge wooden pole hoping not to be seen. Nick, Kristian and I scattered as the parents entered the club. Totally busted we all slunk back home silently in single file negotiating the uneven footpaths of Jalan Melasti.
As I got older my appreciation for the not only the Balinese culture grew as I was able to move beyond Kuta, the shopping and the nightlife. Travelling with a high school girlfriend we made friends with Dewa who took us to his village to have lunch with his mother. Dewa lived in a 1m by 2m room in Ubud in compound of similar sized rooms with a shared shower and toilet. His families house was bigger, than I had imagined it would be, but on a small parcel of land where they kept a few animals. Anneke and I were treated to an amazingly tasty meal which included chicken (we were guests of honour) and we marvelled at how warm and gracious the hospitality of the Balinese could be. Riding with Dewa and a friend of his on the back of motorbikes through the back streets and rice paddies of Ubud will alway be a highlight. Driving way too fast on pot-holed roads we stopped to watch the glow of the fireflies in the semi darkness, the night noises echoing in our ears as we marvelled at the beauty of our surroundings.
I have explored Bali, Lombok, bits of Java and the Gilli Islands and been on many different kinds of holidays. Girlie trips, best friend trips, a holiday with mum and her mates, a friend and her kids, by myself and of course several trips when I was younger with my family. This time I am heading over with my boyfriend which will be a different experience all together. He has never been to Bali, although travelling and living a lot of South- East Asia he is not in for a complete surprise. We are staying just out of Kuta and then Canggu in a Villa, moving further and further out and with every trip growing bolder and bolder, reaching deeper into the heart of Bali. I will take him to Ubud and show him Bali, it’s people and culture – the Bali that is special to me….