Event: United States of Ameri-Canada.

One of my best friends, April, is heading to Canada and the U.S. at the end of April (how poignant!), so what better theme to celebrate her joint going away and 25th birthday party than an Ameri-Canadian theme?

When April first mentioned it to me almost a year ago, I thought I might go as a Native American. Dedicated readers of The Early Bird Catches the Worm will know that I’ve already exhausted that costume. And dedicated friends of mine will know that I never repeat a costume. (Okay, that’s a lie: I went as Catwoman to my 11th birthday/Halloween party and broke the leather out again for last year’s festivities.)

Dedicated blog readers and friends alike will also know that I have a guilty penchant for professional wrestling, so what better event to break that costume out at? Canada is rich in professional wrestling history, what with the Hart family, and modern-day legends like Edge, Chris Jericho and Trish Stratus. (And let’s not forget that unfortunate Chris Benoit incident…) Not to mention the cultural institution of pro wrestling in the U.S.

Without further ado, check out the other Ameri-Candian costumes…

I slogged away over the stove for 20 minutes to make this packet mix cake, so she’d better appreciate it!

Rockabilly roller derby girl!

Feminists in arms, take 3!

The way of the future for feminists in arms. Sorry, April!

Who invited this lot?!

The two Gaga’s. With everything that’s come out of the U.S., you’d think they could be a bit more original! ;)

Put your hands up for Detroit!

Well, she is a gay icon!

Bye bye Miss American Pie…

The next major girl group to take the world by storm. Watch this space.

Well, I guess that’s what they would say in Quebec…

I’ll miss you!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bad Taste Foxymorons.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Getting Our Pirate On, Christmas Party Style.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Witching Hour: Halloween/My Birthday at Witches in Britches Cabaret.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Minus Two & a Half Men.

So This Is Christmas & What Have You Done?

I’m over New Years resolutions, so instead, I’m going to reflect on what has been a pretty full on and somewhat life changing year:

  • In January, I went to Phillip Island with some workmates for a few days, which kind of set the scene for a tumultuous year, friend-wise. I gained one good friend and lost another as a result, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It made me realise you’ve got to stand up for yourself and cut people out of your life who treat you like crap and make you feel that way.
  • Shortly after said trip, I moved from country Victoria to Melbourne. It was my first time living out of home and my first time living alone, and let me tell you, I loved every minute of it. Relations between my mother and I were strained, so I definitely needed some me time (six months of it, in fact) in order to fend for myself, have my own living space where I could do what I wanted, when I wanted, and in the end, it made me appreciate “home” more (more to come on that next week).
  • Of course, the most significant change this year was starting this blog. I want to thank all the readers who’ve stuck by me from the start, especially my friends who initially felt obligated to support me, but now keep coming back because they actually like what I write! And I want to thank Erica Bartle from Girl with a Satchel for her support and guidance in the very beginning; Rachel Hills of Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, who has inspired me in incorporating “On the (Rest of the) Net”, feminist commentary and gender relations into the blog, and who sometimes features me on hers (!); Sarah Ayoub of Wordsmith Lane, who was my first “Profile” guinea pig, and who was also a big supporter in launching the blog; and Gala Darling (of Gala Darling, duh!), whose link to me saw my readership jump from about 200 one day to 1600 the next! She has also supported me privately via email, which I was très excited about! I hope to see you all coming back in 2011.
  • Living in Melbourne in general has seen my world opened up to so many new things, which in turn provides blog fodder. Just some of the cool things I’ve done this year, just because I could: attended numerous roller derby gigs; saw childhood icon Peter Combe in concert; saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Botanic Gardens (with Wind in the Willows coming up); went to many an exhibition; and much, much more.

So that’s what I’ve done this year.

And here’s one more thing I’m going to do: leave you with some John Lennon to get you in the holiday spirit, in case you already aren’t.

My Week in Review.

Monday 22nd: Work, followed by a workout, followed by bowling for a friend’s birthday. Then we went to Lucky Coq on Chapel Street, and walked all the way back to Richmond Station. Several kilometres later, at 12:30, I climbed into bed! Needless to say, it was an exhausting day.

Tuesday 23rd: The night before really threw me out, so I attempted to peel myself off the couch and do some blogging. A fitful nap and no Gossip Girl made for a pretty crappy day.

Wednesday 24th: Still recovering from Monday night (and all I had was two tiny gin and tonics in order to get a free game at Strike Bowling!), I napped on the couch after work.

Thursday 25th: Caught up with two of my lovely friends, Paul and Tess, plus some other riff raff who tagged along. (Love you long time April, Eddie and Anthony!)

Friday 26th: Blogged, attended a work Christmas party meeting, worked out and chillaxed before an eventful weekend.

Saturday 27th: Went shopping with my dad and sister in Fitzroy, followed by the Victorian Roller Derby League’s final at the Melbourne Showgrounds. Standing outside in the rain waiting for that was a riot, as was swimming to a friend’s birthday drinks back in Fitzroy following the bout.

Sunday 28th: Girlie/Cultural Day with my bitches Clare, April and Sallie. The morning entailed going to see Dreams Come True: The Art of Disney’s Classic Fairytales, which was fantastic. It will be a Disney-heavy week here at The Early Bird Catches the Worm, as I blog a bit more about it.

Then we did a spot of shopping, followed by a curator’s talk at ACMI about taking the Disney “fairytales to film”.

Next up, we trekked out to Fitzroy to see Taryn Simon’s exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, entitled An American Index of the Hidden & Unfamiliar (review to come), which was brilliant and I would probably recommend it more so than Disney! Now that’s saying something.

After dinner we finished up the day back at ACMI, seeing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Despite the crappy weather that called for spending it in bed with some DVDs, it was a great day!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] My Week in Review (Plus a Couple of Extra Days Thrown in There).

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Derby Girls: Leaders of the Pack.

[Centre for Contemporary Photography] An American Index of the Hidden & Unfamiliar.

My Week in Review (Plus a Couple of Extra Days Thrown in There).

My week usually consists of work, catching up on the multitude of blogs, mags and books I read and my TV shows, blogging (or, as my friend April likened my days off to, “blogging, jogging, more blogging, watching True Blood, and more blogging!”), working out and catching up with friends on one or two nights. I’m lucky in my paid job is very much like a socialising session, as a lot of my friends are also my colleagues. I don’t like to overextend myself too much, but I also like to keep a healthy balance of “me” time and “we” time, which I have blogged about in the past.

This past week, as you will see below, differs from the ideal, above.

Saturday 6th: Work, then went to the last Victorian Roller Derby League tournament before the final at Melbourne Showgrounds on Saturday 27th November.

Sunday 7th: Finally, after more than six months of gruelling labour, abuse by the public and exhaustion in general, my workplace celebrated the end of an era, venturing to several waterholes across the city in merriment. But not before I finished up a 9 til 6 shift at said workplace. Give and take.

Monday 8th: Blogged in the morning, devised a workout circuit in my apartment block’s carpark with my roommate/cousin and then went to a friend’s comedy gig at Spleen Bar on Bourke Street. Thoroughly enjoyed myself, and there were lots of timely Joel Monaghan jokes to whet my appetite for inappropriate humour.

Tuesday 9th: More blogging, then played some pool at Red Triangle in Fitzroy and shared some drinks with a friend.

Wednesday 10th: Back to work, followed by a friend’s going away drinks at The Pumphouse in Carlton.

Thursday 11th: Said friend Tess’s last day at work, which was a bit emotional for her. Some co-workers asked why I wasn’t upset. I replied with the fact that we are such good friends that it’s not like I’d never see her again; in fact, I saw her again the following night!

After sleeping in (started work late), I spent the afternoon shopping for costumes for the work Christmas party at Rose Chong’s costumes in Fitzroy, followed by ice coffee with friends. This was my first night home since last Friday night, and I relished it by catching up on some reading and indulging in Gossip Girl.

Friday 12th: It was too hot to do much, but I blogged in the morning, attended the meeting for the Christmas party mid-afternoon, chilled in front of the TV with Glee and some lemon sorbet, then went out for drinks with Katrina (whom I affectionately, but much to her dismay, like to call Treen Bean) who’s going to the Red Centre for two weeks at The Union in Fitzroy.

After that full on week (which will be reflected in the lesser amount of blog posts than usual this week), I can take solace in the fact that I’ve only committed myself to one talk at the Wheeler Centre, one coffee date, and one evening of Desperately Seeking Susan (which has to do with a top secret blog post I’m working on) and Jennifer’s Body, all of which I will be engaging in solo, as well as a mother/daughter/sister trip to The Way We Wear vintage market in Williamstown on the weekend and a morning jog with a friend this week. Oh, and I guess I’ll have to fit the tedium of work (not to mention bloggingwhich is anything but tedious) in there somewhere! Ahh, I can’t wait for the uneventfulness of it all…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Taking Inspiration from MamaMia: 10 Things I Need for Work/Life Balance.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Derby Girls: Leaders of the Pack.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Beauty & the Bestiality.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Way We Wear Vintage Market.

Event: Derby Girls—Leaders of the Pack.

Last Saturday night, three friends and I braved the rain with broken umbrellas to see the Victorian Roller Derby League present Leader of the Pack, with underdogs Dolls Au-Go-Go taking on my team for the night, the Toxic Avengers.

This wasn’t my first foray into roller derby, but for one friend and her daughter, they were derby virgins.

For those of you who don’t have much experience with roller derby (and from what I’ve heard, that’s most people), let me give you a quick rundown, courtesy of the night’s program.

“Modern women’s flat track roller derby is full contact sport played between two teams in a competition called a ‘bout’. A bout consists of two 30 minute periods in which teams skate as many two minute ‘jams’ as possible. There are five members from each team on the track in each jam. The positions are:

The pivot is a block that wears a striped helmet cover and lines up in the front of the pack. She sets the pace and is the last line of defence against an opposing jammer.

The blocker wears no helmet cover and lines up behind the pivot. She plays offence and defence at the same time to prevent the opposing jammer from scoring points while clearing a path for her jammer. A blocker can legally block any member of the opposing team by using only body parts above mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands and head.

The jammer wears the star helmet cover and lines up behind the jam line. She is the point scorer and after her first pass through the pack, she earns a point for each opposing team member as she passes. Lead jammer is decided by the first jammer to make it through the pack legally. A lead jammer can call of the jam at any time by making a ‘chopping’ motion at her hips.”

Aside from the rules and the all-women nature of the competition, roller derby is defined by two other features: kick-ass derby names (think Mother the Razor, Dolly Tartan and my favourite for the night, Kittie von Krusher) and “a rink filled not with size 0 blonde models, but with women of all shapes… who mostly looked like they had cut out of work early, changed into… [their ‘boutfits’] in the car, and made it to the track just in time for the game.”

While roller derby is technically a sport “for women, by women”, men also have a role, primarily as commentators, scorekeepers and umpires, all of whom were male for VRDL’s Leader of the Pack event. Far from being “cheerleaders”, “they have to be able to skate as well as the derby women” and they have to know all the rules. “These men have a profound respect for roller derby and the women involved.”

From where I was sitting (right up the front, thankyou very much!), this seemed true of the audience. It was a fairly even mix of everyday people (like moi), rockabillies and died-haired punk-rockers in platform buckle boots, without heckling from the male members of the crowd. I felt that everyone was there for a bit of fun, to support their favourite team and marvel at the athleticism of the skaters. Certainly, there was no expectation of “titillation”.

However, Vicky Vengeance of Because Sometimes Feminists Aren’t Nice, in this 2006 “Rant Against Roller Derby” says that most people believe roller derby is a feminist sport because “it’s ok [sic] for these Roller Derby players to play with their sexuality because sexuality is fun! It’s fun to skate around in a mini skirt kicking people’s asses!… Why should you have to look like a man to be perceived as tough and powerful?”

She goes on to say that:

“A lot of the advocates who I see talking about how badass Roller Derby is, think of the something like cheerleading as the most terrible sexist thing imaginable. And yet, cheerleading requires a tremendous amount of athleticism and involves a huge amount of danger and physical risk. Further, the costumes cheerleaders wear bear an uncanny resemblance to the Roller Derby costumes that I’ve seen. Are you going to tell them what they’re doing is any less empowering than what Roller Derby women do? Ok [sic] so cheerleading is ok [sic]. I sense the third wavers nodding.

Well let’s push it further: what about Mud Wrestling? You know, the game where a couple of women get semi-nude and roll in the mud duking it out at strip clubs to cheers and yells. I would argue that you can make similar types of arguments in favour of women’s Mud Wrestling as you could for Cheerleading of Roller Derby.”

Vicky Vengeance is right in her ethos; I would tend to agree that yes, roller derby is a sport based on what a woman’s body can do, as is cheerleading and mud wrestling. But one of the differences with roller derby is that hardly any of the women competing in the sport share the same body types as those who compete in cheerleading and mud wrestling. On Saturday, I would say that it was an even mixture of thin girls and bigger girls; girls with and without cellulite; conventionally pretty girls, and unconventionally pretty girls; girls with long hair and girls with short hair etc.

So Vicky Vengeance is somewhat correct, but I think that most people who attend roller derby do it for the fun factor, the spirit of competition, and the team atmosphere. Ask yourself this: do the majority of football-goers watch the game for the appearance of its players, or for the sport itself?

Just because it’s an all-female sport, it doesn’t mean it has to be reduced to stereotypical “all-female” issues.

For a taste of what the Leader of the Pack was like, check out this video, set to The Vines’ “Walk Idiot Walk”, by former roller-derby virgin, Christine, originally from her blog, Well?

This week’s The Big Issue also features roller derby (scans below).