Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Applause & Accolades

Waiting for the distant sun
To strike a suitable pose
Winking down at me
At just the right angle

There's a jaded eye
Waiting to come alight
But I'm not waiting
For the eclipse of ingenious notions
Or even for the clutch of night
I will share my devotion
Let you depart as you might

*

The silence of a writer afraid to dream
The chatter of those who consider him profound
Second-hand broken dreams
Original concepts coming apart at the seams
Seems the normal state of things
But just when I get used to it
Someone comes along to surprise me

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Pursuit of Stillness

I don't need to 'do something' to get something precious out of my time in Thailand... often just being in a public space, and open to all the attendant changes in the environment is revealing, pleasant and an adventure - if you're willing to explore the world through observation rather than being a swiftly moving object.
I think my sense of stagnation is unlikely to be lifted by returning to Sydney, if anything, it's likely to make it worse. I would like to experiment with traveling longer...

Multiple Directions

So time has come for me to make an important decision about where I'm going to go next, and, indeed, how I will spend my entire year...

Option A) Go to Sydney, Australia

This may seem an unlikely option given my insatiable need for travel, but I'm finding it difficult to motivate myself to travel much longer than a month. I find myself longing for privacy when I use a computer, most of all... since I don't travel with a laptop, all my writing must be done in a public space, where I am exposed to any variety of stimuli, most unwanted and often completely unpredictable. I find that I get good ideas when I'm reflecting in my room, and can't quite get them down when I enter the internet cafe. Since my writing is very important to me, this creates a difficult dynamic.

B) Go to Taipei, then Tainan, Taiwan

I just sent an email to a CouchSurfing/Facebook friend to ask her if I can stay with her at this time... we'll see how she responds. Living in a private home will allow me to use a computer with less potential distractions, though there will of course be time limitations. I have a deep interest in Taiwan, so this option is very appealing to me. The only problem is that I won't be able to stay in Taipei very long due to the weather (it's windy and rainy in Taiwan's north during winter, and I am so good at catching cold).

C) Go to Hanoi, Vietnam, then Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An before going back up to Hanoi
D) Go to Bali, Indonesia - I've never been there before, and it would be a nice complement to my travels in Malaysia, letting me in on what makes (parts of) southernmost SEA tick.
E) Go to Simgapore
F) Go to Macau
G) Think of some other ingenious solution, like catch an AirAsia flight to London then Ryan Air to southern Spain, where I will find a friend to stay with via CS.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Velvety Design

Springing forth like an oblique reference
So refreshing in the absence it evokes
Playing, posturing, we venture back and forth
Contentment milling around my shoulders

A new labyrinth to affect disinterest in

Whither you knew me matters not, it seems
I'm exactly where I need to be, and you're delicious
An endless supply of appetisers, sometimes turned mains
Say you celebrate me as I do you, we'll never be the same again

A wayward blond still feebly haunts my heart
He never knew me or suspected how I loved
How much indifference accrued, until it faded
How much caution was carelessly evaded

But it's alright and it's okay
I need a little heartbreak now and then
In the absence of immersive interaction
I smile through the longing, appreciate the pain

Everything and nothing
I could attach both these qualities to you
But now there is the residue - of something -
With which I'm not sure what to do

Disparate Excuses

Two disparate excuses for the same dream
I long for the unreadable scrutiny
I seemed to cultivate before
I find myself increasingly tangible
The sensation of it comforting
The thought of touch wilts my composure
Into something more vulnerable,
Something more affected
It's the inner fear of silence
Long neglected, now perfected
And I can't hold it in no more
All those interweaving fancies
Begging for attention
Don't know who to pester
Till they can't take any more
Wouldn't want any animosity
To fester

Is it okay if I open up?
Can we maybe become friends?
Is it too late for you to lift your chin up
And convince me I'll see better days?

So comfortable in summery attire
But I long for climates sprinkled deep in snow
Fusing characteristics of the locales I admire
The only question: From which place to go
From which place to depart
From which place to be
Always arriving
From which place to be bothered by
To take apart
Whenever its actors don't play its proper part?
Whenever I am left dismayed at unrealised potential

Deepening the Intrigue

An avalanche of literary proportions
Thoughts poetic and sharp, lost
In the maze of my own making
Along the carefully disconnected avenues of the mind
I hear the noise inside me heighten, and I'm left to wonder
What kind of outlet does this cacophony require?

I knew I needed
To leave
Nudge away the lingering touches
Avert my gaze from self-serving ocular entreaties
Stop taking in the scents that make my imprisonment more palatable
Make tracks into a way that seems less laden with familiar tracks

So here I am in a Chiang Mai guesthouse
Life's sweet and easy, crowded with people but lonely
I long to be locked into conversation with
Just one entertaining soul

I still dream of distant lands
But do so with a smile on my face
And when I get sick of the trails I trace
I know I'm welcome at the next, the only place

Friday, December 17, 2010

Teasing at the Heart

If only you could hear the echoes in my mind
The clatter of the outside world could not distract you from my hauntedness

Would you please be so contrary
As to love me when we both agree you shouldn't
Would your love be kind of scary
Or is love the grand delusion in this story

Wouldn't love be the mystery substance
Troubling all sense of loss
Dewy-eyed I walk across
Your eyes linger on my image and I
Wait for you to notice
You're the perfect sense of nuance unattained
Where will we both be when
We meet, and change

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shell-shocked by Malaysian Misogyny

I didn't expect my stay in Kuala Lumpur to be so disquieting (or, in my case, 'quieting'). I hated the way the Muslim men looked at me, and it was the sort of situation where I knew that I pretty much had to 'sit down and shut up' or risk drawing unwanted attention to myself. Possibly the most unpleasant moment was when I was about to enter my mid-range hotel, the AnCasa. There were two Muslim workers, one at the driveway and one at the door, who shared a smirk as I went by. All I had done was smile at the first one - the second one didn't even make eye contact with me, he pointedly kept the eye contact with the other worker for the purposes of reaffirming some kind of damaging stereotype about Western women. I felt slightly insulted, and spent the rest of my stay in KL trying to refrain from working myself into a suitable state of outrage. I was a guest in a country I was not a citizen of, I reminded myself over and over. Other minorities such as the Chinese were responsible for bettering the situation, not me.

In a way, staying in Chinatown probably gave me a warped view of KL. On the other hand, in a warped country, the best perspective is the most skewered. Sort of like staying in the gaybourhood of a homophobic city.

Anyway, I'm shell-shocked because Malaysia is the best-performing economy in Southeast Asia. Thailand, which is so much more liberated, gender-wise, deserves this status, I believe. I'm continue to be soothed and taken good care of by Thailand's tourist infrastructure and impressed by the friendliness of the people, and I'm sure eventually the bad taste in my mouth left by KL will fade away...

I had some resistance to getting with the smiles here - reverse psychology, if you like. I'm slowly warming to the way this ritual is handled (like most others), and relishing its underestimated charms.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Memories of the Future

It's nothing extraordinary
The mere touch of my hand
Blinding and arbitrary
Left for myself to fend

A deep-seated loneliness
Only emerges
Around the times I
Think of you
In my temple of non-connectedness I grew
But everything new has become old again
Everything sudden proves premeditated
Or so says my nightmare logic
Why can't you just let me be
Let me marinate in my own headspace for a while
So many places to sink in, so many people to be
I watch the evolution of distant companionship
Be outclassed by the formation
Of intimate relationships
And I am left to (g)listen,
Here in my (g)local
Left to imagine
Everything I could long for
You're impassioned and I'm frail?
I could save you if I knew how to find you
Climbing up walls designed to toss off humankind
Until I find what I seek
And find you melting into my arms
Sunlight pooling on your cheek

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Travel Fantasies

What are your travel fantasies? You know, the trips you daydream about the most, that might feel a little out of reach for now? Here are some of mine:

a) Reykjavik, Iceland in summer

Is Iceland's capital the most eccentric city in the world?

b) A 45 day tour of Japan (in any season but winter)

One of the few English-speaking countries around where I can speak a little of the language, Japan promises charm, sophistication, poise and spiritual vibes.

c) Buenos Aires to Mexico City

I want to take public transport from Argentina to Mexico, only flying over the Darian gap.

d) Coasting Along in North America

Starting with San Diego, I'd like to wander up to Vancouver, then fly over to Montreal, do Toronto and then East Coast northern USA. (I'm not as keen on Virginia to Florida.)

e) Taiwan & China

Beginning with a comprehensive tour of China, I will then explore as much of the mysterious mainland as I possible can

Common travel fantasies I don't see the point of:

a) India
b) The African Continent
c) The Middle East (not including Israel)
d) The Pacific Islands
e) Much of the Caribbean Islands

Life in 2553

I always did say that I was 50 years ahead of my time... Well, yesterday I learned that the Thai calendar is quite different to the Western one, and it is in fact the year 2553! Lol.

So how is life in Chiang Mai? Well, for one, hello to lighter misogyny than in the country I just left... I've only seen one woman with a headscarf. Female beauty is not something which is seen as threatening to male chastity. And what beauty... the Thai people are some of the most gorgeous people on earth. I love getting into the Mutual Appreciation Society with Thais who take a liking to my looks - we admire the way each others' features work. Superficial, but flattering and overall positive.

The streets are laced with farang (foreigners), sprinkled with square spaces filled with colour, but often livened up by curvy design. The Jewish guy from LA I met today says that living with art is the Thai way.

Yesterday I met Milos. Milos was originally born in the Czech republic, studied in Vienna, the USA and moved to Thailand twice. He runs meditations courses each night with the tourists he can attract as he walks 8kms each day around the city. I either saw the spirits of two past lives last night, or... not. ;o) Either way, Milos was kind enough to offer me invaluable advice about where to go to meditate. There is a forest monastery that not many farang know about which allows you to stay as long as you like (they recommend a minimum of a week) for the price of your choice (pay by donation and/or helping out with chores), and I never would have known about it if I hadn't met him.

When asked how he was able to learn 7 languages, Milos says he was in the right place at the right time. He speaks English, German, Czech, Slovakian, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai. And some Dutch. I aspire to be (more) multilingual myself.

I have been travelling so much this year that it no longer feels unusual. I am less photo-camera-ready, les easily impressed (this is after all my 6th time in Thailand), but still heartened to be here, and very gruntled. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back in Thailand

Thailand I often associate with innocence - a gritty dedication to pleasantness, no matter the deeper personal networks this marginalises; out of that, a psyche informed by smiling on principle. This may seem like tyranny, and in a way it is, however if you do something a lot, you tend to do it really well, and also find increasingly innovative ways to do it.

It's both the fullness and fragmented nature of the smile that follows around my perception of Thai people. Smiles deepen and fade, stay constant or flicker, phase out or transform into some other gesture of amiability.

The air is fragrant. I paused in a section of my soi (lane) which was particularly aromatic, wondering if I would see the flowers responsible for this public perfuming service in the morning, when darkness didn't obscure my ability to identify them (limited as that is).

Martin 's addition to my poem a few days ago made me reflect upon how the phrase 'restless heart' informs me. Well, I often feel like I'm bursting with things to say, and limited outlets for their expression. How long can my postmodern rhetoric interest someone before they lose interest? How can I splatter my conceptual paint, from one shade to another tone, over far-flung and differently textured surfaces, before someone starts to close their mind?

I have been following the WikiLeaks releases over the past few months and I'm a bit exhausted... Thailand reminds me of a more innocent time of admiration for the pleasant visuals (today was a tone poem in light green, pastel blue and cotton candy pinkm, as I walked by one fresh-looking shop to a next), where the world offered so many possibilities in the limitation of the economic sector, nevertheless. As I said to my father, Thailand made me realise that I don't need a lot in my life; the buses which transport me around Thailand don't need to be upgraded to be pleasant and effective, to be useful, pragmatic, and a wonder of modern day technology. Thailand is enough - more than enough.

It is true that, in past times, I have also felt small. I felt like I couldn't really catch up to others due to some of the setbacks I have experienced. These days I feel more comfortable with my identity as a traveller, a bridge between cultures, and an exuberant investigator. An animated observer.

Reflecting on my recent journeys, I am learning to do away with the notion of 'irrepairable' and 'devastating' - with the careful application of controlled optimism, you can achieve anything.

Debra has become the model for both awareness and ignorance now, a more balanced role than I had affoded her before; I can relate to her satisfaction with Asian social relations, on both a deep and superficial level. I admire her for changing her world - actively making a home for herself in a new old country (China) frm not very much. To really move, to really transplant yourself into a different culture, takes a lot of hard work and sheer stubbornness, from what I can see. It is my hope to pull off such a project one day, when it is within my financial means.

Until then, I have countries to visit, people to fall in love with, friends to cuddle, and infinite batches of new ideas to nurture.

Iceland & Nigeria

In the past few months, CNN (the news network I no longer actively seek out, having switched recently to the Guardian) created a segment called Connect The World, in which two countries who were supposedly very different in the "collective consciousness" were paired together. It was up to the readers to find connections between them. This appealed to me because I am a fan of the would-be incongruous, the ostensibly ill-fitting, the tenuously associated. I went through a phase where I listened to every mash-up I could find. I made mash-ups my personal philosophy to life - find two things (ideas, people, whatever) that seemed to contradict each other, or at least create a lot of friction when placed in the same sentence or conceptual framework, and watch people react. I like the sense of discomfort, of re-adjustment, that this kind of unusual combination-making inspires.

It so happened that today I saw two thought-provoking stories which draw on postmodern themes, on Ted.com. One was by Hala Tomasdottir of Iceland, and the other was by Chimamanda Achibie of Nigeria. I recommend you find these speeches on Ted and let them take you on a journey.

Let's start with Chimamanda. She was determined to bypass the tendency to focus on one dominant narrative so popular in our society (e.g. African men are all violent, Mexicans are all trying to gain access to work in America), and to actively seek out a multiplicity of stories, so as to create a complex reality. It's a simple concept, but a powerful one - if you are ever stuck with just one story about a nation or its people, find another one. Search high and low, if you must, for that underrepresented perspective of the multifacetedness of a nation.

Hala also sought to bring a new perspective to light - the way in which female presences in the workforce are the lifeblood of diversity in groups. Without harnessing the full potential for diversity, a male-dominated team makes decisions which are weak and limited. If they allowed women to naturally play a big a role in their companies as they do in life in general, the benefits to both women and men would be enormous. My favourite part of her speech was her denouncement of the hysteria to recreate the old system (the one which got us into the present mess) instead of creating a brand new one. She quotes Einstein to establish how insane our society is, and how feminine power can help balance not just the workplace but everything it affects and is affected by.

Continued in Part 2...

Monday, December 6, 2010

In the internet cafe

I'm surrounded by mountains, or waves, up on the wall
Where one ends and the other begins, I can't tell
Both or neither motif seems to fit
Somewhere in between
Wakefulness and sleep

Last night I dreamt
That lessons were held in the sand
Last night I dug up old notions of splendour
Retrieved an older sense of fervour

A group of Malays chatter indiscretely
With no respect for the unease apparent in my demeanour

In search for melodies most resonant
I cajole my coarser creations into retreat
Plunging into the bittersweet company
Of the epiphany better known as me

~*~

Upon reading this poem, Martin Goldstein decided to give it his own touch, below:

I'm surrounded by mountains or waves - were they on the wall?
Where one ends and the other begins - I could not tell!
Both and neither motif seem to fit
Somewhere between
Wakefulness and sleep

Last night I dreamed
That lessons were held in the sand
Last night I dug up old notions of splendour
Retrieved an older sense of fervour

A group of Malays chatter indiscreetly
With no respect for my restless heart

In search for melodies most resonant
Cajoling my coarser creations into retreat
Plunging into the bittersweet company
Of the epiphany better known as me

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Beyond the Surreal

AirAsia flies the good flight. Epiphanie Bloom was exhausted from staying up all night the night before. Worried that this state would make her less attentive to nuances, she created a hyper-alert state for herself, happily drained away by three nights in the latest Asian capital to catch her attention, KL.

At home, I find myself slightly dumb. I let some of my knowledge of the world slip away. I let my parents make decisions for me which I try not to resent. I feel mired in negative thinking. Overseas, I'm surrounded by new situations which require me to move quickly, update my sense of motion. I travel to feel alive.

KL is an intriguing mix of inviting and repulsive, as various minorities interweave themselves into the fabric of an Islamic philosophy and create hot-spots of calm, tolerance and beauty. I'm not going to pretend to have any appreciation for traditional Islamic values (or contemporary ones, for that matter) - I'm only in Malaysia because this was the cheapest way to get to Thailand. So the Chinese in particular offer me some respite from the unfortunate attitudes of some.

I'm taking a music break here in an air-conditioned net cafe just off Chinatown, reintroducing my ears to the sounds of Robyn, Lady Gaga, and, presently, Ace of Base.

My respect and admiration for Julian Assange grows. More than anybody else, he makes me proud to be Australian. WikiLeaks has made the market for news a much more exciting place, and in a way I wish I had more time to devote to the news, as so much material has been released. Then again, there's only so much reading you can only do without going bonkers.

At the restaurant of the AnCasa hotel, where I was staying up to yesterday, they had a very funny promotional spiel, full of references to madness. Think: Our psychedelic chefs go bonkers preparing a maddening array of food for you... all for the crazily incredible price of... :o)

The Kuala Lumpur air, as expected, is difficult on the respiratory system, but I only cough when on the edge of a particularly hectic road. The pavements are quite dodgy so I'm careful, but apart from that I feel safe and like my curiosity is well-rewarded.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

24 hours from now...



I should be in Kuala Lumpur. Despite my parents' best efforts to dim my enthusiasm for exploring the capital of the most prosperous South-East Asian nation, I look forward to sampling the historical, cultural, social and culinary delights.

Whilst researching Malaysia I discovered that there is a very brave woman there who is helping people become more open to GLBTI folks in her country. Her name is Gabrielle Chong Yong Wei, and you can read her prize-winning speech on gay rights here. It features emotive and clever phraseology, such as:

When one man is not free, all are bound.

And when the gay community triumphs, our triumph too, shall be [humanity's] triumph.


Apart from a 2-day stint in Istanbul, I haven't had much experience with majority Muslim societies, so I look forward to learning more about the world, near and far, through my 7-day examination of KL culture. I hope that I will feel more confident visiting Bali, someday, as a result (even though it's Hindu, it's informed by Muslim Indonesia).

I have developed a rather unpleasant eye twitch, and so I'm thinking about seeing a traditional Chinese medicine person for help with this minor but aggravating affliction. It should help that I'm staying in Chinatown... ;o) 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Memories of Dreams

Underneath an incensed pink-orange sky
I found myself dreaming of a troubled hero
Swathed in shades of grey
Even as the night turned mellow indigo
A play on colours and shades
Like love which once was vivid
Turn a corner, start to fade

What would you and I
Make of each other if
We accidentally wound up
In the same physical space?

In Thailand I dreamed
We were sitting in a white capsule
Surrounded by glass and
The crystal clear water, which tried to splash in
Slid smoothly back down the protective surface

It couldn't reach us
Just like we couldn't reach each other
(Like we couldn't reach ourselves?)

In all the ambivalence
I'm comforted to know I haven't even scratched the surface
I only keep coming back to you
Because there's no-one else to come back to

Your loss is another's gain

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Socially Acceptable Emotion

Out of sync with what passes for 'common experience'
I run far ahead then linger as if in a trance
Waiting for the world to catch up just a little
So I can reprise my instinct to leave it far behind again
Searching for resonant questions, wondering why
Nobody told me I would grow up to be
So unreceptive to the majority

I'm all upset, and they don't like it
Don't want to see how much deeper things can go
How assumptions are best questioned
How they've been mired in horror for so long

My life is half documentary, half fantasy
I become attuned to the need to rearrange
Everything I know about this page
I currently rest my pen upon

And if I look further I would no doubt discover
A sidelong surreptitious glance owned by another
But I'm too panicked by my own spectacle
When will I feel at my most respectable?

My eyelids are heavy and I glisten with hope
People shatter and raise it, I perspire and dehydrate
I know I cling on to an unreliable rope
I oscillate between sedate and irate

Wouldn't understand how to numb my curiosity
Couldn't dumb down my culture of enquiry
I'm aglow again, because they think I'm askew
My happiness can only signal a radical break from socially acceptable emotion

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Melaccan Mystery

The doctor wants to get a sample of my blood
But I'm too busy bleeding metaphorically
I don't want to give anything away
Except ideas, which I share, euphorically
Fruit is borne of the conflict
That keeps me stirring, inside
Fabulously fragmented living
I'm resolutely mine, you'll find

I can get caught up in the details
Of the number of days spent in a town
But if I juggle different clusters of variables
The perplexing constructions tumble down

Melacca, a tiny dot on the map
A place to experience traditions
Can I learn something irreplaceable
From this charming brand of conservativism?

Big Asian megalopolises I've seen before
In fact, I still struggle to let Seoul sink in
I breathe in the excitement and sedation
Grimy emissions, silky transmissions...

Such an instance, fails to abate
The joy of the bigger picture
I'm more in touch than I believe
I've always thought it was an inferior tincture
I was lugging around
Stamped atop my halo
And carved out by my steps in the ground
But I'll let the concept go
Unfurl itself out of my system like invisible smoke
To myself much metaphors I do evoke

Monday, November 22, 2010

In the Evening

When the people are almost completely drained of their energy, I have a choice: Do I stay asleep, or awaken?

In the Morning
I wonder if I can find another, more rewarding way to be. Does it involve being less or more aware? Am I approaching the right note, or am I in the wrong key? How many frequencies should I resonate in?

In the Afternoon
I visualise myself as going with the flow, attuned to the undertow, making with the overtones, persistently reinventing the zone.

Where am I now?

It's always evening, morning or afternoon somewhere. I am a multiplicity of states. They bleed into each other, even during the same day. I wake up at 10am. I wake up at 10pm. It's never the same journey.

What will you see in me, I wonder?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Disrespect

Stockholm's Nobelmuseet (Nobel Museum) is so full of treasures that it was only towards the end of my stay that I noticed that there were words stuck on the floor around the two movie theatres I was mesmerised by. Some of them were not particularly surprising, such as creativity. But then I saw one which reinvigorated my thought process.

Disrespect. White letters on dark grey.

If you want to engage with something more interesting, you have to say goodbye to all the unconditionally respectful dynamics you were encouraged into from a young age, then misguidedly clung to out of fear.

How hard can you swim against the tide?

Happy to fail, ecstatic to succeed

I guess that's the philosophy I need to adopt.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Celebrating Rob Thomas

Rob Thomas is somewhere between mainstream and eccentric, and I have been devoted to his inventive melodies and soul-wrenching lyrics ever since I was in high school. 

Here are some of my favourite songs of his:

Bent by Matchbox 20 (the verses are pure genius):




It's the chorus and bridge I adore in Gasoline:


I love everything about Downfall, except that I feel the gospel goes on a little too long:

 

All That I Am, meanwhile has beautiful Oriental touches:

Monday, November 15, 2010

Accentuate the Quirky

My accent is a subject of great curiosity for many of the people I meet. Inevitably, at some point during the first few sentences we exchange, they will inquire about my heritage. I've been assumed to be nationalities as diverse as Canadian or American, British or Irish, South African and Scandinavian or German.

When I was in Lopburi, the gathering of English teaching expats I joined had a brief debate about whether I was from the UK or North America. When I told them that I had a permanent home in The Land Down Under, they couldn't get over it. "Australia?! But you don't sound anything like an Australian!" Only one person in recent memory has guessed that I originate from Eastern Europe - he was from the region himself. ("People from our nations make sharp consonant sounds," he explained after noting my astonishment at this insight.)

I have noticed that a person is more likely to think I'm from the UK if they have a Northern American background, and vice versa, which perhaps says more about a tendency not to be very educated about the use of the spoken word on continents other than your own. I have described myself in various ways over time. My earlier foray into self-styled semantics represented a conscious effort to combine as many of the sounds I identified as pleasing into the one narrative. "My accent is eclectic," I proudly went back and forth between different cultural and regional norms. People just nodded bemusedly. A girl from Hong Kong told me that she thought my accent was International, but I think this is too convenient, too lacking in context.

I believe that my strongest influence is North American English, and so, if asked to identify a specific region, it's the one I usually mention first. I might say I have American overtones or undertones, or that I'm inclined towards the American accent, or that I have "an American emphasis", when I'm feeling in the mood to get in touch with my inner Bay Area Californian or Vancouverite.

Why is it that, despite only having visited Vancouver for 2 days, and living in Stanford for eight months or so, I have so much attraction to the lingual features of their brand of English?

It started with American cartoons and TV shows in my childhood, and probably blossomed around the time I started learning about American history. In particular, the culture around human rights struggles vividly captured my imagination, and still hasn't let go. I have often noted that I would love to live in San Francisco, Berkeley or Santa Cruz. However, due to the difficulty of moving to the States, I don't have much hope that I'll have a permanent home there in the near future. And even if I did, I would fit in no more than I do in Western Europe.

But that's okay.

A Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum participant wrote that I was not a "unique snowflake", attempting to mock me, but that's actually a wonderful metaphor for individuality - mine, and yours. Even if the difference between your accent and that of your neighbours is minimal, it's still there. No one speaks English (and the other languages you might also speak) quite the way you do. You have your own distinctive sound of voice, so enjoy that uniqueness; those things that make you you.

And if you should ever want to study and affect a multitude of different accents, go for it - you will find that most people find you memorable, original and inspiring.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Knowledge is Power, but...

Knowledge can be torture.

In their eyes, she's examining thoughts that they don't want to follow. In her eyes, they don't want to stray from their familiar tone poems and mood pieces. It would inspire exertion of a moral imagination which forces them to confront their most obfuscating shades of darkness. Their minds are committed to revoking the rights of aforementioned darkness to spill over into the regimented sense of reality that they feel is necessitated by their surroundings.

We are all revisionists of our own history, but most of us won't admit to it - it hurts too much to undercut the effort we make, year after year, to keep our deepest of selves in line with the painfully stilted and stultifying personas made available for public scrutiny.

Very little can be done if the soul was not willing. Then again, Amanda was always up for a challenge. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Strike Up A Conversation,

For I'm ready to fly
Either soar to new heights of artistic achievement
Or back into the vastness of the sky

I don't believe in fighting, so I fly

*

Everyone should travel as often as they can
Emerge from the grip of the local
Find out what you're like
In another space or town
Get more quiet or more vocal
Do whatever deep-seated urges
Or capricious fancies inspire

Flying around, this way and that
I only regret that I return to a fixed abode
Travel has always been my antidote
Withdrawal from even the barest of routines
Mixing up the banality brought by 'everyday scenes'
So that I might turn it on its head
Highlight different types of beings
A penchant for controversy, perhaps

This is my role, but no-one knows what I do
I refuse to identify it. Rather break up in two
I'm so deep underground
That you only hear the rumblings from below
Perpetually in the air
You might see a cloud readjust
I've got two hands buried deep in the soil
And two feet firmly in the clouds
A headstand, some might conclud
I'd like to turn upside down
Lost track of which is the right way 'round
I'm aware I make for an unconventional sight,
Epiphanies aiming for a constant state of flight

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Floating Around On My Hard Drive Pt 2

Low tech Buddhist attire and hi-tech iPod technology mingle at Angkor Wat

Is this Banksy?
I think this was by Magritte
A Taiwanese artist

United Colours of Bennetton ad

Floating Around On My Hard Drive

Taken by Kiana Smith in New Zealand

Originally used by owner of Facebook group 'Gay Marriage Rights in Australia'
Japanese Chocolate Wrapper, from Engrish.com
Picture of Lego filling in the gaps on a Danish street. Below is a Toronto-an with a sense of humour. ;o)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Creative Failures

Hello peoples,

So over the past week or so I haven't been giving myself much freedom to fail. I wanted to write the perfect blog post. Yet that's probably not what you look for in my work; perfection. You probably look for interesting new ideas, clever turns of phrase (I don't mind a clever song lyric, exclaimed a music producer to me), some inspiration here and there. You expect perfection of me no more than you do of yourselves... or, if you are a perfectionist, you think I'm perfect in my own special, imperfect way. Well, however you read me, I'd like to thank you for taking a little time out of your busy day to spend some time with Postmodern Epiphanie.  :o)

I have had so many different ideas for books that I could probably write a book on just that alone. Even though I am still struggling with some depressive tendencies (I'm on medication for them), I put pressure on myself to conceptualise of, begin and finish, market and monetise, the perfect literary project. However, I'm suspicious of products. I'm suspicious of bodies of knowledge. I'm suspicious of everything except postmodern narrative, as informed by fragmentation as possible. A book of quotes, or short, bite-sized pieces of wisdom, as Nietzsche indulges in in Beyond Good and Evil are more appealing for me.

Ideally I should just start something and enjoy it's twists and turns - present my life, as it is, as a work of performance art. Yet, I'm insecure. Some people will be happy, but what about the ones that won't? Do I know enough about myself to do a great job on the subject? My work is often oriented towards self-discovery, but it remains an issue I'm shy about tackling head-on. Part of me is afraid of my own malevolent forces overwhelming the benevolent ones. I seem to have created a space where it is safe to self-negate.

I'm going to be 27 on the 12th of November, so I'm re-evaluating my life. I guess I'm doing pretty well. I'm relatively healthy, I am materially provided for, I have dreams and hopes. I laugh, I cry, I breathe. I interact. I have light touches and dark patches. I oscillate. And that's okay. I'm trying to find a balance between always searching for something better, and always accepting that what I have is good enough.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Key Words For Sydney

effervescent
touchy
idiosyncratic
endearing
offputting
curious
well-meaning
quirky
"the bookshop"
Just Another Restaurant
No Name Restaurant
Name This Bar
Gary's Greek Yum Cha
Chish'n'Fips
balmy
empathetic
co-conspirational
smiling
gently encouraging

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cool Quotes

By me: 

 

I give eloquent rants. I'm smoothly disjointed. I'm tantalisingly tame. Studiously wild. I'm compulsively erratic. I don't need a cure. I love my contraditions. Celebrate the unknown.

 

Heterosexual-only marriage is institutional discrimination. It creates the belief that homosexuality is not as 'valid' as heterosexuality

 

By my friends: 

 

Ash Perkins says, via Status Shuffle: If you're happy and you know it, share your meds

 

Árni Sigurdsson: We have murders in books outnumbering murders in reality [in Iceland], probably by a ratio of something like 100:1

 

Martin Goldstein: Sometimes I see how idiotic I am. Good times!

 

By people I've never met: 

 

"The problem, if you love it, is as beautiful as the sunset." - Krishnamurti 

 

Martha Graham: There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that
is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in
all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never
exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine... how good it is, not how it
compares with other expression.
It is your business to keep it yours
clearly & directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to
believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open & aware
directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No
artist is pleased.There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There
is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us
marching & makes us more alive than the others.

 

No revolution- sometimes it depresses me/ the institution, curses curiosity/.. A Revolution/ Is The Solution!- Sex is Not the Enemy, Garbage

 

Rob Thomas: 'I wish the real world / would just stop hassling me'

Monday, October 25, 2010

Elusive Girl

Not even remotely standoffish
Is how you’d like to have me
Not even remotely touched
Is how I often aim to be

Shock yourself in relation to me
Unblock the assailant, the peaceful vagabond who
Shies away from certainty
Knowing it’s what you thirst for

I’ll always disappear, ever nomadic
I’ll never linger more than I can help it

Wilts and wonders claim my soul
I shudder in and out of self-control
I flounder and flourish in my founding role
The one you demand I take up again
 No matter how outdated it feels
You evince antipathy for the player who reels
Back from the preliminary notion
That cemented fluidity in my mind
To you and your colleagues I’m an idiosyncratic find
But I’m just trying to leave them,
And you,
Behind.

Five Shades of Cloud Shelter

Lost in the motion of the everyday swagger
Is the trembling that follows me around
Whenever I feel the tendency to go off-kilter
I stop myself before I hit the ground
I keep thinking it might be useful to
Substitute some false equanimity with real frustration
Spend another month or minute stuck in a steep climb

All I seem to do is avert my tears
I’m never ready for bunches of people
But they’re always around
I’m always ready for the right person,
But he or she can’t be found
All I seem to want to do 
Is be at my very best
Like Julian Assange, a 
Would-be prisoner or full-time pest
Annoying all the right people
Neglecting all the right places
Society is brimming with ennui
I lose myself by admiring the faces
(Of the bitterly apathetic, sourly jovial, 
Cheerfully vengeful, and spicily lacklustre)

*

A toy Viking sits on my desk
A souvenir from a place of great possibility and abundant mess
Outside my room, turbulent narratives made audible
Remind me I’m the only one
To have absorbed the dark streaks I have

The future audience, I see in you
The faith that you’re there is my gift to myself
The references and allusions to your generosity
Keep me awake
With a semblance of cheer
Keep me asleep,
My dreams manage my fear

Last night I dreamt that I was in a murder mystery
The body of the victim crawled towards its coffin
Climbing over grassy terrain
Death was her reluctant triumph
The sombre celebration
Instinctive calculation
The listlessness was mesmerising
She lay seductively still
Being drained of her enthusiasm for evading death
Going with the flow
The export of her energy beyond the confines of her body
Why am I writing about death?
Was my brush with aggressive infection
In Northern Europe so traumatic?
I’m as good as new, I dare contest
My ulterior motive to entertain by my arrest
Such restrictions have been placed over me
Such disapproval aimed at my mind and my body

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Unexpectedly Still

I am having more and more days when I find that life can be enjoyable even if I don't leave Sydney. It has all the comforts of a Top 30 'most innovative' big city, just the right amount of Asian immigrants and more events than I could ever hope to attend. I lower my expectations, and I am able to appreciate the subtlety of an emotion that is happier than the one that came before it, or vice versa.

It's days like today that I think "even if I couldn't travel outside Australia ever again, I would be OK." Not that I have any intention to stop traveling. Each time I travel is better than the last, takes me further away from Australia, and closer to it. In fact, over the last few years I have developed a substantial amount of curiosity about The Great Southern Land, and such destinations as Lismore, Darwin, Cairns, Alice Springs and more of Melbourne have made it on my list.

My point is, that I seem to have found enough inner peace to feel contented with my lot in life to some extent, which is a rather encouragingly positive thing. To put it another way, wherever I go, I'll be comfortably discomforted, and soothingly disturbed. Sydney or Taipei, Tokyo or Rosario, Vienna or Reykjavik.

Roiling Mind

"I woke up this morning feeling like my mind was roiling... jumping from one turbulent narrative to the next, with a few patches of peace in between." - Epiphanie Bloom


Sometimes I think that it was in China that I created this frantic state of turmoil. I wanted to change things simply through the power of my presence. I learned to feel powerless while I was there, faced with thousands of heads moving along in jerky unison, long-practiced stoic calm or dignified submissiveness. 


It felt like settling down would be dangerous. I felt like I was supposed to serve the world, and to do so demanded the application of pressure.


If I look at what Julian Assange is doing now, I admire him with ferocity. He symbolises the power of the individual to learn from the best of the system under which he has been brought up, and turn around to expose the worst of it. 


In the future, I hope we will have greater transparency in the political governments of the world. I can only hope that WikiLeaks is a salient pioneer of this movement towards greater integrity through greater public engagement and increasingly higher levels of curiosity. 

I hope that in the future, the Australian and US governments study Julian Assange as a hero.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In with the New

Today is passing quickly... I have so many concerns on my mind, but I don't know who to share them with...

You know, let's take the Australian population as an example...
Women represent approximately 50% of the population.
Immigrants represent approximately 25% of the population.
GLBTIs represent, let us say, about 5% of the population. (Fitting in with conservative statistics on the matter.)

So, it would seem that approx 65% of people do not fall into the category of Australian-born straight males. Or, that a majority of us are on the supposed 'margins'. If we group together, we place this disproportionally influential group squarely in context! What do you think?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Desire to Sketch

I have this need to write my pen off the line and start creating curves which evolve into complex architectural concoctions... I keep thinking back to Year 11, when I was really enjoying learning postmodern methods of explorations and appreciating the limitless potential of life... I think it's important to anoint myself with a sense of leisurely, tentative yet tenacious exploration.

Claustrophobia

For the past few days I've had a slight cold, meaning I've confined myself to staying at home (every serious illness I've ever had has come from a cold, so it's not as extreme as it sounds), and I'm getting to the point of being bored out of my mind.

In this post I will try to write a piece on Lady Gaga in relation to misogyny.




Why is a woman's sexuality / always under so much scrutiny? / Why can't she do exactly as she please / without being called a million things? / - Still Dirrty, Christina Aguilera



Her Tweet: Slutty monsters
Dance in the Dark: She’s a tramp, she’s a vamp
Paparazzi: C word


Annnd that's as far as I'm getting today, because my father and I have decided to go out to Oxford St anyway!

Peace, Postmodernism and Plenty of <3

Epi

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pink Swirls

My parents are so severe in their speech and sensibilities... my harmony-seeking narratives thwarted for the moment... The sensitivity goes unrecognised, unadjusted to, even though I wear it proudly...
I keep seeing variations on theme / where others assume continuity

I have no desires left to bandy about as unmet
Such a position would cause me regret
The minute I fall into a more sustainable higher
Is the moment I ascend into delicious doubts

And I'm not aware of how I can posture any further
In this city of hazy nightmares
Trinkets in hand (they do the magic dance of technology)
I spy reasons to keep my gaze down
But can't assume threats are all around

I don't know how to reach out, or who to touch
I expect to be delivered from this suffocating pouch

Indecision Strikes

I have so much to write about that I literally can't get started...
I haven't had the best sleep lately... I find myself yawning over my tea this afternoon, which makes me wonder if I'm also fatigued by all the things I haven't been writing about lately. Yesterday I wrote that getting out of Sydney allows me to get in touch with narratives I might otherwise neglect. I struggle to remember how I'm supposed to be feeling about place as opposed to how I actually do. Watching The Girl Who Played With Fire, I felt a nostalgia for Stockholm, such a beautiful, pastel-coloured, dreamy-looking place. Is this a similar affinity for a place as the one I cultivate towards Sydney, a kind of strained enthusiasm? Yet Sweden is absent of quite a few irritating factors present in Aus. Its (reported) rape rate is lower, gender quality and GLBT equality is higher, and from what I've heard of the laws protecting the media (that led Julian Assange of WikiLeaks to seek a long-term stay there), it sounds like a place that brings a lot of privileges.
Is Stockholm's charm a little less apparent than Copenhagen's? Is its innovation a little less developed (but still very strong), but its urban environment more appealing to me? I don't know what I'm looking for anymore...
One thing I'm sure of is that more people need to experience other cultures first-hand. Any culture. Just go to a different continent every once in a while, get a feel for how the locals think and the issues that affect them. Don't think about it, just go! You'll have plenty of time to think about while you're there...
I was looking at photos of Barcelona yesterday... the overpowering colours of its food scene, the high drama of Gaudi architectural concoctions, the theatricity of art and modern life... and let's not forget that Spain legalised same-sex marriage before anywhere in Scandinavia, not long after The Netherlands... however, how can I possibly say that one is better than another? I haven't spent long enough in either place to get a feel for it. If anything, Barcelona is a bit too extraverted and Sweden (and Denmark) are a bit too introverted...but it doesn't matter whether I obsess over them or not: I'm not going to be able to fly over there until about this time next year. My conscious focus should be on Asia... I should be researching Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. I'm not sure why I'm not... it may have something to do with how much I want to be there right now, and knowing that I may have to put it off another 6 weeks makes me inconsolable.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dreaming of S-East Asia Haiku

A curvy branch, as if gesturing
Towards the perfect symmetry
Of the temple ahead

Criticisms of Scandinavian Culture

An exchange in Denmark:

A: Hello! You must be back from London?
B: Yes, and how are you?
A: I'm planning to buy some alcohol and get drunk.
B: That's you!

I was basically blown away by the matter-of-fact tone with which these words were exchanged (especially the last two sentences). I am yet to utter one sentence in my life with such a blunt, minimalistic tone. It made me feel both somewhat uncomfortable and immediately introduced to (whatever) the core of things (that the two felt comfortable representing to the world) appeared to be.

*

I care a lot about my Swedish friend (let's call him Tom), but I found it hard to approve of his tendency to see me getting out my camera as a sign that he should do the same thing, and point it in the same direction. It had a kind of yes-man quality which seemed contradictory to the rest of his personality as a postmodern-minded intellectual. I guess it goes to show that Swedes tend to conform socially?

Managing Destructive Tendencies

The night has been arranged
To shade the day from fright
Laughter has been conjured up
To counter misplaced anger's might

I am the light, I am the dark
Colours pale and colours stark
In it all, I see haphazard solutions
They beg for the advent of questions

Friday, September 24, 2010

Connecting Epiphanie's Highlights of Japan (Map)


I would start in Tokyo, and progress to Nikko, Matsumoto, Takayama, Kanazawa, Nagoya, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and finally Nagasaki.

I estimate that I would need 39 days for this trip.

Overwhelmed by Information

I turn on my laptop
Tune into the flow
Of electronic information
So many streams I follow
I know not how to extricate
From this neverending gush
Of bits and phonemes and pixels
Till I know I've had too much

A few weeks ago I unfollowed a whole bunch of people on Twitter, and the information seems much more manageable now. I have more time to read links provided by Richard Florida, and really take them in, just one of the ways in which I feel I can better concentrate.

Of course, I still have more information coming in than I can deal with when I have The Big Three - Gmail, Facebook and Twitter - open, but... to tell the truth, I kind of like it. I'm never bored because there's always something interesting to look at; I'm always on, always inspired, the world is constantly full of endearing connection-making, ablaze with activism or blissfully sedate, pumping its progressive fist or dreamily recounting lessons learnt.

4 new Tweets since I started writing this... nothing clickable, funny or mind-blowing.

I am getting back in the business of blowing my own mind.
I'd like to discuss the barriers I put up whilst hanging out with Rune with him, but I don't know how.
I realise that I have an issue with the way I look. I feel sufficiently out of the mainstream in terms of body mass. I never really acknowledged this before. Sometimes the emotions it arouses in me are difficult to deal with, just because I'm somewhat in denial, still.

I remember being so enchanted by G-Force for MusicMatch Jukebox when it became available... it greatly fueled my creativity and even made it into my screenplay concept (for the credits). It would be cool if a film were shot realistically, but then a layer of a G-Force-like animation was juxtaposed on top of it, which coloured the film in alternate colour combos and used certain shapes (circles and lines) to emanate from or play with/around.

Socially Acceptable Unease

I guess I'm not feeling guilty enough
Let me consume the culture of blame
Sip on the chalet of a vague sense of shame
Affect an eagerness to defer
Self-depreciation is preferred
Even if it distorts my comfort zone
Maybe I should simply play along(?)

*

The Conflicted Feminist

In the course of her short career, Lady Gaga has gone from defensively rejecting the label 'feminist' to warming to it enough to identify with it.

* (I think I'll do a 'mood essay' on Gaga...) *

The Ethics of Smiling / Dispensing with Authenticity, the notion / Cafe culture as sign of innovation (Vienna, Melbourne, Paris... but what about Vietnam... it's not particularly innovative) / Anti-Meta Measures Taken by society (the people vs. postmodernism, who's afraid of postmodernism)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looking through my photos...

The Korean alphabet lacks the charm of the Chinese, due to the lack of flowy lines in Hangul. It's all squares and circles, with little asymmetry.

I had a brief language swap session with a girl from Taipei, and learnt how to say ju(r) - se, or purple colour. I'm sure that will be really handy, lol.

'Vacilando – according to glossary.com, it’s a Spanish term for the act of wandering when the experience of travel is more important than reaching the specific destination. John Steinbeck (in Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962) wrote: ‘In Spanish there is a word for which I can’t find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but does not greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.’" (source: Lonely Planet article - http://www.lonelyplanet.com/denmark/travel-tips-and-articles/75937?affil=fb-fan)

 

I had forgotten how lucky I was... I vow to stop complaining about Sydney and enjoy every moment as much as possible...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Fountain of Data

Did you know that Seattle is the 8th most innovative city in the Americas according to 2thinknow, an Australian Innovation Agency? Copenhagen is listed as 5th in Europe and 8th in the world, Hong Kong is deemed the most innovative place in Asia and Oceania, ranking 18th in the world, closely followed by Melbourne at 19th in the world... you can find all this and much more at the Innovation Cities Indices, here.

For another perspective on innovation, there is an India-based information source called the Global Innovation Index, in which Iceland emerges as the most innovative country in the world, with the other Scandinavian countries all in the top 10. New Zealand, Canada and US take spots #9, 11 & 12 respectively.

Then there's Newsweek, which offers you their perspective on the best countries in the world... Finland is #1, Australia is #4, USA is #11, and South Korea scores a little bit higher than France (15 and 16 respectively). One of the coolest things about this interactive infographic is that you can compare countries by factors such as 'gender gap' and 'freedom house' (which includes freedom of press). It gives you a big picture look at how countries perform in fields like education, political environment and quality of life.

For much more detailed discourse on the worldwide gender gap, look no further than the Gender Equality Index. Sweden, as we already know, comes up on top, with Rwanda and the Bahamas being surprisingly similar to its result... Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands round out the top 10 with the usual Scandinavian suspects. 

Since we're comparing cities, check out which are the cleanest cities in the world. If you were to relocate solely using this factor, Calgary would be the destination of choice. It's followed by Honolulu and Helsinki.

You want to know about 'the world's most livable cities'? Wikipedia has information on not one but three of these indexes! Check it out here. Cities mentioned by two out of the three surveys (in the top 10) are Vienna, Vancouver, Munich, Sydney, Melbourne, Zurich, Auckland and Helsinki. Vienna was actually mentioned by all 3!

And the final set of statistics I'm going to throw at you is that of the United Nations' Human Development Index, and The World's Happiest Countries.

Hope that gives you as much food for thought as it continues to give me! ;o)

Choices, Choices, Choices...

Apparently buying a property in Austria can also get you a citizenship to that country... hmm.

I'm a rather indecisive sort of person. I can count 52 books that I have openly begun to read in my library (about 2/3 are on travel or travel-related themes). So much choice! I could probably put them into categories... postmodern philosophy, postmodern fiction/poetry, European travel, Asian travel, American travel, Middle Eastern travel (I have two of these, and I'm not even all that interested in Middle Eastern travel!), African travel (ditto on both counts). Amongst these are two books by Pico Iyer, Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, Tony Griffiths, Jose Saramago, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Umberto Eco, Jeanette Winterson and Friedrich Nietzche each.
Then, I have about 35 DVDs I haven't yet seen to watch... some of the titles include the first four seasons of The Wire, U-Carmen, Power Yoga, Happy Together, Schindler's List, Billy Elliot, P!nk (live in concert) and probably the odd one out, He's Just Not That Into You (hey, I need my Scarlett Johanssen eye-candy).

These texts have all been carefully selected to enrich my inner world... which is just as well, because I have to stay in Australia for a month or two longer before I can escape, hot and happy, to Thailand. I can honestly say that while the culture may let me down, all I have to do is pick up a book or slip a DVD into my computer to be immersed in another culture.

It's a real shame that Open University only allows you to study 3 languages (Mandarin, Italian and Indonesian)... if they had Spanish, I would take it immediately. It's not that I don't want to learn Italian (or Chinese, for that matter). It's just it's not my first priority, and if I'm going to put in a lot of effort to learn a new language, it might as well be Spanish, or, my second favourite choice right now, French. Chinese would be sooo useful, but it's astoundingly hard, and since I don't intend to move to China, Taiwan, Singapore or the like... It would be nice to improve my Japanese, or learn Swedish or Danish, so it's disappointing to realise I still have so few choices here.

What I do have a choice in is how to spend my next year, decade, and entire future...

Can I see myself basing myself in Thailand for life? I could keep moving around, staying in guesthouses/hotels all over the country, which would allow me the opportunity to leave, for short periods, anytime I like. I could spend the dry season abroad or something.

Stream of consciousness... (you know, this was meant to be a CHoice A, Choice B, Choice C post, where I list the endless directions I visualise myself as being torn by, but I believe that is a superficial response... I know that I choose to be at home, searching for my next lightning-bolt revelation, I choose to be static in some ways so I can jump around in others, and I know that even though it matters how quickly I learn Spanish, if I ever continue studies at any kind of university, whether I take a course on photography, or consider it a choice between two languages and two different lifestyles (Thai, which leads to more Thailand, or Argentine Spanish, which leads to South America and ultimately Spain), work overtime to produce an overflow of work, push myself to my limits or bludge along, only using a tiny portion of my potential... even though all these things matter, I can't abandon my everyday life of learning, my deeply ingrained commitment to deriving inspiration, my daily attachments to the raw produce of highly specialised information sources... or writing for the non-profit cause of myself my readers, for the sake of free information and a lack of censorship or editing. A lack of 'helpful suggestions' and 'unintentional butchering of my work'... if this blog had AdSense ads, you would now get some very colourful results due to the word 'butcher' and perhaps 'raw produce'. The beauty of being free from the all-pervading Ad generation system is that my words are the sole words that inform the page... external content doesn't bleed into them and disturb their melancholy elegance or defensive optimism.

Where was I again?

If I was to go to Argentina I would no doubt fall in love in ways I can't possibly expect. I would no doubt be turned off in ways which dismay me like nothing I could have ever imagined. If money weren't an issue it would be my next destination, but perhaps I'm lucky that all looks good for an Asia-bound imagination. After all, I find few countries more agreeable than Thailand, and from there I plan to do something like the following:

3 months in Thailand (Nov, Dec, Jan); 1 months in Laos/Bali (Feb); 1 month in Vietnam (March); 1 month in Japan or Taiwan (April); Malaysia (May) ... the options are limitless, what with AirAsia flying to Seoul, Taipei, Tokyo, Tianjin, Chengdu, Yangon, Bali, Laos, Clark (Philippines) and also London. (I doubt I can talk my parents into purchasing a ticket to Tehran for me, interesting as going to Iran would be.)

When I go to Thailand I hope to write about my experience on Eccentric Travels, my other Blogger domain. Speaking of my other blogs, if you want to read what I wrote to two members of parliament who partially hold the balance of power in Canberra, please check out my first, not forgotten, blog, Postmodern Critic, here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self-acceptance

The only person who will always agree with you 100% is - you.

Don't wait for other people to love and accept you - you need to do it yourself.

I love the bump at the back of my head that means I would never look good bald.

I love the way my hair falls into waves, waiting to be arranged according to my artistic vision of the day.

I love the way I feel protected from physical coercion due to my large size.

I accept that I am not perfect, but always do my best.

I accept that I make mistakes, but am very eager to learn from them.

I accept that I stumble, and I learn how to move on more quickly all the time.

I love that I am free to be me, even if that means that I am attacked by people who don't have the same freedom.

I try my hardest to accept myself as I am - some parts are easier than others. I am both expectant and defensive when it comes to accepting others. 

I know that life keeps getting more simple and complex, and I intend to keep coming up with new questions to make the most of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thank Gaga for the Postmodern Lady

I happened to read an analysis of Lady Gaga by Camille Paglia today which I felt needed some deconstruction... let's take a look at some of the uninformed arguments she makes:

She [...] has escaped serious scrutiny.
 
Actually, fans and/or academics scrutinise her work in great detail, comparing screencaps, evoking theorists and having all sorts of immersive experiences in response to the texts.

Although she presents herself as the clarion voice of all the freaks and misfits of life, there is little evidence that she ever was one.

It's all about how you feel inside, not what your status might suggest. There is just as much a market for people who feel comfortable in society, so the fact that she's self-identifying that way strikes me as genuine. I believe one of the reasons Gaga 'felt like a freak in high-school' (as she announced while being interviewed by Barbara Walters) is that she identified as bisexual and Christian. Unfortunately we still live in a culture where being non-hetero-normative is seen as an undesirable variation, mainly due to the corrosive social influence of intolerant religions (i.e. the majority of the ones I know). You'd think Paglia, who writes of being attracted to women, would understand this, had she done much research on Gaga.

Lady Gaga is a manufactured personality

I'm sure Gaga would welcome that analysis. She appears to be reveling in the manufactured aspects of her career, celebrating and problematising at the same time. 


Furthermore, despite showing acres of pallid flesh in the fetish-bondage garb of urban prostitution, Gaga isn’t sexy at all – she’s like a gangly marionette or plasticised android. How could a figure so calculated and artificial, so clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism have become the icon of her generation? 

Gaga is an icon of her generation because mainstream audiences are receptive to her entertaining them in ways that challenge pop music and performance norms. We already know the pop princess formula off by heart - relentlessly seductive, unproblematically feminine, constantly striving to be the ultimate heterosexual male fantasy. Gaga said in an interview that women are ugly as well as beautiful. She is performing the complexity of her tortured personality, and the conditions for her popularity is that she must both embody and mangle the conventions of female pop spectacle. Her posturing as grotesque, monstrous, murdered, murderous, horrific and otherwise off-putting are all part of a multifaceted performance which has intrigued the many millions who are fed up with the record labels getting away with giving us the same thing every time.

Gaga has borrowed so heavily from Madonna (as in her latest video-Alejandro) that it must be asked, at what point does homage become theft? However, the main point is that the young Madonna was on fire. She was indeed the imperious Marlene Dietrich’s true heir. For Gaga, sex is mainly decor and surface; she’s like a laminated piece of ersatz rococo furniture. Alarmingly, Generation Gaga can’t tell the difference. Is it the death of sex? Perhaps the symbolic status that sex had for a century has gone kaput; that blazing trajectory is over…

I believe Gaga has appropriated Madonna in ways that, while familiar, are also innovative in their context. For instance, while Madonna's pointy bras challenged what it was to be feminine and provocative, Gaga wearing guns on her breasts is a sign of her indoctrination by gay men with phallocentric defense systems which are so rigid that militarism seems an appropriate metaphor. It's more symbolic, perhaps, than what Madonna was doing.

It must be said that Christina Aguilera released the video for 'Not Myself Tonight' at around the same time as Gaga released 'Alejandro', which is even more of a homage to Madonna, however lacks the ingenuity of the latter's innovation. So if you're going to accuse people of copying Madonna, Christina is the #1 suspect. 

Surely if you're looking for a straight-forwardly sexual celebrity, the media will not let you down, Camille. Gaga is boldly subverting people's expectations of her as a sex symbol in order to shock them a bit out of the expectations every single other pop star has led them to develop over the decades. I think it's refreshing that Gaga is as guarded as she is over the top. It doesn't surprise me that Gaga fashions her "poker face" to go with her audacious ensembles. It's a layer of protection, and an appropriate way to respond to being in the spotlight almost 24/7.

Gaga seems comet-like, a stimulating burst of novelty, even though she is a ruthless recycler of other people’s work. She is the diva of déjà vu. Gaga has glibly appropriated from performers like Cher, Jane Fonda as Barbarella, Gwen Stefani and Pink, as well as from fashion muses like Isabella Blow and Daphne Guinness.

It's called intertextuality, or as someone wrote 'wearing your influences on your sleeve'. Reveling in the simulacra of the iconic, Gaga is the hyper-icon, brandishing forever a stance which is contrived from her predecessors yet also strikingly original.

Marlene and Madonna gave the impression, true or false, of being pansexual. Gaga, for all her writhing and posturing, is asexual. Going off to the gym in broad daylight, as Gaga recently did, dressed in a black bustier, fishnet stockings and stiletto heels isn’t sexy – it’s sexually dysfunctional.
 
Is Paglia saying asexuality is dysfunctional? Anyway, sexual dysfunction, as Gaga knows, is part of many a mainstream experience, and she happens to appeal to various types of it. Problematic, but very interesting.

Generation Gaga doesn’t identify with powerful vocal styles because their own voices have atrophied: they communicate mutely via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages. Gaga’s flat affect doesn’t bother them because they’re not attuned to facial expressions. 

I am something of a singer, and I believe Gaga does in fact have a powerful vocal style. This was discussed in an interview with Ellen, who complimented on her vocals. Gaga responded by saying she was surprised by how many people didn't expect her to have a good voice, matter-of-factly pointed out that it was her profession to be a singer. I also think these two sentences carry gross generalisations which are not relevant to me or any of my friends. As new texts appear in the world, they become studied in high schools, so I'm pretty sure your modern day technologically savvy girl or boy consciously uses different skills to extract maximum meaning from a face and an SMS.


The exasperating article (exactly how much research did she do for this article? Does she have anything positive to say?) continues at another address, but your truly has lost interest.

Now, back to Gaga Stigmata...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The World of the Local

Constructing Intricacies >

Is there a place in the world which is most strongly suited to my needs? Although my needs keep changing, sometimes in unpredictable and uncontrollable ways, is there still a city or town which is a 'best fit' for my personality? If I keep asking these questions I am forced to conclude that I don't really want to live in any one place very long; and yet, my parents are home owners and I will be a home owner myself someday... since I do own property, should I keep it in Australia, live off the rent elsewhere as suits me and return to Sydney only for my medical needs (and the annual urge to consult my library?)?

Before I forget:
Yesterday I saw the end of a documentary on transgendered people in Denmark called Nobody Passes Perfectly, followed up by another Danish doc, Hello, my name is Lesbian. Both films were a celebration of living your life outside the binary constructions which pass for comforting in society. The second documentary finished with a woman rejecting the question "What is a typical lesbian like?" both verbally (her face scrunching up, not engaging with the thoughts she expected to hold in order to reproduce the worth of the question) and non-verbally (saying something along the lines of 'I don't even know how what that means'. Her refusal to engage with the discourse of cultural stereotypes is evident in her lack of compartmentalisation of self - she considers the questions and finds it ultimately irrelevant to her search for self, and that of others.

In Nobody Passes Perfectly, a man who has had numerous heterosexual relations rejects the concept of masculinity, feeling that he doesn't want to conceal his existential crises or his vulnerability. He can't appreciate why his dinner mate, a female who longs for a male identity physically as well as mentally-emotionally, would want to take on a greater degree of masculinity, and suffer the emotional distress of the trappings of mainstream male behaviour.

Recently The Guardian published this very important article. It presents recent findings that it's conditioning, not genetics, that determines how men and women behave. I believe that while the article is out there, the implications of it are largely ignored or under-unpacked, negligibly conceived or too vague to mention. There is no norm for female behaviour as distinct from male. I find that men and women are equally responsible from stepping back from stereotyping each other and finding new ways to respect the vulnerable individuals that we all happen to be. Men might say 'women are too emotional' or women might say 'men don't discuss their feelings' - well, it's all in the way people have been brought up to follow the acceptable social codes of the gender society recognises them to be.

I feel comfortable enough with my gender to feel uncomfortable with it at times. I have been mistaken for male both physically and mentally on two very different occasions. (When I was about seven or so I was mistaken by a group of kids I was playing with for being male... they asked for 'proof' of my lack of penis, so I unzipped my jeans and quickly revealed the lack of a bump through my undies; in conversation with an older Hispanic male who had few examples of strong, intelligent women in his life, it came out that he was coding my online presence as one he couldn't reconcile with my female identity... in his a Freudian slips, he referred to me as a 'boy'.

Back to the notion of Place...

Yesterday I made a little table in the hope of illuminating my search for a permanent home outside Australia further...

I came up with 12 countries which attracted me, 9 of which I have been to and 3 of which I anticipate I would enjoy (places I haven't been to are with a star). Below I list the communities that interest me within each nation.

*Argentina: Rosario
Denmark: Copenhagen, *Aarhus, *Aalborg
France: Paris, *Lyon
Greece: Santorini
*Iceland: Reykjavik
Italy: Rome, *Calcata
Japan: Kamakura, *Kyoto
*Portugal: undecided (not enough information)
Spain: Barcelona, *Sitges
Sweden: *Goteborg (Gothenburg), *a university town, Stockholm
Thailand: undecided (possible candidates: Phuket, Nong Khai, Pattaya, Hua Hin, *Pai)
United States: San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, *Boston

Yesterday I came to the conclusion that Iceland was the perfect place to spend, say half the year (I would be traveling the rest). It doesn't seem to have Tall Poppy Syndrome / Janteloven, it's sort of in the middle of New York City and London, (or, perhaps more importantly, Barcelona/Paris/Copenhagen and Boston/Toronto) it's been unofficially recognised as 'the most feminist country in the world' due to its banning of strip clubs and its gay female president, its capital city is both small and very innovative (in fact the Global Innovation Index 2009-2010 found that Iceland is the world's most innovative country, a tiny bit above Sweden), it doesn't have a large Muslim immigrant community (unlike Sweden, Denmark and the rest of Europe), it doesn't get too freezing due to the country's unique weather, the population is very artistic, educated, and harbours its fair share of eccentrics, it legalised same-sex marriage earlier this year with no opposition (actually the mayor of Reykjavik dressed up as a drag queen for the Pride event), it didn't participate in the 'war on terror' and hence has few enemies, and it's the most atheist nation in the world.

Although Thailand has a lower standard of life than most of the other nations I have listed, it ranks high on my list of desirable places to go away to every now and again. It also provides a much needed reminder that most of the world works unflinchingly hard for a pay packet Westerners see as embarrassingly low, and how a developing economy can be very satisfying in everything from infrastructure to customer service to food quality. What I love about Thailand is the friendliness and openness of the people, the enormous variety of tasty food available everywhere, the abundance of natural beauty (beaches, greenery, rivers, flowers and more), the beauty of the ubiquitous temples, the liberal use of colour everywhere and the tolerance of non-heterosexual identities (even though the legal system hasn't caught up with the global gay rights advancements). To finish on a somewhat surprising note, I recently discovered that Thailand has greater gender equality than South Korea or Japan, although these nations have a much higher quality of life and economic prosperity. There's just something about Thailand; the 'lucky country' of Asia?