Thursday, December 29, 2011

*The Gender Part

I got so passionate about the last post that I forgot to address what I said I was going to do in the title - gender!

If 'cross, inter and trans' is the best way to do disciplines, then it follows that it's the best way to do gender as well.

What area of living needs more innovation to be poured into it than gender? Currently, I am worth less than 73% of a man in Australia. It's more in Sweden, less in Thailand and China, about the same in the US. Globally, women are forced to devalue themselves and men are forced to be oppressors.

If we treated what is female and what is male as equally acceptable, we would feel comfortable enough as individuals to express ourselves as we like. Gone will be the constructs of effeminate men or butch women. We will step outside those limiting gender categories and see everyone as an equal. Homosexuality has helped to shake up gender to some extent, but whether you like the company of women, men, both or neither, it's up to you to question the deeply ingrained values that so few of your contemporaries know how to swim against. Be different - take responsibility and help me bring about equality as soon as possible. :o)

So, let's take a look at some of the ways we can play with gender:

Cross-dressing

Our external appearance is one of the first thing anyone notices about us. Most of us don our apparel in a way that signifies which gender we identity with. What about if we become more androgynous? I bet clothes will become more androgynous in the future - less 'pink for girls, blue for boys' and more mixing and matching to suit the personality. I would like to see men's fashion become more, well, GaGa! We need to diversify male fashion, and to bring more dignity to womens - I would like less pressure to be 'revealing' and a greater emphasis on comfort. High heeled shoes aren't comfortable, and what does a brassiere do? It manipulates naturally loose-hanging pieces of flesh into a restrictive, uncomfortable, 'manageable' piece of decoration. There is some talk of it being bad for the breasts, and I can see (or rather, feel) why - bras are modern day torture devices. I want to let my body do what it will, not align it with the popular mould - which will change anyway. The women of the 1920s were right - let's burn those bras! :o) The modern day feminist movement has long frowned upon such radical notions, but when you realise that it's going to take 99 years (by the Guardian's estimate) for women to gain equal pay in the workplace, you realise that that's not a radical stance. That's a very repressed stance. Ok, I'm about to go off on a tangent --

Take a look at the Egyptian revolutions. What started as a secular movement for democracy was abducted by the majority, bringing it more in line with Islamic practices than was originally on the agenda. Likewise, the bra-burning avant garde of the 1920s was too far ahead of their time... modern day femism in 2011 hasn't caught up, and probably won't for a while yet. But, people, I do sometimes go without a bra... and I think that's what the future will see more and more women doing.

Intersex

I can only identify by name and media appearance two people who identify as intersex. One of them is a politician in Australia, and the other was a TEDxSydney speaker. Intersex people seem to be in a perfect place to innovate identity on the basis of individuality, take on the best parts of the worlds they see, and be confined by neither. I know the reality is much more discriminatory than I can imagine, but, just like mixed race people, they are helping all of us experiment our notions of gender into new realms.

- Okay, I'm exhausted... more later!




Trans, Inter & Cross (Disciplinary/Gender)

I quit university because I couldn't create a narrative of constant cross-disciplinary motion. Interdisciplinary journeys were (and remain) one of my biggest sources of inspiration. It's the combination of two areas of life that I see as intricately connected, an improvement upon a time when they remained locked in separate spheres.

We do a lot of harm to the pursuit of knowledge by seeking to isolate it into categories. Physical education is distinct from architecture, which is distinct from film studies. What's worse is that we've passed down these rigid restrictions from one century to another, hardening the divisions, creating rivalries between disciplines where there should be mutual affinity and a culture of collaboration.

At the time I quit, I was the only person I knew who was interested in pursuing such a future. Then, in 2010 I followed a prominent innovation expert on Twitter, and we had an exchange that helped me remember that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I don't want to be part of the marketplace of ideas, at least not in any traditional way.

It seems like everyone I get close to always tells me to stop changing. Yes - not to change, but to stop changing. Perhaps more accurately, adopt a state of stasis, a bubble of contentment in which limitations as dictated by the status quo are important and ultimately have more currency than my well-developed genius. "Be happy with what you have," they plead. But no one changed the world because they were happily devoted to meeting the needs other people wanted them to. I want different things to be expected of me. I want different rights and responsibilities - and I want them now.

I believe we are headed into a decade or two which will bring about deep cultural change. Are you ready to break some new ground?



Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fabulous Things About 2011

a) I discovered the joy of giving to charity with Kiva.org and Save the Children

b) I traveled to Thailand (Chiang Mai, Bangkok), Belgium (Brussels), Denmark (Copenhagen, Helsingor), Sweden (Stockholm), Spain (Barcelona, Figueres), Switzerland (Zurich), China (Hong Kong) and Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai). I even went to Bellevue Hill in Sydney. ;o)

c) I met Elizabeth Briel, reconnected with Martin Goldstein, and even found a new postmodern friend.

d) I experimented with my appearance, acquiring two new glasses frames, and a new hairstyle.

e) I decided to purchase a property... it will probably be in Chiang Mai, and it will take 2-3 years to save up for it, which means I won't be doing much of any kind of travel until then... but it will be worth it when I have the freedom to live there for as many months of the year as I like, and explore the region in depth.

f) I got a MacBook of my very own

g) I am meditating with the help of lovely audio texts, finding more inner peace and all that

h) I wrote some things I'm very proud of on this very blog

i) I met some new and interesting people in Thailand, and online

j) Other stuff that I can't remember right now... Happy End of Year Daze ~*~

Favourite Songs of the Year

In no particular order:


'Dragons' by The Green Children


'Honestly' by Kelly Clarkson



'Jerome' by Lykke Li


'I Wanna Go' by Britney Spears


'Crystalline' by Bjork


'Bitter is the Sweetest Part' by Vanbot


'Marry the Night' by Lady GaGa



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gay, Gay, Gay

I've decided that I'm going to be available for romantic relationships to women only for the foreseeable future. It's a very practical decision: I am sick of always starting out on unequal footing with the opposite sex. I'm sick of fighting against millenia worth of conditioning with all the enthusiasm I can muster, only to find that I'm still inevitably discriminated against - and unfavourably - because I identify as female. I deserve more than that.

Women are better lovers anyway. ;o)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Making Work Pleasurable

How can we like our work more?
(I recently read an article which measured when people were happiest throughout the day. For employed people, they experienced a high upon waking, which was dispensed with by the time they started their work at 9am or so. They then had a second high when they were at home after work, with time to themselves to do the things they loved.)
Being employed is something that is expected of us, and brings many people a sense of belonging, or, at the very least, material prosperity. I want to know 'how can we make it more enjoyable?' because making the world more pleasurably engaging is within our reach, and will change our culture for the better.
Any ideas? Here's a few of mine:
o} Work less, and take more breaks while on the job, to increase performance.
o} Encourage a playful approach and reward boldly creative ideas
o{ Collaborate with other companies - in a different field, better yet. Imagine what a newspaper team could learn from a biotechnology team, or vice versa? (At first they might seem barely connected, but actually we are all connected in a plethora of ways, one which we don't always appreciate.)
o} Collaborate with workers in different countries. Have a conversation over Skype with someone who can show you a different side to life, halfway around the world! Let the ideas circulate, share your skills, be open to both teaching and learning simultaneously.

If we wanted to, we could make the word 'work' obsolete, through a transformation of occupational culture which makes 'play' the key concept to creating new things.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Conflicting Messages

Yesterday, if you had asked me who I wanted to be like, I might have given you the name of Richard Florida. This extremely gifted American academic, private consultant and public speaker is versatile enough to be known as an urbanist, economist, sociologist and more. His Twitter profile reveals that he's a guitar player, so perhaps I should call him 'the rock star of economic theory.'

Looking at Richard's CV, he has taken a pretty traditional meritocratic approach to career development: The last bit of study he did was at Columbia University, a PhD. He's also a senior editor at The Atlantic.

So imagine my surprise to read Tweets today and discover this one of his:

"I have always love to discover and learn. But I never liked school."

I like him even better now. And I've never been more confused about whether to grin and bear a traditional university education or to continue making my own path and hope it will all work out.

(?)

*

I had a dream that I was locating a spot on the map just off the east Norwegian coast. That it was in and around this area that I would find it rewarding to study at a university.

My research into studying in Norway as an exchange student led me to find this para:

The academic profile of the University of Bergen has two major focuses. One is marine research - the city of Bergen is considered to be one of the largest marine science centres in Northern Europe. The other is global development research, and the university has earned a distinguished reputation both in Norway and abroad for its excellent, result-driven collaboration on research and education with universities in developing countries.

Is my intuition telling me that Bergen would be the perfect placement to explore both the oceans and the land in complementary ways? There's something about Bergen that draws me...

Striving Towards Equality

It has struck me that there are a lot of similarities between how some sectors of the US are treating Barack Obama, and how some sectors of Australia are treating Julia Gillard. Both heads of state are what we currently call 'minorities' - an African-American and a woman. They also both challenge the previous dominance of Caucasian males in the foremost position of leadership in their nations, making them recipients of thinly veiled discrimination from the conservative elements in society.

In the US, Morgan Freeman recently said on CNN that the Tea Party movement is racist. From the way I've seen John Boehner and most of the Republicans acting, I believe that racism is a widespread problem in the GOP as well. While Republicans would be quick to deny accusations of racism, their actions speak louder than words: their efforts to undermine Barack Obama's leadership have been so extreme, that I'm surprised that more people aren't heralding Morgan Freeman as an innovator of public opinion. But then, racism is under-acknowledged as a problem in American society, something we must be aware of if we seek to change the world.

In Australia, Julia Gillard has been criticised from the beginning for being an atheist who isn't married to her partner and has no children. These delineations have been used to attack her political agency, and de-emphasise positive and progressive actions taken. Murdoch's News Limited has run stories like this to muster up as much antipathy towards her as possible, as well as continually overemphasising misogynistic Opposition leader Tony Abbott's aggressive anti-Gillard criticism. The pronouncement of Australian misogyny is now becoming public, though, like US racism is under-acknowledged. 

What is the bigger picture here? We are at an important place where old, established norms about who has power and who is creating policy for everyone else, are being challenged and subverted. In Aus & US, the jilted former status quo will do everything it can to resist the opening up of the political sphere to as many types of people as possible. They are used to calling the shots, and for all the lip service to fostering equality and celebrating diversity, now that we have seen these societies demonstrate a more inclusive approach, the limitations of these discourses, and the fears and prejudices that circulate among and even underneath them, have been brought to the surface.

As unfortunate as it is that good people have to suffer for histories of discrimination, the election of these leaders and their ability to cope under pressure and continuation to fight for some important progressive goals is a good sign. It shows that American and Australian people are slowly but surely re-imagining what authoritative leadership means. Their perception of powerful people is expanding. It may be that these new leaders are suffering from a full spectrum of deeply ingrained prejudice, but this is the beginning of the long march towards equality that will improve all aspects of these societies. It already is, as young disadvantaged black males are seeing a brighter future for themselves and refraining from crime in the US, and as young Australian females are inspired to aim and achieve even higher, now that they have a new role model.

 

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Dream Collector

In 2004, I met an Asian-American woman who told me about her dream of visiting Vietnam... up to that moment I had had no interest in visiting what I saw as a nation whose silences and chatter were informed by a police state, but something interesting happened in engaging with her: Her enthusiasm was contagious, and suddenly I was finding the mystery of Vietnam bewitching. The woman and I parted ways soon after meeting, but the desire to visit Vietnam remained, some kind of tribute to the part of her that was drawn to things so different to me. And so, I decided to weave the nation into my Southeast Asian tapestry in 2005. I was chasing after her dreams, in a way, long after she had ceased to matter.

In 2008 I met an Egyptian academic who mentioned he would love to see a piece of architecture in Prague called The Dancing House. While not entirely impressed with the photos of the building, I decided to spend some of my 3 days in Prague looking it up. When I arrived there I thought of him, how he would probably never see it, and how its simultaneous beauty and repugnance crafted a unique space. Whatever I could think to say about the Dancing House (too vulgar, yet oddly pretty; too obvious, yet curiously multifaceted), it was certainly unique, just like the man who had told me about it, whose insensitivity to my sexual orientation led me to abandon that communication. I was lucky: the site was surrounded by beautiful architecture - Prague's buildings were like a forest of jewels.

In 2003 I accompanied my then best friend to the place of her dreams, which was the city she had departed in order to live in Sydney: Shanghai. She was at home, and a new kind of sense of well-being seemed to animate her. One night we were walking near The Bund, admiring the view of postmodern skyscrapers competing for the Most Unusual Building award, when the conversation turned dark. I was super-enthused about the healing powers of the creative spectacle that was the cityscape, and she begged to differ: If you're a poor person who's starving, it doesn't matter what the buildings are like. I pretended to think a little: If I were about to die, I'd prefer to have these buildings as my view, rather than some shabby alley. She smiled a little at what she saw as my idealism. Some dreams also contain nightmares.

I hadn't encountered many people who had a dream to see Denmark or Sweden. These places don't tend to be high on people's Must-See lists. Nevertheless, a nascent outline of a dream had been impressed itself into my consciousness. Often the expectations I place upon a nation or city make the actual site pale in comparison, but here I found something rare and beautiful with which I wanted to remain. I felt a palpable loss upon going away.

My current dream is to find a way to permanently reside in one (or perhaps both) of those places, a dream based on the dreams of friends and strangers I met in Scandinavia who won me over in their own subtle, open-minded way.

But gravitating towards a place doesn't mean I'll stop traveling. Even the most appealing place in the world becomes a prison if it cannot be left. For me, freedom lies in being able to expand my sense of the world, always re-map the boundaries of my imagination, and find new possibilities where I hadn't expected them to reside.

I am still an appropriator of other people's dreams! But these days I'm more tuned in to my own desires. My notions of dreams have diversified, intensified. Almost every place is a dream in the making, or represents a compulsion I try to avoid. I could spend a lifetime getting to know Thailand, China, Italy, England and others inside out - but it's important to balance things out so that I'm not getting too much of any one thing. A Danish Swede might call it a hygge sense of lagom?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Critical Activity

Sometimes I throw myself into very challenging states of mind. And sometimes I find I've created a comfort zone which is getting in the way of being as critical as possible.

How to balance enjoying your life (that much-lauded attainment of 'happiness') and cultivating a healthy amount of anger, despair and misery in your life?

*


This speech made me ask some interesting questions, too: For immigrants to the Western world who come from developing world backgrounds, there are a huge number of options to choose from... like:
a) What is the best way to create your own unique culture out of what has been given to you?
b) How can I make use of the most advanced rhetorical cultures of both nations?
c) If I can immigrate to another place, where should it be, and how will it challenge me in new ways?

As you might know, I would be living in Europe more regularly if I had the financial freedom to do so... but not in the place of my origin, Bulgaria. Bulgaria is located at the south-eastern extremity of Europe, far and away from the closest Western European nations of Germany, Austria and Italy. For me, I must head even further West to find the nations that most appeal: Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, Spain, France & England. (Will Ireland and Iceland win my heart too? I can't wait to find out.)

In embracing a new place, I embrace the places already in my soul. To welcome the role Bulgaria and Australia, the US and Thailand have played in my life, I must learn to love every last morsel of their mouthwatering palate. I must accept both the strengths (an arts culture, the self-confidence that comes with an illustrious history, refinement and unique charms) and weaknesses (racism, Eurocentricism, xenophobia) of my new place.

I long to do this, but unfortunately I can't do very much of it. I am still trapped by financial dependence. The only way I can think of to get out is my writing... 

To Learn

There is a city in Mexico with my name written all over it. It's called Guanajuato, and it's almost too good to be true. I face the daunting challenge of finding a language school wherein I can learn Spanish within 3 months, and saving up the money for all aspects of my stay. One question on my mind is: Should I do a homestay or not?

A homestay would allow me to immerse myself in Mexican culture and give me as many opportunities to learn outside the classroom, in a domestic setting, as I like. It might also be an interference, sucking up my free time and privacy. As a highly empathic person, I need lots of time alone, to process the outside world and be able to take it in stride when I'm next asked to deal with it.

Perhaps a guesthouse would be a better option for me.

At any rate, learning intensively and repetitively is something that requires a resourcefulness which I sometimes stubbornly elude. If I sign up for such a course, I'd better be emotionally prepared.

I just had an idea to start a new blog, exclusively for learning Spanish. (Immediately, I had the thought to expand the language requirements so that other could fit. But this is to detract from taking things one goal at a time. I could star another blog for a different language once I've started to be fluent in this one.)

On this blog I could also write about news from the Spanish world, so as to understand more about Spanish & Latin American culture.

Alright, I'm off to think about this some more... enjoy your own learning process, amigos!

The Writer (The Artist, The Creative Person)

I enjoy being as creative as possible. It's the greatest reward I can give myself.

When I'm in a luxury hotel there are so many ways I can spend my time inside its compound that I get stressed. ("But if I have a massage that means I can't use the sauna!")
I prefer to be in a comfortable, clean and cheery place, where getting out and about is the main aim.

I don't need a title, an official credential, a consensus-generated testament to approval (like an university degree) to make art, reach out to people across cultures, resonate with my chosen audience. 

Right now I am considering what kind of travel options I will chase in the future, and also what kind of writing I will grow out of me if I direct it so.

Recently I have been wondering whether or not my decision to focus overwhelmingly on the arts sector of human output and consumption has been unduly influenced by my performance of 'femaleness'.

I decided long ago that I was drawn towards the arts due to it having the highest tolerance of ambiguity. I was (and am) greatly stimulated by the subjects of sociology and history, even psychology, but they don't offer the room I need to breathe. The concern in those disciplines with objectivity, with empirical data and other related memes insults my postmodernist values. I am interested in the world where subjective interpretation is the key rule to approaching a text. I'm interested in the empowerment that I am striving towards when I operate outside the mainstream scientific values of 'verifying' and 'proving'. I am not so much concerned with whether Sarah Palin and I subscribe to the same 'core truths' as much as I am concerned with how my love for Salvador Dali, Steve Jobs and Robyn motivates me to feel and think, to act and vibe, in a certain way. In a way no-one else but me can imagine.

Even my most attentive reader will never know which names I left out of this passage, and which aspects of Robyn, Dali and Jobs appeal to me for their ability to take my mind on divergent yet complementary journeys. You can 'read between the lines', but you can't 'read my mind'. You can respond full-heartedly to my flow of posts, but you can't feel my heart like you do your own. This is all obvious to me, yet in this time and age it's useful to articulate it, lest it eludes the reader and causes future misunderstandings for me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wonderful Quote!


Martin Goldstein says:

The beginning of foolish wisdom is the understanding of our clever ignorance.

I say:

Oscar Wilde would be proud! :o))

You say:

?
 
 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

5 Short Quotes

"If you like where you are, keep moving. It was your desire to change your location that pushed you into an edgy comfort zone of sorts, and now it's time to leave that behind." - Epiphanie Bloom

'Change' is not the counterpoint to 'staying the same'. Staying the same is wishful thinking. We live in a world without repetition. Nothing recurs, except in our imaginations. - Epiphanie Bloom

The impassioned pursuit of certainty is the height of futility - Epiphanie Bloom

Embrace contradictions, and their counterpoints - Epiphanie Bloom

It's the thought process that created the product you perceive as finished that really interests me, not the product itself. It's the thoughts you've been denying, suppressing, distorting, underappreciating - your process of personal change. - Epiphanie Bloom




Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thai Travel: It's all about the people

I had ducked into the featureless-looking restaurant to escape the sudden downpour of rain, no less inconvenient for its predictability in Chiang Mai's monsoon. It had light yellow tables with dark green outlines, and I fought against my instinct to dismiss the presence of the dark green as part of the scheme of an owner who didn't understand the effect of this colour in lowering the appetite; I was already there, and I grimly resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to make the most of this place until the criss-crossing curtains of rain were extracted from the hot, humid airspace. At least this place is air conditioned, I thought.

I sat down at a table facing an elderly couple munching on familiar-looking Thai dishes with elegant enthusiasm. I admired the man's tall, delicate physique and thoughtful demeanour, and decided that I would make myself look as interesting and approachable as possible. It must have worked, for the man initiated an on/off conversation with me, praising the chef, asking me about my background and teaching me the correct tones for 'mai pen rai' (roughly translating to 'never mind'). I loved the sing-song quality of the phrase, which made me a quick learner.

While we were talking, I picked up on the fact that this man was socialising openly and passionately with me despite a reserve of general (and probably well-deserved) proportions towards farang (foreigners). He was opening up because he believed that I could match his earnestness, could relate to the things that motivated him in life, and was genuinely interested in his culture. I don't usually open up so quickly to strangers myself, yet there was a minimum of friction in our creation of an intense acquaintance.

I don't even know his name, but this unexpected encounter touched me. It shook me out of the cynicism I had accrued towards making connections that didn't have anything to do with my perceived spending power, and reminded me that all I needed to do to attract genuine people is be open to them, and be in the moment.

I do, however, remember the name of the salesgirl who offered me a ride from the White Temple in Chiang Rai to my hotel... her name was Yim, the word for smile, and we shared many smiles and the meandering small talk of two people curious about each other's lives. For the accompanying salesman who drove our group of four I have two names: one being the official Mark, and the other his nickname, Edward. (I have a feeling this had something to do with Twilight.)

Yim was eager to show her love for Chiang Rai, and told me about her business of selling motorcycles. Fresh out of the spectacular and spiritual White Temple, where I felt the lone cross-legged monk's deep meditative state as he remained focused despite crying and crawling babies, a few artists painting the walls with their unique postmodern touch - showing off how Buddhism could embrace popular culture to engage a whole new audience - or the assorted shuffles and strides of a constant stream of awe-struck visitors. By the end of the discussion with Yim, I had told her about all the Thai dishes that tantalised my tastebuds, my experience of being an only child, and why I had a deep love for Thailand. Her goodbye greeting was 'God bless you,' of which I appreciated the pure intentions, if not its literal meaning. What a sweet person!

As a nice little tangent to end on, I'd like to recommend Elizabeth Briel's podcast on 'Delicious Art', an exploration of the fascinating food culture of Bangkok and other regions of Thailand. Think fusion, and other kinds of experimentation!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Can't Stay Put

Three weeks into Chiang Mai, I realise I can't do this long-term... I can't comfortably limit myself to the Thai version of Globish (5000 English words that everybody knows), I mind that there are ants crawling on my bed while I sleep, and I can't really deal with the grey stains on the buildings and cracks on the walls and having to always use the internet in a public setting.

In four days I'll be flying back to Sydney, where I can hopefully enjoy sorting through the experiences these months of traveling have brought, and read some more books...

I finished Changing My Mind on these travels, which I recommend for anyone who enjoys Zadie Smith's breezy and distinguished intellectualism. Not really a psotmodernist, she is nevertheless sympathetic to the cause (Barthes and David Foster Wallace being two authors she loves), and possesses the admirable trait of being able to hold dear two friction-inducing opinions... in her foreword she admits that 'ideological inconsistency is practically an article of faith' for her. It's rare indeed to find someone who is so comfortable with contradictions.

One of her essays, A Week in Liberia, made me realise that I had never met anyone from that country, and if I did, the struggles I read about concerning that country would probably affect me 100x times more (so to speak: as if emotions can be measured!). The catch is that I did meet someone from (I believe) neighbouring Sierra Leone. Not only did this Swede love his home country, he was planning to start a business which would necessitate that he spend some, if not most of his time, there. I was amazed, given that I would never consider living in Bulgaria permanently, and Bulgaria has a substantially higher quality of life than Sierra Leone. He must really love his country...

Choosing where to go next for me will be difficult: I have friends in Taiwan to visit (yay!), and a continent or two (South America, Mexico in the North) to explore...

Move Over, Old Taboos!

I will allow Lady Gaga to set the scene...


We're supposed to obsessed with reality shows and the spectacle of real life that they celebrate, however a picture like this shows me just how little we actually reveal about how we spend our free, unstructured time. 
Pop stars are falling over themselves to do the next risque thing, however if I get out of the loop of being shocked over and over again, I realise that I'm only shocked because so much about what gives our bodies pleasure and pain, how our bodies react to the most intimate moments, is obscured/obfuscated/ignored/covered up in the public domain. 
Here, Gaga suggests a relationship between bodily functions such as urination and masturbation. The arm over her head (and the armpit hair that it goes with) shows a relaxed approach to the bathroom, where the vagina is capable of more than one function at once. Although wearing shorts, Gaga is re-empowering the vagina by drawing attention to it, which is unnervingly necessary in an age when misogyny runs rife. Fear and hatred of the vagina is challenged by the spectacle of a woman blurring the boundaries between the neutral and the pleasurable, the unavoidable and the desirable. 
I'm sure some of my readers will think this is gross, but, in an age where we've only come to realise how neurotic we are over what's going on under our shorts, Gaga's deliberate recontextualisation of a private moment as a public spectacle encourages me to feel more comfortable with my own body. 

Next, we have a special performance by Lykke Li...




This performance casts the bathroom in a different light: It's a humble place where extraordinary things can happen. The smallness of the space and the echo off the walls make for great acoustics. How many singers have we heard interviewed who claimed to adore singing in the shower? The bathroom has long been a natural space for musical creation, so perhaps it's surprising that it hasn't been used for an impromptu performance before. However, instead of representing the bathroom as a sterile, innocuous place, Lykke Li makes use of everything it has to offer in telling the story of 'I'm Good, I'm Gone'. She turns on the tap, beats on the hand-dryer with a spoon, and flushes the toilet needlessly. In the end, even greater attention is drawn to the specifics of the space by the mechanics of her closing the door on the camera. My favourite tool in her trade is the mirror, which isn't perfectly clean around the edges, but she uses to great effect as she breaks eye contact with the camera and then finds it again through the glass.

So thank you, postmodern female musicians, for drawing my attention to how much secrecy the people around me encourage in and around the bathroom, and thank you for your playful explorations which make me feel more relaxed and awake to possibilities.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Significance of Chiang Mai

Like every place name I'm not familiar with the language of, Chiang Mai represents two words in Thai. As of today, I don't know what they are.

But what does Chiang Mai mean to me personally?

Freedom.

Thailand is roughly equidistant from Europe, North America and Australia & New Zealand, the three continents I have the closest connections to, which means I get the best of all those cultures, because the people coming to Thailand generally don't tend to be racist. They tend to be curious and open-minded instead, and the warmth and hospitality of the Thai means that they're not on guard, and it's easy to befriend them. I also look forward to meeting more people from Africa and Latin America!

But that's just the tourists - it's easy to find an affinity with the Thais, and I've made some good friends and met plenty of colourful characters amongst the locals... and the best part is, the more I get to know them, the more I like them.

Colour, kitsch and clutter.

Great-tasting food almost all the time.

Warm weather and an opportunity to cool down with a fan, or a drink (not doing a lot of the latter at the moment, though, as my throat is recovering from being sore).

Financial freedom.

Greater mobility.

And so much more... this post feels unfinished (as so many of them do)...


Saturday, July 23, 2011

All Over The Place

Every speck on the globe, every stance I can occupy, presents its own potential for the deepest and best Epiphanie I will ever have.

Itäs quite lovely to be torn between Asia and Europe... to be in one is to long for another. I can not be in two places at the same time, so my sense of conflict is never resolved.

There is a third player, North America, which twinkles at me insistently across the ocean, all shiny and alluring. The thing about [the USA in particular] is that it follows me around wherever I go due to the media I consume and the cultures I explore. To be in the USA is to have the absence of another superpower constantly making itself heard through the national noise level. It is to be self-absorbed, for better or worse. When I am in the USA, I become to think this inward-looking-ness is entirey justified, but when I leave I realise that I have missed the rest of the world and the emphasis it places on the rest of the world.

Would I live in the USA? Maybe someday, I'll return to northern California and smile and be smiled at in that distinct NorCal way, and feel like the luckiest person alive...

But right now I feel like the luckiest person through my engagement with Asia...

In a few days I will be flying to Hong Kong, a sort of interim place where I can obtain a Thai visa, remember the tastes, feels and vibes of one speck of Asia, as I prepare to fly to another.

For an indefinite amount of time, I will be residing mostly in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I consider it my new 'home of sorts', a semi-permanent base which I can walk away from any time, but I have many reasons to return to - over and over again.

I have been saddened by the attacks on Norway yesterday, and am in a sort of mourning... I will bring you more insights into the new chapter in my life when I feel more composed, soon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oh Mao God

The first piece of art you´ll see in the Fundacio Suñol, a private collection of art a few buildings up from Casa Mila in Barcelona, is a giant pop art rendering of Mao Tze Dong. An Andy Warhol original, Mao looks like a drag queen who loved rose-coloured blush so much that she put it all over her face, blue eyeshadow (over red eyes) and ruby lipstick. On one side of the cheek, the artist has painted yellow and orange, enhancing the warm colours against the two-toned blue in the picture.

According to an article CNN just ran, China is not ápproaching´superpower status anymore, but already possesses it. This leaves me with very mixed emotions: there´s an awful lot of people whose living standards are being raised, year by year, decade by decade. They say that there are such huge differences between teh generations in China due to the extremely rapid changes that have takien place already. I want to see people be more empowered economically and otherwise... but not at the expense of political stagnation, corruption and repression.

China being a superpower means that it can do whatever it wants, or something very similar. And until enough people want the regime to change, it won´t. Totalitarian leaders don´t just give up power - like the Arab Spring, they have to be ousted from it by a public hungry for democracy. When will that happen in China? Can I be hopeful that it will happen soon? Might it not happen at all? ANything is possible, and nobody knows anything. Keep a watch, my friends...

It´s important that we keep confronting ourselves with visions of China, because this is only the beginning: Chinese culture is going to be very significant in the future. I am strongly considering learning Mandarin during my stay in Asia. Because that´s what I´ll be doing after this trip is over: I´m going to fly over to Thailand and settle in Chiang Mai for as long as my visa allows, then continue to fly in and out of the nation, perhaps settling briefly in other nations such as Taiwan, China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam... perhaps even Mongolia. It´s time to make myself even more free than I currently am, and to increase my learning curve. I´m sure that at times it will be discomforting, very challenging and unkind, and there will be many times when I wish to give up... but this is my dream. I´m going to figure out how to publish my work or find another method of monetising it, while living in Thailand & Asia! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Barcelona, all of a sudden!

Life is wonderfully bizarre, is it not? One day you´re wondering what sort of culinary delights will reveal themselves if only you poke around a bit further up the neigbourhood than you´re used to (Midsommarkransen, Stockholm), and two days later you´re taking an impromptu whirwind tour of Barcelona, waving your camera from the top of a double decker bus at the playful and/or illustrious buildings that tickle your imagination.

The persistent, only ever tentatively lifted quiet of Stockholm has been exploded; now I am inundated with loud sounds... but I´m not complaining. It´s a beautiful thing to change your surroundings. I am now beter abl to appreciate Sweden for what is was/is, while sampling a entirely new cultural palate... and (only slightly) longing for Chiang Mai.

What do Sweden and Spain have in common? They both have legalised same-sex marriage, and have a higher than usual amount of women in parliament.

My next destination is Figueres, the hometown of Salvador Dali, where a huge museum dedicated to him awaits... I seriously LOVE Dali; it is my ambition to see all of his art available in the world, one day. Meanwhile, I´m having a day of pure, unadulterated laziness in Hotel Barceló, which is close to the ocean...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Swirling Around Arlanda

As far as being stuck in airports goes, Arlanda, north of Stockholm, would be high on my list. In fact, the only definite winner over it would be Singapore's Changi Airport. Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi is also worth a mention - for some reason I always buy a book while I'm there. Last time it was (I am only slightly embarassed to admit) 'Why Men Love Bitches'. (I don't like the word bitches myself and avoid it, but I happen to be overly nice sometimes, so I thought it might be able to help.)

I found out at around lunchtime today that I would be flying tomorrow. I believe the phrase 'didn't bat an eyelid' applied to me during this moment. I'm so used to changing where I am that it just seemed like a fairly conventional thing to do to compeletely make over my holiday, alter the flavours, adbuct the existing smells and overpower the nose with the pungent aroma of something entirely different.

Tomorrow I'll be in Barcelona... who knows, maybe it's time to soak up some sunshine in one of the Spanish islands... I donät really feel like museums or cultural attractions at the moment... I feel the urge to relax, to let go like I havenät done for ages... maybe... Corsica... or somewhere 'exotic' like that. Yes, my definition of exotic is probably different to yours.

Iäm quite proud of myself for manouvering outside my comfort zone every day while grappling with gastritis. Perhaps I should have stayed at home. I know that I am coming for Thailand, permanently, soon, and this extended stay abroad feels like too much of a tax on my parents' resources... but I went. I couldn't help myself. If someone offers me a ticket to Europe, I'm not going to say no. These opportunities are best not wasted. So, even though I am suffering in part, I am also reminded every day how stimulating and even relaxing this experience is.

My second experience with Sweden started in the train station of Malmo, across the water from Copenhagen, and I fell in love with it again. The train, lulling from side to side with each turn, took us through Lund and some other Swedish cities, offering me some idea of what the rest of Sweden might look like. I found myself asking why every summer house (or hermit's abode, perhaps?) I saw was the same shade of dark red, but Iäm yet to find an answer to that question. Because an answer is what I'll no doubt get. But why not a question in return, eh cosmos?

I had a brief chat with a mixed race Swedish and Costa Rican girl who drew on her eyebrows and worked at the 'Happy India' restaurang at Mariatorget. I was almost given the "Indian version" of the butter chicken curry I ordered because apparently most Swedes donät know this dish by name. The girl asked me if there were a lot of Indian restaurants in Australia, and I guess they are. Or maybe I just know Indian food better than most casual appreciators of the cuisine.

I'll say this for Sweden: Everyone who lives there seems to love it. Except that academic who was hanging out across the border at Helsingor. The dude thought the lack of socialisation in Helsingborg was stupid, but that this habit didnät extend to Stockholm, a city he liked spending time in. He was pleased with the more right-wing swing of Swedish politics of late. I suppose the wedish welfare system isnät going to have an easy time in this day and age.

Back to my tangent: "Sweden has always been welcoming of people in conflicted countries," supplied my waitress. Swedes have many things to take pride in - and they do. It's tough not to cheer them on, but no nation is perfect either: a conformist streak can get in the way of my appreciation, and the taciturn affect, while not as difficult to perturb as I initially suspected, does dull the vibrancy, even as it naturally bubbles up. I feel free to be myself in Sweden, as a sexual woman. I know that people won't think badly of me if I express desire. Not that there is much to express - I remain aloof from romantic or sexual interest in others. But sometimes even the way I carry myself can be interpreted as sexually open. I am a very strange individual - I pose as a very liberated sexual character, whereas in reality I shy away from much in the way of flirtation.

I can tell this is going to be a long night (waiting for my early morning flight)... but at least I have the internet to keep me happy. :o)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It could have been the neighbourhood;

If you've been to Europe, you know the kind of neighbourhood I mean: Where almost everyone is an immigrant, usually from the Middle East or Africa. Iäm not saying it doesnät have itäs own particular charms, but I found the Brussels version more depressing.
Things were better in Norrebro, I thought, reminiscing about Denmarkäs immigrant ghetto and itäs vibrancy. Here, everyone looked glum, if not despondent.
The weather wasnät doing much for me either: perpetually on the brink of rain, thankfully it never came.
Finally, one of the aspects of the attractions I was mainly there for has decided to make itself unavailable. "How can they dismantle my right to view Miro right on the date I arrive?"
I decided I had had enough and hopped onto the first northbound Eurolines bus to Copenhagen.

As expected, my experience improved with the geographical change. I had my mental workings rearranged, blown, reassembled and rearranged again by Louisiana Modern Art Museum's extraordinary exhibition on architecture, which explored everything from fusion to postmodernism to communal living spaces, to Roma built culture... there was so much to sink in that I didnät have time to do it all. But 7 hours was enough to seriously blow my mind, and the next time I took the train northwards again (the Museum is outside the city) it was to go even further north, to Helsingor.

*

I should probably mention that I did see the worthwhile Magritte Museum while I was in Brussels. A milder version of mindblowing (letäs call it mindboggling), there was something very formal and classic about this artistäs surrealism. The subject was always in teh centre of the frame, which confirmed my impression that surrealism is very much a worshipping of realism, through the lens of maximum distortion. Some of the same conventions remain.

Magritte had a wide range of amusing, provokative and endearing ideas, which I enjoyed perusing. Perhaps my favourite works of his were from his cubist period - he could easily have been a master of the genre if heäd stayed with it.

It was all rather good preparation for the Lousiana Museum, especially the buildings which remained bathed in darkness and the faint illumination of a streetlamp although the daylight roared above their roofs.

*

Iäm now in Stockholm, and tomorrow Iäll be in Madrid.

I managed to explore a bit more of Sodermalm, excite the local immigrants (I like your style! breathed an Eastern European-looking soul at me in Slussen), breathe some beautiful air, eat some tasty dishes, read some Zadie Smith, and comtemplate how long the clock that is counting down to a major global financial collapse will keep ticking (as a way of keeping up with the news, courtesy of BBC World and Hotell Västberga).

Iäm a little lonely in Stockholm: The last thing somebody said to me, not brought about due to an exchange of goods and/or services, was 'The machine tried to fool me. But I fooled it.' - this was a guy who had delivered a dull but pointed kick at teh vending machine in the metro. I giggled.

I continue to be impressed with Sweden's commitment to gender and sexuality -progressive attitudes. The magazine Situation advertises its latest edition with a series of images: one of them is a female body-builder wearing a skimpy green bikini, and another is a young boy (perhaps an early teen) wearing make-up and dressed in female clothing. The image is endearing: he's not smiling, but looks happy with himself, admiring his dark pink eyeshadow and lipstick. Itäs a beautiful image.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fragments of Asia

According to Brian, aka Perth's Premier Poet, the artist who painted a portrait of his wife and daughter has blood on his hands. I guess Myanmar/Burma is just that kind of place. I was happy to hear that, while BBC caught him taking pics of Aung Sang Suu Chi (sp?) and played that clip over and over again, he was largely left alone by the authorities.

According to him, the high level of anti-female violence in Korea is (to some extent) due to everyone being overworked. Laing (sp?), the academic I mentioned in my last post, mentioned that private schools are forced to stop offering classes after 10pm by law, which indicates that this had been in practice before. For many Koreans, work seems to begin at 7am. Kwanghee, the Couchsurfer I met in Seoul, told me he even had breakfast at his work! When I was there, I thought everyone looked very serious - perhaps they just don't have enough free time to really loosen up and let go?

Back to Brian, he's planning to live and work in Sumatra, Indonesia, next. He's invited me to visit, but I'm not sure I'm eager to enter a majority Muslim area again. I am thinking about visiting an artist friend in Penang, Malaysia, where it's majority Buddhist, but I'm not even sure about that. I once wanted to visit Iran, but have put those plans off for the forseeable future.

I don't want this to be one of the grumpy posts about how much worse the world is getting, because I genuinely believe in the opposite: the world is generally getter better.

I have 7 hours to go until my flight... it's too early to go to the airport, and too late to do much of anything else, except write. 

Un-harshing my Mellow

'Dude, you're harshing my mellow' was a phrase I learned from living with a Pennsylvanian in California. Bangkok has taught me to loosen my grip on the rigidites I cling onto.

Lady Gaga says that when she gets lonely, she rubs one leg with the opposite foot.
Robyn sings 'When I get lonely / I just want you to call me / I just want you to call me / Cause I'm lonely at the top."

My T-shirt (Kiss me, I'm a postmodernist) is a good way to start conversations with people. I just spoke with a man who spends half his time in South Korea and half his time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is an academic, his specialty being the ethics of technology. He confirmed my impression that if I were living in Korea, I would feel like I was wearing a strait-jacket. For the first time in ages, I was asked if I was Irish.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Title-phobic Post

It was bound to happen at some point: Today I can't think of a straight-forward title so I've decided to go meta, hoping that it's straight-forward (and elsuive) in a different manner.

I'm spending my Saturday night in a busy soi (lane) tucked away from the much busier road which intersects the famed MBK supermall and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. On the other side of the glass, people dodge cars, motorcycles, tuk-tuks and the odd tiny cat to get to wherever they're going. I recognise a lot of the people in Soi Kasemsan, and they're all a little glum. Life is hectic and relentless, and through some laughter breaks up the tedium, people don't look too happy at the end of the day. This is Bangkok. I would prefer to be in Pai, ot at least Chiang Mai.

On a brighter note, this is a good way to get into 'holiday mode' - plenty of rest, the joys of delicious food in abundance, and a room of my own. It's a ridiculously liberating feeling to have a hotel room all to yourself - you can be who you want to be without worrying what the neighours will think of you in the long run, and while that doesn't mean I'm making a lot of noise, it does change my whole behaviour.

Two days ago I had the kind of massage that might pass for a light form of torture in a different context; a Thai man pinched, poked and slapped my neck, back and head for half an hour, and I have a bruise where he pinched too hard on my arm, quite unlovely. I do, however, feel very fetching, as I bought new eyeglasses, and have been getting appreciative looks from a few of the locals.

I'm developing a strong interest in the anti-psychiatry movement. Associated with Michel Foucault, R. D. Laing and somebody with the last name of Szasz, these series of discourses destabilise the notion of mental instability/illness. I don't want to say too much because I have a lot of reading to do before I feel confident enough to write a treatise on the subject, but shall we say that it's an unpopular movement which resonaets with me.

Over the last month or two I've been doing a considerable amount of reading:

In Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, he takes the concept of a city, turns it on its head, contemplates the highs and lows of all possible scenarios, and explores the evolution or entropy of the city-world over time. Perhaps the most compelling sections of the narrative are the ones when Marco Polo breaks up his story-telling to a non-European king and explores the subjectivity of his oral texts. Perhaps it was because the pace of the book wasn't what I wanted to read, I found that the book lacked passion. A very reflective piece that dwells at lenght on details, and asks you to scoop up the words that lace the lines and inspect each of them as jewels. Perhaps, in my busy modern life, I am out of practice of savouring language so deeply. Perhaps I am even spiritually out of touch. I do remember that Calvino was a misogynist - his representations of women were rarely more complex than a fulfillment of an object for male desire. He's a male writer who writes for men, no matter how gifted he is as a narrator.

In Rana Dasgupta's Tokyo Cancelled, magic realism is the rule and an assembly of stories from around the world (Tokyo, Delhi, Istanbul, Germany, Poland, London, New York City, Paris, Shenzhen and more) makes his tale of plane passangers stranded in an airport strangely memorable. A typical Scorpio, the author repeatedly delves into death, birth, sex and rebirth. There's an element of the disturbing in most stories, but at their best they delighted me and left me in admiration of Rana's imagination.

I'm going to have to leave it here for now... hope you're well! :o)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two Asides

1. If anyone sent me an email, it may have gone to my spam folder and I may have deleted it... very sorry if so; I usually look through what's in my junk mail folder before clearing it out, but I'm so used to there being nothing of importance that it was only for a split-second after clicking 'delete' that I noticed something which looked like an enquiry. If it was from you, please try again and I'm sure you'll have better luck! ;o)

2. One of my acquaintances expressed concern that my poem 'The Less Lucrative Side Of Asia' was racist. Rereading again, I can see how it may seem to generalise all Asians as having an inferiority complex, but it wasn't meant to be a generalisation: just an observation of a popular trend. I have had close relationships with Asian people (romantically and as close friends) throughout the years and I would like to base myself in at least one Asian location at some point - it's all because Asian people are some of the most empathetic, intelligent, cultured and balanced people I have met. It makes me sad to see racism in Asia targeted at both light-skinned and dark-skinned people, and while the period of time I was evoking in the poem was a time of shock and seeking distance from that kind of mentality, I have since managed to integrate this aspect of Asian life into my experience. That is to say, I have learned to separate myself from the frequently occurring racism while still enjoy the things about the cultures I admire. I do think it's important that I talk about racism in Asia because it's very much taken for granted by way too many people, and it's only because I care about places like China, Thailand, Japan, and many others, that I discuss it. If you have any questions let me know. (The same goes for any post on this site, or anything else I have written on the web.)

On Beauty

Beauty originates from deep within and radiates outwards, finally animating the outer layer.

Facial features which capture the aesthetic imagination at first glimpse are desirable, but even more desirable is the face which is brimming with the emotional and intellectual features we find endearing. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Working Too Hard

A Facebook friend noticed that I was working 'so hard'. This stunned me. It wasn't just that somebody noticed I had been pushing myself a lot, it was that, in order for her to say that, I must have had it written on every inch of my face.

So, I decided to be more playful with my writing. Something I've recently realised was that: I feel I have nothing in particular left to prove. As a very intellectual person who hasn't completed a university degree, in the past I felt a strong need to prove how incredibly gifted I was. I knew I would be judged due to my lack of official qualifications, and was loath to make a single spelling mistake. I wanted every post to have imaginative zeal, to be a genuinely interesting contribution. But, to be honest, I've covered so much ground in my posts, both here and in Postmodern Critic, that I feel I can relax a bit. Anyone who reads a few of my posts will pick up that I have high standards and a passion for mental flexibility which can't necessarily be taught in the classroom. I'm not a memorable writer despite dropping out of uni, but because of it. I design my own education.

Yesterday, I learnt a character or two of Mandarin Chinese. The character represented by the phoneme 'wén' means writing, language or culture. This act I indulged in, of singling out a specific character from many other more ordinary ones (I could have learnt characters relating to the time, or food), makes me feel proud and happy to be learning Mandarin in my own, slow, but deliberate way. I enjoy the challenge of doing things my own way, not being forced to learn something that other people perceive as relevant to me.

Interestingly, I signed up for a Mandarin course in UNSW one year - and was scared away by the tonal aspects of the language. I created a big mental block for myself that I just couldn't escape, because there was no part of Mandarin that was not tonal. I gave up on learning the language entirely after a week. It was only after meeting a Taiwanese guy online and having him pay special attention to me and compliment me so thoroughly on my abilities that I shed my fears. I came around: in my own time. I now feel like learning Mandarin is as straight-forward as learning any language, and view it as an exciting challenge. Okay, it's still a bit intimidating, but I'm not nearly as intimidated as I used to be, and just making the small steps I have made so far has had a huge impact on me: I feel happier. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Perpetual Transformation

In an interview with Stephen Fry to promote her album, Lady Gaga brought attention to a new (perhaps more interesting) dimension of the 'Born This Way' concept than had popularly been consumed (biological determinism, validating non-heterosexual identity):

"[...] the album is about rebirth in every sense. It's about being reborn again and again until you find the identity inside yourself that defines you best for who you are and that makes you most feel like a champion of life."

Even if you want to stay exactly the way you are in the present in the next ten minutes, it's impossible: Human beings are a process, not a product - ever reinventing themselves, change is the very thing that defines us. Everything from your hair and nails constantly growing to your body adjusting to the climate, your diet, the soap you use, the effect of different fabrics produced on your skin - we fuse tension and ease, conflict and harmony, expressions of the raw mingle with the refined, we make a hullaballoo in our heads and intersperse it with silence (coming up with a new recipe for inner motivation). Life is as simple or chaotic as I want it to be - frequently I am on overload because that seems desirable.

*

I've been wondering whether to watch the Swedish movie 'Let the right one in' - reviews of it have been almost unanimously glowing, but my fertile imagination tends to latch onto the horrific and lets it affect me. Even reading reviews of the film spooked me! I don't want the fear inside me to grow. On the other hand, I love vampire movies. Out of all the imaginary devilish creatures I've so far encountered, the vampire seems the most interesting. Perhaps because there is an element of seduction involved. Well then, I should avoid this movie, because the vampire in question is supposed to be about 12 years old. Then again, there seems to be a tentative exploration of pre-teen sexuality as the point. Maybe I should just prepare for an injection of quality horror and appreciate whatever is masterful about it. Hmmm...

Black Female Voices

Naomi Campbell: on being compared to a piece of chocolate candy. (I love how she puts forward a suggestion to prevent this sort of thing happening again: greater diversity within the company!)

Rihanna in Man Down: a thought-provoking representation of one female's murderous retaliation in the aftermath of being raped. (The video is analysed by a female activist here.)

The trailer for Dark Girls, the documentary. Exposing the depth of the racism that abounds when it comes to the darker shades of brown skin. I look forward to seeing this.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pre-travel Questions

In 10 days I'll be on a flight to Bangkok... here are some of the questions floating through my head:

Is it better to linger in the city for 5 days, or catch a bus out of town for a few days so as to see someplace new (like the Thai tourist magnet, Cha-am)?

I have seven days in Belgium, and 4 possible places to see. How to divide my time?
Option a) 3 days Brussels, 2 days Bruges, 2 days Ghent OR Antwerp
Option b) 2 days Brussels, 2 days Bruges, 2 days Antwerp, 1 day Ghent

I have 5 days in Switzerland - do I have enough time to hop over to Geneva from Zurich, or should I concentrate on seeing some of the natural beauty closer by?

I have 5 days in Hong Kong - do I stay on Lantau island the entire time, or transfer to Hong Kong Island/Kowloon and see parts of the place I haven't seen before, or escape to Macau?


Monday, May 30, 2011

The Discrimination That Isn't Recognised As Such

A portion of the lyrics:

Love is objectified by what men say is right.
Scheiße scheiße be mine, bullshit be mine.
Blonde high-heeled feminist, enlisting fame for this.
Express your womankind, fight for your right.

When I'm on a mission, I rebuke my condition.
If you're a strong female you don't need permission.

I, I wish that I could dance on a single prayer.
I, I wish I could be strong without somebody there.
I, I wish that I could dance on a single prayer.
I, I wish I could be strong without the scheiße, yeah.


***


Oh Gaga, I wish I could be free too... I want to stop feeling sorry for myself, and everyone else. I want to start blaming everyone and no-one. Or resume it. Or leave it alone. I want to be radically appreciated by the men in my life as an equal, and not have to constantly have to be enraged by way of proving the point that women are silently, subcosciously, insidiously discriminated against.
I don't want to borrow S&M culture so as to intimidate men into listening to me. I don't want to be timid myself. I want to be self-confident in my carving out a subversive place for myself as a feminist. I don't just want to be sexually independent, I want to make it totally clear that I am without fear of backlash.



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Looking Within

I haven't the foggiest notion of what I want to do with my life. The biggest certainty in my life right now is that I will be overseas from the 14th of June to the 29th July.

I want to help people be at their creative and innovative best, yet I'm not sure how to go about creating a position for myself which would result in renumeration. I am thrilled by much of what I do in this blog, and would like that to continue: I have readers all over the world (from Egypt to Brazil to American Samoa) and I enjoy challenging myself to create something new and interesting twice or more times per week.

*

Timothy Burke says: Beyond everything counted there is always another mountain of the uncountable.

*

I think I've realised that, location-wise, I am actually gifted. No matter the challenges that Sydney offers me on a psychic/spiritual level, I feel like I live in one of the most tolerant and open-minded cities around. I will still try to move to a European city when I have the opportunity, but for now, I shouldn't underrate my life in Australia's alpha city.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Enlighten Me

Clambering all over the earth's surface searching for some exquisite kind of hybrid
Could be a person, could be a building, could be a TV show, could be a piece of furniture
I want it to tickle me, flatter me, disconcert me, leave me locked in a state of enquiry

*

I've always gravitated towards people who have diverse tastes in music. Typically, when asked 'What kind of music do you like?' they say 'Everything... except [_insert a genre here_].' I've noticed that the styles people tend to leave the most are country and heavy metal. I have tended to agree with those exclusions, and also find it hard to warm to appreciate music without lyrics (like most classical), or opera (it strikes me as too old-fashioned). I'm also not very fond of saxophones or traditional jazz sounds.

Diving into Lady Gaga's Born This Way, I have found myself re-evaluating my ability to enjoy almost all of those things, because I've embraced songs which feature elements of opera (Government Hooker), saxophones (The Edge of Glory), are inspired by country (You and I) and have a distinct heavy metal influence (like Judas). Therefore, exposing my ears to BTW is an adventure, a breaking down of barriers and reclaiming my love for liminality - reinventing what it means to questions your assumptions.

I'd also like to draw attention to the Indian-flavoured remix of Born This Way. This is one type of music I am quite drawn to, and its treatment of the original elements is beautiful, and speaks to Lady Gaga's love of world music and culture.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Age of Paranoia

*My title is lifted from the Green Day song American Idiot.

So we have prominent European politicians (Merkel, Cameron) rushing to point out the 'failure' of multiculturalism. For the first time I have been aware of, anti-gay crowds have attacked peaceful protestors for same-sex marriage in Adelaide and Brisbane. Progress for equality for women seems to have stalled in many ways. I've had two people tell me recently that my postmodern views are 'not of the zeitgeist'. Ever since the Bush declared 'you are with us or you are with the enemy', a new age of insistent certainty spread over the globe, undermining those of us drawn towards the unknown, or perhaps merely tolerant of it.

It seems, in today's world, if you don't speak with absolute conviction, you are marginalised.

But I am not going to get onboard with the 'post-postmodern' movement. An attempt to reclaim part of the progress made by postmodernism into a neo-modernist movement doesn't interest me. I continue to question people's assumptions: delicately and/or firmly.

For many years now, I have been drifting about with too many directions in mind, but a fear of commitment to any sustained project. Other than my writing, that is. While reluctance has always been an emblem I've adopted as a shield against what I've perceived as the world rushing to bestow upon me meaning and belonging against my will, I believe the time has come to take a year or so and volunteer or work overseas. Asia & Europe beckon me to explore them in as much depth as possible. I only wonder if I will be able to meet the demands of the people I work with and for.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wow!

I think what Feed Me has done with Robyn's Call Your Girlfriend is probably illegal in Texas. Never have I empathised more with people who use the word 'eargasm'!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fear of the other in Dracula

When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU (I believe it was in 2007), the UK & Ireland placed restrictions upon would-be immigrants so as to limit the the numbers of bold, go-getter types that would want to try their luck in a more affluent environment. It's hard to know where responsible immigration control ended and racism began under that scheme, and some would argue that the latter was disguised as the former.

Up till a few weeks ago I thought this was a fairly recent phenomenon, due to unprecedented proximity to the Eastern 'other'. However, after reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, it seems that anti-foreigner anxiety was just as pronounced in the 19th century, all the more so for having limited contact with the outsiders in question. It is not only a Transylvanian count that is demonised in the Irishman's story, but also a minor Jewish character (his nose is compared to that of a sheep) and China itself (the character Jonathan Harker assumes that, China being even more East than Romania, it must be all the more backward, as represented by trains with a lack of punctuality).

Some critics classify Dracula as an 'invasion story', and the idea of vampires as racially different predators still lurks around today, with films like Sweden's Let The Right One In heavily alluding to the Roma.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Colour-free skin? (Celebrate all pigments!)

I know we call Caucasian people 'white', but that's not accurate. Unless we're talking about albinos, who are very pale, but not exactly devoid of all pigment, human beings of Caucasian origin come in a wide range of epidermis colours. Beige, cream, sand or apricot might be more fitting descriptors. So who are we to exclude ourselves from the term 'coloured'? 'Coloured' skin should be a meaningless signification because it accurately describes every single person on earth.

It is telling that the term has more currency in the States than it does in Australia, where there are more non-Caucasian people everywhere. And that there is even a prominent institution called 'NAACP' - National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.

'Coloured' implies 'whites' are 'race-free'. They are the race (to be) (read: triumphant, superior) from which all others are different. They are the culturally, economically and politically dominant peoples, and though it is socially acceptable to mean well, it's also socially acceptable to be discriminatory against non-Caucasians deep inside. They don't make it a point to interact with the 'other', so they remain unaware of how deeply they could connect - a connection that would make superficial differences count for very little. I find that Caucasian people simply don't know enough about other races to realise that they are being racially discriminatory.

So, please let's stop using the word 'coloured' to make generalisations about race...

I have a narrative fragment or two to share about my experience of being Slavic in Sydney... I don't know many other Bulgarians in this town; I don't even know many other dark-haired Europeans, but the Greek and Italian communities in Australia are voluble and so (I believe it was while reading 'Looking for Alibrandi') I discovered the pejorative 'wog' (for Southern Europeans or people who look like them) in high school. Thankfully I had never been called that, so I dismissed it as a term exposing prejudice, and forgot all about it.

From time to time, I have heard of people using or reacting to the term 'wog' again, mostly through the internet. I became aware that some people affected actually used the term themselves, to 'reclaim' it, as has been done with 'queer', or more recently, with 'slut' (see the SlutWalk movement). Then, one week, I heard the word out loud twice, and once it was directed at me! I was walking up Bondi Beach at the end of a walk with my mum, when a old man who was clearly mentally unstable came up to me and simpered something to the effect of 'f--- off, wog'. I walked briskly away and the man started harassing a group of diners nearby, leaving me alone. I had never experienced this type of ethnicity-based discrimination before and it put me in a despondent mood, with a bit of anger thrown in. 

I remembered the stories I had listened to with surprise in a park, as my Asian school friends shared story after story of not being accepted by Caucasian Australians. "Where are you really from?" was the most often unintentionally racist comment, when they responded they were Australian to severely misguided strangers. I hadn't been aware of that kind of racism before, but now I could count myself as one of the many people who had experienced negative discrimination due to my background.

But I haven't let it get me down. I believe things are getting better all the time. People of my generation often travel frequently, and as the years grow by, their chances of getting better acquainted with people of a different background increase exponentially. I know that I, too, have benefited tremendously from my travels, and my willingness to ask questions that lead me to get closer to people my parents might not approve of me getting closer to.

And so it goes... let's open our minds as far as we can, because that produces the most effective look.

I say, dispense with the 'skin lightening' creams and lotions. I say, stop trying to look more tan. I say, being a native African doesn't make you more potent than another race. I say, explore beyond the racial boundaries you were brought up to respect. Disrespect the nay-sayers. Battle against the frowns with a sweet, sweet, smile. Don't accept randomly trust everyone you meet, but be open to everyone being someone amazing that you can learn from in some way. Even if a person of a different race acts in a way that doesn't resonate with your values, make a point to inspect exactly what it is you don't like. Culture is not the same thing as race. They are, as an empiricist might say, 'negatively correlated'.

I have really enjoyed challenging my perceptions of race through the many courageous and charming people who have mobilised themselves to cast ripples all around the multiple communities they influence, communities which themselves shift and rearrange in every moment.

It is a beautiful thing to have a skin that you can press to that of someone else. Don't let your kisses be reserved only for people who approximately share your pigment. Spread your love far and wide (says she, who hasn't had a partner for two years). :)

The ingenuity of I

Generalisations glance off me as I
Know they don't apply
In the middle of a sigh
Cold administrations made by many
The masses aghast that I'm not satisfied to shiver
Nothing left to say
I'll just retreat
Turn the other cheek
Pretending to be meek
Or far too cocky
And yet the crowd crows
That I'm quite lucky
And I suppose I can't deny
That I don't need another by my side
I don't have warmth for you
I know you seek it
But I can't adjust myself to show it off
Having none on demand
Time for stern reprimands
And tentative threats
Sneaking past my 'OK' threshold
I'm pulling me apart


Self-Conscious Youth Narratives

I was eighteen when I decided I started brainstorming on what an autobiography might look like. I was in my sterile-looking and chilly room in my family's Sofian apartment, taking time out from the oppressive cultural narratives that blared out of the mouths of the individuals a few doors away.

I realised that I had gone through some many deep transformations in my life and had gone through so many inspiring and memorable things, that I thought my story would be valuable to tell.

Other people weren't so convinced, when I started to share my ambitions with them: "Aren't you a bit young for that? I mean, there's a lot of life left to live."

A few autobiographies of young women could be found here and there, but mostly the genre was reserved (in the public imagination) for old and wise people - former CEOs who had now retired, former presidents, big-time celebrities. The autobiography of a young woman called (as I was at the time) Maria Bell still struck me as a great idea in its very novelty, but I wasn't brave enough to see it through. Writing about people very close to you for the public is a very challenging balancing act:

How can I be faithful to my best friend while pointing out her weaknesses, I wondered?

How can I appreciate my parents yet still point out room for improvement?

So where I am? I've made a beginning, but not gotten very far after that... so many competing narratives within my own mind, so many questions I'm not finished honing.

At the same time I maintain that it's a wonderful idea for youth to get their stories out there... if they don't want the dominant paradigm to be from people older than them that don't understand their increasingly more clever and sophisticated ways, they have to get out there and claim the world as their own.

You can only learn so much from your elders - at some point you just have to trust yourself to go out and do things the best way for you, the way only you can. Don't stop learning, but rather manage to integrate learning within your self-assurance. If you're always cautious to live up to the standards other people set for you, that timidity will hold you back for much longer than is necessary.

I've always wanted to do things my own way, knowing that I am special and unlike anyone else - so why should I try to be? I don't want to waste my time trying to conform to the masses when I'm so much happier staring at the sky and devising my own high-flying notions.

So I ask you, dear reader: Are you sharing your story? Don't be shy, the world is full of people who would like to be as self-activated as you are, and who can learn from your unique example. For every person who has ever doubted your relevance to your world, there's another who will nod in agreement as they follow your gaze.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Good friends are hard to find

Last week I sent an email or two which effectively ended a friendship. We had only met a few times, but already he was starting to take me for granted. "We'll go. It's a date!" He said firmly upon inspecting the schedule of a theatrical performance. He hadn't asked me if I wanted to go with him, just assumed that I would be available and willing to follow his lead.

Earlier he persisted with describing what might happen if there were a tsunami coming from Bondi Beach while we were eating a dinner on a beach hut overlooking the sea, completely ignoring my objections. What an insensitive, ignorant tool.

The worst thing is that I had sunk in his attitudes to a degree not good for me - I was starting to see the sense in lowering my mood/expectations, and a bit of that attitude lingers on.

I'd like to stop complaining now, but I'm not finished...

On one of our first few meetings he voiced a judgement about a friend of mine who was doing a PhD in his 50s, implying that he should have done it earlier. This is disturbing to me because I don't judge people by what pieces of paper they have graduated with, or whether they have graduated with anything at all.

After a while, the offenses just kept building, until I had to demolish the whole awkward friendship.

One more thing - I hate it when someone put the moves on me without my verbal or non-verbal consent. I'm very sensitive and don't like to be touched unless I clearly invite it.

***

Since I'm on a roll, I may as well complain about my former best friend.

She wouldn't (couldn't?) admit she was wrong about something. You might think, that for her to exercise the powers of self-imposed ignorance and steadfast denial of a moral responsibility to keep learning, it had to have been a pretty extreme mistake she made. Instead, we were discussing Hong Kong and the suburb of Mongkok, or at least that's what I gathered when I saw 'Monkok' in the chat window, and pointed out that she was missing a g. Her response? "Can you not correct me?"

***

That line - "Can you not correct me?" - haunts me.

***

So many of my interactions are one-sided. I suppose if I had a partner I wouldn't mind as much, so I look forward to that. I do enjoy being single, and it would be even more interesting if I could be 'single' with someone else. Two single people (like my Facebook friend, Only) making a life for each other.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Good, Bad & Evil

Is not 'good' a disproportionately mild answer to 'evil' in the grand scheme of binary oppositions?

And yet you rarely hear of 'good vs. bad' - it's always 'good vs. evil'?

I don't know enough about this binary to know whether it is based on religion or not, but even if not, it speaks of a world in which the negative forces far outweigh the positive. And is that a balanced view of the world?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Questions

Hello my dears,

I've been hibernating. I read somewhere that it's a good idea to take a break before you really need it, and so... in the last two weeks or so I've managed to disentangle myself from an insecurity or two, and am feeling rather pleased with myself.

So, I have a few questions, not necessarily in order of importance:

a) At the Royal Wedding last weekend, why was extraordinary attention placed on how Kate Middleton was dressed, and almost none on how William was dressed? Is this not an emblem of the double-standard where gender is concerned? The woman is ornamental, her attire is the business of everybody else, she needs the public's approval (or disapproval) - unlike the man, who is just stately, authoritative.

b) Should I, as a female acquaintance suggested, come up with a male pen name under which to submit my writings, since I have higher chances of being accepted by the publications I submit my writing to that way? Other people I've asked seem to think not, since I've only had two rejections so far (and should expect a ton more)...

c) Where on earth am I going to go this year? Some options include: Stockholm via Beijing, Barcelona via Zurich, via Bangkok, Athens via Singapore... it's all very mysterious, even to me. A combination of not being able to go to places I want to go (like Mexico) and having already been to many of the places I have wanted to go to makes me long for an extra hit of travel adrenalin.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

When Push Comes To Caress

<
Dodging lions and zebras as they
Hurtled down my path,
A spectacle inspiring fear and excitement
As this was taking place I fell in
With a girl of black hair and thick brows
Who wordlessly welcomed me near
Her olive skin was warm and she smiled at my touch
She fingered a slim, silver necklace and we made as if
She were from Lhasa, China...
I couldn't believe my luck;
She had the knowing look of someone
Who believes in herself, deep down
Allowing good things to happen to her
I'm yet to articulate [my] perfection>>

Last night, I tried to see how deeply I could breathe... I gave my scalp a thorough massage... I let the breath guide me, instead of guiding the breath, however I had deepened the breath as an instinctive measure. I wake up this morning with a deep appreciation for my achievements, and an understanding that I should dodge the temptation of pride and realise my inner strength.

I find it really helps to record my voice and play it back again... I notice things about my intonation and emphasis which help me reshape my thoughts for the better. Most computers come with software on which you can do this... if not, download a program like Goldwave for free, and discover the joys of playing around with the voice.