Turn off the Lights


Friday, 29 November 2013

Pic by Benjamin Benschneider/Maxine Nagel and The Seattle Times.
One of the pictures above, of the Seattle skyline, was taken by photographer Benjamin Benschneider. The other is of the south Milky Way taken by Maxine Nagel, Treasurer of the Seattle Astronomical Society.

If we weren't so scared of the dark, if we turned off the lights at night, that is akin to what what we would see on every clear night.  We wouldn't need superimposition.  It's what's there.

Here are some interesting stats about outdoor lighting, from the International Dark-Sky Association:

From the International Dark-Sky Association website

What's Eating Gilbert Grape Tribute


Thursday, 28 November 2013

Geez, it's been 20 years, Candy.

 Twenty years since What's Eating Gilbert Grape was released.

I don't just love it simply because Johnny Depp's in it, although that makes it more lovely because I adore the quirky, offbeat characters he plays. But Gilbert is at the beginning of his career (before he "went weird" as someone described it online yesterday) and is as straitlaced as 21 Jump Street. But this character affects me maybe more than any other ~ there's something so heartfelt about his portrayal, and his desire, and his feeling of being held back and frustrated, and his desire to be free, that gets me every time.

If Leonardo di Caprio had never made any other movie after this, his career would have been an accomplishment. And while I can't say that I've seen much of anything he's made, from what I have seen he has not been able to scale the acting heights that he did playing Arnie because he was, quite simply, brilliant.

Margaret from At the Movies thinks that a classic is a movie which gets better every time you see it. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is my best-loved classic of them all. Its sweetness, aching and longing works on me every single time.

The Tardis

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It's not so much a space where you've

put aside your reason and rationality and

entered into a world made stupid because

it's subjective.


It's more something like

entering into a story that

is alive

where you are a character

within your own telling

a dream within a dream

knowing the world through

the soles of your very own feet.


Pic by Eneas de Troya under a CC attribution licence

After Having Left Facebook


Friday, 22 November 2013

It's been three weeks now since I've quit Facebook (again). 

So do I regret it?

Sometimes.  I regret it in those moments when I'm feeling empty and I can't turn to it to avoid the feeling.  I've also quit Twitter recently, so I can't turn there either.  What am I doing?  Where is this experiment going, exactly?  I need to remind myself of why I'm doing this, to quell the rising panic tide that threatens to rear up when seven empty moments in a row happen and I Have To Just Sit There And Let Them Happen!

I have quit social media to give myself (a) more space in my head, and (b) to try to keep in better contact with people I know in real life.  Although to be honest, it's not like I'm really going the whole hog with (a).  For that, I would need to get rid of the internet entirely.  And books.  And the TV.  See, those things in themselves have enough within them to fill up six lifetimes of headspace and emptiness avoidance.

When I consider this, and consider how I often feel a certain sort of emptiness that translates itself out into loneliness, I wonder why it is I am quitting social media, where Real Live People are, albeit pixellated.  Shouldn't I quit books instead?  Or the TV?  But then the TV has pixellated people on it as well.  And in my more cynical moments I think that that is all we become to each other on social media - like a TV that talks back.  As if we are all just packaged-up shows, not real people.  As if we are becoming our own reality TV.  That even though we interact with each other in those spaces, they make us to each other a little less like Real Live Boys and Girls and a little more like one more interchangeable pixel.

The problem with (b) is that I have hardly seen anyone in real life in the last three weeks outside of my lovely partner, and the dentist, and the assessing doctor at Centrelink, and the people I am doing a course with a couple of times a week, because I haven't had any extra energy.  So I haven't been able to put my non-Facebook-real-life into practice yet.

What complicates the whole situation is that when I am in periods of high anxiety, as I am now, my first instinct is to retreat from Real Live Boys and Girls in the flesh and go to something that feels safer in my anxiety for me to handle.  Which happens to be ... interacting with those same people online!  So you can see my dilemma, and why I'm feeling a little more lonely lately.

So do I regret quitting Facebook?  I regret it when I realise how many people don't seem to want to correspond with me unless I'm right there on Facebook.  I guess that's also the part that makes me glad to have left it. 

So I'm feeling a little bit Abandoned and Rejected and Not Loved and Not Cared About at the moment.  But perhaps my quitting FB made some other people feel Abandoned and Rejected and Not Loved and Not Cared About ... for seven seconds until they found another pixellated person to fill up the pixel-sized gap I may or may not have left.  How would I know?  I really don't know.  Perhaps there are people in my extended social circle who wish to keep in contact with me and who feel like I don't want to, and meanwhile I feel like they don't want to, and I will never know.

For all the awesomeness of technology, sometimes it feels to me that online interaction has taken all of our real-life relationships with each other and Picassoed them into a new version of themselves, where things that were once familiar are now all over the place.  Or perhaps it's just me.  You never can quite tell.  I mean, look at me - I'm complaining a little about feeling lonely and not cared about, yet I have a couple of people in my life who I call friends and who do do that.  So I am lucky.  But still this lonely feeling remains.  And what am I doing about it?  I am talking about it to the entire world.  Isn't there a disconnect here?  Feel rejected by people who in whatever fashion are within your social circle and you respond ... by talking about it online?

What a funny ole world, eh? :)

So, I am still to be able to see whether not being on social media changes my interactions with people offline.  Of course, what does worry me is that I will lose out on a whole bunch of stuff.  Stuff that people share online and then feel conversely like they have shared it with everyone and so then they won't share it with me when they see me.  Which would feel a little bit like being at a raging party without a drink ... or being out in the garden while the party goes on inside.  But still, I like it out here.  There is more space, sitting next to this tree.  And I hate parties anyway.  And I am not the only one out here.  Sometimes even those who are at the party come outside for the breather, after all :)

~ ~ ~

Edit:  Oh, and this.  This is why too.  With the Brittany thrown in as well, thanks.

A Wii Lad - one of JD Hancock's Little Dudes.

The Politics of GM Foods in the Scientific Community


Thursday, 21 November 2013

How refreshing to read the piece in New Matilda by Katherine Wilson about the politics of the GM food debate.  Science is like any other discipline - it has its hierarchy, its fads, its fashions, its powerful.  And by its nature, and the fact that it sits at the top of the cultural knowledge tree, it also has its inevitable blind spots.  Science is also greatly dependent upon funding for people to be able to practice.

It's not surprising that the side which holds all of the cash is the side which also funds GM foods.  And so it's therefore also not surprising (but awfully sad) to find enshrined within the scientific community the notion that GM foods are perfectly fine, and that any thoughts otherwise are automatically labelled as pseudoscience and junk science, even though the jury is still absolutely and totally out when it comes to the safety of GM foods.

See, even in science you cannot escape the tendencies towards skewing the interpretation of the evidence based on prior belief, or fear .  Although scientists by the nature of their discipline would be much more aware of this than people in some other disciplines, it still happens.  And unfortunately, you will find a plethora of people who are willing, in the name of defending their own position, to label and try to discredit those who take an opposing view with the eternally shaming "unscientific" or "pseudoscientific".  When sometimes it is nothing of the sort.

Silencing by shaming demonstrates more about the anxiety levels of the shamers than anything else. 

My hope for the future of science, as in every other discipline, is that scientists will be freer to practice what they do best without the threat of monetary lack and peer disapproval breathing down their necks and muddying the waters.  It's the same hope I hold for the rest of us.  Greater freedom to explore what is already here, both within ourselves and within the world, without interference from those elements in our culture which the status quo currently serves best.  Here's to that.

Freeze Frame


Monday, 18 November 2013

You fall into the vat into the vat into the vat into the vat and

time-past freezes into time-present

But not in a nice way.  Not in a Live In The Moment kind of way but a

kind of way where you're walking along in the moment in 2013 and then


you fall into a ditch from 1982

or 1977

or 1975

and you feel the terror wash over you again.

It's a terror whose depths have taken you years to realise.

And no one but you knows that you're not in 2013 anymore Dorothy.

And you become repulsive

and you feel completely alone and

upset because no one comes to help but

no one knows you're not here and
no one ever did come to help in this particular way because
no one knew you were in the vat and
when it comes to this sort of thing

no one can help except you.


Now, the problem with that is that

whenever you fall into the vat from 1982

or 1977 or 1975

what comes with you is exactly not what you need

But there's nothing else here that is easily seen.

Nothing else but the terror and that voice

The one that says stuff about you that in daylight hours

you do not believe.  Stuff about how you're the shittest piece of shit that

ever did live and how completely pathetic you are and seriously

you wouldn't talk to a moldy sock like that.

Or your worst enemy.

Your task, should you choose to accept it

is to find the good voice in that space
the real one not the shit one that is itself shit but says it's you who are shit.

And you do accept that task and

you take it on and

some days are better than others and

others are really just shot to the shit.

Pic Deeo-Eleclaire

Fragile Beings

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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pic by Darren Wyn Rees under a CC attrib/sharealike licence)
It's easy to think that it's just you.  That you're the only one who is paranoid/insecure/jealous/fearful/depressed/not coping/socially inept.  But really, the further on I go the more obvious it is that these aren't only things that I struggle with at various times.  Everyone else around me is struggling to one degree or another.

Some days, it feels like we're a giant old-fashioned kettle, about to start squealing 

I guess humans at the end of an empire really don't have a whole lot of turning circles within which to be comfortable and expansive and giving to others, do they?  In an environment like this one, you gotta shore up yo shit for yoself.

Which is probably partly the reason why we're in the pickle we're in.

Birthing new ways of doing things is hard.  Even when it feels awfully natural, and you're coming from an unnatural space.  Even then it feels scary, like you're walking without seeing where you're going.  Which we are. 

But still, every time I get despondent that the very worst of human nature - the greed and the nastiness of small-minded people who give not a fuck for the earth they live on when it's profits they need, or the closed-mindedness of people who should know better - I remember what I keep forgetting:  that the aim isn't probably so much to be fighting what is already established.  That is crumbling to dust before our eyes.  The real aim, the real creative bearing-down, is in working out what's gonna come next when the dust of that shit clears and we're left just with each other.  If we are lucky.  And when I remember that, I turn and look at those who are already practising alternatives.  They're everywhere.  Often in non-Western countries.  We are as poor and blind and deaf as can be culturally speaking when it comes to wisdom.  Sometimes I get the feeling that we are almost ashamed and embarrassed to talk about such childish notions as beauty, or of justice, or of freedom.  It feels almost like we are so far gone down the jaundiced road of cynicism that to speak of those things is some sort of blasphemy.

Fuck that.  Those things be where it's at.  Where we're going.  Maybe, if we're lucky.

The jaundice is what happens when you're on the rat race wheel too much.  It's a symptom, that's all.

Here's to new paradigms as old certainties and status quos crumble.  Here's to spaces where beauty, justice and freedom are not naive pie-in-the-sky ideals but qualities we are able to practice more and more, as the time goes on. Here's to a space where our fragilities and vulnerabilities are shared, not shored away because the space where everyone was a danger, and to be hated, and threatening, has passed, and we have moved on to something more sustainable in every possible way.

Here's to a space where those who are first will then be last and those who are last will then be first.



Saturday, 9 November 2013

You gotta take daydreaming wherever you can get it.  The other day it was when I accidentally left my phone at home.  On days like this, when the fatigue is chronic and it's raining, I'm still in bed at 3.38pm and have been reading stuff on my iPhone ALL DAY.

For respite from reading (I read too much, stress my brain), I look out the window at the drooping Belgrave trees and the satched galahs hanging on the railing.   Always easy to daydream out of those particular windows.

On these days when it's "one more read and I'll get up," you have to click wisely.  Clicking onto good writing (like this, for example, about this very subject, how our smartphones curb our dreaming space) gives the mind room to float away mid-paragraph while tethered to the words.  Or looking at photos of The Barefoot College, which has been operating in India since 1972 and which teaches the poorest of the poor in night school.  It trains some people for six months how to install solar panels.  They then go back to their own villages and light them up.

Pic by whothey (under a creative commons attribution/noncommercial/sharealike licence)

A Self-Generating Organism - The Aim

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Sophisticated thinkers often work equally well in the realms of high-order analysis and speculation and across a range of feelings with their varying degrees of intensity.  A mind with that virtuosity seeks the contexts and creates the possibilities necessary for its own nurture and fulfillment.  It becomes a self-generating organism. Not necessarily one which is independent of others nor or enabling contexts, but one which knows how to seek, find and transform experiences.
~ Roslyn Arnold, from the second edition of New Philosopher, a quarterly print magazine exploring ways to live a more fulfilling life.  I would highly recommended it even if it hadn't become a bit of a warm and fuzzy thing by virtue of the fact that when these guys were searching for potential crowdfunders and I told them that I love the concept of the mag and that it is necessary to fill a niche, but that being broke I could not afford to give them any dosh, they gave me a free subscription. 

Pic by Jessie Romaneix under a creative commons attribution/noncommercial/no derivatives licence

Making the Shift - Pain versus Pleasure


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Goodness me, this post from Michele Rosenthal at Heal My PTSD could have been written for me.  One of the biggest challenges of my entire life is about this ~ about getting past pain and allowing myself to experience pleasure.

This seems to be a rather common occurrence among some of us - we do not feel that we are allowed somehow to experience pleasure.  And by pleasure I don't mean flopping ourselves in front of the TV.  I mean doing those things that really bring us joy in some way.  Why is it so?  Don't we all experience suffering in some form?  If the answer is yes - and it's always yes; even charmed lives have their share of suffering - then why do we not comfort ourselves with pleasure?  Where does this puritanical tiresomeness come from?

I have a friend who does not seem to have this battle as much as I do.  She allows herself to experience pleasure whenever she wants, and her life, as a result, even though filled with suffering, also has a certain kind of ease that is awfully attractive, not least because I feel like my life does not have that ease. And it seems to come easy to her, but when I talk to her about it, really, what the difference is between she and I is that she has the same sorts of thoughts and feelings I have around letting go and doing things that give us pleasure.  It's just that she ignores those thoughts when they come, whereas I treat them as if they are some great god thundering from a mountain.


I think, if I am really very honest, that so many of my struggles to sit down and write - and pretty much all of my struggles to sit down and play with clay - are because somewhere in my mind, and somewhere very obviously in my culture, I don't feel like I am allowed to do these things. I'm not allowed to do them because I enjoy them too much, and because I'm not working enough, and until I spend enough time each week working at a stultifying soul-destroying job in some capacity, I have not earned the right to do those things.  Because everyone knows you have to eat your meat before you have your pudding.  How can you have any pudding if you haven't eaten your meat?

What would happen if what the world needs most was a whole bunch of people all eating their pudding at once?

That walk from the TV to the clay, from the TV to the computer to sit down and waste time writing stuff - or whatever your personal bliss is that you don't feel you have the time for - is the single most challenging and enlightening walk that you can take.  One of the most important ones, but the absolutely hardest one because it is a walk you need to take alone while the internal voices shouting that you don't have time and haven't earned this are completely meshed with the outside societal voices that are in total agreement.  And too often we listen to those voices.
How very strange, to be in a situation where the most courageous acts I can do are to do things that bring me intense pleasure.  How very, very strange.

But not uncommon at all, I don't think.  When life is pulling us in directions that distress and/or depress us, our first instinct is to try harder.  When in fact, what we really need to do to rest, and recuperate, and recreate ~ in the very best sense of that word, re-create ~ is to stop trying so hard, let loose, loosen our hair, take off our glasses, pick up that guitar, have a shag, listen inside for some whispered secrets that may well surprise us about what we really want to do that would give us joy, because even though L'Oreal has co-opted the saying, we really are very much worth it.

Let us all eat pudding.

Pic by Ucumari (under a creative commons attribution/no derivs/noncommerical licence)

Making Space and Making Excuses

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Friday, 1 November 2013

There's a reason that it's a cliche that writing is simple, but not easy.  It is simple.  You sit yourself down in your chair in front of a terrifyingly blank screen and sweat some Hemingway blood out your eyeballs, and you write stuff, and that's that.

It really is simple in a way;  it's just not easy.  That's why there are so many people walking around who believe they have a book in them but they don't get nothin' writ.  They're waiting for the right time.  But the right time doesn't come.

The last uni class I did on-campus was a creative non-fiction essay-writing class where we were set 20 minutes to write something.  There was a very general prompt of some sort - I can't remember what it was now.  And of course I sat there in a mass panic for about 10 seconds thinking that I would never be able to come up with something, until I had an idea.  And of course it seemed like a shitty idea, not even worth exploring.  (In comparison to the ideas that seem totally amazing, and they're falling off the spoon as you jump out of bed or the shower and run to type them down and by the time you do, they've totally drizzled into the floor and you're just left with a mental spoon.  If you knew beforehand that this idea would be like one of those, you would have just stayed in bed and licked the spoon for your own enjoyment and been done with it.)

I'm worried that leaving Facebook isn't going to create the space that I need to do creative stuff.  I'm worried that it's not going to take that - it's going to take quitting the internet for hours and hours, plus going entirely through menopause, and stopping being depressed and anxious, and stopping feeling excessively paranoid so that I spend mass energy worrying that my friends hate me.  I'm worried that it's going to take my entire life and one day I will be 92 and I won't have any space left because I won't have any time left.

But that worry is really awfully foundless, and I know that it is so.  It is a worry that on my bad days I give in to, and on my good days when I have some sort of a purchase on perspective it is easy to smile at it as evidence of being Scaredy Scarederson and to sit down and write anyway.  

The bit from the writing prompt that I ended up writing in class that day became a My Word column that I sold to The Big Issue a few months later.  And really,  I feel like I've got a million of those ideas inside of me.  So quitting Facebook and trying to do other things to make space is a really good thing to do.  But in the end, it really is just making the time.  Not making up excuses that I can't do it because I'm too paranoid at the moment, or whatever the current almost-mental-illness is in vogue in my head (I must say, the paranoia has been in vogue for some time and I'm really rather tired of it.  Get here, menopause, and get here quick).

We really do make excuses sometimes, don't we.  (Some of us more than others.  A post talking about the struggles I have with getting myself writing and staying writing and doing other creative things is a replica.  There's probably about 50 others on this blog saying pretty much the same thing :) 

Really, it doesn't seem important so much that we're ready to do something creative, just that we need to make space and we need to make time, even if we don't feel like we can do it at all.  We can do more than we think we can.  That blank screen or canvas or page is always going to hold an element of terror.  That will never leave, like an actor's performance anxiety - and neither should it.  But neither should it stop you from getting there in the first place. 

Glowing Stationary by Ablipintime