2018, America, Opinion, Thoughts

Media Deprivation

This week, as part of my Artist’s Way book course, [which is a self-guided course in creative rejuvenation and recovery], I underwent what is termed as a ‘Media Deprivation’ week.

Media Deprivation could be thought of as the ‘Digital Detox’s’ cousin; similar in many respects, with similar aims and justifications for what they do, but with a slight difference in each.

So what is a Media Deprivation, you may ask?

It’s any stretch of time without any taking in of media of any sort. Kinda like a fast for your mind.

So, no reading. At all.

This is the big point that the author makes. She wants us all to stop taking in information and consuming, and start producing. Instead of reading a novel, she would have us write instead. Or paint, or jog or exercise, take up a class in language, etc. And no news means having to actually get your information from a person, not a newspaper, website or social media site, with the hopes of re-engaging with live people.

No tv, no films, no visual media at all.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I was feeling quite apprehensive. To me, all of these things are so important to most, if not all of us. Many of us rely upon social media for their livelihood, not to mention keeping in touch with loved ones and family, and most of all, for entertainment.

Believe me, I love nothing more than spending hours on Youtube watching anything and everything or wasting time on Facebook and Twitter.

And, at this point of view after having completed this Media Deprivation week, I see that I personally waste so much time on these things, not getting up to much at all.

 

So, how was it?

 

I hated it. At least at the start. The first 2 or so days felt as though I had been crushed by an anvil and deflated of any sort of emotion besides panic and boredom. I didn’t know what to do with myself besides continue on with my job hunt, write and journal, or go out for walks about town and sit in parks with my trusty journal or camera.

I felt resentful. I felt downcast and frustrated as well as panicked in those first few days. I could sense my mood darkening as I struggled to make sense of what I was to do with myself to occupy my time, and more importantly, my mind.

But, after this initial period of confusion, I did begin to notice some change. As I grew to accept the fact that I couldn’t simply google something I didn’t know, I would jot it down on a piece of paper to ask my husband when he got home. We would sit and talk, and he would look things up or inform me of things going on.

I couldn’t sit around and waste time on Youtube, so I wrote instead. It became easier for me to sit down and just start writing or typing. Anything. It didn’t have to be of any magnitude. It didn’t have to be Shakespearean prose. I just had to get writing. I began to think, ‘well, if I can’t read, I may as well be writing something’.

I noticed that my conversations with people became slightly more enriched, as I wasn’t constantly reaching for my phone and being distracted by it and its constant notifications. I was able to look people in the eye with clarity and not look away in shyness.

I felt lighter and a touch better about myself as I wasn’t going on dating apps or on Insta, with its endless parade of gorgeous gay men to make my spirits deflate.

By Wednesday I felt almost giddy as I got dressed and went to perform at the opera that night. A lightness came over me, as though I could do anything, as I skateboarded up to the grand old SF Opera house.

In the dressing room, where I would usually be stuck on my phone waiting for the call to head up on stage to perform, I instead sat there and just took it all in. The way the room looked, the heat of it as it was underground and stuffy, the fantastic costumes sitting on their racks, the din of my fellow supernumerary extras chatting away. All minor details that I may have missed, and that soon enough I would as it was my second last performance. I thought that I may never be back here so be sure to take it all in now.

I spoke to one of my compatriots, who upon asking me how I was, I responded with my being on a media deprivation week and it being a challenge. His eyes lit up and he made note that my attention and spirits seemed far more present than usual, as he noticed that I tended to be on my phone quite a bit.

We chatted briefly upon the merits of media deprivation and digital detoxes as means for clearing out the mind and helping one be aware of their usage of social media, and the repercussions thereof. He too had done some similar work and found it to be challenging yet engaging and of worth.

The next night, I attended my very first Baseball game.

I felt exhilarated and most importantly at all, present. The lights somehow shined brighter, the colours appeared far more vivid and the noise of the crowds heightened.

 

By the weekend, [which was San Francisco Pride], I felt pretty great. I’d not been on Facebook or Twitter the whole week and felt no compunction to check back in, I kept my checking on emails to a minimum and I had logged out of the apps; I enjoyed a weekend of sipping beers in sunny, packed with people Dolores park with friends; attending the Trans march, and dancing the night away.

 

The lesson that I learned from this week was that we have killed collectively the idea of ‘boredom.’.

 

We are always stimulated, much of the time overly, if not terminally, so.

We are bombarded every day, every moment from when we wake to when we sleep with imagery, sounds, visuals and new fads and memes and celebrity gossip and bad news over and over in wave after wave.

 

It feels like some kind of dystopian sci-fi nightmare sometimes. I often wonder what someone from any point up to the early 1990’s would make and think of our world today, and how we are quite addicted to social media.

Just slightly jiggling out of this all for just even a week was like taking a great big breath of fresh mountain air.

It has made me aware of how I consume and use media, specifically social media. Of how much time I waste there, how much of my life is there, and how it has caused the death of boredom. Of how neglectful I can be of interpersonal relationships.

 

Believe me, I know I won’t get rid of social media for a very long time, if at all. It is all something we do really need, and it has made our lives all the better in many ways.

 

Perhaps I’ll make it a more prolonged experience in future.

 

Still, I recall as a kid mum always saying ‘only boring people are boring’. She was kind of right, as I would always go back to my mainstays of reading or playing with lego or going bike riding down the park back in those pre-internet days of the early 1990’s. The point was, I always managed to find something to occupy my time without just simply consuming passively.

 

This last week, I found boredom to be a good thing.

It got myself busy, it got me to be more productive, thoughtful and importantly, social with everyone I came in contact with.

 

It helped me to see life a little more clearer, and to be a bit mindful of how I use all of this technology, as we’re all people underneath this shroud of social media, and I feel we are easy to forget this.

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Books to read in 2018

It’s a new year which means a time of renewal, growth and determining things like goals and objectives and what you want to get out of life for the next year.

As part of this idea of growth, I wanted to share some books that I have read or re-read in the last year or so, and for whatever reason stood out for me as share-worthy. These are all books that for different reasons piqued my interest. Some are based firmly in the real world and speak on concepts, issues and themes that are quite serious yet still great reads. Others are less serious and far more whimsical, imaginative and fun to read, as well as works of sci-fi or fantasy, and even one special book I rediscovered that was once my favourite book to read when I was a child, which I recently re-read.

Note: click on the image on the books, which will take you to Goodreads for more reviews and info. 

 

My Life In France, Julia Child.

 

If you’re unaware of who Julia Child is, the book My Life In France is a great intro to someone whose passion, grit and determination was an inspiration not just for me, but for countless others. The first reference to Julia Childs for me was the film Julie and Julia, which I feel this book lies adjacent to.

An autobiographical account of Julia Child’s [well-known American chef who specialized in French cooking and was the first to create a cookbook intended for home cookery] years in France with her husband, this book was introduced and gifted to me by a friend and fellow avid reader who espoused how relatable, enthralling and simply fun this book was to read.

I felt as though I was sitting at a French restaurant in the 1950’s with the grande dame of the culinary world herself, as she meticulously and juicily describes every detail of so many meals eaten in fine restaurants, as well as adventures she partook; from the start of their move in Paris, to studying cookery at the world-famous Cordon Bleu school in Paris and her subsequent rise in fame and recognition.

This book proved to be such an inspiration for me. Reading this one woman’s recounts of her life in that beautiful country helped me in turn better accept and thrive on the fact that I too, like her, moved overseas with a husband for his career. It was just something nice to read, with her making friends with locals, divulging secrets and skills required for cooking, as well as her struggles with finding an identity and purpose for her life.

I really loved reading this book, and I can always tell when a book is not just good but great, when it feels as though you only just started when you reach the final page.

 

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

 

This soon to be released film adaptation captured my imagination immediately. I was again recommended to read this book by a friend who knew me well, and said to me this book has all the things you love in it: namely, 1980’s cultural references, and science fiction and fantasy elements.

I wanted to read Ready Player One for years, it was admittedly a case of judging a book by its cover; which I LOVED but had never gotten around to it as it were.

The book tells the story of Wade Watts, a denizen of the dystopic world of 2044 USA: standards of living are in sharp decline due to depletion of natural resources and the collapse of the ecology, the poor are generally uneducated and live in ‘stacks’, giant towers composed of trailers.

Most escape this grim reality via the pervasive virtual reality named OASIS, created by the recently deceased genius and 1980’s-obsessed James Halliday.

I won’t get too far into it, but it is chock full of 1980’s, fantasy and sci-fi references, action and drama as well as well-written likeable characters and villains whom you want to throw your Gameboy at.

 

Skygods, The Fall Of Pan Am, Robert Gandt

 

Being a bit of an aviation nerd, I’ve always had a strange fascination for the golden-era of aviation and airlines up to the late 1960’s; being that time before Jetstar, Ezyjet, cattle class, discount tickets etc.

The Queen of the airlines was undoubtedly Pan American, headed by the singular Juan Tripp who is the man who is honestly responsible for giving the world the Boeing 707, the worlds first truly successful airliner that changed travel indelibly, as well as the Boeing 747.

I’ve had a bit of a strange obsession for defunct airlines such as Pan Am and TWA and wish I was old enough to have flown on either; this is the next best thing as this book goes into great detail about the formation, golden era and demise of this at one time blue-ribbon pedigree of an airline.

It reads as one part drama, one part recount, yet to me managed to keep an air of entertainment as the characters whom were responsible for this great airline’s birth as well as those responsible for its decline, not to mention those who worked for this venerable airline, come to life.

 

Red Plenty, Francis Spufford

 

Red Plenty tells the story of the burgeoning USSR and its efforts at overtaking the United States in terms of economic, scientific, technological and social growth in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It speaks of a time when the Soviet Union was modernizing rapidly and keeping on pace with the US, and was even set to surpass the US in terms of economic growth.

It was an era of optimism and eager competition, as well as a heartfelt honest belief in the Communist system by those living in the USSR at the time. Red Plenty tracks the progress and ultimate demise in the Soviet Union’s determined quest to gain parity and subsequently overtake the USA by means of planned economy using mathematics and cybernetics, for the ultimate aim of giving one and all the best quality of life possible.

Clearly, things didn’t turn out quite the way that the economic planners in the USSR had planned, but I found this book completely engrossing and intriguing; not 100% non-fiction and some characters were clearly fictional, yet still a great read.

 

And The Band Played On, Randy Shilts

 

The best way I can describe this book is heart-wrenching, emotional and frustrating. Not the things you want to find in a book necessarily. And The Band Played On tracks the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, and for me was a must read as a Gay man to educate myself about just what it would have been like to experience the terror and fear that I could only imagine in this time.

This book goes in to extensive depth and detail about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the inability of the US government to take charge, or even acknowledge what was occurring. Although some information since the time of this publication came out has been updated [ie the concept of a Patient Zero from which the virus was first attributed to], it for me is something that all LGBTIQA people should read if they want to know more about how HIV/AIDS affected just so many people.

Like others before me whom have read this book, this would have to be one of the most difficult, yet rewarding books that I have ever read. It is just so disappointing and sad to read about the lack of information, the inability of the myriad government institutes to coordinate to even simply identify this virus as people were dying, not to mention the initial intentional ignorance of the politico class about this issue, and following lack of action to put plans in motion.

This book will leave you with much respect and admiration for those whom lived through this era, as they really are survivors and heroes who deserve so much respect.

 

House Of Tribes, Garry Kilworth


I’ll never forget the first time I saw this book, in a little independent book shop on Norton St, Leichhardt, back in Sydney. I was with my mum. I must have been perhaps 9 or 10 or so. Something about this little innocent looking book with a mouse depicted on its cover drew me to it, and it took me in hindsight perhaps a week to finish up, as I fell straight into the world this author created.

This is one book which helped shape my reading habits and my interest in literature, reading, as well as the fantasy genre. The novel follows a young field mouse named Pedlar who leaves the relative safety and familiarity of his home in a hedge behind, to enter the great country known solely as ‘The House.’ The house is another world entirely, replete with gangs of mice and rats who live in different parts of the house and vie for control and authority.

It was such a fun book to read as a kid; I must have re-read it at least a half-dozen times, and it [magically in my mind] captured my imagination, and inexplicably followed me in my life and now sits proud on my bookshelf here in San Francisco. Some people cite the Harry Potter series as their mainstay books which harken back to their youth and that initial spark and love of reading, and this is my version of that.

Oh, and the other thing that made me fall completely in love with this book was that it had a map!

 

The Consolations Of Philosphy, Alain De Botton.

 

Love him or not, Alain De Botton for me is a great educationist and instructor of thought. I don’t know what it is about the guy, but ever since the first time watching his documentaries on life, thought, philosophy and culture and society, I’ve been a big fan.

Maybe it’s the way that he informs and teaches without pretension; without the need for needlessly complex jargon. He has a concise and minimal voice and tone which can make even the most difficult to understand concepts quite clear.

If Alan Attenborough’s domain was the natural world, I would then see Alain De Botton in a similar vein for the world of thought.

I received this book as a birthday present; I won’t lie, it sat on my shelf for months as I had a plethora of fantasy and sci-fi books I wanted to read.

I picked up this book to read as I have this idea of ‘cleansing the palate’ as it were, with regards to what I read. I love and adore science fiction and fantasy novels, yet I find after reading book after book after book I need something more thought-provoking in terms of life and thought and lived experience. To cleanse the palate as it were. Something which will exercise my mind. Usually I’ll hit up whatever self-help book I have about which will fill me in with some thought that is based at least partly on philosophy.

Consolations, then, proved to be a simple and introductory means of learning about philosophical thought, and how it translates to the everyday life. De Botton mixes in a dash of self-helpiness as I think of it with his dollops of philosophy, and the result at least to me was a thought-provoking read and a good refresher on philosophy, its origins and it’s repercussions.

 

Those are my books to read in 2018, let me know your thoughts, or if you have any standout books that you have read recently that you love. Cheers!

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2017, America, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Thoughts, writing

My Writing Process.

My writing process is quite simple. I try to set aside some time, preferable each day, and preferably somewhere light and airy. My work space will typically be quite organised, clutter free and minimal in what needs to be there. The less ‘stuff’, the better.

I find that I write best and most effectively when I have a clean and clutter-free space. To me, this is paramount. My mind works best when everything is organised. I tend to concentrate more, gain inspiration and let those streams of thought enter into the room. I guess I’m a creature of order.

Some prefer a degree of chaos and a ‘organised mess’ as it were, in order to get inspired and to really get those creative juices flowing. To me, a chaotic mess means an unorganised mind, and an inability to analyze or complete tasks.

And that’s my biggest fear, as well as a massive motivator for having such a precise and agreeable workspace. It seems that without this, I can’t get a thing done.

Having only just recently moved countries, all the way to San Francisco from Sydney, finding a place to sit, work and process has proved to be challenging. For the last 6 weeks we were staying in a temporary flat, and to be honest, as lovely a building and place as it was, it felt uninspiring, dull and not amenable to me feeling comfortable or uplifted enough to write. It had an air of being generic. Knowing that its sole purpose as a temporary abode felt disheartening to me.

This space proved its worth as a short-term home, but even so, trying to get off my backside to write was incredibly difficult in this time.

I really did drop the ball. As part of my day, I wanted to write for even at least a half hour. I would bring my husband’s unused laptop downstairs to the luxuriously appointed common lounge, which looked like a ski lodge, replete with fireplace and comfy oversized chairs.

I’d set the laptop up on the communal table, get myself a glass of water, and try my hardest to put words to screen as it were. Yet I found myself more often than not simply staring at a blank screen, somehow unable to get thoughts into the laptop. I was at a roadblock.

And as it stands, in that whole time, I only ever managed to get two posts out.

In some six weeks.

Funnily enough, I ended up using my old back-up of a small Moleskine notebook and started writing thoughts in it every couple of days. It’s proved to be invaluable, having that small innocuous notebook around. I make sure to carry it about wherever I am.

I always remember my old photography teacher would say you must carry a camera everywhere you go in order to consider yourself a true photographer. Well, to be honest, I’m not going to lug an insanely cumbersome [not to mention expensive] piece of equipment about in my semi-sketchy neighbourhood.

Rather, I’m happy to carry about my small and highly portable notebook, which in a way is far more valuable than any camera.

We just finally found and moved into our new place, and have finished unpacking and setting it up. We’ve taken everything from home and brought it here, including my trusty desk and now ancient, ten-year old iMac which I’m using to write this post. Which to its credit, just keeps on truckin’ along.

My desk now resides in our bed room, a far cry from my little alcove back home. Our bedroom is a simple room with large windows that face the sun and let light great big dollops of light into the room. The room itself is simply appointed. Two bedside table flanking our bed, a mirror leaning against the wall and my desk next to that. All I have on my desk besides my computer is a desk lamp, an old camera as a reminder of the past, a hard drive, and a glass of water [on a coaster of course].

I feel some affinity with my favourite author, Haruki Murakami, whom also keeps a quite understated and a simple set-up desk. Everything he needs is there, as well as some decorative items of significance. There are no piles of books or paper, or anything that appears out of its place. I feel as though his desk is therefore a reflection of his manner of writing, which is everything I admire: simple yet effective, minimal and understated yet so subtle and with an intrinsic inspired genius who will make you spellbound in his prose.

I love his writing, as he makes the simple act of cooking a meal for one alone a grand affair.

My workspace, as you can see, is my writing process incarnate. If I’m somewhere attractive, relatively peaceful and homely, I am able to get myself writing and more importantly, posting for the world to see.

If you write, what is your process? Like me, do you need your own space, your own aerie, or do you prefer to be out in the world?

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2017, Australia, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Sydney, Thoughts

My Ideal Day

If money was not an issue, what would your life look like today? How would you fill your days?

For me, if money was not an issue [as it would be if Utopian Socialism worked], I would fill my days with learning and trying to make myself better and improving myself. Yup, super cliche, I know. I would still try to wake up early and hit the gym, as it’s become a place that I enjoy going to and exercise something that has really helped me grow and become a healthier person inside and out. I know this sounds so self-indulgent, and typically self-entitled millennial of me, but really, without the need to work to provide for oneself, I would make my life about being better as a whole, and experiencing the most out of life.

I would go for nice breakfasts, maybe eat something sweet like pancakes [because why the fuck not] with coffee, sit outside al fresco if it was a sunny day, perhaps sit inside if it was cooler or wet. I’d have an Ipad loaded with paid-for subscriptions like The New Yorker or Time magazine, and I would spend an hour just reading, eating breakfast, sipping my coffee, and then planning my day ahead and what I wanted to accomplish, work on or get out of my time for the day. Maybe some days I would go to different cafes for a change of scenery, maybe I would have weeks or even months of frequenting that same favourite cafe that does coffee just how I like it, or cooks a great breakfast.

After reading through an article or two in New Yorker or Time, or perhaps a newspaper, I would take out my journal or perhaps go on Daily Page and start writing. Maybe I would be with Adrian, or maybe alone. I would then work out my day and break down what I would want to achieve or get out of the day.

Maybe one day would be spent reading, or playing computer games, or maybe having lunches with friends and loved ones. I might go visit my nonna and hang with her, or go for a drive up to the mountains. I know some days all I would do would be anything I want. Like even playing World of Warcraft for endless hours. Maybe I would simply while away the day in the sun at a park, or a beach or pool. I would try to gauge how I felt, and do whatever my heart desires. I’d like to think however that I would try to learn something or create something no matter how small each day. Perhaps a little blog post, or a journal entry. Maybe I would walk about the city and take pictures. I guess because currently with the need to work and pay bills and rent, I don’t have this luxury. I envy people who come from wealthy backgrounds as this has afforded them something more important than money, rather it has given them the freedom of time.  Many of these people take this luxury for granted and squander their time. I wish I didn’t have to work 9 hours a day five days a week. I wish I could emulate that archetype of the Renaissance era person of art and passion, and had the time to muse and delve into creating things.

If money was no issue, I would make sure to have my own workspace away from home as well. I would use this as a base for inspiration and production, as I tend to work much better when away from the many distractions of home. In my head, I picture my ideal work space to be a light-filled large converted warehouse room with high ceilings and tall windows that let in lots of light. It would be somewhere not too far from home, perhaps a ten minute walk, so I would have no excuse not to go, and maybe situated around the corner from a cafe, where I would grab myself a mid morning coffee. The walls would be a pure white, unadorned, and the floor would be either old and worn wood flooring, or polished concrete. I picture a desk set up in front of a window, with a nice large desktop computer, as well as plenty of writing materials. I would keep this desk as organised as my current desk is at home: everything would have its place. It would be here that I would write or create or build or work on something, at my own pace and in whatever direction I felt. I would have a large inspiration wall where I would pin anything that I found inspiring i.e. posters, prints, magazine clippings etc.

 

In the middle of the space would be a big old vintage work bench table, the ones that have thin long drawers underneath to put all your bits and pieces like stationary in. I would have stools set up around it, and I can imagine it being loaded with open coffee table books, magazines and all manner of bric a brac. I imagine myself spending time pouring over a new book I bought, or simply jotting down brainstorm notes.

Spread about the space would be studio lighting and equipment, and maybe some props as well, as I would hopefully be organising photo shoots when I could.

I would try to spend as many days as I could here with the intention of experimenting, exploring and producing anything that I was inspired from. I think that would be the sum of my days, working towards being inspired and prolific. But heck, the place could be sitting empty and unused for days on end if I felt like doing something else. I think that’s what I would want from my days: the luxury of freedom and abundant time.

Every month or maybe weekend I would aim to get away with my boyfriend, and we would do little trips and adventures. I see myself taking him on trips to the countryside and driving for hours on quiet roads and stopping in sleepy country hamlets and staying in quaint B and B’s. Perhaps every few months we would go away on longer trips further afield, and go places that we would never usually be able to.

My life would be one of contemplation, exploration, experimentation and joy. I’m lucky with life as it is to have some distilled and minute form of this life I picture. I’m able to have a small fraction of what I describe above, and I’m eternally grateful that I do.

If money were no issue in your life, what would your ideal day look like?

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2017, Gay, Gayblog, Thoughts

Why we still need Star Trek The Next Generation

Star Trek The Next Generation speaks to me now more than ever. And it should for you, too.

The image of the Starship Enterprise, so impossibly futuristic and symbolic of the great hopes of the future, flashing past at warp speed is something that has truly stuck with me for decades. In 1987, when this show was first aired, there was a sense that the future was going to be positive and optimistic, and that humanity would ascend to the stars and shake off our current limitations in society.

Since as a kid watching this show on my grandmas old cathode-ray humpbacked tv, in her kitschy and inescapably baroque home in Haberfield, I always yearned to live on the Starship Enterprise and to be counted as one of its team and to be a part of this world which promised so much for the future.

As much as the technology in the forms of improbable starships, phaser weapons or replicators that could produce any type of food one would want were alluring, it was really more the social concepts that have stood the test of time and left a mark on me since adolescence.

The future as I was growing up, held so much promise, and beckoned for me. I grew up in the 1990’s. It was a time of optimism, and the expectation that the future was going to be great, and a place almost within our reach. The Sydney Olympics were years away, in the then awe-inspiring year 2000. The future felt as though it was just over the hill, and it would be a bright, modern and vibrant place. We would live in a world of peace and  It was a place removed from my reality, but somewhere out there, almost able to be grasped, and that I felt it would slowly coalesce and appear. Star Trek The Next Generation came to embody what I believed in for the future. That humanity would surpass the need for greed, warfare and monetary gain. Poverty, rampant and exploitative capitalism and discrimination would be relegated to the past as barbaric.

The Federation in Star Trek came to symbolise for me all the things I had hope for the future of humanity. Things like the common good. Working together to achieve greatness. Humanity being able to overcome greed, avarice and selfishness. To see beyond our own prejudices and own selfish needs, and to want to succeed and prosper by bettering ourselves for society, not for material gain or the attainment of status or authority, but solely for the sake of it. The societal norm and status quo is to want to improve yourself, which thus would improve the world around you. This very ideal of enlightened egalitarianism, and the ‘good’ of humanity evolving to become enlightened beings that had no need for trifles, status or even money would be the baseline and the bedrock of the future society that Star Trek the Next Generation would portray. And it was something that left a mark on me to this day.

It was a message that was intoxicating and full of ideals and optimism. This was a tv show that gave me a glimpse into a world, or rather an entire galaxy of possibilities and potential for all of us to become or achieve whatever we wanted in life. A true meritocracy. And, in hindsight, a society built upon the very ideals of what we would identify as, yes, Socialism: working together for collective prosperity, and the obsolescence of private ownership and the need to attain status as well as the concept of rugged individualism. Money simply no longer existed, as due to the rise of technology and limitless energy, material goods inherently lost any value. A post-scarcity society. It helped form my politic, in which I fervently believe humanity can and must surpass the limitations of capitalism and scarcity, and we can only do this with the application of technology, working together as equals and the willingness to understand that our world is finite, and not simply a resource to be wasted.

I fast fell in love with this program. I loved the characters, I loved the ship itself, and the general ‘look’ of the show. Bright spandex uniforms and all. It let me escape my world which I didn’t really want to inhabit as a child. This show helped my imagination grow and become verdant with endless possibilities; it took me away from the mundane simpleness of suburban and familial life… I was enamored with so many aspects of this show growing up. The characters, in the for their time outlandish yet smart-looking crisp uniforms. Even the way the Starship Enterprise looked, with its updated [again, for the time] interiors, replete with pastel coloured bulkheads, indoor plants abound in living spaces and hallways, and a bridge that resembled more a Hilton hotel lobby than a military ship would ever. I loved this idea that the interiors resembled more a luxury hotel than a naval vessel, as it showed that form is just as vital as function, and that technology had reached a point where design and form were as equally important as function and utility. Hell, there was even a Counselor on board, a telepathic one at that, which speaks volumes of the era this show was produced in. Only A Trek show produced in the 1980’s would ever perceive there being a need for a counselor on board a starship, nonetheless give her a seat next to the Captain himself.

It was this idea that the Enterprise was more than just a military vessel that attracted me. It was for all intents and purposes a small city in space. I loved the fact that there were families with children on board the ship. I remember wishing I was one of them.

I feel that now, more than ever, we need programs like this. Adolescents especially need to be shown that humanity can indeed be a force for good. Like I was, at a younger age. Not to mention the fact that the future can be and hopefully will be a place and time of enlightenment, advancement and egalitarianism.  As much as I love a good dystopic tv series or film, I feel that we as a society need to understand that we can achieve fantastic and miraculous things, that the future can indeed be a bright place, and doesn’t have to be analogous to the acid-rain strewn, dark noir neon-lit world of Blade Runner. Not every character has to be filled with contempt for the world, jaded and bitter or worse yet have ulterior motives that will ultimately harm others.

EDIT: Since writing this post, NASA has revealed that a star system 40 light years to our solar system has been discovered, with 7 possible life-harbouring planets in this single system. This shows just why we need to have programs and literature and narratives like Star Trek, as we as humans thrive on discovery, exploration and ultimately, trying to understand our universe.

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2015, Life, Opinion, Sydney, Thoughts

The Secret Life Of My Parents

 

Last year I had a mission put forward to me by my boyfriend, who wanted pictures of me as a kid and teenager for a slideshow for my thirtieth birthday back in February 2014. He wanted me to go get as many images of me as I could find.

Which of course proved to be somewhat difficult, as I’m part of a family where the term ‘family’ is a basic and somewhat ill-defined construct to describe what we are. I love my sister and parents, but a more loose-knit, independent ‘family’ couldn’t be found anywhere. It’s almost like we all just got lumped together by fate. Maybe it’s because my parents divorced in my early 20’s and before that were constantly feuding; maybe it’s because we all ended up becoming such fiercely independent people who had less and less need for close familial relationships. I’m not sure.

So in the end, nary a picture of me was to be found anywhere. It seems like the era before Facebook and smartphones has become some new ersatz pre-historic epoch without pictures, as a single image of me from the ages of 2 to 16 proved to be quite elusive to track down. Add to the fact that my mum left our family home when my parents divorced with essentially whatever she could carry, as well as the fact that my dad is quite possibly the messiest, chaotic and unorganised fellow I know means that there is a giant gaping maw of a black hole that’s swallowed any and all visual representation of us as a family. I look to my boyfriends family with pangs of jealousy and envy, as they have recorded so much of their lives together. Pictures inhabit dozens of photo albums, shoeboxes and tidy frames upon lintels or walls. Videos of recorded adventures and family gatherings lay neatly stacked in drawers and shelves. They love nothing more than taking pictures of each other, recording holidays and special events and sharing their lives. Why was my family so different, and so riven by secrecy, distance and division?

D-Day arrived as I took the train from Urbane Inner-City Redfern to Mundane Suburban Rhodes, a little slither of a suburb on a peninsula on the very edge of Sydney’s Inner West. This is the almost Stepfordish pleasant suburb where I spent my formative teenage years and early twenties, back in the golden heyday of the late nineties and early noughties. I stepped off the train, to the much improved train station compared to those heady days, walked up the quiet road, and through the forlorn looking iron gates of my dad’s large unkempt and rambling home, and dove right into the back ‘shed’, which resembles more a Italianiate granny flat in the back yard than an actual shed. What can I say, the Tuscan look was big in the late nineties. There I found photo album after photo album squirrelled away in this shed, the interior of which resembled a possible future archeological dig. Cobwebs, dust, dirt and a general patina of age clung to every single thing. EVERY SINGLE THING. It was like a macro version of a time capsule. Here were the remnants of my former life as part of a Nuclear Family. The leftovers and artefacts of a different time. It’s interesting how in life some of us have these distinct phases and eras, yet others have a long and continual link to the past. It was like a bomb had scattered us all into oblivion, leaving behind the detritus and remains of what once was: familial bonds, stability, a once positive vision of the future. All turned to junk and miasma.

I spent some time trawling through this wreckage, scouring the Mount Everest-sized mountains of junk to find every shred of visual records my family had. I repaired back to the house’s expansive lounge room, dumped the albums on the ridiculously ornate mahogany dining table that my dad insisted on buying when I was a kid and took a little sojourn into the past.

What I found in short is that my parents had a secret life. Like me they were once young. Like me they went on trips, went out, had jobs and careers, and generally had adventures. I feel like my dad especially led this elusively cool life before my sister and I came along. It felt like the images I discovered had become a portal that is indecipherably impossible to open and peer through, and the only way to have a peek is through the broken shards in the shape of the photographs, dockets, old airline tickets from now defunct airlines and general miscellanea that this guy kept.

I found pictures of my dad in what had to have been Papua New Guinea in the 1970’s where he worked in the copper mines. Pictures of him in London in 1969 with a cinema behind him, signs promoting ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ helping create a zeitgeist of an image. Kids with shaggy hair, thongs and wearing bell-bottom jeans smoking cigarettes on the step of an old corner shop in what had to have been the now otherworldy Sydney of the 1970’s. Pictures of my dad’s friends in Papua swimming and enjoying themselves on the beach; a pre ‘globalised’, much simpler skyline of Sydney with no Centrepoint Tower or few skyscrapers in sight. My mum in a full beehive do and gorgeously retro white mini-shift dress at her first job at a pharmacist where my parents first met. Was that the first day they met? I’ll never know.

In the vantage point of what I always thought of as ‘The Future’, [being anytime after the year 2000], the past and almost secret lives of my parents are akin to a Tolkien-like history steeped in a localised mythology abound in stories, parables and tales. That old film ‘Big Fish’ with Ewan McGregor springs to mind, as like Ewan McGregor’s character, my dad always had these grand tales that stuck in my mind. Always colourful and vivid, these tales were a part of my childhood, and my sister and I would always want to hear more. He had so many stories and fables to share with us about his life as well as his family, and a mythology grew up around these stories, much like in Big Fish.

Some stories that spring to my mind include the time when he was in the Italian Army as a Paratrooper, and once almost died when he jumped out of the plane on training exercises, only to land in a swamp outside Naples, to which a Neaopolitan fisherman just happened by and found him.

The story about him as a kid being bundled off to a rather third-rate church-run Summer Camp, only to have one pair of underwear and set of clothes the whole time due to his family being so miserably poor.

Or the story about how my grandmother used to have to hide relatives who were members of the Communist underground in her house from the Germans during World War 2.

The stories about his adventures in Papua New Guinea and Bouganville, where he worked as a young lad in the copper mines. Recounting this he would conjure up images of a younger moustachio’d shag-haired version of himself in PNG on the run from native tribes because he mistranslated a word wrongly in Pigin, or about life in Port Moresby.

Or the stories about his early days after arriving in Sydney in the early 1970’s, and how the place was so very different to what it would become. An instant classic is his tale about him having just arrived, [replete with his uber-mod Italian sensibilities and wardrobe], and literally being picked up off the street by two Australian girls who saw this young guy on the street when they were driving past and decided to simply get him in their car for God knows what.

He always left this lasting impression to us about the past being a colourful, vibrant place of nostalgia and naive innocence, as well as the ills and woes of life for an Italian in early 1970’s Australia. I’ll go meet dad out and his friends at a cafe and share espresso after espresso and listen to them recount stories of life in the early 1970’s, and how easy and great it was back then. One of them recently stated with a gleam in his eye that life was good and simple back then. There is so much nostalgia and romanticism bound in these stories of past times. These stories and pictures tie in with that ‘Australia-that-once-was’, as I call it; an almost mythical place inhabited by larger than life people, led by larger-than-life politicians [Gough Whitlam for one], a world filled with corner shops selling ice blocks and cigarettes to kids on a searingly hot Summer day where the roads would literally melt in the sun, a world with pubs filled with larrikins at every corner, of the sun beating down on the empty streets in Summer heat and no-where to escape. A place where these kind of adventures occur. A city and country on the tipping point of great change seeps through the fibres of these pictures that I found, as well as for my part a strange sense of longing and loss. All these images and stories transport me to those places in another time and place for a split second. A part of me is melancholic for not being a part of that world, or for experiencing life as it was then, tasting the food, speaking to the people, being out in the sun. I wish I could have met my parents back then, to see the people they were, and the lives they led.

Dad has made it that way, with his recounting of that time and place being akin to another world. A world that somehow exists at right-angles to the one we live in now, only visible in a few places for a fraction of a fraction of a moment. I wish I could step into these pictures and immerse myself into this past world which I feel still exists.

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2015, Gay, Gayblog, Life, Opinion

Colourless People.

 

Do you find that sometimes people you may have known for an extended period of time as friends or acquaintances change, or ‘fade away’? In which their vitality seeps away and they become something lesser. A poor grainy photocopy of an artistic masterpiece. This sounds of horrible but I find that some people I have known have lost what makes them special. Sometimes, I even feel this can be me losing that thing that makes me who I am.

What I mean by the term ‘Fade Away’ is similar to the concept of losing one’s moxie or ‘mojo’, that indefinable thing which is an individual’s essence of vitality. Some I find have more colour than others. Some are a vibrant Technicolor rainbow, full of life, quirks and oddities which make them peculiarly special. This could be anything. A wicked sense of humour. A cackling laugh. A killer wardrobe or sense of style. Supreme intellectualism or intelligence. I get along well with those that have a defining characteristic, whereas others are faded, washed out and drab, or entirely a scrubby black and white. It’s hard for me to describe this, but it’s a phenomenon that I’ve witnessed, as well as something that I at times notice in myself. I always need to be, or try to have some form of colour in my life; whether it be through friends, family, loved ones or anything I do.

I recently read a book by one of my favourite authors, the well-known, regarded and renowned Japanese author Haruki Murakami. His body of work is impressive, his stories and characters mix the mundane with the otherworldly and surreal. If you’re into fiction please give his stories a go. They’re thought provoking, yet understated and subtle. Many people find his books difficult to read as he really does capture what makes a life, life: those moments and empty spaces in time that we all inhabit or travel through, from one point to the other. Maybe it’s waiting in an office for an appointment for a doctor or job interview, reading a magazine to pass the time. Maybe it’s lying on your bed waiting until a friend calls to let you know they’ve arrived downstairs. Perhaps it’s a day off spent doing the household chores alone on a cool cloudy day. Or in front of your computer struggling to write a short blog post or continue a personal project. It’s these moments that Marukami captures in such a pristine and effortlessly real way. This is what life is. Lots of introspection, transience and moments in flux. With large dollops of life changing drama in between. Murakami’s stories always begin in a similar manner: a slightly dysfunctional [most of the time] male character most likely in his early thirties doing something completely domestic: looking for a lost cat, going shopping, preparing a simple yet inevitably healthy meal or travelling on a train. The hook is always that something unexplainable occurs. It could be a girlfriend disappearing without a reason. Or the character walks around a corner and realises they are no longer inhabiting the same world they were a moment before. I don’t want to give too much away, as I love reading his books and want whoever reads this to discover his stories for themselves.

His latest book, named ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki’ runs in a similar vein, with a dichotomy and mix of the use of simple narratives of the mundane and intrinsically average aspects of life enmeshed with the theme of unexplained and inexplicable change or loss. In this case we have the self-conscious [and in his own mind], dull and uninteresting Tsukuru, a 30 something run of the mill man who lives in Tokyo and works as a Railway station engineer. He was once close friends with a group of friends, two boys and two girls who went to the same high school. They would say that they formed a hand, as there were five of them all up. Each member a finger. Tsukuru’s friends names all featured a colour, as of course Japanese is a highly descriptive language. All of them except Tsukuru, whose name doesn’t feature a colour at all. Hence he began to create a self-constructed idea of himself as ‘colourless’ or being without a defining characteristic, and apart from his friends. He was the thumb of the group.

One day his friends unfathomably stop talking to him, and no longer have any contact with him. Tsukuru is simply cut-off and is given no further explanation as to why his friends stop the friendship, and subsequently moves away to Tokyo where he loses himself in study, depression and anxiety. Consumed  evermore with the thought of being ‘colourless’, he exists in a narrow and limited world, and is left pondering as to why his once close friends simply and without reason let him go. So one day, a decade and a half later, spurred on by and with the aid of the woman he is now dating, Tsukuru begins a quest to find his old friends. What he finds besides uncovering the truth piece by piece is that his friends have all somehow changed, and ‘lost their colour’. What made them stand-outs and unique has been lost, only to find them lifelessly humdrum and routine. Hopes, dreams and ambitions have morphed into banalities. Dynamism transformed into listlessness. That special something has been irrevocably sent adrift into the ether, only to be replaced by a greyness.

I feel that this scenario has happened in my own life, both with others and myself. The person I was ten years ago, like Tsukuru, was colourless and grey. He went to uni, lived in a small, plain yet tidy apartment with a friend, smoked toomany cigarettes, worked in his uncle and aunty’s restaurant to pay the bills, and played Playstation. That is the short and long of my life back then. It was a very claustrophobic and limited existence, with no aims besides going to lectures and to work. The version of me back then thought about life far too much, was introspective to the point of isolation yet had some good friends, and was completely abstinent for years. There was even a point where he subsisted on McDonald’s alone for months. Which quite literally turned him yellow.

All of this was because of me going through a period of severe clinical depression, as well as not being out and open to friends or family, which created a very stunted and self-deprecating insecure young adult. As years went by, I grew into myself, and gained more ‘colour’ if you will. I’ve met many people in my life who I feel have either had a similar change, or the reverse. Some friends or acquaintances have unexplainably lost that special spark or colour in their lives and simply become colourless driftwood. You can sometimes see it in someone’s eyes, or the way one dresses. Maybe they once would dress outrageously or had cutting wit, yet turn into a more subdued individual. Did they grow up? Has life beaten them down to the point of defeat? Others have slowly gained colour. It’s either me who may be viewing them with fresh eyes, or simply them getting their groove back. How does this happen? Is there really an undefinable pattern of ‘fading away’ that occurs as we get older, or simply the banalities of life taking a toll on us?

I don’t feel that this is an age-related occurrence. I feel that some people have nothing that defines them. A friend of my boyfriend’s had a theory on this, that zombies in fact exist in this world, yet not how we know them on TV and in films. Instead of being the familiarly mindless undead that walk around slowly and aimlessly, they are mindlessly alive and live life aimlessly. The ones who simply work to pay the bills, sit in front of the TV or computer after work, eat bad food, never leave their comfort zones and have nothing that define their existences.  I am afraid of this person, and I’m afraid of being this person now or in the future. I agree with my boyfriend’s friend’s sentiment that zombies do indeed exist. They are colourless and have no life essence to them. Like in Murakami’s book, they are colourless. It’s my aim in life to never be ‘Grey’, and to always have colour in my life. If it is through friendships, relationships, career or even hobbies and pastimes, it’s important for me to be colourful.

It should be for you, too.

 

 

 

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