2017, Gayblog, Life, Opinion, Thoughts

The Social Influencer

‘Social Influencer’, he had stated at the top of his Instagram.

Or more correctly, ‘S O C I A L   I N F L U E N C E R’

A [very] handsome early 30’s guy living in my town, with thousands upon thousands of followers and fans of his who fawn over his looks, with endless pic after pic of him pouting his perfect lips in perfectly put together outfits in front of abstract chic city backdrops of walls and alleyways. I’m not jealous. Much. A perfect beard and handsome perfect face, under the term ‘Social Influencer’, in this guy’s description. Perf.

I don’t have fans, nor do I like the idea of someone like me having ‘fans’. Or more critically the idea of a person being a ‘brand.’ It seems awfully self-involved and entitled to think of yourself as some kind of ‘brand,’ star, diva or celebrity when you’re not, especially in my case. I work in a warehouse. I lift and move shit all day, Monday to Friday. I am in short an unimportant, miniscule barnacle in an infinite ocean. Not even a barnacle. Plankton. I am not, nor will I ever be the centre of the universe. And I’m ok with this.

As time goes on, I find more and more that I am disconnected from things I’m not really into. I guess pop culture and the importance and influence of social media being one of them. Don’t worry, I still love aspects of it [Star Wars Star Trek Game Of Thrones anime etc etc], but lately I’ve started feeling fatigued and a malaise with so much that is new or fad-based in pop culture, not to mention trends in social media. Maybe it’s my age. Perhaps I’m suffering from what was termed as ‘Future Shock‘ in the late 1960’s, wherein it was predicted that technology and the influence on technology would ramp up faster and faster, and transform and change all our lives. It would become more and more imperative for us to keep up and follow the rapid changes in technology, and many of us would inevitably suffer from ‘Future Shock:’ being unable to keep up with the latest and becoming outmoded and obsolete. Sound familiar? If you haven’t read this book, please do, as much of what is spoken of and describes in the 1960’s has chillingly become reality.

For instance, the idea that people are a ‘brand‘ or refer to themselves as ‘Social Influencers‘. They’re both terms I find so repellent and repugnant, as they smack of self-indulgence, arrogance and entitlement. They now pigeon-hole people into the category of ‘Douchy priveleged Millenial’. But that’s the time we live in. Maybe I AM becoming an outmoded creature.

I know this sounds contradictory, as I have an Instagram account, a Twitter and this blog I write on. I post shirtless selfies and tag myself places. Believe me I’m just as much to blame. I guess I am ‘branding’ myself as a commodity after all for consumption.

I’d like to think that I am at least aware of this. How many others aren’t? How many are caught up in this world of ‘Social Influencers’ and followers and likes. A world where  people spend thousands of dollars in order to go to a festival that was heavily marketed with non-sensical buzzwords and phrases , and packaged as a ‘transformative’ experience where goers will rub shoulders with models and social influencers. For instance. Only to find that they were dumped on a deserted island with no infrastructure or even running water.

A new Lord of the Flies. Pictures of great looking predominantly white Anglo-Saxon people enduring what so many countless millions do every day felt, unfortunately and admittedly, so satisfying. I couldn’t help like many others feel a sense of ‘serves them right’. I found this whole debacle so fitting for this new era we are living in, where people spend and spend to experience something exclusive and then show off their exclusivity via Instagram and Twitter et al, all in the hopes of what? Likes and followers? Displaying your sense of superiority? There is so much today that feels toxic to me, yet I know I am a willing participant in this ridiculous mousewheel of face filters and gym selfies. What is the logical end point to all of this?

I find myself becoming more and more politicised, whether that is a good or bad thing, I’m still unsure. But I do think on the concepts of fame, wealth, power and popularity, and how much of our receding and declining Western society is built and placed around these concepts more and more these days. The entirety of Los Angeles as an example appears specifically constructed around fame and the pursuit thereof. A nexus and cornucopia of ‘me’ culture. I know it sounds dramatic and almost sensationalist, but I really do feel that things aren’t getting better for us, that we are becoming more and more concerned with the self as opposed the welfare of our fellow human beings, and that as a society, we are headed down the path to as similar scenario to the world depicted in Brave New World: a world where the masses are forever distracted and diverted from the problems of their society and world around them by drugs, new fads and media.

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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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Uncategorized

The Death Of Star Wars

 

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far Far Away…

 

I don’t think any other phrase has given me quite so many goosebumps in my life, or made my eyes widen with excitement. Yes. I’m talking about the venerable scrawling opening text to Star Wars, something of which I’ve always been really fond of. I can’t explain what it was that first got me sucked in to the world of Star Wars as a young kid growing up in my Grandma’s place in the heart of the Inner West’s Italian community, Haberfield.

 

Maybe because it presented a world of amazement to my 8-year-old eyes and ears; or more correctly, an entire spangled-galaxy full of triangular Star Destroyers, X-Wings, and an insane plethora of alien characters that inhabited this galaxy. Whereas the reality for me was that I lived in my Grandma’s house and shared her cavernous, ornate-wood filled bedroom, as unfortunately my bunk bed wouldn’t fit anywhere else.

It was the chance of escape from this rather banal world of seemingly ancient furniture from another time, old technology where nothing ever seemed to work, and not having many friends as I was innately embarrassed of anyone knowing I lived in my Grandma’s house, let alone her in her bedroom. Maybe living in this place that was so steeped in the past, forever and irreversibly so, that initially bent my interests toward something like Star Wars. Some kids take to sports with alacrity and gusto. Others might be inherently academic, and able to throw themselves at an early age into bookish pursuits. I remember playing X-Wings V Tie Fighters at school. I was somewhere in the middle, inhabiting a small hazy and foggy land where yes, I loved to read, but nothing academic.

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I lived in a room very similar to this. For FIVE YEARS.

 

Like a lot of people, I still recall the first time I watched Star Wars. I’m pretty sure it was in my parent’s cramped and warm bedroom which was made all the more so by my mum’s choice pine and wicker bedroom furniture from the1980’s. It was a Summery weekend night, and the whole extended family was over for dinner. I remember my older, slightly bully-ish yet at other times congenial cousin watching with me, all decked out in his awe-inspiring Reebok Pumps. This whole time of the early 90’s when I was growing up was an era of things being past their use. Of obsolescence and malaise. I felt like I was growing up in a place where capital-M Modernity had no place.

 

I was always frequenting my cousin’s home, a stately Uber-Modern abode at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet, serene suburb nearby.

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Pretty much what it was like being at my cousin’s place.

 

This home was the picture of the ‘new’, innovative for the time, and yes slightly futuristic for my young fresh eyes. They had touch sensitive light switches, for God’s sake. Skylights in the ceiling. Everything was a brilliantly stark white. Cable tv was in every bedroom and in the lounge room, which shockingly shared an open room with the kitchen. A giant TV in the lounge room, and the holy sanctity of both a Super Nintendo AND a Sega Master System in my cousin’s bedroom. Another stroke of Modern Living. It was a paradise for a slightly undernourished [due to a picky appetite] smallish child that lived in the almost opposing state.

 

My Grandma’s place meanwhile was a museum of relics of a faded past; echoes of what had gone before were evident everywhere and anywhere you looked. Paintings on the walls were all of stodgy old charmless and at times disturbing landscapes. I still remember an old print, which featured a castle on a barren hill, above dark forests and with a violently ominous twilit sky. Like a setting from Game of Thrones in hindsight. Baffling nick-naks lived on every surface. A never-used formal dining table set with chairs and credenzas all made of the heaviest, bulkiest and darkest wood you can imagine possible inhabited the largest, choicest light-filled room in the house. I now find the irony how the best room was never used. The tiles on the floor were all of a sickly orange, and the leather couches the same hue. Any room that featured the luxury of carpet, inevitably also featured strips of either plastic or off cuts of yet more carpet which you used as pathways, lest you deviate and my Grandma promptly yells at you. I used to pretend that the floor was lava.

I felt like the whole place was the ‘before’, the remnants of a different time clinging desperately to the present. The only sanctuary for myself was the large backyard, which featured former vegie gardens and water channels, which promptly became imaginary fantasy lands inhabited by tiny beings. The garage, my dad’s last refuge for his mechanical tinkering became yet another world, this time one of and underworld of strange machines. As much as I look back now at how not ok it was for a kid to live in such a place or share a bedroom with a grandparent [cue Charlie and the Chocolate Factory], I do have to say this world kick-started my imagination, and became the verdant ground upon which my mind grew like fireweed.

 

Back to Star Wars. It started off as admiration; I still remember that warm hazy night and being awed into submission by looming wedge-shaped spaceships and intense lightsaber battles. Everything else, little by little, fell to the wayside. Within a few short years I began to collect anything and everything Star Wars. My parents, of course, became worried. Star Wars, [and to a lesser extent, Star Trek], became a beacon of hope and the future for me. A promise of things to come, as well as representing the fantastical and outlandishly unreal that was lacking in my own limited world. Back then, however, there were only the three original films, and a couple b-grade Ewok movies which I will never mention again. The thing that really changed everything for me was when I picked up my first Star Wars novel.

 

I think it was 1995 and I was in sixth form at my school, which looking back was a very strict Irish Catholic all-boys school in Strathfield. I still remember my uniform consisting of schoolboy shorts, a shirt and tie, black leather school shoes, long socks and what I think now is adorably cute but hated back then: a dark blue cricketer’s style cap. I was with Mum on one of her after school trips to pay the bills, this time at the god-awful even back then Burwood Plaza shopping centre. Tucked away in a corner of the mezzanine in the shopping centre was a small Dymock’s book retailer. I can’t remember how many times I dragged my poor mum into this bookstore, only for her to have to buy God knows what for me. In this instance, I still remember the books that I was hunting for: Star Wars. I instantly was intrigued. The covers were glossy, colourful and had matte-paintings of my favourite characters, as well as mysterious new ones that I wasn’t aware of.

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The obsession begins.

 

The first Star Wars novel I picked up and read was Timothy Zahn’s Heir To The Empire, which brought me in contact with a new galaxy teeming with new adventures, places and characters. Still regarded as the pinnacle of what became known as the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the three Timothy Zahn books became a gateway into a new and growing world. Set in the Star Wars galaxy five years after the Return Of The Jedi, Heir To The Empire brought new life to the movies as an expansion upon the vibrant Star Wars galaxy. Old characters returned: Leia and Han, now married, were expecting children. Luke, a mighty full-fledged Jedi Master, was on the quest to discover the lost legacy of the original Jedi Order. New characters who fit right into the Star Wars universe were introduced: first of all, a new villain in the guise of an alien genius Admiral who was always one step ahead of our familiar heroes, who has become a fan favourite. As well as a new anti-hero, Mara Jade, who plays the part of the Emperor’s former secret agent, now rogue, who comes into contact with Luke. Sparks, of course, ensue.

 

New locales were introduced, the foremost being Coruscant, the ‘New’ Republic’s capital: a world entirely covered in urban sprawl, a concept so successful that it in fact crossed over into canon and was portrayed in the prequels.

 

Heir To The Empire was just the tip of the iceberg. More and more books and comics were to follow, forming a deluge of new adventures, characters, spaceships and gadgets and at times yes some ridiculous plots. More and more superweapons appeared with more and more ridiculous names. Try this one for size: a giant ‘Battlemoon’ [sound familiar] disguised as an asteroid named ‘Eye Of Palpatine’.

 

Or how about a Hutt-designed and constructed stripped-down Death Star shaped like a Lightsaber appropriately named ‘Darksaber’?

Then there was also the small one-man spaceship that could destroy entire star systems with the wildly cliché name ‘Sun Crusher’.

 

While the plots and devices became more and more extravagant, cliché, and over the top, all of this began to create a new and expanded universe that was built upon the foundations of the original films. It became a place where myself and I’m sure many other awkward geeky kids inhabited. I played the video games, read the books and re-watched movie after movie. Leia and Han had kids, Luke married the aforementioned Mara Jade. Many an Imperial tried over and over to take over the galaxy only to fail, including obligatory hot female Imperials like Admiral Daala and Ysanne Isard, two woeful examples of old men writing female character and having no idea how to go about it.  My parents continued to be troubled, until the day a teacher of mine told them to allay their fears, as she had trouble even getting kids in her classes to pick up a book.

 

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LUKE AND MARA 4 EVAS BFFS 4 LIFE

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Imperial Hottie Admiral Daala

 

Fast forward a decade and a half on, with yet waves more stories and adventures, not to mention a new trilogy and three cartoon TV series, and we get to today. Star Wars has been bought as a whole franchise by Disney, who are set to roll out a new trilogy set AFTER the original. Which means that all the stories that I have read will be essentially ‘taped over’ by the new movies. All the characters that were brought to life will simply vanish. This is such huge news for me, as this also entails that the universe that has been nurtured and created by so many people will essentially go up in smoke. I know that they’re just stories but to me they represented so much more than that. The ridiculousness of plots, the terrible writing and obvious character building all became redundant as it was about the world within the pages that I was interested in.

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Imperial Hottie Number 2: Ysanne Isard

 

For me I guess its just one of those things that separates your childhood and adolescence, to adulthood. I still love and adore the world of Star Wars, and I’m so completely stoked for the next film to come out [only 389 days left!], yet a part of me will always feel sad as the proverbial door is shut to this imaginary yet so real place. I’m reminded of CS Lewis’ setting of Narnia, wherein only young minds can wander from our world into Narnia, and once they’ve all grown up, Narnia is nothing but a whisper on the wind. The Star Wars I knew and loved and grew up with has died, and a piece of my childhood has gone with it.

 

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