Two interesting things happened to this blog in the last two months.  The first is that I somehow got myself locked out, the second is that somehow, my idle blog manage to rack up the hits without me even being there.  I don't know how that happened, but I am grateful.  First and most importantly, my most heartfelt thanks go out to all of you who have read, followed, kept tabs on, commented on and checked in on this blog over time.  It means a lot that people are still reading.
Over time, I've come to realise that this blog, and the format of the host site, just isn't really doing it for me, so I've moved on.  I'm still writing and blogging, but in a new space.  I've gone through a lot of changes this year, and I think this is reflected in my new work, where I have a much greater sense of coherence and direction.  Please feel free to pop over to the new site and follow me over there.  I'd love to see you on the other side!
Thanks always!
Come find me at Notes From a Little Mouse!

A Much Needed Word on Weight...

Post New Years, post Christmas, post turkey and bacon and a whole hell of a lot of candy, I will say this: I'm feeling pretty damn good about my body right now.  Not what you'd expect a woman to say after the gluttonous hedonism of the holiday season, but it's the truth.  The reason is that I've decided that I'm just not going to care anymore.  Not to say that I'm going to forgo showers and tumble down the street with my hair a frazzled greasy puff.  I've just decided I'm going to give myself a break.  I'm going to stop beating on myself over my weight.
     It's the most horribly tired cliche, that of the woman ever obsessing over her size, and it is something that is, and probably always has been, a serious social problem.  Girls don't just wake up one day and decide that they are fat.  They don't look in the mirror one morning and come to the conclusion that their arms are a little too loose, or that their stomach is too wide, their thighs to bumpy, arse to big, whatever, etc, and on and on.  No, they don't decide they are big overnight: they are not hardwired to suddenly start crying in the bathroom at the age of fourteen.  Genetics don't cause them to fear people watching them eat nor do they create the notion that a girl's body is simply not good enough.  Girl's don't come to this idea on their own.  Someone has to tell them.  And oh, how we tell them in so very many ways.
     For a girl, it's over before she even gets to the age of five.  Her dolls are slim, her heroines are slim, the women on the covers of the magazines she witnesses as she waits for her mother in the hair salon, are sickeningly thin.  Though she cannot yet read, she can see the way that 'fat' is singled out every time in the articles.  She cannot not see it.  Excess 'fat' on celebrities is all too often circled in red and blown up in bold.  She doesn't question her own body, not yet, but already she has an expectation of what her body should grow up to look like.  How can she not break down when she draws near puberty and realises that she is striving to grow into an impossible ideal?  The duckling fails to grow into a swan, and being less than swan is unsatisfying for we have been programmed since childhood to believe that anything less than swan is 'ugly'.  Her torment is encoded from the first doll gifted to her; symmetric of face, with an impossibly tiny waist.

When I grow up... note the disproportionate waist of the doll on the right.

Hello Again. Thank You For Waiting.

She appears again, out of the ether.  Shocked eyes turn, for a moment.  She blinks like a wounded owl cast suddenly into the light.
The dust settles.  No one spares a second thought.  People move on.  She ambles along as though nothing were different.  
She's back.

Maybe with a little more longevity and enthusiasm this time.

     Not to say there wasn't enthusiasm before.  It's just, and I'm sure it's plain to see dear readers, I have been somewhat absent.  Not to make excuses but it's been a rough year.  It's a tough gig finishing an honours degree and finding out it does nothing to help you find work.  I've paid my rent as a telephone jockey for Telstra's whipping line: inbound billing and activations.  Ever thought you've been so pissed off about your internet service that you'd call your provider and let the poor sap cop some of your abuse?  Spare a thought next time and spare your vitriol, that poor sap is me.
     I have had people swear at me, scream at me, belittle and attempt to denigrate me.  Some people think they'll squeeze money out of me by threatening my job, others think they can frighten me by threatening to sue, and then there are always the delightful crazies that think that the appropriate way to approach getting what they want is to threaten my life.  Yes, we do regularly receive death threats.
     Now, before you go off thinking that you are so angry that sometimes, we innocent and uninvolved, underpaid workers that happen to get dumped with your call somehow deserve this, and I will take this tangent only once: Think Again.
     WE DON'T.  And whatever insincere, mumbled apology you manage to scrape together at the end of your tirade is down to the dirt insulting.  I declare this now: your flimsy apologies are irrelevant, negated by your total lack of respect for another human being.
     Mull on this for a minute.  If I walked into a store, stepped up to the consultant (who I will assume does not know me, but whether or not we are familiar is really not a point of contention) and began screaming at her in a decidedly gut-wrenching and primal tone, flapping my arms about and threatening her life, I can promise you that someone would call security.  I might even be arrested.  Threatening someone's life, regardless of how much money they have charged you, is actually a crime.  Don't believe me?  Check this out:
Section 199 of the Crimes Act.
     But Telstra aside, if this year resembled a piece of wood it would look like a dried out chunk of splintery chipboard, just before bushfire season.  A person's sense of self takes a few knocks when they find themselves without direction, empty spirited and chained to a phone.  There is more to it than that, of course.  There is a well used phrase that perfectly suits this annual sojourn around the sun and that phrase is this -
Shit went down.
     I wont go into the details, but simply put, various events pushed my already fragile mental state to its limit.  Looking back I feel as though I was force fragmented somehow, as though the shell of my mind had fractured but hadn't fully cracked.  It wasn't one specific thing.  There were trigger moments, definitely.  Specific points in time, certain choices, things said and unsaid, individuals caught in the fray.  It was a very very messy and difficult year, but in a way I can take from it a very strong positive.  I can take from it the knowledge that through the darkest days I could come to admit that I needed help.
     It's not just one year that causes a person to break down.  It comes at the end of a build up, like the barbed tail of a dragon catching to tear the roof off the last standing hut once the carnage has passed.  I had been trying very hard to hide from what I knew was coming.  I was testing my creativity for the first time since the trial of honours, but my confidence was shattered.  The Dialogue Experiment was my feeler project, and I had hoped that I could use it to make myself  inspired.  It worked, for a little while, until I realised that I was struggling to find anyone that had anything very interesting to say.
      The trouble with The Dialogue Experiment, aside from the obvious problem of needing to regularly overhear interesting, inspiring, humourous or thoughtful conversations, is the fact that it kept me online.  My self esteem was at an all time low.  I'd put on weight during my honours year and was struggling to lose it, I had no confidence in my ability as a writer or an artist, and I hated my job.  I didn't just hate it, I was ashamed of it.  Given that I was desperate to promote The Dialogue Experiment and the fact that Facebook is largely an exercise in shameless self-promotion, my increasing exposure to social media was causing me harm.  I came to the point where I realised that I resented my friends, and then I realised something I found more shocking.  I resented the ones that looked happy.
     I had to get off social media all together.  I had to get off of the internet and start looking at picking up my life.  A week passed and I abandoned The Dialogue Experiment.  I didn't log into Facebook.  I stayed away from Googling people I thought were interesting.  I started trying to find things to do that would make me happy.  And I went to see my doctor.
     I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and I found out I had low blood pressure as well, which didn't help.  For a while I was prescribed anti-depressants.  I am not ashamed to say now that I needed them.  After a time, it seemed they weren't working as well, and I took myself off of them, but for those first few weeks they were a lifesaver.  Admitting I needed help was the best thing I could have done.  It's a hell of a road and I've got a long way to go, but I have come a very long way too.  I know there are things I could do to help myself further.  I need to keep on top of regularly seeing a counselor.  I have to make sure I eat well and exercise, I need to tell myself to get up now and then.  But I'm a fighter, and I've made massive strides considering what I've come from.  I keep my head high like an Indian Brave.
     Which leads me to the point of this little comeback.  I've actually done a lot of work this year that I haven't really talked about and haven't given myself credit for.  My dear director friend, Gareth James has been writing, directing, editing, producing, etc, work for his production company, Dystopic Films, and for the last two years I've been sitting behind the scenes, reading scripts, helping to find props, providing locations (my house) and just generally acting as moral support.  This year though, I got my Gareth James acting debut, playing the role of Kate in his short, "Pictures in the Cutting Room" (2010).  It was a thoroughly incredible experience, and since then, Gareth and I have been co-writing and co-developing our first feature film, in which I am to play a role.  I wont give too much away at this point, but I will tell you this, it will be a psychological horror that brings horror back to a focus on human drama.  It's a lot of work, and a lot of preparation, but it's very invigorating so it's work I'm happy to do.
     I'm also due to be working on another dear friend's project in the coming months.  Joseph Brennan, a beautiful inspiring man, is working towards launching a new quarterly men's journal, Mettle, aimed at Gay males of which I will be a part of the editorial team.  So far, the first issue is due to be released in April.  And on that note, call for submissions is currently open, now accepting submissions of art, fiction, poetry and articles, if anyone is interested in submitting any work.  Please do, we'd love to hear from you.
     On my own, I gave Nanowrimo a go this year.  For those that don't know, it's like a marathon for writers.  The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.  For those that finish, you get a certificate.  There is no prize, just the satisfaction of knowing you have done it, of knowing  you can pull that kind of volume out of yourself in a short space of time.  Of course, the work is invariably terrible, but that is not the point.  Nano is designed to teach you to write fearlessly, and to have faith in what you can write.  I gave it my best.  This year I didn't finish, but I'm okay with that.  This November I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Florida and spend time getting to know my American family.  They are incredible people, and I have learned so much about myself getting to know them.  It was a clear choice, pump out another 30,000 words, or spend two weeks healing my soul and filling my mind with enough stories to write 100,000 words next year.  I got to 18,000 very strong words and am very proud.  I now have the solid ground work for a novel I have been wanting to write for 6 years, and I plan to keep going.  Expect to see updates on this blog in the coming weeks.
     To say it's been bumpy would be an understatement, but I'm getting there.  I am braver, I am stronger and I feel more grounded within myself.  I expect rough days and rocky seas, but I also expect that I can stand with the courage to brave the waves that smack into me.  This is my official re-opening of the Snowball Rolling Project.  Expect regular updates on creative projects, expect more stories and more art, and expect more honesty.  I plan to release a couple of things that have been on my chest as we go.  No more secrets, no more hiding and no more fear.  I said before that my secrets made me who I am.  No more.  I make me who I am.  Ask me a question and I will answer you honestly.  I'm throwing out the secrets that have hidden this beautiful face for far too long.  And me saying that  is not being  arrogant.  We are all of us, incredibly beautiful.  Some of us just don't know it yet.

The Dialogue Experiment

Time for a bit of shameless cross promotion...
I've just started The Dialogue Experiment; an attempt to regularly (I'm assuming weekly at this point) narrate a version of the world using ten short pieces of real life conversation.  There is only one rule: the pieces of conversations used must be extracted from true, spoken conversation.  No text messages, online chats or Twitter updates allowed.  The reason for this is that, in an ever increasing trend towards communicating our lives via online and digital media, we are losing the power of our personal voice.  This experiment is my attempt to bring something of the power of voice back and to narrate using these voices, my own kind of written art.
And yes, I am aware of the irony of drawing attention to the overuse of online media through the medium of online media.  Nevertheless, it is a useful tool to illustrate the point.
Feel free to check it out.  You can also 'like' it on Facebook.

The Joy of Adventure, Cold Air on your Face...

It's late, somewhere close to midnight and the holes in my cherry-print flats are mashing dirt into my toes.  We walk by the roadside, this three lane concrete lizard that arcs it's back through the middle of suburban Sydney.  On this stretch of road, so like other stretches of over-expensive, under-maintained highway, we could be anywhere.  A girl and a boy.  a red jacket.  A half-empty bottle of coke.
    It is thick night and the cars that normally clog this road like so many grimy scales have thinned to a trickle.  Wild rabbits come out of hiding.  The moon, almost full, glows out from beneath the purple halo of intermittent cloud.  Overhanging branches scratch at our shoulders as we scrape past.  It is not quiet, but it is calm.
   We know this road and yet we don't know it.  Four years I had sped along, swept along, ten minutes with my eyes closed and my headphones in, pressed against the window of a bus.  I had traveled this road every day for different reasons.  I had stared at this road through different emotions.  I remember the red lane through pure joy and laughter, glimpsed for a moment with friends.  The bus stations with frustration, exhaustion, and stress.  The grass by the bridge watched through the intense concentration of tears down a window pane...
   And yet we did not know it.  Though we had ridden it every day, had held every conversation we deemed possible while pounding over it with heavy tires, we had not for one second known it.  We could not, for how could we?  We had not smelled the air once the cars had passed, nor had we felt the way the ground cracked and bumped and rolled beneath our feet.  We had not the chance to feel one moment of that road with the beat of our own physical lives and yet we knew the road by name.  We were certain we knew all the places it led.
   We had walked this night, though the trains were running and we had paid for our tickets.  We had walked because the air was fresh and the night was clear and our love was strong.  It had not taken much thought.  A simple step, and then another and off we went, into the dark and away from the station.  We cut through the university and counted the rabbits.  We took a moment to photograph, in our minds, the way the campus looked with its new half-built buildings, so changed and yet still changing.  In the quiet, in the dark, we had the time to appreciate the transience of the space I had called home and work for so many years and we could walk slowly amongst it, void of cars, void of people.  A beating and impermanent space.
   Coming to the road we could see, for the first time, the way the grass grew in pits and pockets on the sidewalk.  We could note the ways in which the rubbish and debris tossed from windows came to gather in the edges of retaining walls like gaudy jewelery.  We could experience, for the first time, the heart-thudding rush as we dashed along the bus lane having been forced off the shrinking footpath.  We would flit, quickly across the road into the shadow of the bush, safe from the danger of passing cars.
   It was here we found the secret steps.  It was here we found the hidden walkway and darted through the bush that looked like jungle.  Here, we came out at a private driveway and slipped quietly past monolithic houses.  Here I checked my feet for leeches while Matt walked ahead, striding with a giant stick as though he were a sherpa.
   In time, we were back in town, back to the houses and streets we knew well.  But we were different.  We lumbered home, strolling out of the wood like we'd come down from a mountain.  Red-cheeked and dry-eyed we came home, more alive than we had been that day.  We felt as though we had seen a new land, as though we had discovered something that no one else would ever see.  And though thousands of people will pass that road today and tomorrow, and for many years to come, it seems true that few will ever really see.  They will not know the air or the smell or the feel of the wind, nor will they know the fear of the cars or the joy of stepping into the unknown.  For those that never walk the road, never have the time or take the time, there will be no secret stairway, no hidden walkway, no jungle bush, no mystery and no magic.  There will be only petrol and congestion, stereos and radios and the bounce of an engine.  There will be only the disconnection of the drive.

Why Synesthetics?

Synesthesia has been known to medical discourse for roughly 200 years.  The first known publication, written by Francis Galton, was published in 1880, though alternative accounts note medical references that date back as far as 1735 (Ramachandran & Hubbard, Castel).  Suggestions that interest synesthesia is a long spanning occurrence persists outside of medical discourse however, suggesting that sensory immersion and its effects on subjectivity is of continuing relevance to the field of philosophy and cultural theory.  John Harrison notes the history of references pertaining to the topic of synesthesia can be found to date back as far as 6th Century, BC, where suggestions of sensory synthesis can be found in the work of Pythagoras (Harrison).

   From a medico-scientific perspective, synesthesia has been historically difficult to study and thus difficult to legitimate due to the fact that its 'symptoms' are radically varied, difficult to quantify and difficult for patients to explain in any consistent 'objective' manner (Cytowic).  The reportedly highly subjective nature of synesthesia causes difficulty for medico-scientific frameworks discursively reliant on physiological empirical proof and thus, the subjective, metaphor heavy (and in many cases metaphor necessary) attempts to explain subjective synesthetic accounts according to a language structure incapable of supporting cross-modal descriptions of experience may explain the tendency for the occurrence of synesthesia to be historically medically and scientifically dismissed.  Nevertheless, synesthesia has encountered a renaissance in recent years, likely due to the advanced capacity of new technology for diagnostic purposes, along with attitude shifts regarding subjectivity and identity that have occurred in the last several decades.

   Synesthesia causes us to ask poignant questions about the nature of subjectivity and identity.  Synesthesia, as a neurological phenomenon, asks us to reconsider the ways in which we conceive of ourselves; our body and our subject, through senses.  Synesthesia challenges binary discourses of reason, and thus, challenges a multiplicity of binary structures that take legitimacy from the binary that places reason over emotion, for example, the binary that associates the masculine with reason, thereby oppressing the feminine according to the standards set by the reason/emotion structure.  Synesthesia forces us to face the stereotypes, boundaries and restrictions that we have been self-imposing and upholding through discursive construction and repetition for hundreds of years.  Using synesthetics; applying the theoretical challenge to writing and language that synesthesia presents, can help us to rethink, re-evaluate and rewrite personal expression in ways that relish in the multiple individual quirks of personal expression.

   Synesthesia is far more than a neurological condition, and more intensely experienced than an over-active imagination.  Synesthetics, inspired by synesthesia, give way to a multiplicity of ways in which we can extend and expand on what we think we know about language, and in turn, what we think of ourselves.  This is the basic principle upon which my honours thesis was founded, and it is the current that beats throughout all of my work.  The novel is a dying art if we cannot seek to make it more than what it has become.  This is the hope behind synesthetics.  To question and expand; to create/re-create out of the remnants of a dusty and tired literary tradition, something anew. 

This entry is titled, why synesthetics?  The answer is, why not?

Some Comics

A while back, The Macquarie University Comedy Club, aka, my delightfully misfit friends, asked me to do some comic strips for their Zine, Spoke.  I only did them for one issue, but here they are: 'Asakura Sunday' and 'Chronicles of Yuji'.  Hope you like them as much as I liked making them!