Sunday, December 15, 2013

Beyoncé's Beyoncé

I'm currently having an intense fan experience.

Listening to Beyoncé's surprise album, and watching the videos, I'm abuzz. It's a 'visual album' that was not hyped in the lead up to it's release, but in it's post-release (these last few days), with the feeling of "how the fuck did that just happen?" How is there now 14 songs and 17 videos to digest, in one huge pill? And they're intense and fierce and at this moment I know that this is the best work Beyoncé has ever created.

And I'm tempted to write thousands of words on why and how this moment is, but I won't. Instead I'll let this wash over me for the weekend and the years to follow.

One thing I want to say is that I love the feminism of this moment. There's a lot of symbols, gestures and overt claims to feminism and gender difference here, and it's as though this is a cultural/media/sexualities text whose complexity could probably never be captured by any scholar, but is best experienced through fandom; in one's responses, delights and engagements with this text. Because this is a feeling, pulsating, and beautiful moment that is contradictory, angry, desiring, seductive and fucked up. This is happening right now, and any historical or cultural overview is going to attempt to suffocate that.

This might be the most subversive feminist text I've read in a while.

Friday, November 15, 2013

machines must be destroyed

I hate iPads. I hate iAnnotate. I hate Apple TM and its ubiquitous, controlling, techno-fascism.
Today was spent trying to download an app on a work-provided iPad that I can no longer stand to look at (unless I'm kicking it to pieces).
Welcome to the modern academic work life of the under/over employed postgrad student.
I signed a contract for 8 hours of marking. So many contracts. So much paperwork that has to be completed, signed, scanned, delivered, and processed so that I can do a job that takes about the same amount of time as all the combined labour in doing the initial paperwork.
But I'm cheap labour because I work from home.
I ring the IT Centre and they say they don't really deal with the iPads. "Can you bring it in?" he says, "what campus are you on?"
My campus is my home that is currently being poisoned by my anger at this working life i find myself in.
Half of those 8 hours have been spent already and I've marked no essays. So I'll probably work 14 hours I suppose. And I'll probably not complain because there's nobody to whom I could fairly direct this anger. I can shake my fist at the institution of course, but we're all doing that anyway. So what?
I've offered to mark the essays on paper, the old-fashioned way. I'm awaiting a response. But I'm not touching them today because today is ruined and I need to walk away from these screens now and go pick up some scissors and paper to cut things out and make something pretty. I need to play some records.
They say you can choose the life you want to live, but I can't choose the analogue life that I want. At least not without major life restructuring and a future of poverty and loneliness.
Meanwhile I'm about to start teaching online at another institution who likes to outsource work to the restless homes of PhD students. There's 6 different people that have graced my inbox in relation to this job, and I'm expected to know who they are, what roles they play, and how we're all supposed to relate to each other. Most of these people I've never met or spoken to. I send a question today, pointing out that I don't have access to 'the system'. Someone's response points to the responsibilities of 3 of the other people - one is away, one is sick, the other (it is suggested) hasn't done his job. It's very easy to hate people without faces and blame them for my discomfort. I just want a fucking password and the induction training that was promised. But now I get an online induction tool. More unpaid time to figure out systems that have no relevance to my life/occupation other than me needing to voluntarily learn them so I can briefly use them to make my way to another small sum of money. And all this while I'm poisoning my home with anger directed at screens. My workplace/loungeroom is spared of colleagues, resources, and adequate IT. I guess there's a password for me, but it just hasn't been communicated to me. Communication being that thing we do between screens, in solitary numbness, without having to look at the angry disappointment on each others' faces.
Time to find a real job.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

and i forgot...

"And I forgot the element of chance introduced by circumstances, calm or haste, sun or cold, dawn or dusk, the taste of strawberries or abandonment, the half-understood message, the front page of newspapers, the voice on the telephone, the most anodyne conversation, the most anonymous man or woman, everything that speaks, makes noise, passes by, touches us lightly, meets us head on."

La Démarche poétique - Jacques Sojcher, 1976

Friday, October 18, 2013

work-related injury

Work's Intimacy, a book by Mel Gregg, has been sitting on my shelf at work for many months. I haven't had time to read it. I'm writing about intimacy, but the intimacy of young people's sex and friendships, so while the title initially piqued my interest, I put it aside because the content was not relevant to my current need. But I was keen to read it, so added it to the 'for later' pile. I have been rationalising my reading habits for the good part of a decade now (i.e. forever). When I picked it up this morning and read the introduction, it was a confronting read. This is my life.

Before I went there:
I've been having gut issues again, so last night at R's house I didn't drink, I didn't have chocolate, I sipped mineral water as we watched a film. I felt my stomach grow tense. I'm thinking that my fear of being sick is generative of sickness, because there's no other explainable reason. Other than stress. My to-do list is not shrinking, but growing, and I'm juggling too many roles which I've never been good at. I'm struggling to retain a hold of 'responsible-me'. I'm lying in bed this morning, being held and caressed in ways that should have comforted me, but instead I feel ashamed, embarrassed, pathetic; "I've got to go home." I walk up the hill and my reflection in windows tells me I should have fixed my bed-hair. Everyone is walking to work and nobody is happy. I feel weak and hideous. I make it home and I breathe easier. I run a bath. I make a cup of tea. I say "fuck work" (for now), and take this book to the bath.

It unsettles me more, of course. What I'm reading here is my story and the story of many like me: the 24/7 worker. I'm paid to work 21 hours a week, and often take on other roles/jobs to supplement this. The rest of my week I work on my thesis. Lately, I don't really partition these roles from each other. My to-do list is a mish-mash of all things that I "do", including non work things, like sending birthday cards, or phoning a friend I promised to call weeks ago.

I use social media at work and feel bad for doing so, for communicating 'off topic' with friends. Yet all the list making and emailing I do for work while I'm at home is just par for the course and I don't count those minutes. I can't count those minutes. Minutes thinking about work and what I need to do tomorrow or next week are countless. I would need some brain meter to calculate this, because my mind just goes there, and then it seems necessary to make a note of something or send that email, because otherwise I'd forget, again. So I do what I feel like I have to before going back to the things I'm doing, and it doesn't make sense to calculate time spent thinking, acting, noting, what I should confine to my work life. Besides, who's got time to count minutes. Doing so would mean attempting to divide my practices into many separate strands. But this is not how work is done. If I'm 'working' I'll often find some material useful for studies. If I'm talking about my thesis I'll invariably end up talking about work. If I'm tackling my inbox, then I'm reading and responding to all things, in no distinctive order. My mind wonders between my roles in no logical fashion, but in response to the stimulus I'm getting from colleagues, friends, peers, emails, readings, etc.

I just want to get by. I want to enjoy my work and I want to enjoy time with friends. I do all of this, but I guess at this particular moment, this morning, I'm looking for sanctuary. But instead, I take downtime to look into an uncomfortable mirror. I see myself clearly as that person who struggles to be efficient, competent, and hardworking so that I might forge a position for myself in which I can pay my rent and enjoy my friends, work, family, travels, etc. I'm doing exactly what I never wanted to. I'm working for a living, but I've failed, because I feel more insecure and unsure than when I began this journey.

And I guess this is a blip of a minor existential crisis and it will pass. And I want it to. I feel safer knowing that I will not see these things tomorrow. I feel angry about this system, and enlightened by this book, but hopeful that I can continue to feel connected to the world through my work, which is how it often is. It saddens me that my vision of self-worth looks to my work/study-related outputs, but it does. And so I need to keep going and publishing and progressing so that I can feel good about myself in years to come. And to ensure that my rent is covered. I defer thinking up an escape plan until next year. Because I don't have time for planning right now. My to-do list is already too long.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

lists, photos, paris, packing

and so it happens again. i'm packing up another home for this year. my six week stay here is soon over. once again i make piles of my stuff and grimace at the volume. this will not do. why can't i be lighter than this?

and there's all those files and papers that i was meant to go through and discard, but i've barely made a dent.

and i'm a bit sad to leave another home, but happy for the experience of being here. with each new home, a few more changes, and a different me moves out and on to the next place.

in this place i cook a lot, i try to be more healthy, i ride to and from work, i drive a car, i watch Orange is the New Black, i listen to Daft Punk, i remember what it's like to live alone and choose to keep doing this.

as always, i've made endless lists on scraps of paper which litter the kitchen table and haunt me as i pass. as always, i aim for 'being organised'.

soon i'll have a postcode i've never had before, but one shared by several loved ones, which is always important in sydney. i have this here too, and back there. but this time i'll have a lease, a small apartment, and a new arrangement of my stuff (if it fits). it feels a bit like when i was 18 and moving out for the first time. no longer reliant on my 'family' to put a roof over my head.

the sun is out; another sign of promise. it's not unlike summer in paris, where my thoughts are. today (yesterday) two of my favourite people meet in paris for the first time, in my favourite apartment; my other home. in photos, their arms wrap around each other. worlds colliding, or folding, or shrinking. i can't help feeling proud. i did that.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

i remember touch

1) househunting is no fun.
2) nor is your lover being on the other side of the world.
3) nor is self-discipline.

but all of these things give shape to my life at present.

i focus on the last of these which has its rewards. i change my diet (wholefoods, low sugar) so that i no longer feel my body twisting and groaning and causing fatigue. i recommence swimming and remember what it's like to return to the computer with a clear head and the ability to digest words. i re-draft two chapters for my supervisor. combined, these things make me feel better, and give me less grief in thinking about points 1 and 2.

sydney is too expensive. but i'm now forging a repetoire of home-cooked cheap meals, so i'm almost ready to suck it up and pay half my salary as rent, in the hope that this will be temporary.

i'm listening to this song a lot.



yes, i remember touch. it's coming up two weeks (the halfway point) and it's an itch of a memory that i can't shed. i look to see what substitutes may be around, but nothing appeals. besides, i'm no longer in the age bracket of appeal in this world, so do little but awkwardly witness a series of banal self-representations. it's as nourishing as commercial tv.

this song, however, is exquisite. it's like phantom of the opera meets sci-fi memories of times when affection was had. the remembrance of touch. and it doesn't fail to cite disco: a hopeful mode of nostalgia if there ever was one. yes, of course i will survive. and my emotional state is clearly the driving force behind this song. the beat is terribly inconsistent but it makes more sense that way. it feels more real, and also not.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

angry sunday

today i'm angry about this country. i'm reading and posting and commenting on the Rudd government's new refugee policy. from now on, any refugee arriving in Australia by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea. so Australia sheds itself from any responsibility in helping many refugees, instead deporting them so that their treatment, conditions, and rights need not be considered by the Australian government. it's being framed as a deterrent against 'people smugglers', of course, yet regardless of caricaturing them as criminal evil-doers (hang on, aren't they also enablers, and people who save people?), this policy impacts upon 'the victims' that Rudd is pretending to fight for: asylum seekers. Rudd is saying 'lives are at stake', and so deterrence measures are required. yes, the value of lives is being used to justify a policy that is actually very negligent of lives. hello doublespeak.

maybe i don't know enough about the issue - we keep being told that it's a "complex issue" after all. and maybe i'm being too emotional in my response, but maybe that's valid. because the coldness of the Rudd 'solution' is something we should be disgusted, angered, and hurt by. this is not what politics should be. and this seems to be the difficulty many of us are facing.

and of course it's all about winning votes in marginal seats. there's a clear and obvious history of Australian electioneering that uses the lives of others (or irrational fears of otherness) to do so:



materials that offer facts and evidence about asylum seeker and refugee issues in Australia are surfacing, and this is great to see, but i wonder if they're read by anyone not already left-aligned. and i guess, i too have a fear of otherness, but my phobia is of those who appear impervious to compassion, and of a political landscape in which this not challenged, but accepted, and worked into national policy.

lastly, and mostly, i just need to say "fuck you Kevin Rudd".