Fri-Yay: weekly wrap up (tri-weekly edition)

Watching:
Voyager and nothing else, SORRY I’M NOT SORRY

Reading:
Articles about Autism Spectrum Disorders and women: Maia Szalavitz’s ‘Autism: It’s Different In Girls‘ from Scientific American and Apoorva Mandavilli’s ‘The Lost Girls‘ from Spectrum; articles about Australian land art and Janet Laurence; the third book in Anne Bishop’s The Others series (in which the Bad Guys have just been found out to be drowning babies, in case their moral position wasn’t already clear).

Installation is one of the most significant extensions of dematerialisation [in the arts]: rather than offering an optical object to contemplate, it provides an immersive experience that necessarily entails [what Walter Benjamin referred to as] ‘tactile appropriation’.

–Susan Best, ‘Immersion and Distraction: The Environmental Art of Janet Laurence’ in Art & Australia, vol. 38, no. 1, 2000, p. 86


Writing:
Space Witches, elaborate work emails and bitter tweets.

It was too dark to see the captain’s face, but there was no doubt that it was Artema who rushed from witch to witch, moving like a shadow. As Cassa watched, a glow began to form above the agorai kiros–the dimmest hint of witchlight. At the same time, she felt a flicker of power reaching out to her. Anno’s mind inviting her to join the thread. She found the edges of the light spell, but it seemed sluggish, smudged, and there didn’t seem to be any way for her to latch onto it.

“Adepta?”

She’d been so intent on finding the spell threads that she hadn’t noticed Captain Mol approaching. Cassa tried to blink away the darkness, focus on the captain’s face. Artema’s eyes were fierce, ready for a fight. She was the only person Cassa had seen who hadn’t looked ready to drop.

“I’m holding the threads with Anno but I’m no transmuter, Cassa. My spells are smothering the witchlight, but Anno can’t hold it on his own. I need your power in the cast.”

“By yours hands, Captain. But I can’t focus on the threads, can’t hold them.”

The captain grimaced.

“That’s because of me. I’ll need to withdraw slowly, but if I just drop out the entire spell will break.”

Cassa had done spell handovers countless times. But she’d never had to hold threads that had been cast by anyone outside of the Order of Persa. Hell, she wasn’t even sure she could find half of them. Still, she bobbed her head.

“I’ll be ready to pick up the cast as soon as I can link into it.”


Doing:
Printed deluxe colour copies of my next zine (and then didn’t have money for the plain old b&w printing); got sucked in to online craft tutorials about watercolour pencils, hand-drawn lettering and drawing roses; bought a new flavour of T2 tea; attended the Feminist Writers Festival networking day with a bunch of other amazing babes; fought off my first Twitter Misogynist.

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Fri-Yay: Weekly Roundup

Writing: plans of my Space Witches story (character summaries, chapter outlines) rather than my actual Space Witches story.

Reading: finished Anne Bishop’s Written In Red, started the next book in the series (Murder Of Crows) and realised that there are another two after that and counting…

Watching: finished season 3 of Star Trek: Voyager, started season 4 of Star Trek: Voyager.

Doing: thinking a lot about how much of what I love about Voyager is the dynamic of found families, how what I love about Anne Bishop’s books is the dynamic of found families, and how what I want to make central in Space Witches is… the dynamic of found families. This idea of finding similarities with others, of treating strangers with respect rather than mistrust, of relying on one another: Simon learning to trust Meg in Written In Red, judging her by her actions and not her past, seeing past his mistrust to realise how much she’s helped his traumatised nephew. The reciprocation of care and compassion: flash forward to Voyager’s future, a scarred Janeway saying a final goodbye to a blinded Tuvok, taking his face in her hands and then crushing him into a hug, Tuvok being led away by Seven of Nine, who has become his assistant. That sense of being alone, being in an unfamiliar world, and finding these people to become your closest and most trusted companions, when the necessity of their company becomes a choice, a choice to build these bonds and protect them and work towards a shared future.

Fri-Yay: Weekly Roundup

WRITING: this terrible pun on the subject of how to pronounce the colloquial abbreviation of ‘casual’:


READING: this keynote speech by Mia Mingus for the Femmes Of Colour symposium in 2011:

If we are ever unsure about what femme should be or how to be femme, we must move toward the ugly.  Not just the ugly in ourselves, but the people and communities that are ugly, undesirable, unwanted, disposable, hidden, displaced.  This is the only way that we will ever create a femme-ness that can hold physically disabled folks, dark skinned people, trans and gender non-conforming folks, poor and working class folks, HIV positive folks, people living in the global south and so many more of us who are the freaks, monsters, criminals, villains of our fairytales, movies, news stories, neighborhoods and world.  This is our work as femmes of color: to take the notion of beauty (and most importantly the value placed upon it) and dismantle it (challenge it), not just in gender, but wherever it is being used to harm people, to exclude people, to shame people; as a justification for violence, colonization and genocide.

(Read full transcript here: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/)

WATCHING: lots of Star Trek: Voyager, plus the film clip to Gin Wigmore’s latest single ‘Willing To Die’:


DOING: ate cake and rolled up a new D&D character (gnome wizard alchemist) with my friend Ben.

Fri-Yay (on Sunday): Weekly Roundup

WRITING:

<<Cassa?>>

It’s the softest of touches breaking in on my thoughts, so gentle I barely register it. I open my eyes involuntarily, though there’s not much point. I reach out with my mind instead, latch onto that little voice.

Thea’s mind feels different. Younger, somehow. Tired. I’d never noticed any sense of incompleteness, but now, in the darkness, I’m aware just how much of her was linked in to her support suit. What I can feel seems fragile and my shoulders square up protectively, even though she’s nowhere nearby.

<<Thea. By the gods it’s good to hear from you. What happened?>>

She’s amused by the question. <<You tell me. I’m the one who just woke up in a heap on the floor in the dark.>>

I cast around for a reasonable explanation. But it’s been two hours since the shutdown and no matter where I look in the ship’s systems, I still have no clue what might have knocked out the omniarch. And I haven’t had contact from the other teams, so I’m guessing we’re all in the same position.

I haven’t done as much work on Space Witches as I’d hoped for on my week off, but I’ve done some, so that’s one small victory. By all the gods, it is a fucking slog, though. I’m currently writing psychic communication, cybersuits, and complete ship systems failure and I kinda have no idea how to make any of them work. A+++ being a writer is the best and certainly not difficult and disheartening ever at all.
READING: Anne Bishop’s Written In Red; bits of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus because I’m using it in a zine because I’m an impossible nerd; new poetry collections from Tamryn Bennett and Carmine Frascarelli, launched as part of the Rabbit Poets Series this week (and it’s amazing to be here for Tamryn’s first book, even though we haven’t seen much of each other since being undergrads together at UOW.

Tamryn Bennett at the Melbourne launch of Phosphene, July 28th 2016. Photo by Richard Mudford.

WATCHING: Took myself to see Ghostbusters and Hunt For The Wilderpeople on Monday. GB is pretty much as good as you could hope for from a Feig-led remake; it’s probably as good as the original but is more or less a bunch of gags and CG set pieces strung together by some uninteresting dialogue and inconseqential emotional resonance, but you’re watching a bunch of ghosts being busted so come on what do you expect? It’s good but not great, but for an action comedy based on a 20-something-year-old concept, it totally does what it says on the tin. In contrast, Wilderpeople is hilarious and clever, wacky and original and yet oh-so relatable, the performances are magnificent, New Zealand looks as ruggedly beautiful as ever, and I still have a massive wide-on for Sam Neill even when he plays an aging weirdo but that’s a personal thing that I just have to deal with for myself. Also, although the GB cameos are cute and fun fanservice, Taiki Waititi’s cameo scene in Wilderpeople is maybe the funniest thing I’ve seen on film in the past year.

First of all, how dare you with your face?

DOING: I’ve had a week of annual leave from work, so: Cheap Tickets Monday at the Kino, where I discovered they make you tea with actual real tea leaves rather than just a bag; blood donation, where I discovered that the Melbourne CBD donor centre has an automatic beverage dispenser that makes hot chocolate so I stayed there for longer than is strictly necessary or welcome; putting all of my pay straight into my savings account and water bill; mowing and gardening on the warmest, sunniest day we’ve had so far this month; eating more pasta than is strictly necessary or healthy.

Fri-Yay: Weekly Roundup

Writing: mostly detailed-to-the-point-of-passive-aggression instructions for my workmates.

Reading: smashing through Written In Red, the first book in Anne Bishop’s latest urban fantasy series. I have such a weak spot for Anne Bishop so I’m rereading WIR so I can move onto the sequels.

Watching: that one in Star Trek: Voyager where Harry Kim returns to his non-Starfleet life and is unbearably insipid; that one in Star Trek: TNG where Wesley receives a death sentence on the creepy Eden planet where everyone’s blonde and tanned and loves sex and jogging.

Doing: went on one long multi-lap walk around the dog park with a local friend, saw innumerable Good Dogs; got my tax return and immediately put it into my savings account for this month’s rent; bought a new jumper and some eyeliner because I have self-control issues regarding a) not buying things that I decide I want and b) not eating all of the biscuits in any given packet of biscuits; I also ate an entire packet of biscuits in one go (Coles brand ginger creams, RRP. $1 a packet).

Fri-Yay: Weekly Roundup

Writing:
“Textual fragmentation and ambiguity–at both syntactical and linguistic levels–is not just an intellectual device for undermining the power of representational (i.e. ‘meaningful’) language, as the LANGUAGE poets might suggest, but also a tool for establishing readerly affect through ‘breathlessness’ and other anti-rational bodily responses.”

–from a draft version of a proposal for this year’s AULLA conference, themed Love And The Word. (Note: I’m not sure how much of this I believe, how many of these generalisations are valid, or what kind of scope such a suggestion might have. In short, I have no idea what I am doing.)

Reading:
Finally finished reading Evie Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing after putting it down for months. I didn’t dislike it, exactly, and the abuse and trauma that run through it are viscerally portrayed, but something about it just didn’t work for me. Or rather, lots of little things that grate against me gently; it’s the tone of all contemporary Damaged Misfit Lit; it’s the unpleasantness of the narrator; it’s the style, waxing slightly too poetical for the pragmatic main character; it’s the way the supernatural lurks around the edges without being fully realised. It seemed to get markedly better in the second half, but still felt like a slog. (Note: the second novel I’ve read this year with a female character who kills a kangaroo as a child. It happens in The Natural Way Of Things, too. Is this the OzLit zeitgeist?)

Watching:
All seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager have been added to Aussie Netflix, along with the rest of the ST serials, so I’ve been reliving my adolescent nerdhood with Voyager season 1. It’s obviously far from perfect, but there’s something so beautiful about a show that always, always pivots on the importance of working together, collaborating, and sharing experiences rather than being distrustful of the strangers you encounter.

Doing:
Picking up shifts while my manager attends mandatory training; making orange and rosemary cake with polenta, which ends up having the structural integrity of a damp sandpit; spending too much money on work lunches; painting my toenails even though it’s 8 degrees and rainy.

Fresh Air ’15

image

 

This year, Melbourne-based games company Pop Up Playground are crowdfunding their outdoor street games festival, Fresh Air ’15, scheduled for March 2015 at Federation Square, Melbourne. This will be the third outdoor festival organised by Pop Up Playground after successful festivals in 2013 and 2014, in tandem with their indoor gaming festival This Is A Door. This year, they headlined Fresh Air ’14 with the international mystical adventure Spirits Walk (designed by Serious Business), and collaborated with Bell Shakespeare in October on True Romans All, a game of political machination based on Julius Caesar.

imageSpirits Walk image by Sarah Walker.

 

These folks design and run clever, fun, and unusual public games, and in 2015 they will once again be bringing international games to Melbourne as well as running their own. Public games tend to stand somewhere between the improvised bonhomie of a flashmob and the careful design of live action role play, and, like many public art interventions, need a lot of groundswell in order to gather momentum and popularity. In order to run Fresh Air ’15, Pop Up Playground need as much support as possible in order to ensure the public want to play the games and to pay the organisers, designers, and actors fairly. Click through to their Pozible campaign to contribute and to obtain some kickass rewards, including opportunities to learn and design games with members of the Pop Up Playground team.

Fresh Air ’15 will combine newly-designed games from local and international games designers with established games, including The Soho Stag Hunt (designed by Minkette, Alex Fleetwood, Holly Gramazio, and Tassos Stevens) and Little Monsters’ Big Day Out (designed by Sarayphim Lothian and Grant Howitt). It will be a spectacular three days of immersive public gameplay, collaboration, imagination, and intrigue, and deserves your support.

imageThe Soho Stag Hunt image by Frank Boyd.

imageLittle Monsters’ Big Day Out image by Pop Up Playground.

 

* DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated with Pop Up in any way, I just want them to keep doing the wonderful things they do.

Life. Writing.

Yesterday the unnoticed night grew dark around me as I tapped out a manic 2000 words of barely disguised autobiography about my dad. And the one fight I can remember from my childhood. And how deciding to move 1000km away from the home I’ve spent ten years making rings certain buried memories like a bell.
I’ve spent hours agonising over the ‘story’, wondering if I have a right to tell it, if it’s worth telling, if I want to tell it after all. It’s not autobiographical enough or salacious enough to warrant protecting anyone’s identity: people who know me well would see through it and people who don’t probably wouldn’t notice or care. I don’t think it adds anything new to the existing torrent of work dealing with twenty- and thirty-somethings with comfortable lives trying to define home and come to terms with their parents’ aging as an uncomfortable reminder of the frailty of all things. In the end I think I wrote it partly to allay the fear that I’ve stopped writing and partly as a tangible record of my own feelings, but perhaps it’s therapy and not a story. That is, frankly, the one model for writing that feels the most valuable at the moment: writing that I pretend might be for a wider audience but ultimately is just for me.
It remains a draft, and maybe I’ll change my mind again and decide it’s worth sharing, but for now I need to grapple a little more deeply with the complexities of life writing.

Meanwhile, if you want to read good memoir, head on over to the Meanjin website:
● Howard Goldenburg’s ‘Burned Man‘ recounts his experience providing emergency treatment to a miner with 100% bodily burns in a rural hospital, up to the point when the Royal Flying Doctor Service takes over. Trigger warnings for the graphic descriptions of physical injury and medical procedures.
● set in the hinterlands of northern NSW (and therefore deeply familiar for me), Jessie Cole’s ‘The Breaking Point‘ tells of her father’s disintegrating mental health in the aftermath of her older sister’s suicide. Trigger warnings for suicide.
● in ‘No Money, No Honey‘, Lily Kiel tells the story of being detained at the Mongolian border with an out-of-date visa, after a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway.

Deleuze, Spinoza, and Zadie Smith

“That is why Spinoza calls out to us in the way he does: you do not know beforehand what good or bad you are capable of; you do not know beforehand what a body or mind can do, in a given encounter, a given arrangement, a given combination.”

Gilles Deleuze. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights Books (1988); p. 125.

Confession: I’m not exactly a rigorous Deleuzian. Deleuze and Guattari are handy tools for my thesis, but I’m not immersed in either of their oeuvres. I’m not a hardcore philosopher, so I’ve never really delved into the ramifications of their work in light of their philosophical influences and debts, and I wouldn’t really recognise a Hegelian, Nietzschean, Heideggerian, or Spinozan argument if it flapped in front of my face. Of course Deleuze has a book on Spinoza. Of course there are connections. None of this will come as a surprise to a proper Deleuzian or a proper Spinozan (and there’s my inferiority complex again).

The point is this: ultimately, this post is probably shot from way behind the eight-ball and is primarily lifted from Zadie Smith, anyway. Hopefully that doesn’t make it valueless.

In Smith’s essay ‘Middlemarch and Everybody’ she briefly discusses Spinoza’s notion of conatus, which she describes as ‘striving’, the compulsion towards that which is good for us. For Spinoza, and for Smith’s discussion, this is about a human drive, and there’s always a risk in anthropomorphising rhizomatic structures, given how much rhizomatic functioning relies on drives, movement, desire, and change. However, I think this ties in closely to what Stuart Mouthrop, in describing the rhizome, has called “promiscuity”. The rhizome’s promiscuity comes from this striving, towards those other elements or systems that will strengthen it, empower it, give it the functions that it requires. To step back into biology, briefly, it is the striving of a chlorophyllic organism towards the sunlight, the osmotic transmission of sugars across a membrane from an area of density to an area of scarcity*.

What are the implications? Discussing rhizomatic systems in terms of striving might be slightly more valuable than adopting Moulthrop’s term: ‘promiscuity’ seems awkwardly allied to the desire-based philosophies of poststructuralism, which can have benefits and drawbacks in different situations. Conversely, linking the rhizome and conatus acknowledges the scholarship Deleuze undertook on Spinoza’s Ethics, and makes the rhizome seem less like an idiosyncratic offshoot of poststructuralism and more like a link in a larger philosophical history.

I’m not entirely sure whether these are worthy goals or not, but it’s definitely fascinating, and indicative of the vast wealth of academic writing that I’ve missed by Deleuze and Guattari alone.

(Tangentally, Zadie Smith’s book of essays, Changing My Mind, is a fantastically interesting read–aside from the piece on Middlemarch, which I read without knowing the first thing about George Eliot, the essay on Barthes and Nabokov is a brilliant survey of both.)

* my science is even worse than my philosophy but I’m fairly confident that’s how osmosis works. If not, my excuse is that I’ve been sick all week and I’m too lightheaded to do proper research.