dolorosa_12: (le guin)
This has been my tradition since 2007, and I've found it to be a good way to take stock and pause for reflection in the moment as one year slips into the next.

Questions and answers behind the cut )

Happy 2017, everyone.
dolorosa_12: (Default)
I am about to write up my annual 'year in review' post, but because this year has been A Lot, I had some things to say that weren't going to be covered by a Q-and-A-style meme about favourite songs and best new TV shows of 2016. I'm always very contemplative at this time of year, and over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about stories.

I haven't really felt genuinely happy since June 24th this year. However, I managed to struggle on for a few months after the EU referendum result by telling myself, pretty much every day, 'I can live with the Leave vote, as long as Hillary Clinton wins the US election in November.' Well, we all know how that went. I didn't sleep much for the whole month of November, and the activities of daily life, of planning for the future, seemed utterly futile. What was the point of the next cohort of NHS doctors knowing how to search databases, or of healthcare researchers managing their data or conducting a systematic review properly? What was the point of planning a wedding, or growing a garden, or meeting up with friends, or cleaning the house? I remember very little of November, just this kind of dampening fog of despair, interspersed with flashes of fear and worry about how to help distant friends.

And then I went to the cinema, and watched Rogue One. It's not a perfect movie — it's not even a perfect Star Wars movie — but it is the story of a ragtag found family of misfits, finding courage in each other, choosing to fight against incredible odds and an overwhelmingly technologically and numerically superior enemy. More importantly to me, it's about people making a choice in the face of utter hopelessness and despair, and the knowledge that they are unlikely to live to see the results of their actions, to save the world for others, when they know they will not be able to save it for themselves.

This brought me back to myself, not because I believe I would be one to emulate those characters' actions — I've never been tested in this way, but I am pretty certain I do not have that kind of moral courage — but because it reminded me of the comfort and consolation and power of stories, and of the stories that I carry around with me like a kind of personal canon.

And then I remembered the five wives of Fury Road, a quintet of traumatised and violated women, making common cause, fighting back against oppression and exploitation and a misogynistic death cult, asserting 'We are not things' as they build a better world.

I remembered the clones of Orphan Black, women supporting other women as they reclaimed control over their own lives and choices and bodies. I remembered Jessica Jones, another abused, exploited woman, bringing herself out of the pit of despair by protecting and saving other people.

I remembered the characters of Station Eleven choosing, in a blighted, postapocalyptic world, to create libraries, make music, and become a band of travelling players performing Shakespeare, because 'survival is insufficient.' I remembered the children of Space Demons giving up the gun and dreaming of a world of peace and plenty.

I remembered Pagan Kidrouk, Isidore Orbus, and Babylonne Kidrouk learning, loving, and living fiercely, carving out spaces of tolerance, pluralism and integrity in a world slowing crushing such spaces in favour of extremism and ideological uniformity. I remembered the characters of The Lions of Al-Rassan doing the same.

I remembered Noviana Una, organising a rebellion against an oppressive empire from within a twenty-first-century Library of Alexandria, and leading a mob of the dispossessed, abused women and traumatised military conscripts, to confront a violent, misogynistic, abusive, all powerful ruler. And above all, I remembered the story that started everything, that has taught and given me so much, and was the first one that ever told me, 'Tell them stories. They need the truth you must tell them true stories, and everything will be well, just tell them stories.'

Your stories will be different to mine. They may not be in books and films and TV shows. They may not be fictional. They may not be stories at all. Whatever they are, I hope you find them, and find strength and comfort and courage in them. We are going to need all those things in the coming year, and we must draw on what we can to get them. Happy 2017, everyone. Love, hope, and stories to you all.
dolorosa_12: (sleepy hollow)
The emotions of Trump's supporters need no economic explanation: hatred is its own ground. It is the oldest and most pitiful liberal self-delusion to imagine that ethnic hatred, or, now, misogyny is merely a masked form of economic distress — the bad way that an authentic emotion expresses itself.
— Adam Gopnik, A Point of View.


Felt a tremor stir beneath my breath
That forecasts storms on the gallup poll
Woke up from the nightmare news
And hoping to read a sign in the morning air

Nothing changes here and nothing improves
All say my friends who just want out
And leave these troubles behind
Scatter like paper in the eye of the storm
Documented with a silent snow
That's only heard from far away

More cards in play, follow in suit
Everywhere you look, you only see red
And wonder when to call off the race
Watching a horse running down its last legs
Just when you think it couldn't get much worse
Watch the numbers rise on the death toll
And the chimes of freedom flash and fade
Only heard from far, far away

I hear you can't trust in your own
Now the grey is broken in the early morn
And the words forming barely have a voice
It's just your heart that's breaking without choice

Everything you've learned is distorted in your head
Bouncing off the walls, unravelling the thread
Staying up with the blue screen glow
Forgetting everything you ever dreamed years ago

When the dread is flowing down my veins
I want to tear it all down and build it up again
Tear it all down, build it up again

Hear your heart that's breaking without choice
I want to hear those chimes ring again
Ring again

— Calexico, 'All Systems Red'.


The latter is my favourite political protest song, written as an anguished cry of despair during the George W. Bush years. How bleak, how horrifying, how much it crushes the soul that it is again applicable today, that it was always applicable, hiding just around the corner.
dolorosa_12: (pagan kidrouk)
I'm sorry I've been so absent recently. I just haven't felt much like blogging. It's strange how energy-draining I find my current job, considering it's only part-time and considering I've been doing similar work for the past four years! I think I may have to look into getting another blood test, as I've had ongoing problems with absorbing iron all my life, and my low energy levels may be related to this.

Aside from that, though, my job has made me more certain that I made the right decision in not staying in academia and pursuing work in libraries. My original library job always made me extremely happy (to the extent that I looked forward to going to work, which is something I've never experienced before in any other job), and I've loved the opportunities that this new job has given me. My weakness as a library assistant was always that I had no formal training in cataloguing, but I've since been taught how to do it. It's actually surprisingly simple, at least for the tasks I've been doing.

At the moment, I'm only allowed to work twenty hours a week, which rules out any second job or full-time work, and I'm thinking that once I've finished my PhD corrections, I'm going to try and volunteer at the local municipal library for one or two days a week. I'd like to try and spend as much time as possible on my feet, as well as gaining experience in a different library system, so that seems a sensible thing to do. At the moment, it's not feasible, as I need to spend some of my days off on my PhD, but I should be done by April.

Aside from work, I don't have a huge amount going on. Two weekends ago, my department had its annual postgrad student conference. I helped organise it several years ago, and I gave a paper there once, but these days I just go along, hear the papers, enjoy the conference dinner and catch up with friends from other universities. I don't usually enjoy conferences all that much - I find the need to be constantly chatty and engaged and making small talk during the tea breaks extremely draining - but I like this one, because it's basically a gathering for a whole bunch of my friends.

And that's basically it from me. Have some links.

Matthias first alerted me to this really excellent article by James Wood about the literature of exile and immigration. One line in particular jumped out at me: To have a home is to become vulnerable. Not just to the attacks of others, but to our own adventures in alienation. It just described so perfectly how I have felt about my hometown of Canberra, about my adopted hometown of Sydney, and about Australia itself, ever since I was eighteen years old. The weird thing is that I only left Australia when I was 23, and for a lot of the time, my own sense of displacement and vulnerability was related entirely to age, and not to a place. Being an adult made me feel dispossessed of my own identity, and I sort of transposed those feelings onto physical places. It was only when I moved overseas that I started to feel at home in my own skin and as if my mental identity mapped onto my physical identity again. But this came with a price: Australia doesn't feel like home any more. Wood's article conveys very nicely all my complicated feelings about place and migration and identity.

Here is a great article by Megan Garber about the peculiar power of nostalgia, and how it's been harnessed by the internet. As you can probably tell from all my wittering about home and identity, I'm an incredibly nostalgic person, so much so that I have a specific tag for it on Tumblr.

This article by Caitlin Flanagan about fraternities in US universities will make you really angry (and note: it contains discussion of abuse, hazing, rape and victim-blaming, so if those are things you'd rather not read about, don't click on the link), but is well worth a read. For more on rage-inducing fraternities, check out this article by Kevin Roose about a fraternity of Wall Street's wealthiest traders:

I wasn’t going to be bribed off my story, but I understood their panic. Here, after all, was a group that included many of the executives whose firms had collectively wrecked the global economy in 2008 and 2009. And they were laughing off the entire disaster in private, as if it were a long-forgotten lark. (Or worse, sing about it — one of the last skits of the night was a self-congratulatory parody of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” called “Bailout King.”) These were activities that amounted to a gigantic middle finger to Main Street and that, if made public, could end careers and damage very public reputations.

It's enough to make you sick with rage.

It's not all bad news, though. The recent extreme weather in Britain has exposed a prehistoric forest in Wales that had been covered by sand:

The skeletal trees are said to have given rise to the local legend of a lost kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod, drowned beneath the waves. The trees stopped growing between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago, as the water level rose and a thick blanket of peat formed.

Super cool.

Finally, the internet is kind of awesome. Two young women, raised in adoptive families on opposite sides of the globe, discovered each others' existence through the power of Youtube.

I hope you are all having lovely Mondays.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Marcella Hazan, who was a fabulous, wonderful chef, died. While 89 years is a good innings, I still feel a little melancholy. I grew up with her cooking. Her recipe for pasta with tuna sauce has been my comfort food since I was on solids. Whenever I move to a new house or city, the first meal I cook is always that tuna sauce. I don't feel at home without it.

I'm loving Tim Minchin's occasional address to graduating students at the University of Western Australia:

We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat. Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.

Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions, like two tennis players trying to win a match by hitting beautifully executed shots from either end of separate tennis courts.


Speaking of a failure to acknowledge nuance, check out Jon Stewart's magnificent rant about the US government shutdown. I am incapable of discussing the need for government-funded healthcare in a rational manner, and I cannot be charitable to its opponents. As individuals, or even as individual charities, we are incapable of paying for the healthcare of all who require it. To deny the need for government-funded healthcare is nothing short of heartless.

This post by Tumblr user fygirlcrush is interesting, in that almost nothing in it matches my own experiences, and yet I can see that it is saying something true and powerful. One of these days I may come back to this and discuss why the only part I relate to is this quoted excerpt:

I love teenage girls because even if they hate themselves, they love other people. I remember how I felt, seeing other girls go through what I was going through. It ruined me. I wanted so desperately to help them out of the muck, but when you’re submerged yourself, there’s not a lot you can do. Teenage girls understand, and they want to make sure no one else feels the way they do. I see it on websites like Tumblr all the time. It’s fucking beautiful.

I love teenage girls because society loves to blame them for everything. The self-obsessed teenage girl is always the face of the “problem” with youth today. Apparently, these superficial teenage girls who love their iPhones too much are the issue. Not, you know, the people conditioning them to believe that their worth is tied to how many Likes they got on their last selfie. No, you’re right, let’s focus on the girls who post on Facebook too much. Great.


I am loving the Game of Thrones vids by [personal profile] hollywoodgrrl. They're reminding me why I like the TV series, and how I can read between its lines to find a story that gives me hope and strength. This one, 'Smells Like Westeros Spirit', was new to me, and was pointed out to me by [personal profile] goodbyebird.

Right, back to the library.
dolorosa_12: (doctor horrible)
Everyone expected me to become a journalist. My parents are journalists, and all their friends are journalists, and I grew up in Canberra, where it sometimes feels like everyone is either a journalist, a politician or a public servant. When I was growing up, the concepts of 'adult' and 'journalist' were almost interchangeable.

I say 'journalists', but what I really mean is 'political journalists'. My father is a very senior political journalist, and so are most of his friends. Hell, even the woman who introduced my dad to my stepmother is a senior political journalist.

I could tell you any number of wacky stories relating to politicians - like the time Paul Keating rang our home number in a blistering rage in 1992 because Dad had said something unflattering on the news, and I, a seven-year-old, answered the phone and had a rather surreal conversation with the surly Prime Minister. Or the time I got roped into a dinner at Bill Shorten's house (because his then-partner knew my stepmother) before Shorten became a politician, where everyone smoked indoors and he tried not to make his ambitions so obvious. Or the time when I was 22 years old and accidentally met Wayne Swan while I was wearing my pyjamas and he proceeded to grill me about opinions of Labor among young people.

Political journalists were my mentors. When I was a child they treated me like a sort of precocious pet, when I was a teenager they tried to steer me in that direction as a career, and when I did, briefly, become a journalist as an adult, they treated me as one of their own. I looked up to them and thought there could be no one as clever and eloquent and cynical and powerful as them. When my father broke very important political stories, I basked in reflected glory, and when Kevin Rudd first emerged as a credible candidate in 2007, I stood in the newsroom with the other journalists, glued to the TV and feeling as if I were participating in something powerful.

And I think it's fairly obvious that I'm extremely left-leaning, so I don't feel like I need to say anything about the horrors that have been going on in the Labor Party since it came to power, because you know what I will say, and what I will feel.

I have always responded to Australian politics like a journalist, even as a child, and even now, when it's five years since I could call myself such a thing. And that is why it hurts. Because political journalism in Australia, particularly after Gillard came to power, is a disgrace. It has reduced everything to personality - and so personality, not policy, came to matter. I am ashamed to have been a journalist, and to have had a journalist's mentality. My childhood memories are tainted. I feel like my trust has been betrayed.

The recent leadership spill upset me less because it will hand Australia to Tony Abbott on a plate, than because it is the crowning moment in a series of things that have shown the Australian political media in an extremely poor light. I know these priorities of mine are messed up, but it is what it is.
dolorosa_12: (sister finland)
[personal profile] thelxiepia, to Todd Akin (re: his reelection): The female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down.


Obama: It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. It doesn't matter if you're black or white, Hispanic or Asian or Native American ... it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, gay or straight ...
Young daughter of my friend L (shouting at footage on laptop): HURRY UP WILL YOU? I ALREADY KNOW ALL THIS STUFF FROM MY TEACHER.


These two are, I think, the most representative quotes from last night's election viewing.

I hold dual citizenship, and as a result, while I don't feel very American or have any intentions of moving there, I am able to vote in elections. Some of my non-USian friends have been very critical of the way that people outside the US tend to obsessively follow the election campaigns and results, but the sheer volume of vitriolic hatred this time around has had the odd effect of making the political personal for me.

When I think of the rhetoric that's been flying around - about women (particularly, about sexually active women and women who are raped*), about the poor and unemployed, about people with disabilities, people who are ethnic minorities, LGBT people - what strikes me is a profound lack of empathy. These vocal social conservatives look at the most dispossessed and vulnerable people in their society, and are unable to see their humanity. They hate, they hurt, they bluster and blame because they are unable to imagine any circumstances where they would be in such people's shoes.

I stayed up until 5am watching the election coverage in a state of profound hysteria. It's not that I think Obama's the messiah, or that I even agree with all the things he's done in his first term, but that, in words at least, in relation to Americans at least, he strives to reach out, to compromise, to entertain multiple points of view, to affirm the worth and humanity of all. And that may not matter very much in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. It is enough, for now, for me.

And now I'm going to go to sleep. Following a nearly sleepless night with a library shift where I shelved eight trolleys of books is starting to take its toll.

--------------------------------
* Which is not the same thing, and it's terrifying how these things seem to be conflated in the eyes of some social conservatives.
dolorosa_12: (epic internet)
Because I never do that...

I've posted two new posts on my German blog. I've actually hit my blogging stride there, which makes me happy.

[profile] sophiamcdougall posted a link to this hilarious blog post about gendered advertising.

The latest book blogging kerfuffle is depressing. I find it sort of heartening how the community seems to have rallied around the affected bloggers, though.

I want to read almost every book reviewed here. Especially MetaMaus.

This is the internet right now. And this is a comparison between US politics and Game of Thrones. I love it.

Personhood

Oct. 15th, 2011 12:48 pm
dolorosa_12: (una)
[Note: I'm using 'women' to mean cis women here, because the people I'm ranting about are not aware that there are any other women besides cis women.]

So. The Personhood Amendment. Not a pretty piece of legislation. I'm almost speechless with rage, so I think instead I'll link you to another person's words, which do more to rebut pro-lifers' claims that they are, indeed, pro-life than anything I could possibly say.

Potentially triggering for child abuse, neglect and rape )

I'm fed up with Tea Party types who claim to be libertarian and anti-government, except when it's the case of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, then no government intervention is too much. I'm fed up with pro-lifers who care only that a foetus grow into a child, but care and do nothing to ensure that that child (and its mother) continue to have a life after birth. I'm tired of them thinking that abortion is just something that happens to bad people, that if you bring up your daughter (only your daughter) well, then of course all her children will be loved and wanted and safely born within marriage, when statistically it's highly likely that every one of these people knows someone who had an abortion. I'm tired of them arguing that if you don't teach teenagers about contraception, they somehow will not think or want sex at all. (Let me tell you something: I still remember when my then 14-year-old sister came home after a sex-ed class at school and swore never to have sex at all, because of the risks of STDs. Knowledge is power! How can a child, a teenage girl, make a decision like that without all the knowledge?) I'm tired of MY personhood being ignored I feel their words like a physical attack. Their hatred for women is like a blow. I'm scared. I'm angry, and I'm scared.

Again, because it's worth reiterating,

“Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.

Personhood

Oct. 15th, 2011 12:48 pm
dolorosa_12: (una)
[Note: I'm using 'women' to mean cis women here, because the people I'm ranting about are not aware that there are any other women besides cis women.]

So. The Personhood Amendment. Not a pretty piece of legislation. I'm almost speechless with rage, so I think instead I'll link you to another person's words, which do more to rebut pro-lifers' claims that they are, indeed, pro-life than anything I could possibly say.

Potentially triggering for child abuse, neglect and rape )

I'm fed up with Tea Party types who claim to be libertarian and anti-government, except when it's the case of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy, then no government intervention is too much. I'm fed up with pro-lifers who care only that a foetus grow into a child, but care and do nothing to ensure that that child (and its mother) continue to have a life after birth. I'm tired of them thinking that abortion is just something that happens to bad people, that if you bring up your daughter (only your daughter) well, then of course all her children will be loved and wanted and safely born within marriage, when statistically it's highly likely that every one of these people knows someone who had an abortion. I'm tired of them arguing that if you don't teach teenagers about contraception, they somehow will not think or want sex at all. (Let me tell you something: I still remember when my then 14-year-old sister came home after a sex-ed class at school and swore never to have sex at all, because of the risks of STDs. Knowledge is power! How can a child, a teenage girl, make a decision like that without all the knowledge?) I'm tired of MY personhood being ignored I feel their words like a physical attack. Their hatred for women is like a blow. I'm scared. I'm angry, and I'm scared.

Again, because it's worth reiterating,

“Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
...NOT forgetting everything you ever dreamed years ago!'

I wonder if the US election results mean that Calexico will produce more cheerful music.

I watched the election results unfold, snuggled into the couch in my common room, with three of my American housemates. It was a strange, surreal experience. When I watch Australian election coverage, all the words are like markers of meaning. When someone mentions the outcome in a particular Australian electorate, I can evaluate what's going on against my knowledge of the political landscape of the country ('Wow! Howard's lost the "mortgage-belt" seats in suburban Sydney. He's kind of doomed,' or 'Well, you'd expect that from a Canberran electorate'). The US election, despite the saturation coverage both in Australia and the UK, was a bit more enigmatic. I cheered the results, but lacked the background knowledge to be able to interpret them in any meaningful way.

I'll leave it my favourite tappers-into-the-muse-of-American-despair, Calexico )
Let's hope that we're able to tear it all down and build it up again.
dolorosa_12: (dreaming)
...NOT forgetting everything you ever dreamed years ago!'

I wonder if the US election results mean that Calexico will produce more cheerful music.

I watched the election results unfold, snuggled into the couch in my common room, with three of my American housemates. It was a strange, surreal experience. When I watch Australian election coverage, all the words are like markers of meaning. When someone mentions the outcome in a particular Australian electorate, I can evaluate what's going on against my knowledge of the political landscape of the country ('Wow! Howard's lost the "mortgage-belt" seats in suburban Sydney. He's kind of doomed,' or 'Well, you'd expect that from a Canberran electorate'). The US election, despite the saturation coverage both in Australia and the UK, was a bit more enigmatic. I cheered the results, but lacked the background knowledge to be able to interpret them in any meaningful way.

I'll leave it my favourite tappers-into-the-muse-of-American-despair, Calexico )
Let's hope that we're able to tear it all down and build it up again.

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rushes into my heart and my skull

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