Saturday, 31 December 2011

2012 Resolutions

1 Destroy the NDIS
2 Write more, including and especially for my thesis
3 Go to more gigs
4 See even more movies at BIFF than I did this year.
5 Refuse to reply to anyone who writes to me in text language (unless you have dodgy crip hands). You have been warned.

Goodbye Cruel Year

I am writing this on the last day of my most bleak year.  Thankfully over the last two months I have been rewarded for enduring the misery and pain. I think a clear path towards happiness has been set up for 2012. At least I hope so.

The biggest lesson I have learnt this year is not to consume myself with one thing entirely.In previous years this has meant work or relationships. Easier said than done though it may be, I do wonder how long it will take me to truly learn this lesson. I think I'll spend the rest of my life constantly refraining from large emotional outpourings and failing. My trust must be harder to earn, as cruel as that may seem.

I have also learnt the true value of friendship. I know the people who will crawl down the mine just to fetch me out. This has allowed me to have a selective friendship group and recognise the rest as pretenders. This has given me a reality check I so desperately needed.

This year I took three great risks and was rewarded handsomely each time. The first ensured the following months were much happier than those that had gone before. The second resulted in the happiest day of 2011. The last resulted in the best night I had with anyone this year. The above results tell me that I must take more risks in 2012.

With the pain that came my way I gained a greater sense of self, and more importantly gained the ability to be more honest with myself than ever before. I certainly created more enemies than friends this year, and as each year passes the trend is bound to increase. I am who I am.

The crip with a chip who wears his heart on his sleeve and on his blog, the guy who loves and mourns overtly, who gives his opinions even when they are not asked for. The guy who does not suffer fools, because life is a waste of time for those who do. And he's the guy who keeps sitting up because he has no other choice.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Where Are The 'Roll' Models?

When you’re a crip like me in his late twenties, you tend to look for guide posts for living a successful life. When I was school aged, I didn’t really think I’d make a credible 28 year old. I had no people with disabilities a generation older than me that could act as any type of role model. By then people of that age had either tragically passed, or were just satisfied at making it that far. None of them had suitable romantic relationships with anyone who wasn’t connected to the disability sector and none of them had a job they took pride in. A primary school kid like me viewed the age of 28 as a nominal figure where meaningful life stopped for however long until you dropped dead.

For the last 12 years I have had what most people considered to be impossible expectations for myself. It wasn’t enough to get a menial job working for a charity or a sheltered workshop like my crip peers wanted to. I instantly knew I was better than that. I wanted to be an intelligent person with a university qualification and in a loving relationship (with a person who was not disabled). And yet up until I entered university I knew of only one person with a disability who fitted that reasonably broad description. I saw (and continue to see) this as an enormous problem, because these goals are just average ones to have what I considered to be a meaningful life.

The community’s expectations for people with disabilities are far too low. During the first half of high school I coasted through, dicked around, was a surly grumpy bastard and was still looked upon as a 'role model'. Is it a coincidence that I had no crip one of my own? Even now in real terms I am yet to achieve anything above average, and I still carry the tag ‘role model’. If I chose to freeze frame my life to become a lazy bum who did not write another word, and sat around all day just relying on collecting DSP cheques I would still be looked upon by an outside observer as an ‘inspiration’. This is because once upon a time I deemed myself capable enough to try post graduate study. It is a fucking cop out.  Given the tools I have at my disposal: an agile mind, a comfortable environment and a stable future I MUST do better than that regardless of physical disability. I must change the current social paradigm, perhaps the world in order to fully achieve my potential.

Too often the standard template for crip greatness is survival. This might be necessary for some, but what about those of us that need to be pushed, stirred and cajoled to ensure that we can achieve the best we can? There are very few crip role models that achieve what can be clumsily termed ‘standard greatness’: that is to be a true leader in their chosen field regardless of obvious physical disability. Perhaps most tellingly very few of those in this select group are actually humble about what they have achieved, consequently turning out to be dicks who should not be admired in any way, shape or form (See Kurt Fernley and Nick Vujicic). Even worse are those who don’t belong in this group and pretend that they do. I suppose they get offered the kool aid so regularly, they can no longer help but succumb to its sweet taste. They assume that they are super talented, because they achieve a standard career AND have a disability. In that case their disability is not just their inability to move around in an agile manner, it is that they have a giant head that far outweighs the rheteroic.

If those of you who don’t have a disability think I am being harsh, then you are part of the problem. Sure, give those who need encouragement to live their daily life kudos because they deserve it, but don’t pander to anyone. If you think someone is being a dick and skating by expecting life to come them because they are disabled, give them a kick up the arse and a reality check. This includes me. It is time to get real. Future crips need genuine role models, not also rans. Just like their able-bodied peers. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Some (Pretend) Questions

Dear Made Up Religious Figurehead,

For arguments sake I’m going to pretend you exist, just for the hell of it.

If you don’t mind I have a few questions for you. It is not that I expect you to answer them or anything because you’re far too busy making innocent children cripples, or victims of pedophile rings, but do me a favour and just pretend you give a shit, like I’m doing right now.
  1. If you are really all seeing and all knowing why did you choose to have your son’s birthday on December 25th? Surely it would be better at the beginning of July so we could all indulge in a mid year break? You did not plan it very well.
  2. Was it your idea to turn this day into a commercial free for all where your subjects concentrate on getting the latest piece of shit, instead of actually celebrating your son's special day?
  3. Can you please stop the Australian TV Networks from airing Love Actually every 3 months? As much as we all love Hugh Grant dancing around like a wanker, those who are really obsessed can just buy the DVD.
  4. Why did Christopher Hitchens have to die before John Howard? You certainly have a taste for the ironic.
  5. Could you please tell the majority of your followers to stop being bigoted, judgmental arseholes?
  6. Could you also please tell them that is okay for anyone to get married if they want. It doesn’t matter if both people like sausages, tacos, or one of each.
  7. Please can you just fuck off? Or at least tell your followers to stop using your supposed teachings as justification for reprehensible behaviour?
Happy (Pretend) Birthday for Tomorrow,


A disgruntled man whom you made a crip for no discernible reason whatsoever.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Bob Geldof Thinks Kenyans Need Calendars?

Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ (DTKIC) is simultaneously the best and worst Christmas song of all time: let me explain why.

The original version of DTKIC was written by Bob Geldof (at the height of his arrogant self righteous phase) and the lead singer of Ultra Vox, Midge Ure. The song was written in a day and it shows. It includes cringe worthy lines a plenty. My favourite lines include: Here the Christmas bells that are ringing are the clanging chimes of Doom. Well, tonight thank God it's them instead of you. Really it is pretentious twaddle. The original version included a cast of 1980s superstars who single handledly created the hole in the Ozone Layer with the amount of hairspray they used in the dressing room. The song is saved by the producing genius of Trevor Horn whose sole reason for being on this earth was to create the stunning outro. It may not feed the world, but it certainly fills my ears with pleasure.

In 2009 the Canadian Punk Band, Fucked Up (Yes, that is their name) recorded DTKIC with a cast of indie guests including rapper GZA, Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Tegan and Sara, Yo La Tengo, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, comedian David Cross, Andrew W.K. and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio. The highlight of this recording (besides Tegan and Sara of course) is the hilarious decision to change the lyrics from ‘Thank god its them instead of you' to ‘Thank God its them instead of JEWS’. Genius I tell you.

Naturally, Glee broadcast a cover of DTKIC last week. Of course this version took all the sappiest Geldofian traits and mixed it with a dash of extra sugar and a touch of laughing gas. Check the video out to see what I mean.

The most important thing here is that DTKIC is not a happy song. It is a song about starving children and poverty. You don’t sing ‘The greatest gift they will get this year is life.’ smiling like the Von Trapp kids. Importantly, one has to ask what the hell was Ryan Murphy thinking and/or smoking when he said ‘Hey this is A GREAT IDEA!’. You don’t sing DTKIC to a bunch a homeless people at a soup kitchen. As Todd VanDerWerff explains:
Predictability goes with the territory in these things, and if you can tug at the heartstrings when the characters realize how lucky they are, fine. That works. Instead, after an hour that already had me bug-eyed, barely able to breathe, on the edge of hyperventilating (I’m not even kidding), the kids sang “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to a bunch of homeless children. (Since they live in the United States, I’m going to say, “Yes. They probably do.”) Mercedes sang, “Tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of you”—an awful, awful line—to a bunch of hungry, homeless children. Yes, helping the less fortunate during the holidays is ultimately all about making yourself feel better, but you don’t have to sing about it.
So what do we learn from DTKIC?
1. Bob Geldolf writes crappy songs, and thinks Kenya has a shortage of calendars.
2. Naming a band ‘Fucked Up’ may sound cool in theory but it is pretty daft in practice
3. Glee need to do a Trevor Horn tribute episode soon, but they never will.

Oh well I’m off to listen to the 1984 B Side Feed the World 3:28 of musical mastery, that only includes that very Horny outro. And I might go get something to eat, I feel hungry now.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


I wrote the following in 2007 in an unpublished diary, I was 23.
My electric wheelchair is not the world’s most convincing camouflage tool, but that’s the way it goes. I remember I was 12 when I asked a girl out for the first time. Her response was as expected as it was cruel. “Why would I want to date you? You’re in a wheelchair! Get lost!” As much of a cow as she now appears to be, it was a crushing blow, and in retrospect, it started the long slide into my first battle of depression, which lasted for three years on and off.

Since then, I have fancied girls both in and out of wheelchairs. Like any man my age I have had tons upon tons of rejection, but unlike any other man (except for the few who occupy the confines of a well padded wheelchair seat) I am constantly wondering in the back of my mind whether things would be different if I could climb out of the wheelchair. I have had a few discussions with friends who are in wheelchairs and it appears to me that we are all besieged by the some kind of self doubt. They just choose to express it in different forms. Some choose denial, others objectify themselves, and others have ‘faked’ partners. I personally sit quietly and ponder what it all means in isolation, sometimes harming myself emotionally, sometimes seeking happiness in the wrong places.

In my case it certainly doesn’t help that I have an antisocial personally (I hide this with narcissism), and for the most part detest large social situations. The fact that I would prefer to spend the weekend watching the football and a decent movie, rather than go out to party certainly doesn’t help my cause. It is not all about being in a wheelchair. I think I could speculate accurately that if I had the same personality outside the wheelchair I would have severe difficulty trying to find a date. However, I also prescribe to the fact that I would not have my current personality if I weren’t in a wheelchair. The ultimate Catch 22.
Reading this in retrospect it occurs to me that perhaps I was the problem, I was so preoccupied with overcoming my disability that I was not concentrating on developing my personality. Lately this unpublished entry has been on my mind.

To be sure, there are people who say they don’t give a fuck about the wheelchair, but their actions indicate otherwise. Like opposing council in a bad David E. Kelley courtroom drama, these people ask leading questions, which then lead to obvious answers. ‘So you must have been really bullied at school?’ To which I once replied 'Why? Because I was the only guy handsome enough to be hit on by both the girls and the guys?’ (Cue befuddlement) These types of questions are often worse than those that are just downright ignorant. At least they are honest. I’ve talked before about these kinds of horrible stereotypes.

Then there are people who really don’t give a fuck. Almost without fail I can sense these people in five seconds. They have had exposure to people with physical disabilities before. They have gotten their burning questions out of their system, had uncomfortable postures and their looks of stunned amazement are out of their system either out of necessity or by choice. The comfort they feel is easily detectable. There is no case of elongated silences punctuated by a desperate need to start inane conversation, no puzzled stares around the room trying to avoid looking at the wheelchair like it is a golf cart that they secretly wish could be driven around Royal Melbourne.

Those who are not among the crip fraternity might think I am being overly paranoid, but let me tell you this sense is instinctual, and does not require an ounce of concentration. It takes less than a second to pick up this vibe and only a couple of minutes of conversation to confirm it.

Then there are the people who surprise.

Once in a while I will have a conversation with someone who has not any previous exposure to people with physical disabilities and they will treat me like my disability is the most natural thing in the world. On average it happens about once or twice a year. I know when this happens it is a special occurrence and so I treasure the experience. I try and foster long lasting friendships with them if it is possible.

The last time it happened the conversation covered a wide variety of topics, politics, movies, music, books, and our respective personal histories. Not once did the person's gaze deviate towards the wheelchair. Not once did this person have uncomfortable body language. There were no leading questions, no audible gasps of amazement. I was so intrigued by this notion that I had to ask the obvious question, after one of the most comfortable thirty minutes I have experienced:

‘So do you know any people with physical disabilities?’
‘No, you’re the first person I’ve met’

And I believed them.

I knew that this was a person that I wanted in my life for very long time.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It Is Done

I sit and wait, nerves tingling. I wonder what the hell am I doing? There’s too much risk involved. I am taking one hell of a chance. I stare at the clock watching the seconds go by wondering if I can actually do this. Feeling physically sick, emotionally discombobulated. The last time I was so vulnerable I was badly bruised by leaving ribs exposed to the fatal punch at the moment of utmost weakness.

Am I brave enough to do it again?
Do I have the intestinal fortitude?
Have I regained my mental strength?
Do I feel safe?

As that last question dances around my brain for what seems like a lifetime, the moment of truth arrives. My brain tries to process several thoughts at once.
Don’t talk too quickly.
Don’t be egocentric
Smile where possible
I feel really stupid. Do other people see this?
God, why am I doing this?
Just breathe
I hope I say the right thing
I hope I do the right thing
Fuck my muscles are tight, I hope I don’t spasm
And then it comes.

‘Hi My name is Todd.’

For the past year. I have failed on almost every occasion to present my complete self. Too much anger, too much pain, too much fear, lest I get hurt again. However this time I have no idea what I’m scared of.  Conversation flows.
During the past year this blog has been filled with misery, heartache, pain and fear. These  emotions are easy to express for nothing can get any worse, and therefore I have nothing to lose. Expressing happiness here comes in the form of a rave review, a political meditation or philosophical notion. I cannot express too much happiness on this page because I might throw this state into jeopardy, or even worse look upon a post with extreme bitterness retrospectively and then all its importance is lost. This is the reason I give when asked why the majority of my content is cynical and jaded. To be truthful daily life as a crip affords few moments of genuine utter happiness for me. I have increasingly found that these opportunities only arise if and when I’m populated amongst like minded souls or when I am challenged.

This places an enormous responsibility on friends old and new to carry my emotional weight. Take one new person I met recently, IC. New people like IC are hard to come by, they don’t know how I think, or how I operate, or that I am recovering from an emotional trauma. IC cannot read my mind nor, can tell that I’m about to evolve into a panic attack just because I have worked myself up in such a state at the prospect of meeting someone new.

Hi my name is Todd, I am a social misfit.
And yet I survived to be showered with praise, and compliments. We will meet again. Most importantly I know that when we do I’ll be not only comfortable, but revert back to the better version of myself.

It’s for this reason I know I have turned the corner. The dark clouds have gone now. 359 days after my personal hell began, I can boldly and bravely declare that I feel the ordeal has ended. The fact that I was tough enough to withstand those inner questions and personal doubts whilst thriving is proof that I have moved on to the next phase of life.

It is about fucking time.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ode to Hitch

There is no-one like Christopher Hitchens. He was the most brilliant and versatile non-fiction writer of modern times, whose prodigious output was of stunningly high quality, a showcase for his vast range, deep knowledge and fierce wit. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he faced it with characteristic honesty, courage and rigour,…He is, quite simply, irreplaceable. The Guardian
What does one say when he loses his main source of inspiration?

We all knew Christopher Hitchens was going to die. In fact back in March, I predicted that he would not last the year. Tragically I was right. He has been gone for less than 2 days, but already I feel an intellectual vacancy, which I doubt will be filled again. The ritual I had in reading his articles 2 or 3 times a week in either Slate or Vanity Fair used to fill me with real pleasure. Not only for their content, but for their technique. And now that is gone.

Reading Hitchens changed my life.

More than any other person Hitchens was the one who made me want to become a writer as opposed to a mere political scientist. He was, and is, my major creative and intellectual driving force behind my writing, and the reason why I have become so prolific on this blog. Reading his memoir Hitch 22 made me want to turn this blog into a book of essays on disability, politics and pop culture. Who knows if it will end up becoming a reality, but I see this goal as my major greatest personal project post PhD and now because of his death I have become more determined than ever to fulfill this goal.

Although I greatly admire him I will never seek to imitate the great man. Thousands have tried and yet so many have failed. One only has to follow my Facebook or Twitter accounts to gain an understanding of the qualities that made Hitchens a literary legend. I agreed with Hitchens a great amount of the time, but even those who did not would have to agree that all of his points had intellectual rigiour behind them. To understand Hitchens was an exercise in becoming smarter. To watch him weave in and out of arguments was a masterclass of writing. Even when he was controversial I still believed he was right. 

To characterise Hitchens as merely an Atheist expert in theology, or a political writer, or a forensic observer of culture and literature is a gross disservice. He was all of these things and much more. As Slate’s managing editor put it:
Here's what I learned from Christopher Hitchens in the 25 years I knew him. Don't let anyone else do your thinking for you. Follow your principles to the end. Don't flinch from the truth. Repeat until the last ounce of strength drains from your body.
To be sure he had his list of heroes and villains, wore his biases on his sleeve, and had a vicious turn of phrase, but that was the part of Hitchens I liked best. Whatever subject he was discussing he would always do so with great passion and intensity. If 10% of this comes across in my writing I will have achieved my objective.

Anyone who believes in the power of words will miss Hitchens.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Unforgettable Mess

At this time of year I normally write a ‘Christmas Letter’ to my email contacts and recount the events of the past year, but because this year has been poor (and I have already done this to some extent) I have decided to pass this year.  Rather than focus on a year of shit, I thought I might focus on the year to come. One of the trickiest things about setting personal goals is the fact that outcomes are essentially unattainable. Every year, I promise that will I achieve goals in my academic work and I fail. Every year I am determined to develop more meaningful and lasting relationships and I fail at that too. At least I have achieved part of that goal, even if the last piece remains elusive.

The overarching goal for this year was to reconstruct my life after totally bottoming out last year. As the clock hit 2011, I was in the far corner of my bed tucked up in the fetal position hoping the enormous amounts of pain I was in would just disappear. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was probably the lowest point of my life. At this stage almost 12 months on, the framework for the rebuild has been constructed. There is little more I can do to change my behaviour, because it finally seems like all the rubbish has been cleared.

The goal for next year is as simple as it is sweeping: I have to act my age. I must balance the responsibility of being an independent 28 year old, but also behave like 28 year olds generally do. I must make mistakes that are not catastrophic, and destroy my sense of well being. I must develop relationships that will last in the long term. Previously they have flared up with great brightness and faded just as quickly. I need to develop a sense of evenness in my life that I have yet to experience.

Most of all I have to regain my motivation to finish the PhD. For the quicker I finish the thesis, the quicker I gain 100% control of my life. Though it will be hard enough orchestrating a move to Brisbane in the next 12 months, I’m starting to think I got at least one thing right in 2010: I need to move interstate. Of course it would be easier to stay within the confines of the big regional centre that is Brisbane, and I may well, but depending on job opportunities I’d love to move to Melbourne and become a full time academic researcher/writer. After searching the entire year for a long term goal, at least this could be beginnings of one. Although this year is proof that even if I don’t change my mind, circumstances might just do it for me.

One thing is certain: I won’t be here next year. My elongated adolescence will finally be at an end. Whoever said ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger’ obviously had some in reserve. For he does not know that looking forward is and will always be harder than looking back. Going south is very easy when there is no true north.

This should all be regained next year. Or at least I hope so. 2011 is, and will always be, a wound made of time that will constantly seep beneath several layers of bandages. The trick for me is to keep the wounds covered.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

'We Were Dead.'

'I did not want to finish the year because I know that as the days pass, as January becomes February and February becomes (winter), certain things will happen. All year I have been keeping time by last year’s calendar: what were we doing on this day last year, where did we have dinner… I realised today for the first time that the memory of this day a year ago doesn’t involve (him). (We) did not see a year ago. (We) were dead.' Joan Didon, 2004

This, so much this.

Go read ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ Your life will become so much better for it. It may change your life like it did mine.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

(I Found Love?) In A Hopeless Place

I know you’ve been waiting for another installment in the adventures of the CripDater™, so here it goes. Five months later, how many dates have I been on? A big fat duck egg (alright, maybe a half of one?). Sure, I have been picky, but at the same time I haven’t been my usual judgmental bastard either. To qualify for my further interest I must find the female attractive, and they must have an above average level of intelligence.

You would think that consists a majority of participants, wouldn’t you? The grand total of people I was really interested in getting to know amounted to eight people, total. One became a friend, six rejected me, and as of the time of writing I’m not sure what will become of the eighth. ‘Dating’ (if you can even call it that) is an ugly son of a bitch, trench warfare if you will. And just like World Wars 1 and II the crippled tend to get massacred.

Or at least that is what you’d think.

I found my lack of success and frustration had nothing to do with my four wheeled seat. Mostly I’m out of favor because I know exactly what I want, and I go after it, sometimes with reckless abandon. I have the opposite problem to most it seems. Most could have anything they wanted, but don’t know exactly what they are looking for. So instead of going after yours truly, who seems to fit the ideal profile of ‘…a guy who doesn’t play games, is generous, caring and knows what he wants’ (I’m modest aren’t I?) it seems that women want the exact opposite: a dickhead who fucks around, be it physically or emotionally.

As is my want, I made a list at the start of this dating journey of the qualities I want in my partner (not in any particular order of importance):

1. Someone who I can share my life with
2. Who I can think about the first moment I wake up, and the last moment before I go to sleep, and know that they still love me
3. Who I can hold close and listen to beautiful music with
4. Who I am insanely attracted to
5. Someone who gets that songs are so powerful they can change your life.
6. Someone who I can talk to all night, while we watch the sun rise together
7. Who understands that life is tough
8. Who knows that love is unconditional, both to give and to receive
9. Someone who cares about the things I love most in the world (politics, music, and pop culture).

To me these nine things are non negotiable. Firstly, I will only investigate people who I think could meet these criteria (the eight in question seemed to on first impression). Secondly, if I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to converse with them, I would only date them if I was confident they could certainly meet two thirds (six out of the nine) of the criteria, hopefully if we then hit it off, ticks will occur across the board. Yes, I am anally analytical, but you knew that already.

The intangible factor is that I am really an old man at heart. Travelling is not a priority, nor is gallivanting or adventuring. Activities I enjoy including concerts and film festivals are much more desirable than backpacking or physical activity. At the end of a hard day of academic work I want to watch TV or a DVD, perhaps listen to a podcast or read a book with my partner within touching distance, or if I’m lucky, in my arms. During this five month period, it seems I’m the odd man out because when this is mentioned by a single woman online it is most often listed as an ‘occasional’ activity.

All of this is of course a great shame to me because I know that this is the time I want to settle down. I am an impatient and frustrated man. I don’t want to waste another decade waiting for nine ticks. And yet I know because I am a fussy bastard it might take even longer. Sometimes even when I thought I had nine ticks, I did not.

It is back to square one.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Full Year

I know its early, but it’s the best time to do this, considering

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?

Online dating, taking control of my own life.
2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I made plenty, some I kept, some I didn’t but I tried my best with all of them

3. What countries did you visit? 

4. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Stability and independence.

5. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory?
February 10: saying goodbye, August 8th: that goodbye kicked in, August 21: the day I started living again, November 3rd: the best day of my year.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year??
Surviving it, literally

7. What was your biggest failure?
Everything to do with my thesis, I feel way behind

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

9. What was the best thing you bought?
A huge ZIP drive, and more bandwith

10. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My brother for coming back when I needed him most, FS, TCF, EM, Speedy, and a few others for helping me through

11. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Apart from my own? The ALP.

12. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

13. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Gillian Welsh: Time (The Revealtor), Ryan Adams: Do I Wait?, Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way  

14. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?
At this exact time? Much sadder. From NYE? Much happier.

15. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Thesis work

16. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Less self destructive behavior.

17. How will you be spending Christmas?
With my brother and the fam fam.

18. Did you fall in love in 2010? 

19. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
God, Yes.

20. What was the best book you read?
The Politician: Andrew Young

21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Old School Marvin Gaye

22. What did you want and get?
Not much. Some great new friends are nice though.

23. What did you want and not get?
Movin’ Out.

24. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, a probable day of shit turned out nicely.

25. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Letting go, moving on, staying strong.  

26. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Homeless Bum?

27. What kept you sane?
Peeps mentioned above, thirtysomething, Brothers & Sisters, Felicity, lots of tunage, & the Kindle

28. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?  
Suicide Girls (Can I fancy them all?) 

29. Who was the best new person you met?
TCF, the internet can sometimes work wonders

30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011?
Eat the shit up and spit it back, its not tasty, but it is good for you.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

'Can I Play With Your Joystick?': Crips, Sex and Scarlet Road.

Sex is the most basic need, most primal desire any human can have in the world. Often it brings us the most satisfaction, and binds us to other human beings like nothing else. Everyone notionally seems to be entitled to have sex in any way they want, in the privacy of their own home. That is unless you are physically disabled. SBS premiered a documentary on Friday night, which in my long experience is the only one that has seemed to deal with disability and sex in a factual, non judgmental manner. Scarlet Road: A Sex Worker’s Journey chronicles three years in the life of Rachel Wotton, a sex worker that specialises in satisfying disabled clients, not only a sexual sense, but one in which her clients can truly feel like men.

As a man with Cerebral Palsy, I must declare a stake in this issue. It is one that is very close to my heart. I have gone through many of the same experiences as the clients in the film. I have even gone so far as to talk about my disability and sex way back in 2008.
The worst thing about having a physical disability is the lack of control I have in life. Everything is very clinical, get up at this time, eat at this time, have a shower at this time, and go to bed at this time. I have no control over these things. (With sex)…. I got to do things on my own terms…. it was the first time I felt like I was being treated like a sexual being with desires and needs that were important. All my life I have been viewed as an asexual being whose desires should be avoided or neglected. (It) taught me not to be afraid of my sexuality and not to push it into the background.
The latter portion of Scarlet Road deals with one of Rachael’s clients who has Cerebral Palsy. His wish for his birthday was to have Rachael act as his girlfriend and stay overnight in his bed. This was despite the fact that he could not talk and has severe spasticity in his muscles. I strongly identified with his desire. The loneliness I have felt for 99% of my life as a disabled person, unable to hold someone as they fall asleep is one of the most painful things I’ve had to endure in my life.

Can you also imagine sharing a bed with your girlfriend and then having a carer coming in to the room to get you up in the morning, sometimes accidentally during the middle of a sex act? This is both a possibility and a reality, that I along with countless others face our entire lives. In order to fulfill her client’s fantasy, Rachael not only needed to learn how to perform a sexual act to client’s satisfaction, but also how to feed him, toilet him, and change him, so he could just have one night of privacy and romance. These acts of personal care hardly set the mood for a night of passionate and sexy love making.

Scarlet Road did a remarkable job showcasing the response of other people connected to  Rachael’s clients. To take one example, often the desire for a disabled child to have sexual intercourse with a paid sex worker can be a moral affront for parents. However in some cases, parents of a child with a physical disability have to be involved in the process itself. Whether it be transferring the person onto a bed so the sex act can take place, or driving their child to a brothel, the notion of privacy between parent and child is almost eliminated, and that is only if the parents are willing to be open minded and supportive. Sometimes if a crip wants to have sex, it has to become a community based activity with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, carers and parents all having to consult a person with a disability so they can achieve their sexual desires.

However, Scarlet Road is bittersweet in a way because it has demonstrated what a unique and fantastic individual Rachael really is. While paying for sex is not my first preference, I wish her organisation Touching Base was operating in Queensland, so it could provide me with an easier way to explore the options available to me. The fact that the two marginalised groups: sex workers and people with disabilities have to come together to ensure every person has access to sex, speaks volumes about society. After all I am a cripple and I like to fuck. Who doesn’t?

Friday, 2 December 2011


1. Possessing or displaying a distinctive feature to an extreme degree: the intense sun of the tropics.
2. Extreme in degree, strength, or size: intense heat.
3. Involving or showing strain or extreme effort: intense concentration.
a. Deeply felt; profound: intense emotion.
b. Tending to feel deeply: an intense writer.

Do I scare people? Are they afraid of my directness? Or is it my willingness to open up and be brutally honest about myself and how I am feeling? It is probably because I am very forthcoming with my opinions, especially unpopular ones. Having once prided myself on my honesty, I don’t think I can ascribe myself with that characteristic and give a correct assessment of myself. Unflinching, unafraid and terse certainly.

I figure that this is why I gain and lose friends at a quick rate. I suppose people see my intensity as a charming characteristic at first. I say (and publish) things people think of saying, but would never dare to. This has never changed and probably will never. But in the long term, it seems to piss former friends off. I would probably say ‘If they don’t understand me and how I operate were they ever really  my friends to begin with?’ This question in itself is a perfectly illustration of the intensity I speak of.

Part of the dynamic is that throughout my life I have endured wild fluctuations in emotions. I am constantly in one of three states: on an insane high, debilitating depression, or recovering from either extreme. This I realise doesn’t make me easy to get on with. I often shoot myself in the foot too. I am always keen to brag about things when I’m on a high, but when the inevitable low comes I have to backtrack very quickly.

For this reason I have to start leaning to shut up. It is not working too well is it?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nordic Princess Marit Larsen Sparkles

On the day before the last month of the year begins, I’ve undoubtedly concluded that my favourite album of this year is Marit Larsen’s Spark by a fair margin. Long time readers will of course know that I have been a devoted fan of her solo work from day one. Her third album though is utterly captivating, surpassing her already stellar back catalogue.

Marit was playing Taylor Swift’s game before Taylor became perhaps the world’s most admired pop star. Like Taylor, Marit fills her songs with lush instrumentation and sweet melodies that mask cutting lyrics. While it's safe to say that Marit has Taylor’s measure in both songwriting and composition, essentially the Norwegian treads the same ground as her American counterpart, making the former’s lack of success all the more bewildering.

Spark continues in the tradition of both Under The Surface and The Chase with the album's best songs dominated by orchestral arrangements. Longtime fans can also trace Marit's evolution as a songwriter. This is particularly so on the second track of the album, What If?, a love parable, fall of regret and sorrow that perfectly captures the conflicting emotions of intense heartbreak. Similarly, first single Coming Home opens with the brilliant first line. 'I wonder if you know when you kiss me like that, you ruin me for anyone else? Relatable lyrics that paint such evocative pictures are perhaps Marit's trademark.

One of the standout tracks for me is Fine Line, which is both romantic and bitter in the same breath. Indeed the chorus of 'It’s a fine line between love and hate, I’d rather be fighting than losing you babe.' demonstrates this contradiction beautifully. The build up to the last third track is magnificent sending tingles up my spine on each occasion.

Possibly the best track on the album though is Don’t Move, which has a very catchy chorus, a fantastic story that almost borders on a traditional folk tale with a modern twist. It is certainly Marit’s most adept piece of work so far, both sonically and on an emotional level.

The biggest problem with this album is that (so far) the album is unavailable in this country. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m Marit's only Australian fan. If so, this is such a shame. This album deserves to be enjoyed, consumed and appreciated by those who love great pop music.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Swings and Roundabouts

Sometimes I wish I kept my old Myspace blog.

Towards the end of 2004, I was feeling particularly lovelorn, so I decided to have a rant about love as a biological construct. 'Is it any wonder that generally men are horny all time, whereas women are more selective?' I pondered. 'After all they only have one egg to procreate and us males have thousands upon thousands of sperm. Yes, we are wankers!'

This particular entry crossed my mind today as I checked in with FS . The concept of 'love' came up. More specifically if you are in a relationship, particularly in its new stages, everything seems to be more exciting, fresh, and new, to the point that I once equated it to hearing a record for the first time.  If you’re not, or in a bad relationship everything can seem like a festering pile of crap, particularly in the over sharing society of Facebook and Twitter. So the instinctive, telling question is: what does one do to prevent this tendency from becoming too immersed in relationships?

So called ‘relationship experts’ talk about basic things like developing outside interests beyond your partner, but this doesn’t seem to counter the biological or hormonal tendency to drown in the glory of a promising relationship. I know my tendency to become enveloped in a new potential relationship is one of my biggest flaws. I preach moderation, but fail spectacularly when practicing it.

Sometimes its best to not keep pushing higher, and learning to wait for your turn.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Progressive Failure.

The old saying goes that 'A week is a long time in politics’. If that is true than four years is a lifetime. Four years ago tonight was the high point of my political life as the Rudd Government won the 2007 Federal Election. A lot has changed since. Rudd is no longer in office, I no longer belong to the ALP, and the party itself is massively floundering. The question is why? The simplistic answer is the burden of expectation. While the electorate expects ‘Conservative’ leaders to keep things steady, provide safe and secure government, voters tend to elect ‘progressive leaders’ because they believe the previous government has presided over a system that is flawed in ways big or small. As a consequence, anything short of a complete restructure of the system is perceived as a failure for an elected ‘progressive’ government. And yet no reasonable government whatever their persuasion can achieve this. The bigger question is whether a ‘progressive’ agenda such as the one that Rudd proposed during the 2007 election campaign was always doomed to failure?

A similar conundrum is being faced in the United States at the moment as Obama begins his re-election campaign. A superb article published yesterday in New York Magazine by political blogger Jonathon Chait argues that ‘progressives’ or ‘liberals’ as he refers to them (Not to be confused with Australia’s conservative Liberal Party), are always bound to be disappointed no matter what is achieved. A few choice quotes from the article are below:
The cultural enthusiasm sparked by Obama’s candidacy drained away almost immediately after his election. All the passion now lies with the critics, and it is hard to find a liberal willing to muster any stronger support than halfhearted murmuring about the tough situation Obama inherited, or vague hope that maybe in a second term he can really start doing things. (“I’m like everybody, I want more action,” an apologetic Chris Rock said earlier this month. “I believe wholeheartedly if he’s back in, he’s going to do some gangsta shit.”) Obama has already given up on any hope of running a positive reelection campaign and is girding up for a grim slog of lesser-of-two-evils-ism.
Here is my explanation: Liberals are dissatisfied with Obama because liberals, on the whole, are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president. They can be happy with the idea of a Democratic president—indeed, dancing-in-the-streets delirious—but not with the real thing. The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline. Instead they compare Obama with an imaginary president—either an imaginary Obama or a fantasy version of a past president.

Of course, the mere fact that the same people make the same complaints all the time does not render all those complaints false. All presidents screw up at least some of the time, and some of them, like Carter, screw things up almost all the time. What’s more, constructive criticism serves a vital role in democracy, and even unreasonable criticism can helpfully push the boundaries of the possible. Yet none of this justifies or explains liberals’ constant depression.
There is a catchphrase, which you’ve probably seen on bumper stickers or T-shirts, that captures the reason liberals have trouble maintaining political power: “Stop bitching, start a revolution.” At first blush it sounds constructive. If you consider it for a moment, though, the line assumes that there are two modes of political behavior, bitching and revolution. Since the glorious triumph of revolution never really pans out, eventually you’ll return to the alternative, bitching. But there is a third option that lies between the two—the ceaseless grind of politics.
If the best that ‘progressives’ can hope for is ‘the ceaseless grind of politics’ than what do they in fact hope to achieve? As I pointed out at the time of Rudd’s exit, it can be argued that he instituted more reform in two and a half years than Howard did in 12, and yet he holds the infamous record of being the only Labor Prime Minister deposed before he could face re-election. When you also consider that Hawke, the ALP’s most electorally successful leader was deposed by his own party despite winning four elections, you can see a huge anomaly within the ALP and in particular with its modern leaders. How do party members, and more importantly voters in general, bridge the gap between political fantasy and the pragmatism of reality?

In order to answer this question there must be a measurable way that  success for political leaders can be judged, and in particular those who classify themselves as ‘progressive’. Is it through the number of policies implemented? On that score, Gillard does exceptionally well with her government passing over 250 pieces of legislation since being elected 15 months ago, yet she is doing abysmally in the polls. Or is it delivering on the promises made during an election campaign? In this regard Rudd delivered all his big ticket items promised in 2007, yet was unable to remain as leader in the long term. Or do ‘progressives’ measure current leaders in historical terms. In Australia, the ghost of Whitlam looms large, but his spectacular fall from grace hardly provides an instructive example of effective governance.

As long as ‘progressive’ supporters continue to regard their leaders as mythical figures, none of the long term goals will be achieved: whether it be an effective policy to combat green house gas emissions, or much needed international macroeconomic reform. It seems political discourse is doomed to failure because ‘progressives’ lack a much needed dose of realism.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Goodbye Horrible, Terrible, Truly Shitty Year

'When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits ... he has gained facts, learned his ignorance, is cured of the insanity of conceit, has got moderation and real skill.'

Friday, 18 November 2011

Just Numbers?

I’ve thought about this all day but have decided that as painful as it I have to mark today publicly. It is a year since I began my failed first attempt at independence. Tuesday is also my birthday, which will be another painful and complicated day and so I will mark it without fanfare, to the point where I’d like to take a large sleeping pill and ignore the day entirely. The next few weeks will be full of painful milestones, so please forgive the crabbiness in advance.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

So Not The Time Of My Life: High School Reflections A Decade Later

At 1030pm I hear the fifth customised version of Green Day’s Time Of Your Life performed by the self appointed ‘charismatic males’ All I can think of is ‘I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here!’ That was ten years ago today, November 17, 2001. I was involuntarily at my High School Graduation/Formal. There I was in a suit I didn’t want to wear, with people I didn’t want to be with. Most were already nostalgic, some of the girls were already in tears inconceivably. The ‘charismatic males’ had no doubt reached the high point of their lives. I cannily predicted that one of them would turn out to be a PE teacher, just so he could kick the football and perv on girls with short skirts, while the other would remain unemployed because he was ‘living life to the fullest’. I would be correct on both predictions.

Whoever said ‘High School is the best years of your life’ obviously had no appreciation for me. High School will always remain one of the more darker periods of my life. I quite literally had no friends because I wasn’t interested in mixing with any of the people in my year level. Why should I? I was reading political theory during break times, while the two ‘popular groups’ sat under two rotundas behaving immaturely, in some form of sexual Darwinism execise, while the others would engage in other pointless activities. In an ideal world we’d forget about the indignity of the 45 minute morning tea break and work straight through so others could go home and I could do my homework by myself.

I was at school to work. I just wanted to do the best I could, and get out of there as quickly as I could, but even the academics didn’t quite get me. It was school policy that everyone was required to do Maths, so I had to endure that painful torture. I barely passed Level 1 Math due to my disability, consequently dragging my otherwise excellent marks in English, Modern History, Economics and Legal Studies down. As a consequence where I should have got a final score that reflected the effort and hard work I put in, my score was disappointingly mediocre. It shouldn’t bother me, but it always will. I remember being required to do a scrapbook for my last ever English assignment. In it I combined my early attempts at social democratic theory with my rapid evolving anti-theism (My word, meaning I believe in no religion not even atheism or being agnostic). As I expected, the early incarnation of Toddocracy received an A+

Inconceivably I was a school leader in year 11, mostly I suspect through staff intervention, rather than student popularity. In the final school assembly the principal of the school, a dictatorial bully whom I always despised, but loved me, singled me out twice as a model for other students at the school, which made my mother cry. That was nice, but such admiration only went so far. I was passed over for valedictorian probably because I chose to quote Marx in my proposed speech.

That last day neatly sums up my high school experience. I had no respect or kinship with my fellow students, nor they with me. I was respected by the staff of the school to a certain extent because I was part of an ‘inclusive education’ doing academic work, while the rest of the kids with ‘special needs’ were locked up in the ‘special needs room’ never interacting with other students. But obviously I wasn’t respected enough to change the conventional wisdom of the day. The school only seemed to want my opinion when it needed me for PR.

I ultimately left high school with a rush five days before my 18th birthday. No tears were shed, I hadn’t done anything particularly noteworthy, and I couldn’t care less if I ever saw my classmates again. Rather fittingly I was invited to my 10 year high school reunion this week with only 4 days notice for a RSVP, at a venue that is not accessible for my electric wheelchair. It is just as well because it gives me an extremely credible excuse not to go. I don’t want to hear Time Of Your Life again for as long as I live.    

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Bit of BIFF: Week 2

Through sheer coincidence, the four films that TCF and I chose to see during the second week of BIFF were all thematically connected to some form of oppression. Thus it really gave us a nice through line to compare and contrast all of the films as well to assess how important objectivity is within storytelling. Some were far more successful than others.

Dancing With Dictators
Unlike all the films we saw this week, Dancing With Dictators had no problem portraying its protagonist as a complete and utter twat. Ross Dunkley is an unlikeable man, a selfish person with a messiah complex. But he is also the only foreigner to be part owner of a newspaper in Burma: 
When Ross Dunkley, the Australian editor and co-owner of Burma's leading newspaper, the Myanmar Times, agreed to let a film crew into his offices, he couldn't have imagined the headlines that would follow. His intention was to offer a vehicle to see inside this notoriously repressive country; however, following Burma's first elections in 20 years, Dunkley's disaffection with his government-backed partner comes to a head and the story's focus switches dramatically to his arrest and imprisonment.
The problems with the film are based on texture. Although the viewer is very much aware of the political situation, we are unaware of Dunkley’s motivations for seemingly compromising his journalistic integrity on a regular basis. As the Burmese government contradict the intentions of original headlines and delete entire articles through the spectre of ‘censorship’ we are told that this is merely the cost of ‘doing business’. Even more frustratingly the film’s most interesting potential subplot, the complicated relationship between Dunkley and his deputy Bill Clough is left largely unexplored. B

Sons of Perdition
As an insight into the more extreme elements of Mormonism this documentary is intensely fascinating, as an insight into human behaviour the film is troubling, and as a family drama this film is harrowing.
The film tracks with three young men, who have broken with a sect/cult and, as a result, are cast out of "the Crick," their hometown of Colorado City, Arizona; they are allowed no access to their families and no support of any kind. Joe is 17 years old, as is Sam; Sam's cousin Bruce is 15. We first meet them when they're two months removed from "the Crick," living 30 miles away in St. George, Utah, and while they all miss their families, they're excited to be really living their lives for the first time. In FLDS, they have no contact with the outside world and no recreation--no books, no television, no radio, no public schools, no sports, no nothing. They are allowed to work (starting at about age 14), to study scripture, and to listen to devotional messages from "the prophet." Those creepy recordings of Jeffs pontificating show up in the film, full of splendid advice to his followers (to the wives: "obey and do what Father wants").
The film explores the devastating effect that a religious upbringing can have those who are indoctrinated from birth. By breaking away from the cult they are not only leaving their religion behind, but also their famiiles and entire social structure. The film makes clear that such choices are not easy as other family members try to flee the cult only to be forced back soon after. Brilliantly directed, this is a simultaneously eye opening and enthralling text. B+

Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene 
Following on the same path, the only non documentary we saw this week was perhaps a contender for the best film that we saw. It was superbly written, acted and very much worthy of the praise it received at Sundance earlier this year.
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has had things go wrong earlier in her life. Their nature is left murky in this persuasive film. When she escapes the cult and picks up a phone to call Lucy, her older married sister (Sarah Paulson), we sense no joy when she hears Lucy's voice. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. Lucy lives with her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy), in a lakeside "cottage" large enough to be a bed and breakfast. Ted is a British architect, stuffed with pretension. Lucy is sensible and cares for Martha but doesn't seem to pick up on how damaged the younger girl really is.
While the film’s subject is very intense, there’s an inherent vulnerability to Martha that is compulsively watchable, as this traumatised young girl is trapped in her own mind and surrounded by dark experiences. Her natural mannerisms developed from socially aberrant behaviour further bring out this tension. The viewer is left to wonder what the cause of this behaviour truly is. Highly recommended A-

The Trouble With Mary’s
This quintessentially Brisbane film was hampered rather than enhanced by its locality. The film had so much potential, but ultimately fell flat due to poor filmmaking and disastrous choices.
When seventy two year old Father Peter Kennedy is sacked by the Catholic Church for unorthodox practices, a fight ensues that will result in one of the biggest rifts in the history of the Australian Catholic Church. The sacking not only removes Peter Kennedy from the Church, but also effectively exiles over 1,000 members of his community who have followed him for almost thirty years. The Trouble with St Mary's follows the journey of a rebel priest and his community and their attempt to find a new way forward outside of the Catholic Church. Will they survive their struggle with the authority of a powerful establishment, and can they remain a united community under a common spirituality?
The filmmakers proved to have absolutely no objectivity and were far too close to Father Kennedy and the Church. No real reason was given to the audience as to why Kennedy made the life changing decision to leave the Catholic faith. Nor were there any outside influences to comment on the events objectively. Perhaps most importantly the apparent charisma that Kennedy must have had on his followers in order for them to leave the Church is not evident. It didn’t help that we sat directly in front of Kennedy, and in amongst many of his followers during the screening. They all seemed to laugh at inside jokes and at the end of the screening they embarked upon congratulatory applause like they had just seen an Oscar Winner. They are easily fooled it seems. They do believe in Christ after all. D

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Fast Friends

One would think I would have acquired a lot of determination, persistence and stubbornness over the course of my lifetime. Lord knows there are too many fucking obstacles to overcome. For all my attempts at carving a diverse life recently, I keep getting and feeling rejected. This does not help my fragile self esteem at this particular point in time given that this is a sensitive time of year.

It would help if I actually knew what I want. The thought of a long term relationship scares the shit out of me, given that I still have massive scars from the last one. Sex would be great, but is a rarity. Do you know girls who would ‘casually date’ a crip (if so let me know) with all the physical and emotional challenges that creates? Yet I know if it was just ‘casual’, it would not be enough.

So what to do? The foray into online dating has been a mixed blessing. I have found a great friend out of the experience. Yet she is the only one who has contacted me across the 3 ‘dating websites’ I have tried. Remember that fragile ego I mentioned? 1/54 ain’t helping matters. 54 seems a lot but I’m very, very picky, I think I’ve seen over 1000 profiles. Yesterday I thought I found a girl with potential. She was smart, we had things in common I thought, she made me smile, seemed fairly open minded and was good looking. Her reply: like 37 others: ‘I don’t think we would have much in common’ There are several translations for this, which in itself would take up several blog posts, none of them pleasant.

Yes I’m doing all these great things with few people, but I’m scared, really, really scared. Things seem great now, they always do in the heady stages. Then something happens, I get too intense and I’m back to where I started. Wise beyond my years because my soul has been skin grafted within an inch of itself, with supposedly ‘close friends’ drifting off the face of the earth. Most of the time I doubt whether I can in fact have a ‘healthy relationship’ with anyone in the long term romantic or otherwise. Next week is a decade since I graduated high school (more on that in another post) and I have gone through not one, but three distinctive social groups, and none of them have stuck. I float through life trying to find people who understand me, yet nothing sticks. No wonder I haven’t found what I’m looking for.

After the tragedy that was Christmas I made a pact: I would make 5 new friends that I could hangout with in 2011. I have made 1. I’ve tried new things, made myself feel uncomfortable, and done everything I can emotionally cope with. And yet here I am consciously trying very hard not to repeat the same patterns, but ultimately feeling unsatisfied. How uncomfortable do I have to be? It is almost like I have to create  new behaviour to try and dilute my intensity in order to keep people interested in being my friend in the long term. And yet, that is not me.

I have no idea what to do.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chomsky's (Fleeting) Comrade

There is a reason I travelled 800+ kilometres to see Noam Chomsky

Imagine a young Todd, 17 years old in the library of his high school reading Manufacturing Consent. Not exactly typical fare for your average year 12 student, whose peers seemed more concerned with getting shit faced and using as many prophylactic devices as possible. Chomsky was a refuge in an otherwise boring and mundane school environment.

There I was a decade later in the hallowed halls of the Sydney Opera House listening to an 86 year old Chomsky actually talk about issues that meant something. The ninety minute Q&A this past Thursday covered 12 broad ranging topics from foreign policy to linguistics and corporate governance. Rarely does a man command an audience with such a softly spoken voice, yet domineering presence. Words drifted out of Chomsky’s mouth as if they were being quoted from mountaintops. Listening carefully the audience hung on every syllable because they knew they were witnessing an intellectual titian. Despite careful choice of language (naturally) one got the feeling however that some of the responses were dumbed down to cater for all intelligence levels. Regardless I felt my IQ jump 20 points as soon as I left the theatre.

Not entirely unexpectedly Chomsky played to the extreme left wing disposition of the audience, especially when comparing the foreign policies of Obama and George W. Bush. The former of course being more dangerous than the latter, because where Bush merely detained terrorists illegally, Obama seeks to assassinate them. This was followed by thoughts on the Middle East where he suggested that the United States were deliberately in cahoots with Israel to tarnish the peace process.

Much to my disappointment but expectation, Chomsky sang the praises of the ‘Occupy Movement' and forecast that they would become the most pivotal social movement in a generation. Yet paradoxically he later derided Generation Y for their primal consumer tendencies. Like the many who comprise the 'Occupy Movement', Chomsky can not have his cake and eat it too. How can one hope to criticise the masters of consumer destiny as well as be amongst its willing disciples?

The highlight of talk for me was the last portion where Chomsky briefly (Unfortunately) discussed the evolution of the tertiary sector during his fifty years at MIT. He particularly talked about the moral dilemmas that were brought about due to the progression of technology, and what happens when academics continue to work in a sheltered vaccum, limiting their ability to assess the impacts of their developments on the outside world. At the same time he declared ‘Universities are among the freest places in society’ acting as a melting pot for ideas where unique combination of ideas are celebrated and explored. He obviously hasn’t visited my Alma Mater.

Overall, Chomsky excuded the intelligence for which he is renowned. Obviously, ninety minutes was never going to be enough merely touching on broad topics that all needed to explored in every philiosphical discourse imaginable. Nonetheless, I doubt I will ever come across a more articulate, reasoned, calm yet passionate person in the course of my lifetime.   

Monday, 7 November 2011

A Bit of BIFF: Week 1

The delightful TCF and I began a two week stint at the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) last Friday night. I’ve always wanted to go, but until now have been unable to find a suitible friend who has been willing to accompany me to multiple showings of political documentaries, intellectually challenging cinema and geeky diversions. We chose seven films, three in the first week, four in the second week.

A Dangerous Method
The opening night of BIFF saw the Australian premiere of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method: The film is described thus:
First seen arriving at Jung's Burgholzli Clinic in Zurich in 1904, Sabina (Keira Knightley) is a feral, convulsive wreck, A young doctor in his early 30s, Jung (Michael Fassbender) is just beginning to test his hero Freud's revolutionary methods and achieves considerable success in the case of Sabina, who quickly reveals her intelligence and emotional warmth. Two years later, Jung travels to Vienna to meet Freud (Viggo Mortensen), initiating a close but often uneasy bond with unexpected consequences when Freud asks him to treat a fellow psychiatrist, Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel). Unruly, defiant and disdainful of anything he perceives as a repressive social constraint, Otto encourages Jung to cross the lines of acceptable practice. Conveniently enough, Sabina, eager for healthy sexual experience, has given Jung an open invitation, one he is unable to resist for long despite his loyalty to his wife, Emma (Sarah Gadon), and their young children.
The film is particularly strong when exploring the complex relationship between Freud and Jung. They seem to embody their own psychological theories and although the actions of Sabrina keep the plot moving, the central antagonism between the two male protagonists seems to evolve into a love a dark, twisted and often tragic love story. Fassbender and Knightly are particularly good throughout and deserve to be nominated for many awards at year’s end A-

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
This was one of the films I was looking forward to seeing most given my fondness for all things Muppet related:
The film traces Kevin Clash's rise from his modest beginnings in Baltimore to his current success as the man behind Elmo, one of the world's most recognizable and adored characters. Millions of children tune in daily to watch Elmo, yet when Kevin walks down the street he is not recognized. Pivotal to the film is the exploration of Jim Henson's meteoric rise, and Kevin's ultimate achievement of his goal to become part of the Henson family of puppeteers. In addition to puppeteering Elmo, Mr. Clash is arguably the creative force behind today's Sesame Street, producing, directing and traveling around the globe training other puppeteers.
The film is both heartwarming and fascinating in equal measure. The origins of Elmo’s creation are traced, but perhaps more importantly the magic and techniques of bringing the Muppets to life are examined. The audience gets to appreciate how intricate the creative process is, and discover why Clash is the best in his field. A must for all Muppet fans and their kids B+

The Tall Man
Given my fondness for all things political I was really looking forward to this film, but I was ultimately disappointed in this incredibly bias, one note, yet technically proficient film.
This is the story of Palm Island, the tropical paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty-five minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. This is also the story of that policeman, the tall enigmatic Christopher Hurley who chose to work in some of the toughest and wildest places in Australia, and of the struggle to bring him to trial. The Tall Man is a story in luminous detail of two worlds clashing - and a haunting moral puzzle that no viewer will forget.
I find the description of ‘two world’s clashing’ an interesting concept because it was very clear the film makers were only intent on showing one side of the story. Despite the facts of case leaving little doubt that Hurley was guilty of striking the blows that ultimately led to the death of Cameron Doomaagee, the film failed to explore many of the gray issues surrounding the case. The film suffers from not conducting interviews with anyone in the Queensland Police Service (QPS), except for the occasionally militant union spokesmen. One can hardly blame the QPS given the way the material was presented.

The Q&A with some of the film's participants after the screening only exacerbated this bias. One of the Aboriginal elders suggesting a Darwinian approach to law reform by suggesting '...every copper should be bashed, just like they bash us' to applause from a self congratulatory audience. Such a disappointing outcome for a worthy subject. C

Friday, 4 November 2011

'And the Winner is Sydney...'

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that this year has been pretty shit. However, a trip to Sydney this week marked the brightest spot of 2011 for a number of reasons. The purpose of the trip to the Harbour City was to see a lecture at the Opera House by 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Winner, linguistics expert, and political theorist, Noam Chomsky, which I will write about in greater depth next week. The trip lasted less than 24 hours, but I learnt more about myself in that time than perhaps at any other time during this past year.

This was in no small part due to my travelling companion and friend (TCF) who accompanied me on the journey. The friendship I’ve developed with TCF is perhaps the most special thing I’ve acquired on my attempt to rediscover who I am as I begin to rebuild my life. I think the best time I spent on the trip to Sydney were enjoying the many deep philosophical and emotional conversations I had with TCF.

The trip to Sydney also allowed me to catch up with some wonderful people who I’ve waited a long time to see. Carly travelled to Sydney to continue her ever expanding love affair with Darren Hayes on his National Tour. As I fully expected with Carly, what you see and read on her blog is exactly what you get in person, as she regaled our fellow lunchtime companions with many entertaining stories. I was also able to catch up with another RampUp contributor and Sydney local, Leela, who unfortunately missed out on the chance to see Chomsky. I took great delight in recapping the main themes of the talk as well as undertaking a fascinating discussion on literature. Leela’s blog is full of wonderful writing and great stories, so be sure to check it out. Also enjoying the lunchtime gathering was a former student of mine (FS) who flew up and flew back in one day just to see Noam. Complete with customised shirt, I wondered if it was possible that an 86 year old political philosopher could have a groupie. FS certainly fits this bill as she hung off his every word. A wonderful lunch was had by all at a trendy Italian Café at Circular Quay overlooking both the Bridge and Opera House.

Each member of that lunchtime group had come from a diverse background and yet we had no problem gelling. That was really indicitive of the whole trip in a sense. With a push of encouragement from both TCF and FS who insisted that I take this journey to begin with I had one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Sometimes life is not meant to be so hard. It proved to be the first time in 2011 I was at ease with both myself and other people. And that is a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Touchy Subject

Over the past couple of weeks I have been routinely asked if ‘I’m feeling better?’ or whether I’m ‘…through the worst of my depression?’. I’m not sure how I can answer this. There is often a pause… ‘...well you seem better anyway’. My response usually goes inarticulated. I suppose anything would feel better than crying every minute of every day and feeling like your heart got ripped out, chewed, and shat on.

I’m starting to get back to my new version of me. Next week I travel to Sydney to see Noam Chomsky, and begin a seven film run at the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF). Next week will be fun. I’m terrified of the week after though, because at that point last year was when I began my three week sojourn for independence, which failed. Those three weeks will be filled with anniversaries big and small. To top it all off, one of these is my 28th birthday, which I would like to forget completely. Thank god it falls on a Tuesday so people won’t pay much attention

All of these things I can manage with a minor freak out and a good loud, long cry. What I really miss is indefinable, hard to get, and even harder to ask for. I miss the touch of another human being. A few months back Carly talked about her experiences on the subject, given her rare skin condition. While I can relate to many of her experiences, I have a different problem. I feel the sensation of touch every day. People are literally paid to touch me every single day in a clinical, medical, hygienic and detached manner. This form of touch is as invasive as it is required, but it doesn’t solve my problem.

What I want and need badly is physical affection. While many readers would automatically assume this means I want sex, this isn’t necessarily what I’m after. Something as simple and basic as a hug is an arduous task. As with anything in my life this is not spontaneous. I actually have to ask for one. Whilst I do ask on occasion, it feels like an imposition for the other person because they are merely fulfilling an obligation.

This also limits my ability to casually flirt with members of the opposite sex. There’s no such thing as a casual movement or a light touch for a person with Cerebral Palsy. Imagine having to ask a hot girl ‘Can you come closer so I can accidentally brush your elbow?’ Even the famous reaching for the same bowl of popcorn doesn’t work, because one twitch in the wrong direction and the bucket goes flying. At least she would smell good.

Sometimes I am brave enough to ask, but I don’t always want to be the one who asks for what every human being essentially needs: to be loved and to be loved in return. Just occasionally I want someone to do that for me.