Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Moment

I tried to tell you, I really did. I rehearsed what I would say for days, fearing stunned silence. Your scent overpowered me. That soft, gentle pleasing smell made me feel safe. You and I knew instinctively what to do, how to act, what to feel.

Years later I look back on that as the turning point in so many ways. A fool would point to its consequences, but the moment itself was a scar that ran directly across my heart. Sometimes it was a painful reminder of what I lost, other times it was a mark of remembrance. Every year I mark that moment when everything changed, to the second. To you it probably meant little. To me, it meant everything. You even said yourself you had forgotten. I should have taken that as a sign.

It took just one second, but it was the moment that defined me because it was all I had left. Sometimes, I tried to forget that it happened, but that seemed to be more painful than its recall.

All you said was ‘Okay’ but it was the way you said it, the way you reacted, the way you moved that stayed with me.

Years later. ‘Okay’ was not the most powerful word anymore. Instead something else came. It wasn’t even a word, nor a smile. It wasn’t even anything really. I just knew from that moment ‘Okay’ had lost its relevance. Another breeze wafted through and I knew I had changed. That darkly lit room with its speckles of sun popping through the blinds on the windows would now be replaced.

Replaced so easily, but never gone.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Dark Clouds

I remember that week. I read 4 books.

I was in a place I never knew. At the time I thought it was nice. It was everything I was not used to. Surrounded by brown rolling hills. It was the antithesis of my ‘home’, although nothing felt like ‘home’ anymore.

I arrived to the sight of dark black clouds above me. The sky was angry, furious even. Like it knew I was keeping a big secret. I managed to avoid its wrath, retreating into the anachronistically modern house. I looked out the large glass windows and all I could see were those fields. I felt anxious. I wondered how long I could keep things to myself. Days? Months? Weeks? Even years?

I start on the first book, only because I don’t know what else to do. We are all trying to make each other as comfortable as possible, but at least from my end it is not working. Conspicuously I pull out the most dense book I can find from my travel pack. I may be on foreign turf, but I am conscious of the need to express my superiority as soon as I arrive. The other occupants retreat into routines of what seems like normalcy.

The first book was 500 pages long and I read it in four hours.

I am the first to wake the next morning. I cannot tell that the rain poured down the night before. The anger seemed to have past. Although the sky was clearer I was not. How would it be possible to remain someone else? How did I get into this mess? I desperately wanted to tell the truth but knew I couldn’t. I was a stranger in a foreign land with foreign emotions.

Book number two came and went in a blink of an eye. I tried to keep my mind active while others slept in neighbouring rooms. It seemed like an entire day, but it was only half that at most. The charade continued, all the while my gut was imploding inside, desperate to reveal the truth.

Only once did my guard slip. I acted when no one was looking, it would have taken five seconds maximum, but that five seconds had to be enough to last me through the week. It was not.

Book three took longer to complete, only because my mind at that stage was filled with growing resentment and fear. I could not concentrate. I needed to get out of there, but I couldn’t. I felt trapped.

Thankfully the opportunity presented itself after four days of isolation. The land surrounding me was harsh and baron. Unforgiving, just like the consequences of my secrets if I continued to hide them. Desperately I tried to hang on to something, and wanted to remain outside of the house for as long as possible. Thankfully I got my wish. I was allowed out for the night and I did not return to the house until the next afternoon.

I started book number four upon my return. I was thankful I could see the end in sight. Just 24 hours and I could have things back the way I wanted them. Or so I thought. My gut kept asking me questions I chose to ignore.

Why are these people so different to me?
Why must all my interactions with them be based on lies?
When could I be the version of myself that I liked?


Those questions were never answered.

When I got ready to leave the sky was cloudy. There was sense of impending doom on the horizon. I looked outside the window one last time. Something told me I would never be back here again. Instead I farewelled the owners with a polite thank you. I told them that I would see them in a few weeks as planned. As I wish them well, it begins to rain.

I never saw them again.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

John Hughes Was On To Something!

A ‘match’ implies symmetry, or at least that is what I thought.

It appears as though John Hughes circa 1985 would have a better concept of what constitutes a dating match than the seemingly ‘sophisticated software’ I chose to help me on my quest to find a potential mate.

So far, here’s a cross section of responses to what apparently constitutes a match for me.
  1. ‘I don’t really read. Do fashion magazines count?’ That would be HELL NO 
  2. I like a man who takes the time to go the gym and work out’ I have really strong wrist muscles from pushing my joystick on my wheelchair forward?
  3. ‘Politics is stupid.’ I’m not going to even attempt to respond.

Really is it asking too much to have a match with someone who I have at least some commonalties with?

While we’re at secret wishes that will never happen. I’d really like someone to contact me first.

If John Hughes ever updates his operating system I’d like these brains, this humour, these sets of interests and these looks.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Useful Movie Trivia

‘You know Gene Kelly got the flu, right?’

I’d like to pretend I didn’t notice the slight grin in the back of the room, the polite nod, eyes twinkling incandescently, as we acknowledged that we were the only two people on Earth who understood our little inside joke. I quickly turned away continuing on the conversation as though nothing had happened. But the blinds had finally lifted. I could see inside.

We had only known each other for a few weeks at that time, You could count the number of hours we spent together with your fingers, and yet it seemed we had already created a shorthand only the two of us could understand.

Singin’ in the Rain was one of my favourite movies. Hell, I thought that if you felt nothing while you were watching the movie, you had no soul. But she didn't know that. One day out of the blue I’d asked my new friend what her favourite movie was. She said without hesitation ‘Singin In The Rain’. Well, at least this new friend had a soul. But I was the eternal provocateur. ‘Don’t tell me you like the title song?!’ I said.

You know Gene Kelly got the flu, right?’

It’s a little known fact that Gene Kelly and his co-director Stanley Donan spent three days filming the choreography for that title sequence, by which time Kelly got so sick he had to spend a week in bed. I like to think that this is a neat metaphor for life. You can’t be that happy without suffering the consequences of the mindless bliss soon after.

Of course I presented this theory to her: ‘You’re too pragmatic for your own good. Enjoy the highs while you can, otherwise you will be waiting for the lows your entire life.’ This was why I liked her.

That was two weeks ago.





We turn up to that party together as a couple for the first time. Nobody I know is here, and I hate going to parties. It is like everybody knew my life story before I arrived. I would be greeted not with a hello, but always with a slight pause ‘So you’re the famous guy who talks politics and teaches at University that we keep hearing about?’ That question always sounded the same, the tone was almost condescending with a hint of surprise. I knew that it was going to be a long night.

‘We’ve also been told you’re a movie buff?’
‘I am indeed’ I nod
‘Have you been subjected to Singin’ in the Rain yet? You know it is her favourite movie of all time? She makes everyone watch it’
I smile widely, taking a slight pause for effect.
‘You know Gene Kelly got the flu, right?’ I add

There she was in the back of the room with that grin of hers, trying to suppress laughter. Somehow I knew that grin that meant we would be more than friends. That even though I could not sing in the rain for fear of damage to my wheelchair, the song, the music and the words would stay with me forever.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Gift: Lior in Brisbane

In Brisbane, enjoying the city for the first time in 10 months, walking by the river with nothing but street lights marking the path. The first breaths of summer lightly graze my face. Just 20 minutes before I am in a tent right in the middle of the CBD, totally transfixed by the majesty of restraint and poise that is Lior. After 70 minutes in front of a full house Lior launches into Nature Boy, the jazz standard made famous by Nat King Cole. The song’s central theme of the song in a sense summed up the night.
‘The greatest thing you'll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return.'
Lior’s By Request Tour stopped by the Spegeltent last night, as part of the three week long Brisbane Festival. Before the show fans were invited to request any song they wished on Lior’s website, each dutifully performed by the Sydney based musician. This added both a sense of entertaining interplay between the master and his audience as well as a sense of spontaneity rarely found in live performances.

Backed by an equally talented string quartet, Lior’s set mixed fan favourites, deep album cuts and an array of fine covers. Among the latter was Don McLean’s Vincent: beautifully sparse and quiet. Crowded House’s Into Temptation reinterpreted with a heavy soul flavour. and my request, Lior’s little heard reworking of Bob Dylan’s Satisfied Mind. On a lighter note he also performed a cover of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer to the tune of the Sesame Street theme.

But it as a songwriter that Lior remains at his best. Opening the set with the subdued Grey Ocean he immediately left the audience transfixed. So too with the night’s highlight Sonja, one of my favourite tracks from Lior’s best album Corner Of An Endless Road, and of course with his trademark song, perennial wedding song This Old Love. Lior’s gift as a live performer remains the same as on his recorded works: his clean and crisp voice that has the ability to cut through to the heart of his emotional lyrics.

When Nature Boy started with an acapella rendering of the entire song, the audience knew that they had witnessed the emotional power of great music. The feeling that climbs up from the depths of the soul and demands to be heard. Indeed that too is a great gift, amongst the many the audience heard last night.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

'I Am Actually Feeling Awful Today...'

It is really hard talking about depression. Which is why against the advice of many I often write about my experiences with depressive illness here. It lets people know how I am truly feeling, friends and strangers alike. I feel an obligation in a sense because I know lots of people with depressive illness or symptoms who are afraid to discuss their feelings. I am more than comfortable doing so, and I think its important that I detail those experiences. because they are rarely talked about publicly: particularly in the context of disability.  In some cases people have expressed publicly that they have identified with my feelings, but mostly I choose to write highly personal content, because it is where I’m most comfortable expressing myself.

Which brings me to Australia’s first ‘Are You Okay’ day, today. It is designed as both a suicide prevention tool and an awareness campaign to encourage people to ask the titular question. Without a doubt, there needs to be more information about how to talk to people with depression. Unfortunately, while I believe asking the simple question is an important first step, this campaign is addressing the wrong problem.

Have you thought about what happens if you ask a person how they are, and they say 'I am actually feeling awful today’? I’ve been asked that question several times this year during my crippling battle with the black dog, and each time I have responded with unflinching honesty. While the instantaneous response to ‘I feel like absolute shit’ has always been one of empathy or pity, very few have actually put their hand up and provided ongoing support, or at the very least a listening post where I can vent my true thoughts, no matter how dark or sad they may be. That being said, I am eternally grateful to those who have been helping me along the way.

The true test of friendship is someone who can put up with you on your best and worst days. We as a culture are always prepared to ask ‘Are You Okay?’, almost instinctively, but we remain hopelessly ill-equipped if confronted with a negative answer.  Society needs to learn how to ask the question, but it also needs to learn how to cope with the answer in whatever form it may take.

Just yesterday, I was sent an email asking ‘Are You Okay?’ essentially and because I was feeling confused about a number of issues (but not overly depressed, for one of the few times this year) I sent forth a rather detailed email about things that had been buzzing around in my head. The response I received in kind was equally detailed, acknowledging my feelings and helped me carve a way ahead.

‘Are You Okay?’ is never a simple question and requires a compassionate, supportive and multi faceted conversation.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

An Attack On The Mind

Over the past week society, and in particular the media, have been in my opinion obsessed with commemorating the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. I am not one of those nutters who point to other terrorist attacks in remote places and try to equate eggs with oranges but it does concern me greatly.

On a personal level I have to question the constant bombardment of ‘misery porn’ on my television screen. There continues to be a lack of critical assessment in the mainstream media about the consequences of the 9/11 attacks in the context of world affairs. I doubt that the majority of the public are interested in such an evaluation, but show them a picture of a man jumping out a window on loop and they will remain hunched over their TV screens ad infinitum. The priorities of both the public and the media are sadly skewed.

What if next year, we have a one minute silence worldwide? We commemorate the people who lost their lives on that clear day on the eastern seaboard of the United States, all those needlessly killed in Iraq (on both sides), and those who sought to avenge in Afghanistan (on both sides). We chastise those who are foolish enough to embark on adversarial politics in the name of religion (on both sides), and those who continue this idiotic legacy. In between this minute we as society choose to boycott all of this ‘misery porn’, and 'commemorative gestures', which do nothing but fan the flames of prejudice.

I proclaim this current coverage to be as harsh and harmful as propaganda generated by any totalitarian regime in the world. Just as these states do, the United States, Australia and the rest of the western civilization show images of violence and destruction to embolden the complacent in society by encouraging them to hate a perceived ‘enemy’. To what end?

Next time you see the images of fire, rubble, and helpless people jumping out the World Trade Center windows ask yourself one thing: What response is expected of me? An intelligent society must respect and honour those lives that were sacrificed. Such respect demands that these lives must not be exploited for opportunistic gain, both from the media and those in political power.

Next year when confronted with constant 'commemoration' you have a choice. I will choose to ignore it and move on.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Linkage Volume III, 2011

Doug Robertson critiquing the Bruno Mars Song Marry You:

When writing any tune, you have to ask yourself a lot of questions. Questions like: “Is this going to add anything worthwhile to the already overflowing pool of recorded music?”, “What do all these buttons do?” and “Should I have a chicken or a ham sandwich for lunch?” But of all the possible questions the most important one is surely “Will my gran like this?” If the answer is “Yes,” then not only do you need to start completely from scratch, but you also need to take a long hard look in the mirror and think about exactly what the hell you think you’re doing with your life. Bruno, I will happily supply the mirror.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Tell Me I'm Wrong, You Simply Cannot.

Take 15 minutes and watch as Christopher Hitchens eviscerate everything you know about religion and then tell me why it is justifiable to believe in a so called 'God', in whatever form it may take.

Go on, I dare you!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Strength?

People often confuse strength and perseverance. Especially when it comes to disability. Apparently people see me as ‘strong’ because I put up with my disability and attempt to build life beyond its restrictions. This requires neither of the above two qualities. I am not strong because I attempt to live an adequate (yet ultimately unfulfilling) life. Nor is it perseverance, because that implies I must have a degree of honourable character in order to look past my own flaws. And I cannot.

Give me anything in the world and if I had the opportunity I would flee from my current circumstances. The fact that I have not implies nothing, except that I have neither the means nor the opportunity to do so. I never will.

So in this context, what constitutes strength?
  1. Is it making the ‘best of’ a miserable situation and finding the little things to make a happy life?
  2. Is it forming the unrealistic expectation and hoping circumstances change?
  3. Is it trying to find a way out hoping that a ‘better situation’ can be found?
Trying to find the answer to the first question could constitute strength, but the other two do not. Sure, achieving the small things in life and being proud of the most minuscule achievements can have a positive short term effect. But when the core problem remains this placebo is short lived. In my case it will never, ever change no matter how many small moments there are.

This also takes away the last two questions: there won’t be any changes and better circumstances will not be found. So all that is left is to remain stoic.

This is the reason why I am highly opinionated. When I am required to sit down and cop my misfortune on the chin for every minute, of every hour, of every day, I refuse to do so in any other aspect of my life.

Perhaps that is what strength means?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Tonight I Can Write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, 'The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.


She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.


This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.



Pablo Neruda

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ghosts of (Potential) Girlfriends Past

Dear Girl Who Has Been Kind Enough To Be Polite To Me:

I usually start off this letter by telling you how shy I am. This letter will make up for it because I can FINALLY tell you how I feel. But in reality, if you really meant something to me I would tell you in person because I would have the guts, and I wouldn’t be scared of rejection.

I’d tell you the story of how it felt when I first laid eyes on you. I fell in ‘love’. This happens every time, because I really don’t know how to relate to women I find attractive above my waist. What this really means though is that I am starved for companionship. Consequently, what would pass for a healthy relationship with a woman has more attached to it. Then the cycle starts.

Because I am so shit at obtaining and maintaining multiple friendships, I don’t live a healthy well rounded lifestyle. And then I become fixated with you. I check my email every hour to see if you have sent me a message. I keep my phone beside me at all times too. Because I keep things bottled up, my true ‘feelings’ will undoubtedly come out in one big rush. Usually through another letter you are yet to receive. I start to plan fictitious dates.

Naturally you decline my advances, because you are sane. You try and let me down gently because I’m the type of guy you wish you could like. I keep your secrets, tell you how beautiful you are, I might even make you laugh, and gosh darn it I’m smart. I’m the guy who your mother wishes you would pick, but you never do. Instead you like the guy in that band. He might even be your boyfriend, but you are never his first choice. You are always mine. Disturbingly so.

Somehow your rejection makes me even more determined to win your affection. You see I watch too many teen soaps where this happens and I confuse it with reality. This is where things get rather silly. You rejected me and yet again I retreat inwards. I become emotional, lose the skerrick of self esteem that took me a year to redevelop after the last time. I once again lose a potentially great friendship and have no one to blame but myself.

You wanna know the worst part? If you had just ignored me, instead of talking to me and smiling politely that first time we could have both avoided this whole mess in the first place. Next time just ignore me. Please.

I love you so much.

Todd (In his various guises 1996-2010)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Why I Quit The ALP

Yesterday I quit the ALP and I’m not coming back.

To be truthful my heart hasn’t really been in it since Rudd was deposed for a variety of reasons. Before I launch into a seismic rant of Rundlian proportions. It is important to note that this decision was not made on the spur of the moment. I have taken about two months to decide. I genuinely thought I was going to be tied to the ALP for life. I have decided to leave knowing full well I am closing the door to several opportunities, former career ambitions and most importantly some people who have put time and effort into cultivating my political ambition. I am disappointed that these dreams have died and it is with an extremely heavy heart that I decided to leave after eight and half years of service.

I am a rare beast. I’m a young social democrat. As I’m arguing in my thesis, social democracy is an outdated and outmoded ideology if a party wishes to achieve electoral success. The Labor Party likes to think it is a social democratic party, but the last gasp of social democracy died when Latham resigned as leader in 2005. One could argue that a diluted form of social democracy existed during the Rudd Government, but with Gillard and her incompetent posse now pulling the levers, social democracy in the ALP is about as common as a Labor MP with employment experience beyond the trade union movement or the public service.

Politically, Gillard is Australia’s worst Prime Minister since William McMahon. She is just hopeless. In just two days she’s fucked up immigration policy and thereby consigning the ALP to a decade long period in opposition. The worst part of all of this is that the government should have taken its own advice from two years ago. Why didn’t they?

The answer is simple: the ALP as a party has its head up its own arse. First there was putting Bitar and Arbib in charge of the ALP’s organisational wing, then the coup of Rudd, leadlng to the worst ALP campaign in living memory and then a toothless review which one of its author's suggested to me was meaningless. Things have gone from bad to worse. The ALP is in a hole that it will never get out of.

I would stay on to fight to the death if the party didn’t repeatedly botch the policy that affects me the most. A party which supports a National Disability Insurance Scheme is a party in which I question my membership. My party no longer belongs to me, nor does my belief that supporting a major party helps to achieve slow and gradual change. I have advocated to abolish the NDIS, loud and long for the entire year and yet my concerns have fallen on deaf and unwilling ears to those who can change the policy's outcome.

I am disgusted that the government is blindly following such ridiculous recommendations from the Productivity Commission's report. The Government does this without considering the impact that this disgraceful policy will have on my life, for the rest of my life. You can add a million other people with disabilities with a variety of impairments whom none of us know too.

On an operational level I am tired of putting my energies into a local party that refuses to do anything constructive and meaningful. During my time in the party, the Sunshine Coast ALP has gone backwards not forwards. Save for a few notable exceptions, the local party is being hijacked by people who seek to be in charge of their own little chiefdoms at the expense of taking the party forward, both in a policy sense and politically. Eight years later, the same arguments and ideas are being put forward with no actionable policy outcomes. If I have to push a bus uphill, I’d rather do it myself than have to tiptoe amongst self importance and inefficiency. I don’t have the patience, the time or the energy to deal with all of that if it is not going make a difference to the issues I care about.

Instead I will focus on my academic career and my personal goals The ALP is no longer the venue to create sufficient change. I’m going alone because I will have more success doing so. No wonder new party members don’t want to join the ALP. It is a toxic organisation, gangrenous from within. Perhaps if others cut of its head it may survive the wounds, but now I have come to realise it needs to die. It is a very, very sad thought