semi-permanent beast

Self portrait 1.0
cr; lamahkun @ Facebook

It worries me that I spent NYE sitting at home catching up on performances from Korean end-of-year award shows. Rather than drive the 15 minutes to my friend’s farm for cosy NYE board games and drinkage. Rather than watch the brightness of the Sydney fireworks on the living room TV with my family. Rather than sit outside my yard watching mildly illegal fireworks prickle off and explode in sparkles of colour at the high school behind my back fence – which they have been for the past hour and continue to crackle away on a balmy night that drips with promise.

I got home at 8PM after spending the past four days swapping driving shifts in Melbourne and in between Melbourne and Sydney while listening to craploads of old pop, Western pop, K-pop, J-pop – I convinced myself not to buy a t-shirt that said ‘J-pop’ and sought refuge in the thought of creating one at home emblazoned with ‘K-pop for life’. I tried to eat myself toward the point of vomitting, sought cool shelter in the National Gallery of Victoria before melting on the sidewalk trekking from Queen Victoria Night Markets back to the apartment. Halfway through a bowl of wonton noodles on Russell, a cousin took a seat beside me and carefully placed his helmet on the next table. He’d taken a chance early that morning to ride his motorcycle from Sydney to Melbourne not realising that his cousins would also be there at the same time. He and I went looking for new friends on what was my last night in the city.

‘Have you done this before?’ I asked, sussing out a quartet waiting at the lights. Mildly tall, Asian-looking, cute-ish and heading toward San Churro, at least according to my lack of 20-20 vision. His glance met my bitten lip – habitual lip-biting thanks to mild anxiety-slash-overanalysis.

‘Once before, but accidentally,’ came my cousin’s reply as he assessed and digressed the situation. Two mildly dyed-up Asian girls, donned in skin-tight corsets and jeans that were clearly skinnier than my own, were most definitely coupled up with the two Caucasian guys. I half-decided I wanted my own skin-tight white corsetry before realising that we were assessing two different groups.

We ended up at a rooftop bar with a familiar yet unexpected face. As workers packed away the remains of the rooftop cinema, we draped across the railing making small talk and watching the New Years’ Eve Eve folk trickle across the astroturf. It felt mildly depressing that I spent most the night over-agonising to my own rambles and tacking them onto the ends of conversation, convinced that my cousin thought me more odd than usual and that his friends thought none too similar.

Self portrait 2.1
cr; lamahkun @ Facebook

I spent most of the year looking, but never really finding. I let myself settle, convinced to go with the flow and tried so hard to find what it was that I was so sure I was looking for, but could never feel truly satisfied. It worries me that I find so much near-implosive joy when I’m watching things online, reading things and fangirling and letting myself be carried away by the hilarious things filtering through my 22-inch screen instead of being in the genuine company of friends or enjoying the intricate pieces and nuances of real life.

In all honesty, I don’t mind being alone but these days it feels like I’ve spent so much time being alone that maybe I’ve become lonely before beginning to realise it as such. I reach for conversation and never feel as satiated like I used to be. I sit online and I blog and look to people I’ve never met. I know I spend so much time living inside my head, ‘feeling’ satiated by the stories in my head, but never ‘being’ because I spend so much time in my own world trying to find something. A connection, contentment, something to mirror all the things I see between people and moments that sit alone, but are so much more. I long to the point where I feel like I’m aching for something that will fill this void that I can’t quite place.

I used to write a lot when I was at uni and I used to channel parts of myself through the characters I’d create. I remember refusing to write in first person, despite the advice of lecturers and peers, because I was so adamant at never letting myself get too close to the characters. I hated writing in first person because I was convinced the folks in my workshop could see parts of me radiate from the page and it fucking scared me. It still does. I still hate writing in first person and I still hate writing stupid personal shit on blogs because it feels like all my fears and vulnerabilities are laid out for everyone to see. Hello stupid thought is stupid – the whole point of writing a blog is to do so with the knowledge that it will be read by someone. Never mind the fact that I hate self-indulgent blogs with a passion – yeah, watch me guzzle word vomit.

I keep most of my thoughts in text messages, conversation, freakishly long emails, private messages, the odd glance and common understandings between myself and the few albeit growing fewer close friends that I have. I don’t know why I’ve suddenly taken to laying bare some of my insecurities. Maybe it helps.

Self portrait 2.2
cr; lamahkun @ Tumblr

New Year’s resolutions tend to expire three months into the year, but anyhoo. This year I will:

  • Re-learn guitar. Specifically Julie Delpy’s waltz from Before Sunset and Lisa’s acoustic version of what is possibly my most favourite Korean song ever,누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay). My mum’s guitar has been shooting evils from the corner of my room all year.
  • Travel a.k.a. take some damn leave already. Specifically to hit up the USA in April so I can finally meet the Facebook friends I’ve been chatting for two years. And I will inhale bits of Hong Kong, Korea and Japan before this year ends.
  • Take more photos.
  • Spend more time in real time a.k.a get my damn arse offline.

In other news: my day-after-Christmas was spent with my primary school friends rolling, frying and steaming pork 140 dumplings, attempting to make a Domokun cake, making and inhaling Vietnamese prawn salad with jellyfish of awesomesauce, trying to make a roast pork mildly Korean with ssamjang sauce, watching my friend make implosively good green tea meringues. I later indoctrinated said friend and virgin Korean drama friends (yes, they exist) with 미남이시네요 (You’re Beautiful). Quite possibly the best/only Christmas I’ve had in a very long time.

NB: Dear Lamah – please stop me from hocking your beautiful photography to break up the monotony of my blog. I will buy you OJ if you do.

love: my mum is made of awesomesauce

A straw painting (blow air on paint through a straw) I did when I was three.
…and the corner of a poster of, um, fangirly joy *twiddles thumbs*

Of all the things to come home to, this almost takes the cake. These lovingly written notes appeared within a few days of each other and have been sitting above my workspace at home for the past month or so as constant reminder that “Hight Blood presser is NO Good.”

HELLS YEAH my mum is cooler than your mum. She totes a mean umbrella on blindingly sunny days, laminates each article her daughter’s every published and proceeds to Blu-tack them around the house. I think she will eventually lose her voice over the amount of times she comes into my room to lecture me and avalanche her love and concern in a jagged melody of Vietnamese proverbs followed by the old “Do you understand what I’m saying?” from which she’ll then proceed to translate in Vietlish.

My mum will fork out the hundreds of dollars for the professional graduation photos, put each of my degrees into wooden plaques as well as trot down to Cabramatta to get them done up in hardwood frames to display around the house. A humble smile will fill the corners of her mouth when old friends exclaim, “Wahhh con chị học ký giả? Giỏ quá!” (“Wahhh your child studied journalism? So clever!”) even though her immediate response at her daughter’s wish to pursue this profession was, “Không có người tóc đen học ký giả mà!” (“But there’s no Asians in journalism!”). And that’s barring the sheer amount of cooking and force-feeding she does to make sure my sister and I get all the nutrients we need even if it kills her – “Canh make con ấm” (semi-Vietlish translation: soup makes Child warm). I love coming home to the scents of Canh chua lá giang cá kèo and thịt kho (caramelised meat stew). Sometimes she might be making gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese rice paper rolls), bún gà nướng (baked chicken with vermicellli) or fry up a T-bone steak marinated in hoisin sauce and sesame seeds served with gỏi (Vietnamese salad) and fish sauce dressing – okay maybe that’s just me.

Bún gà nướng. Yes, I appreciate food porn.
No, we don’t make phở at home cuz it takes 13 hours to make the damn soup alone.
And I never though I’d mention the word ‘porn’ in the same blog as my mum. Aiyshhh..
Photo: Merydith @ Flickr

My mum speaks five languages while yours truly conducts her speech in odd English syntax and Vietnamese at the level of a 10-year-old. Her English is better than my Vietnamese, her Teo-Chew slaughters my own and as I struggle at times to differentiate between phonetic Cantonese and Mandarin, she’ll rattle off in both with sheer fluency at the Chinese grocer over the price of mangosteens .

It freaks me out sometimes being reminded that she was just 20 when she escaped Vietnam during the war. She’d sewn the jewellery her mother gave her into the hems of her clothes and blackened her face and hands with coal and boat oil to deter the pirates raiding her rickety boat. With just over a shotglass of water and a piece of moldy food to get her through the day, she’d be the one trying to quiet her nieces and nephews while grasping onto any sliver of hope that they would find land. She stared at open sea, seeing the sky meet the sea for almost five days straight and I think this is why a quiet fear seems to envelop her face whenever I tell her I’m going to the beach with friends.

So many people were lost at sea, so many drowned or were killed, or died at refugee camps. My mum was extremely lucky that her whole family made it to Australia – her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews and her beloved parents. She has so much love to give and she doesn’t know what to do with it, so it comes at me in furious spurts that I have a tendency to interpret in all the wrong ways. In some ways, it’s a generational guilt I feel each time I do something wrong in her eyes or anything that doesn’t aim to make her proud. It can feel like a lifelong battle to make her content.

A lot of people would take the easy argument of “oh it feels like I’m not living my life, as if I’m doing everything for THEM” with the last word rolling off their tongue with resentment and thinly veiled anger. As if they lack the capacity to think on their own, using their own brain to make their own decisions and drive their own lives. As if their parents sacrifices have cemented their entire existence until the next generation is born, a role that can be emotionally agonising to fulfil.

I was at a multicultural food festival one weekend in Bankstown when a mother and daughter walked passed. The daughter looked about 17 or so and her hands were weighed down with Asian groceries, her little brother toting a similar weight while their small-framed mother walked behind them carrying food containers.

The moment they walked by, the daughter shrieked “YOU’RE ALWAYS FIGHTING WITH ME!!” in such a tone of anger that it rose above the dull roar of the huge bustling crowd and people turned to look at what the commotion was about. Her mother responded, “I’m not trying to fight with you,” in such a voice of calm that my heart ached for both her and her daughter.

Balancing parental expectations is nothing new, but I think it’s a whole new ballgame when it comes to migrant children. To say that it’s agonising figuring out the balance between familial aspirations with your own is putting it lightly. I’ll never know a single right way to live with my mum, or how to respond each time she makes an outrageous demand or purports that “showering after 9pm will make your bones shrivel up and die when you get old” – but I do know that she is only trying to raise me in the best way she knows how. I can’t expect her to drop everything that she’s ever been raised with and adapt completely to a new way of raising her daughters. I always remind myself that she is the way she is for a reason and that understanding each other is just going to take time.

For a woman who went through 13 hours of labour and a stint on the operating table to have me – a fact my dad and extended family have never let me forget – my mother is the strongest and most graceful woman I know. With a limp she’s had since she was three, she’ll walk with her head held high, “tsk tsk” disapproval at my constant habit of not standing with my back straight and work twice as hard as anyone around her. She wittily balance lectures on the importance of an education (“Don’t you know your cousins all got 99.35, 94.05 and 90.85 UAIs? Your cousin Tony had afternoon detention for five years in high school and he got 95.00!”) with personal hygiene (“If you don’t take a bath, your vagina will bleed worms!!” – yes I appreciate that everything directly translated will come out wrong). She potters around in a bid to make her home and her family the very best that it can be, in some ways to make up for the imperfections in the mirror that her eyes seem to see.

It’s funny realising how badly we clash sometimes. I guess it’s a startling yet comfortable reminder of how alike we are. My mum can care too much at times but whenever I’m helping her out with dinner, working from home in front of my computer or sitting with her in the living room watching a Korean drama dubbed in Vietnamese, I know she’ll be watching me. She’ll pat my head, pull me to her and say, “Child, do you know I’m very proud to have you as my daughter.”

Now I’m off to have a ‘short sleep for long periou of time’ and maybe lower my ‘blool precor’ while I’m at it.

I love my mum ❤

WRITING: Palm Beach

palm beach, travel writing sydney, home and away palm beach, profile palm beach australiaPalm Beach
Photo by Toby Forage.

Another university assignment that involved me going to the beach on the first day of winter this year. I actually dislike travel writing immensely. I find it incredibly tedious and quite boring – why read about someone else’s thoughts about a destination, when you ought to visit it for yourself?

I really can’t be screwed typing out my thoughts for this one, but am posting it here for your perusal.

———

Escape

I suppose it was the perfect time for me to go. I’d seen it grace my television screen five nights a week, fluctuating between the Diner and the high school, arguments between the major characters on the beach, teenager-infused beach parties and under-aged drinking, and really, with tonight’s episode possessing the requisite cliff-hanger, how could I resist? Rolling waves, pristine sands, and a chance encounter with the cast of Home and Away perhaps? Who was I to deny such an opportunity?

Not one to be fussy with directions, as well as lacking the ability to reverse in manual, I let him do the driving. I sat with the street directory in my lap, deciding which of the main roads would be best travelled, and I wondered whether the year ‘1997’ on the bottom left hand corner of the directory was something to worry about.

In some ways, I started to worry when we began venturing into bushland, the tarmac road winding and stirring before us. A traffic pile up on the Lane Cove called to mind a fearful premonition of the long trip back. We kept an eye out for street signs, or rather he did. I’d forgotten my glasses.

The car endeavoured up a hill, turning and weaving in between the trees. It was a terribly windy, so we kept our windows up a fair bit. Traffic lights seemed to dwindle, and the shops became smaller and sparkled less of the commercial sheen that dominated the city. The trees seemed to open out as we drove, revealing parts of the ocean sewn by the horizon to the clearest blue skies. They were punctured by the grey steel barriers along the road, no doubt to keep the travellers from losing themselves completely in the beckoning fragments of utopia.

We exchanged good-natured profanities as the multi-storeyed houses came into view. It seemed amusing until the last bend. I found blanket of blue, picturesque to say the least and breathtaking to be the most. He took his time parking and I quickly thrust the required amount of coins into the ticket machine, imagining the granules of sand seeping between my toes as I got out of the car.

I stepped onto the sand that weaved a path through the grass toward the beach. Vegetation and ocean backing, I concluded vaguely, noticing the council men a fair way up ahead with their whipper snippers roaring. It was faint, but I found myself irked by the noise as I slipped off my shoes.

I used to shuffle a path through the sand when I was a child, digging my feet beneath the warm surface and feeling the cooler sand shock the nerves in my toes. I was rusty in my shuffling today, I remembered there being a certain art to it. Or at least the art that comes when one is six years old. I very rarely went to the beach, which is why I found it almost amusing that I should visit one on the first day of winter. I walked closer to the water, hopping as I went along in a struggle to roll up my jeans. My feet came to rest by the line on the sand where the waves washed up.

There came that moment of clarity. I stood watching the ocean, scrutinising the horizon, cursing the break caused by the yacht in the distance. It was white as usual, a jarring entity against the backdrop of blue that commanded the seascape. I wasn’t sure if it was bobbing or not, but I assumed it to be. There was also a faint black mass resting on the water in the distance.

My friend had since come up to stand a fair way behind me. He refused to take off his shoes, and the familiar green alligator embroidered on them seemed to chuckle and I wondered how long they would last with the tide. He was dressed top to toe in high couture street wear and I amused myself matching the whites on his jacket with the fourth storey balconies perching high on the cliffs behind him, overlooking the beach. I wondered what the black mass was in the distance. Thoughts in my head tossed up between an oil liner and a black whale, thought I was pretty sure it wasn’t the latter.

There was little wind on the beach and I was surprised. Waves lapped at my ankles and I found myself cursing my shadow. It rested on the orangey yellow sand, a black mass which grated the sand and the water. It moved like I moved, swayed like I swayed.

I began walking along the coastline, letting the waves chase my ankles. I wished that my shadow would just disappear. It seemed so jarring travelling along the sand beside me, at times, disturbed by the waves that came up to meet it, though it was the other way around more often than not. It seemed to destroy the peaceful nature of the beach, and I found myself dwelling.

A friend told me a story once that if someone didn’t have a shadow, it meant that they’d sold their soul. It made sense once you thought about it, and I couldn’t help but wonder what price you had to pay to gain any semblance of a property in the area. All the houses seemed incredibly vast and virtually impossible to obtain.

I continued to walk along the side of the waves, steering myself closer to the water each time I miscalculated how far the wave came and moving further away as the bottoms of my already rolled-up jeans began to drip.

He, on the other hand, continued to avoid the water, meandering as close as he dared and jogging slightly each time a wave came to close to those white, white shoes.

I counted nine other beach folk apart from myself and him. Apart from that, I realised there weren’t very many people around. We’d driven past an RSL and a golf club on the way in. Both had their dominant share of mature-aged patrons. High rollers and retirees I’d concluded. It seemed to breach the edges of the beach itself, nudging it with a certain darkness, and not just because of the dim lighting within the establishment.

There was a lighthouse up on a hill, and I noticed the enormous flight of stairs leading up to it nearly overgrown by the grass. I liked how it seemingly disguised itself from visitors, perhaps belonging to the earth one day, whereas the lighthouse continually flashed its presence.

Against my will, I decided against climbing up to it because of my time constraints and the commitments I had back home. It was difficult to pick up those memories though. The place had a certain microcosmic air, a natural bubble unimpinged by the rest of the world save for a few houses here and there. The roads were narrow and simplistic in their signage with their ‘Beach Road’ and ‘Ocean Road’, and curved all around the natural establishments. Natural process, I called it.

I stepped into the footprints of recent joggers, commenting on their foot size, how much they might’ve weighed by judging the depth of their feet. Sand had a way of doing that, measuring the worth of someone by the way they walked and ran. I looked back at my own prints and saw the faint outline of my feet and I wondered what that said about me. My friend’s prints did not follow mine in such a straight line, diverting at angles each time the wave came too close. I found it hilarious.

There was a shell in the sand and I picked it up, washing it in the surf. I noticed him doing the same, and we swapped our findings. They were similar in shape and texture, scallop-like, but their colours were starkly different. His was black in shades, whereas mine gleamed white.

He and I had grown up together from completely different households. I suppose in many ways, we’d grown up together and were close when sandpit wars were the main terms of negotiation. Somewhere down the track, we lost touch with the workings of each others’ minds, and although much time had passed, I believed that we were still the same.

I stood with my back to the waves for once and raised my head to look at the selected houses sitting on the side of the cliff. I remember reading somewhere that Lleyton Hewitt lived here. I amused myself wondering which one could be their house. These houses irked me in a way I found difficult to pinpoint. It all seemed so hierarchical. The trees that surrounded each house provided shade despite the morning sun and I amused myself thinking that perhaps they bought the trees to shade their empty human shells.

There was a certain dichotomy about Palm Beach, I realised as I got back into the car. There was no mistaking the calmness of the beach, and the pure stillness that came with it despite the ominous cliffs that shaded it. But there was this feeling that I couldn’t shake off. I guess in some ways, there would always be a kind of bleakness during the natural process. Human beings and their vices. I wondered if that would be escapable.

I realised he’d driven us to Star City for the second time in a week and parked in the same parking spot just outside the Pyrmont branch of Channel Seven studios, where, from my extensive knowledge of Home and Away, they filmed the majority of their programs. It was then that I knew that escape was an impossibility.

REVIEW: Frankie is an old lady with cats


I’ve been a staunch supporter of Frankie ever since I discovered its gorgeous pages wayy back in first year of uni. Since then, I’ve developed a Will-and-Grace like attraction for intellectual gay men (Benjamin Law) and angry whip-smart anger (Mia Timpano). I have also perfected the art of byline stalking.

Frankie’s been the source and comfort of my inspiration for a very long time, which is why I was decidedly wary when Jo Walker took over from Louise Bannister as editor. I’ve liked Jo’s writings and contributions to Frankie. But “change is one thing I don’t mind” was Frankie’s original slogan, and being the devoted supporter I was, I thought things would be the same but better – if that makes sense.

But no, Frankie is no longer the person you see at parties and gigs every now and then nor is s/he is the only one there wearing flannel or Wayfarers. S/he is still well-spoken and seems to know everyone there, but no one really knows him/her. S/he is the friend you don’t see or talk to as often as you’d like, but when you do, come out feeling inspired and that little bit more intelligent, and your existential crisis is thrown out the window. But s/he is no longer traipsing around the world pondering the little quirks and embracing the idiosyncrasies and nuances that make life what it is. Instead, she is home with her numerous cats, flouncing over her miniature teacups and wearing more holes than usual into her crochet shrug.

Anyhoo – courtesy of my magazine addiction and hapless reading of blogs, I drummed up this review for the latest issue of Frankie for Girl With A Satchel. Erica Bartle used to be deputy editor of Girlfriend magazine (where I interned for a few months) until she moved to QLD. We only became internet buddies through her magazine blog – reading it helps me monitor the financial woes of my magazine expenses.

The review is below, but do click on Erica’s blog for a much better presentation. Thanks muchly, Erica! =)

——

Frankie Nostalgia

My love affair with Frankie began way back in its sophomore issue in late 2004. Dubbed the “In-The-Moment” issue, I was struck by the model’s big blue eyes – confronting yet intriguing at the same time. It contrasted with the refreshing stories on real people and balanced out by the raw idealism shared by the musicians and actors gracing the pages in between. The best part was the tagline: “change is one thing I don’t mind”, something which seemed to play in very well with my starting uni at the time. Twenty issues later, and I’m still a strong supporter of the stunningly-produced publication. However, these days I’m beginning to suspect perhaps I’m beginning to grow out of my beautiful friend (or s/he is outgrowing me), which makes me a wee bit sad.

I opened this bi-monthly with a little trepidation, despite the sleepy eyes that glanced from the cover. My initial confusion with the first “do-it-yourself sock cat” in issue 21 developed into a quiet fear as the crafty bits popped up with each subsequent issue. I’m beginning to suspect that Frankie is regressing into old lady-isms with their mini-knitting manuals and domestic tendencies. The cat count for this issue amounts to eight (not including ads). Many of said cats feature in the fashion shoot where simple jersey tops are thrown together with delicate and oh-so-comfy knits, complete with a feel-good RSPCA endorsement. The “Denim Fancier’s Society” had me salivating over the jeans, not so much over the photography. I’ve definitely seen Frankie do much better – she’s better and brighter than the slouching on display.

In Frank Bits, I got excited and giggly over The Kooks, and oh my goodness, how scrumptious does Gena Rosenberg’s felt strawberry-iced donut brooch look on p. 21? These quirky bits are breathes of fresh air amongst the many musty shawls worn across my friend’s shoulders these days. The celeb-factor is covered by a streamlined profile on songstress Duffy by Andy Welch, and party tips by the dance-happy electro duo The Presets, complete with Julian Hamilton brandishing shiny disco ball.

Masculinity comes under the microscope as Josh Phillips contemplates the pretentious nature of “buying a shelf” as opposed to building one, while Benjamin Law reaffirms his perfect brand of pondering by assessing the “hugging dilemma” – “it’s like we’re animals meeting for the first time in a David Attenborough documentary”. I, myself, have always been privy to the hug – I tend to save them for special occasions, though a cute stranger hug in my mind never goes astray. Justin Heazlewood picks a bone with bloggers, while Camille Hayton’s Babysitters’ Club pilgrimage got me really nostalgic (Claudia and Dawn was my favourite sitters, closely followed by Mary Anne).


The writers’ rant is often my favourite part of the magazine, and this issue’s question, “Am I a Stereotype?” really got me thinking. Edmund Burke talks of searching for leprechauns, Mia Timpano reminisces about her ‘wog’ family, while Andrew Mueller ponders Australians’ determination to live down to London’s grimmest expectations of us. But Benjamin Law (squeal), whose own experiences include distancing himself from Asian tourists so as not to appear in the same camp as them, offers the real insight into stereotypes: “No-one can be a stereotype in an of themselves. That’s actually someone else’s judgement call to make, and usually those people are cliché’s themselves.” It’s eye-opening to see the internalised judgements we often make of not only others, but of ourselves whenever we see someone on the street or meet people travelling.

Meeting people with same name as your idols must be a surreal experience, but being ‘Jane Austen’, ‘James Dean’ or ‘Jackie Chan’ must make life even more bizarre. ‘James Dean’ did not lose the grim irony over his experience at 110 kilometres per hour on an open road where he “pranged” his car – but such irony may not have occurred at all considering his parents were expecting a girl. And I love how ‘Jackie Chan’ reckons the man in question ought to get back to his roots; she reckons, “He just needs to leave Hollywood… all he needs is one movie – one old-style movie – to redefine him.” I have to say, I concur, and it seems that Frankie agrees with this philosophy in a difference way. Those homely elements have come back to haunt me as the felt ladybug casts its yellow-stitched eyes onto me. Am I meant to be traipsing around pondering the quirks and chasing the dreams of the world? Or stick to what are apparently the simple things in life like pin cushion ladybeetles? While I’m all for appreciating my nest like the ladies photographed in their homes are doing on p. 34 (and absorbing the excellent roast pork on p. 112), I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something here.

I think my lovely friend could be diagnosed with a minor case of “Russh-itis”, where the carrier suffers a perpetual nostalgia to the old days where things were either brash or simpler (the advertisement for the Gumby DVD on p. 117 seems to reaffirm that). Once upon a time, my friend spread her knowledge over the world with bright-eyed enthusiasm, charming those in her wake. But like most people after a long soul-searching holiday, I think s/he had a hankering for some downtime at home. And while a familiar change is all good and comfortable, I hope s/he’ll continue this journey with me again soon and won’t stay home for too long.

i’m intellectual whore

A currently structured personal essay on a particular plague in my mind. And I say structured, because I had to submit it as a feature article for uni, and I’d run out of ideas for anything else to write about. That, and I was neck-deep in procrastination.

Am thinking of tinkering with this and making it more personalised for submission to Frankie. That said, I have been shunted before despite one initial interest in my pieces of work. ONE! Email me back again please!

I wonder if Benjamin Law considers himself an intellectual whore at times? I wouldn’t be surprised considering the profound number of readers gleaning themselves with his wisdom every time Frankie comes out. Oh Benjamin, if only your sexuality did not pervade me. We could be happy, you and I..

———–

I’m An Intellectual Whore

The ability to lace words and ideas into an art form is steeped in seduction, for there is no denying the sexuality infused in the mere exchange of conversation. It is a universal concept to be sure, where participants are entranced by the quixotic allure of another’s philosophic thought. There is a shared interest between the two and the journey to an intellectual commonality is pursued, a process and an exploration towards a truth. But the other night, I listened to his voice at the other end of my mobile phone connection, and whose ideas I had come to worship and handle with as much fragility as my own vulnerable nature, and I quietly asked myself, at what cost?

When Woody Allen published the book Getting Even, the intellectual whore was born. Termed to describe the woman hired to philosophise and talk politics with a man married to an unintelligent specimen, the Whore of Mensa brought an intriguing antithesis to the notion of the streetwalker. According to Allen, this woman would be highly educated, often found pencilling ‘Yes that’s so true!’ in the margins of a Kantian textbook, quoting the psychosexualities of Freudian proportions, and spectacles pushed back on by the carefully extended forefinger. She would always be in a spot of financial trouble, hence the whoring implication for quick financial relief. A woman would possess such knowledge as to lure her pursuers into a world of mythology and futurist thinking, garnering such intelligence so as to be respected on a psychological level, if not a dismissively sexual one. Men were entranced by their bought moments of philosophical thought, yet were happy to return home to their doting, often less-educated and less-articulate wives. And so it is asked: what balance is this?

There appears to be a femininity in the pursuit of thought, despite the dominance of males in the sociological field. It is supposed that women were considered second-class citizens, to be seen but never heard, but it seems that this mild form of oppression is laced in an intriguing form of seduction. Indeed, Woody states this very plainly with his Whore of Mensa, where the denouncement of knowledge in a woman is on par to the social taboo of being a prostitute. An intellectual woman is commoditised, to be used and thrown away until the next desire for thought.

The extent to this engagement is dependent on money. “For three bills, you got the works: a thin Jewish brunette would pretend to pick you up at the Museum of Modern Art, let you read her master’s, and get you involved in a screaming quarrel at Elaine’s over Freud’s conception of women” chirps the Kaiser in Allen’s story. This woman of thought is a tool, cheapened by money, even though the man is submissive throughout the experience.

Such a person still exists in modern times. While financial transactions may at times continue to support the intellectual exchange between two often lonely individuals, the relationship has evolved into one that is free from financial stress. There is a contrast of commonality and disparity between two friends, for example, where one is the wide-eyed underling to the Flaubert quoting superior. In some ways, this has played out in teenage culture, and starkly so in the TV series Dawson’s Creek, which followed the lives of four small town teenagers. Joey is her best friend Dawson’s intellectual whore, called upon when required and dismissed in the presence of physical urges offered by his girlfriend Jen. He is the underling, she the superior, and yet her working class background underscores her intellect and relegates her to a similar social standing as Mensa’s whore. What is interesting, however, is how teenagers as a whole are a growing secular society, where their exchange of ideas is as stable as their hormonal sexual patterns. Such parallels inevitably lead to the notion of promiscuity, and again, we find that knowledge is an alluring, sexualised commodity where someone’s ideas and philosophies are borrowed to benefit the intellectual thirst.

In many ways, the underling revels in the joys offered by their intellectual prostitutes’ ideologies and theologies, and yet find it difficult to define their own way of thinking. They choose to steal etches of individuality, bought and harvested from their encounters with the highly intelligent and highly unaware. Such ideas are hybridised to fit their own mentalities and emotions of the day, absorbed like a drug to a feverish addict until they are replete for the day. They buy and take from multiple partners without any qualms.

It is somewhat alarming that on the social networking juggernaut that is Facebook, a group is devoted to this class of intellectually unassured citizens. Catergorised under ‘self-help’, the group description asks, “if a person is smart and is articulate, do you forget that they might not be the prime physical specimen and think they are the reason for the sun and moon?”, before launching into the ever-enlightening backhand of “have you ever been turned on by deep and engaging conversation and yet had no physical interest in the person?”. Just like prostitute is frowned upon, ‘intellectual whores’ are considered on par with their physical counterparts. Of course, it is all laughs and satirical joy, but there is the undeniable notion of sympathy dueling with disapproval. It comes with being intellectually promiscuous, at least as far as so defined by the group.

There is a social difficulty in balancing the physical features of a person with their intelligence, a notion manifested in the stereotype of the Nerd. It seems that while a person may be perfectly capable of developing a philosophy, this does not necessarily translate them to aesthetically pleasing citizens. Is it questionable then, that this particular mode of intimacy is by no means a substitute for that other tryst?

There is an overwhelming desire that underscores this ‘use and abuse’, or ‘treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen’ mentality. In many ways, the desire for knowledge and new ways of thinking is embedded in human DNA, for without thought, how is there progress? The near animalistic nature of desire is what drives this person, a purchaser of thoughts, onwards in a journey to satisfy their perpetual crave for new philosophies, as a necessity of modern existentialism. It is this thirst for knowledge and thought that far exceeds the capacities of fulfillment by any offerings of physical sexual rapture, regardless of how such a thirst may be laced in sexual qualities. The very idea behind intellectual promiscuity is philosophy, which in its most basic form is ‘philo’ – lover – and ‘sophia’ – of knowledge, and it is this ongoing process that sits, perpetually unsatisfied so long as there are ideas in existence and philosophies to pursue and discover.

But here comes the crux – explained with the ease of example with Dawson’s Creek. The tension between Dawson and Joey became a romantic relationship of such enamour and purity in the pursuit of thought, that it eventually imploded, lashings of distrust and personal taboo seeped beneath their perfect white sheets. Their love of knowledge could not exceed their conflicting admiration for each other. Behind their carefully disguised philosophies lay Love’s Puppet, driving them apart instead of closer together. It is this conflict of interest that complicates the barter, and both parties are ultimately losers. They trade each other for other partners after being found out, and leave the past where it began: in the past to be hastily forgotten however deeply the experience may have left on their perceptions of similar with other partners.

To consider myself an ‘intellectual whore’ is often a discomforting thought. Despite such misgivings, and considering my current situation with a man of four and twenty and his relationship with a girl six years his junior, I have come to accept my role as a provider and entertainer of thoughts. It is at the expense of my own romantic worth, but I happily take my momentary hours of conversation, connected by the extent and capability of coverage afforded by our telephone service providers. For the moment, I am quite content with the ideas and thoughts that leave me satiated in the twilight hours of night.

And now the question begs: what becomes of the intellectual whore? They seek out innumerable ideas, sleeping with them, trying out different positions to see which ones work most effectively in reaching their intellectual climax, only to leave them in the morning, gathering the fragments of these memories, freshly used and abused, and perhaps guilt on behalf of both parties, more so on the soul of the whore. This is the realisation that one has screwed over not just their partner in crime, but themselves. It sinks like the flurried haze that laces the initial encounter – minus the wide-eyed enthusiasm and the naivety possessed by the wide-eyed school girl, and heavy with a growing dissatisfaction and the indescribable desire for something deeper than a satisfying thought. From here, they move on into the morning, hunting the next intellectual fix so that they may amend, if not justify the one before.

commercial whore vs. indie kid

The below is a rant that has been niggling the back of my mind these past few weeks. It is difficult for me to hold back any longer, therefore I give you the following. I’m aiming to get this published in either Frankie (top issue this bi-month. Now for another excruciating two month wait for the new one) or the UTS student magazine Vertigo.. *fingers crossed*

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Commercial Whore vs. Indie Kid:
Why I Should Be Allowed To Channel Both

These past few weeks have been rather traumatic for me. I’ve been verbally abused on my beliefs, told multiple times that I cannot be one thing as well as the other, as well as financially molested by someone who seems to make love to his own dance routines. It is not quite the experience I’d recommend to anyone suffering a potential existential crisis. And by that I mean the musical kind (because we all know that Foucault is so post-pomo).

I am a passionate supporter of independent and ‘alternative’ music. I have been on a 3-month binge of The Cure (Bloodflowers is splendid and Fascination Street live is like the Karma Sutra in aural form), whilst my current listening buffet consists of Gotye, The Frames, Marianne Faithfull, Brendan Benson, The Basics, Explosions In The Sky, and George Harrison. I am on my way to quoting exactly which Beatles song appeared on which Beatles album (Strawberry Fields Forever appeared on, umm… Magical Mystery Tour?), and I got so excited when I heard The Cure were touring that I called my friend who was on exchange in Sweden to tell her I got us GA tickets (GA stands for ‘general admission’ for you unversed music punters). The amount of money I spend on CDs every month is enough to feed a colony of emaciated children. I believe that iPods and their artsy fartsy coloured dancing silhouettes should consider self-imploding into a much more marketable display of ‘we fucked you over hard!’ (see what you did to those Swedish Caesars Palace!). That means I have never owned an MP3 player, which possibly relegates me to a social standing similar to turd-dom. I get excited every time I hear a new band on Fbi and 2SER, meaning I gleefully implode whenever my mate’s songs get played.

But here is the crux: I watch Idol religiously. And I’m paying to see Justin Timberlake on the first day of November this year. Insert Hitchcockian Psycho shower scene music score here. By admitting these fatal aspects of my personal inclinations, my friends and colleagues run screaming, flinging EP remnants and the Spice Girls on vinyl in their wake, thereby effectively forfeiting any musical respect they ever garnered for me in the first place. The question is, WHY?

One thing I’d like to ask: what is wrong with Idol? And by that I do not mean to open the floodgates of an inexorable damning (I’m so witty) to a hell where Avril Lavigne attempts to skateboard in circular motions whilst chanting “Hey hey, you you” to the tune of Hanson’s ‘Mmmbop’. You cannot deny the indescribable appeal of the Idol concept – unlike Big Wanking Brother, this is actually entertaining. Is it so wrong to look forward to it every year, to guffaw at my race’s inability to breed Idol-esque musicians (Asian Pride represent!), and become enamoured at the very rare though utterly satisfying moments of radness, like last year when the oddly intriguing yet ever so talented Bobby Flynn took the stage?

Being martyred as a result of my ‘Faustian’ ways has afforded me some interesting observations. How much more anal can we get when it comes to differentiating ourselves from ‘the mainstream’? Are we so fearful of becoming tinged in any shape or form by this Machiavellian monster that we call ‘commercialisation’ that it’s made us think in two-tonal dimensions? Does that not defeat the purpose of music? Does music not question our social ideologies and perceptions, whilst simultaneously allowing a certain openness to interpretation?

As much as we proclaim our allegiance to ‘independent’ artists and freely slap on the criticisms regarding the ‘lack of musicianship’ vested in Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi (for no one can deny the aural pull of Livin’ on A Prayer), the fact of the matter is that the nuances between the mainstream and independent-slash-alternative is blurring. Festivals are popping up left, right, and centre thereby rendering the average punter both confused and broke at time of printing, and they’re all promote one thing – music. Why are we quick to annihilate the promotion of music with our nostril-flaring elitism? Is there something wrong with signing up to both ticketing lists for the Spice Girls and the Falls Festival? And how long can your new favourite band stay truly yours? Sharing is caring – have all those hours of illegal downloading taught you nothing! Music spreads the love, therefore appreciate said love!

My point is – music needs balance. If all you have to listen to is perpetually good and damn near orgiastic music, then what have you got to define it with? This is what we call definition through opposition – there is no north without south, there is no good without bad, and there is no splendid ear candy without the mainstream shit that is polluting the Kyle and Jackie O show (I liken the listening experience to that of O-zone’s ‘Dragostea-di-dei’ – resistance is futile). With the exception of Rihanna-fucking-ella-ella-ella-eh (she had better get out of my aural range before I attempt her surgical removal from the music scene), why should I be crucified for opening my ears to such readily proclaimed examples of banality? If you don’t like it, then don’t listen to it.

Meanwhile, I’m going back to my weekly Sundays and Mondays ‘Idoling’. And I reserve the right to listen to Britney Spears in between my nightly dosage of Mogwai and Lo-tel – everyone else can stay grumpy and discombobulated.

lullaby

…and by that I mean The Cure variety, not the Shawn Mullins kind (although, catchy song). No I am not a self-proclaimed emo, and please do not stir me into some form of justification that will be thinly disguised as non-sensical rambling. For your information Robert Smith is a musician, and not all musicians angst away with their borrowed guitars.

I have decided that my writing does not possess a voice. It is the type of prose which attempts to carve its own path of distinction, of originality and ‘flair’ (frackin’ wanky assessment criteria), yet ends up in a spluttering heap of stolen expressions, feeble emulations and spluttering impressions of all writers I’ve idolised and loved.

Which I think is part of the reason why I find myself sifting through the photos of said writers (or rather, just the one) via their Facebook profiles like a voyeur of sorts; peering into the unknown world, which on the outskirts seems to mirror my own and yet beneath the surface, scratches the realities of a different world. Different, not wrong.

I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I look at his pictures (ooh ahh, it’s a he!), see the remnants of his childhood upbringings laced in Chinese tradition, visible in the Poloroid-imbued faces of his family. I study his siblings, whom are no doubt equally intelligent, articulate, and perhaps more perceptive than he is. It amazes me how much human beings can accomplish when forcefully removed from their immediate surroundings. Coerced into making a new life, and for this particular one, making the choice of pursuing the arts world in order to discover the perfect way to express himself and find truth. To quote Flaubert: ‘Of all lies, art is the least untrue’.

But of course, I am making presumptions. And I am neck-deep in airy fairy post-modern wank (damn stream-of-consciousness prose!) as a result of my insomnia, so I will try to get to the point.

The question, I suppose, is: how much do you need to be a writer? How much time, how much emotion, euphoria, determination, creativity (if any at all), focused observation without lacking the ability to think broadly, criticism, and most importantly, how much life do you need? What makes a writer? What makes the self-indulgent art that they immerse themselves in so important to others? And is it truly self-indulgent? Do writers scramble for their audience’s approval? Do expressionists?

Obviously these are all questions I should be answering myself, but I am in a thick state mind now (yes, have dense head), so I shall settle for pondering.

Other news:
– Met the lead singer Kele of Bloc Party. Photo, signed ticket stub, and evidence of a so-ecstatic-I-feel-trippy moi is accessible via my Facebook photos. Have now concluded that myself and my close-knit gig posse are all connected to Kele. Me and another friend met him, one hugged him right before she was pushed out from the front of the barrier at Splendour In The Grass, and the other saw him on a Sydney Bus. It’s fate!
– Also saw The Cure about a fortnight ago: came out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre deaf for four days a.k.a. titinnus freak out and it is a SHIT venue. But worry not – my ears are still good!
Masters in Media Practice is 70% international students from China which has me seriously pondering the usefulness of a degree to such students (journalism does not exist in China full stop, bold, underlined, capitals, neon flashing lights, spruiker), as well as my own usefulness.
Arctic Monkeys are still serious GOLD.
– Have started my Girlfriend internship. Am now a gung-ho online content producer for the next year or so (for one day a week! It was initially a three week trial, but I must’ve done something astounding because I am now signed on for the next 365 days. JOY!! Ooh sexy CV, uh-huh)
– 21st Birthdays have become frighteningly abundant. Am now engrossed in my own multi-paged (and multi-dimensional) proposal for my pending 21st shindig
– Never underestimate the power of multiple half hours indulging in productive time consumption via Dictionary.Com and Thesaurus.Com.
Dawson’s Creek is gold for expanding vocabulary