Friday, December 02, 2016

The Unchanging Ginkgo

We had a Ginkgo biloba plant when I was a child. It sat in a pot on the front verandah by the door, where it was mostly neglected. It always fascinated me. A book on dinosaurs had told me that this was a relic of prehistoric times, that this plant was kicking around millions of millions of years ago with dinosaurs (everything is a dinosaur when you're a kid). It was a living fossil

This confused me to no end. I'd stare at this small plant which was shorter than I was and wonder how could it possibly be that old. Especially since it was dead, I mean, they'd found it in the fossil record. Maybe this was a cutting from some ancient behemoth ginkgo, but then, where was this monster dinosaur tree? How did such an incredible time-travelling plant end up on our front verandah? What if we killed it? Oh gods, what if we killed the living fossil? Took me rather a long time to realise that 'living fossil' simply meant it had not evolved from that form in the intervening millennia. Even the smartest of kids have - often peculiar - intellectual blindspots.

We did end up kill the living fossil. Poor plant.

Because of this misunderstanding I've always viewed the ginkgo with awe, and it is a plant that lends itself to awe with ease. Those leaves are so simple and elegant, reminiscent of nothing in the neighbouring yards or the school playgrounds. Their lack of complexity in form and placement evoke an era of evolution that is only visible to us in fossils. The hint of what is to come, what surrounds us now, in their texture.

As an adult, I appreciate the living fossil for what I perceive to be its stubborn indifference to the passage of time and the incredible changes wrought in the world around it. The supercontinent of Pangea no longer exists, but this plant does, unchanged. While its surrounding peers figured out how to do flowers - flowers! such complex, deceitful structures! - and changed their leaves and skin to suit the environment, the ginkgo just sat back and said, "Nah, I'm good." Admittedly, it's likely that the ginkgo is extinct in the wild and has survived these past centuries only due to the practice of planting them at temples and shrines, shared by many cultures around Asia.


This ginkgo tree is planted at the Tsurugaokuhachimangu in Kamakura, Japan. I visited in 2007, and did indeed get to see a ancient behemoth ginkgo. From the wiki:

The ginkgo that had stood next to Tsurugaoka Hachimangū's stairway almost from its foundation and which appears in almost every old print of the shrine was completely uprooted and greatly damaged at 4:40 in the morning on March 10, 2010. According to an expert who analyzed the tree, the fall is likely due to rot. Both the tree's stump and a section of its trunk replanted nearby have produced leaves.
The tree was nicknamed kakure-ichō (隠れ銀杏 hiding ginkgo?) because according to an Edo period urban legend, a now-famous assassin hid behind it before striking his victim.

...Oh. I wasn't aware the old fella had toppled. I'm glad its bits are thriving. It's around one thousand years old, which is breath-stopping to consider. Very glad I was able to see it whole and proud.

The assassination in question:

Under heavy snow on the evening of February 12, 1219 (Jōkyū 1, 26th day of the 1st month), shogun Minamoto no Sanetomo was coming down from Tsurugaoka Hachimangū's Senior Shrine after assisting to a ceremony celebrating his nomination to Udaijin. His nephew Kugyō, son of second shogun Minamoto no Yoriie, came out from next to the stone stairway of the shrine, then suddenly attacked and assassinated him in the hope to become shogun himself. The killer is often described as hiding behind the giant ginkgo, but no contemporary text mentions the tree, and this detail is likely an Edo era invention first appeared in Tokugawa Mitsukuni's Shinpen Kamakurashi. For his act Kugyō was himself beheaded a few hours later, thus bringing the Seiwa Genji line of the Minamoto clan and their rule in Kamakura to a sudden end.

One thousand years is a long time, but when considering a time line of 270 million years, a handful of centuries is nothing.

(When anthropomorphising Evolution as some sort of deity artisan, for which their every project is a work in project, forever being tinkered with, it's easy to imagine the ginkgo as a work that has sat forgotten on a shelf somewhere for the aeons of the planet's life, gathering dust but still perfectly functional, while Evolution considers the merits of iridescence in plant cells.)

When I spied this wee plant at the Growing Friends' Nursery Sale at the Botanical and Rare Plant Fair, I forgot all the other lovely plants I'd been eyeing off, picked it up, hugged it, and brought it home. A dinosaur plant of my very own! With such fine, healthy leaves, and that rich youthful colour!


I was told I shouldn't be buying trees, stop buying trees, Tessa we do not have any room for trees, but it was mine now. Mine mine mine. 

It has proved to be endlessly entertaining. Fast growing in the current heat, it gobbles up our ridiculously strong sun. Whereas eucalypts appear to have evolved leaves to mitigate the ferocity of the Australian sun (being largely scythe-shaped and hanging long and vertical, so that the high sun mostly hits their edges, and it is the morning and late afternoon sun which they make the most of), the ginkgo holds out its leaves like hands waiting for more. The birds leave it alone. The pests leave it alone. A small spider has made a home in a curl in the lower canopy. 

All the care guides I read indicated that the ginkgo does not take well to transplanting, and does not at all like having its roots disturbed. Moving it into its current pot was anxiety-inducing. I tried my best to remove the entire plug from its original bucket and not shift the roots at all, but that didn't happen. The soil slipped and everything fell apart in my hands, the roots wrenched about and naked and pretty much exactly what I was trying to avoid. Potted it up best I could, and for the next couple of weeks watched it like the natural worry-wort I am. 

I'm not sure what the fuss was about. This plant had exactly zero reaction to being repotted. Possibly its fussiness about its feet was overstated.

It's quite a communicative plant. It gets very, very sad when the soil is dry. It wilts. Not like most other plants, whereby wilting means a drooping of the leaves and stems. No, the ginkgo folds over entirely, like a toddler putting on a show, like a melodramatic pout, like there is no point in going on, I give up, go on without me. Once the soil is wet again, it straightens up within an hour, as if nothing was ever wrong. The leaves don't dry out or crisp up, no colour change, nothing. Just pure drama.

Dad went hunting for some vegetable or fruit he remembers being in the family congee when he was a kid. Asking at a store led him to a vacuum sealed parcel of creamy white orbs, which turned out to be ginkgo nuts. They went into his latest batch of congee. They're similar to fungi and mushrooms in that they have that crisp and firm snap and resistance when being bitten into, but then a smooth buttery texture that follows. It isn't until bitten that they release any flavour, which is distinctly sour. This sourness isn't quite strong enough to be unpleasant, but is none-the-less sour which I associate with being unpleasant, so on the whole, the flavour is quite confusing. 

It makes sense. I'm guessing these nuts developed before the creatures that ate them developed had developed a sophisticated palate which needed to be bribed with delicious flavours, if the tree was even using animals as distribution. Now the ginkgo is all, This is the way I've been cooking my nuts for longer than your species's grandspecies existed. Ain't got time for your tastebuds. Be grateful for the protein and begone.

No one knew if my ginkgo was male or female, so I'll just have to wait and see if we get a home-grown source of ginkgo nuts. 

It is a species that has survived asteroid-impacts, extinction-level events, the end of so many worlds. When I look at young trees I see giants. Already a living fossil, in this scrawny trunk is a future ancient. One day, perhaps my ginkgo will be a behemoth. It has that potential. I will never see it, but it is a dream both the ginkgo and I share.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Green Sticks I Have Known and Loved

There's no accounting for taste. Why we prefer one type of book but not another. Why we keep falling for the same type of person at the expense of so many other types. Why I'm drawn to these odd plants but not those odd plants.


These three stalks belong to the Euphorbia genus, and none of them do much other than be green stalks. I love them.

On the left is what I have hesitantly IDed as  Euphorbia alluaudii. Hesitantly because I bought it as a small cutting at the Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show back in March, and it came with no tag. It was just a funny green stick. In the intervening eight months it has continued to just be a funny green stick. It never puckered for want of water, never shrivelled from too much water, never changed colour with changing light conditions or the shifting seasons. It has seriously done sweet f-all. In fact, it was only in repotting it into the above container that I had any proof it was alive.



Look! It has roots! It was doing something after all!

Plants find their own way to communicate their needs. Well. What they're doing is reacting to their environment and altering their structure to best protect themselves, but it can be a form of communication for the gardener. This plant apparently wants for nothing because it doesn't communicate anything. It's a native of Madagascar (maybe), and I can't imagine Melbourne providing the same climate and soil as Madagascar, but hey, it's happy. So, having transplanted it, I'm going to continue ignoring it.

The middle is Euphorbia debilispina, which did come with a tag, purchased at the yard sale of an award-winning plant grower. A native of southern central Africa, I haven't had it long enough for it to start complaining about the conditions I'm providing. My goal is only ever to not kill my plants.

On the right is Euphorbia antisyphilitica, (ANTI-SYPHILIS?!) which was purchased from the same sale and thankfully tagged. Despite being another nondescript green stick of the Euphorbia, this hails from southern USA to Mexico. I'm expecting it to do not much at all.

They should all do well going in to summer. I intend to leave the pot where it can get full sun and pretty much cook them alive. Hopefully this will get them nicely established before the cold soggy seasons roll around again. 

Why am I drawn to these seriously undramatic plants? I have no idea. They're ridiculous. They're just sticks. Frustratingly vague sticks. Still, I love them, I go stand in front of them with my hands on my hips and purse my lips and curse them for being ridiculously low maintenance and entirely happy. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Case Study on Well-Spoken, "Reasonable" Bigotry



Geoff shared this on FB. A couple of days previous I had shared the same article, commenting that Hamad's writing did a pretty good job of summing up my position of the subject. It's an article that touches on many nuances of the current climate, but ultimately boils down to the fact that symbols are empty without the accompanying action they symbolise. Wearing a pin does nothing if you're still bystanding the oppression of others.

I opened my big gob, and the following exchange ensued:


I bowed out when I said I did.

Beyond pointing out that the system in America allows the public to choose their presidential candidates (unlike here in Australia in which you can only choose your party, and no one but the actual party members get to pick the leader of that party) and they most emphatically chose the overt bigot and sexual predator as their candidate, I'm not going to break this down again. 

I am, however, going to explain why this is just another iteration of bigotry. 

This will be framed in terms of racism, although the framework should overlap with pretty much all forms of oppression. When I say 'white', I'm speaking of the Concept of Whiteness which has saturated western society, which isn't necessarily tied to one's heritage, especially given that being white doesn't stop the Polish in the UK from experience hate crimes, nor protect white Jewish people from anti-semitism. 

I will be using CALD - Culturally and Linguistically Diverse - as shorthand for non-white people. I came across this term in the essay 'Fuck Your Echo Chamber' which is also well worth a read. Previously I would have used PoC - People of Colour - but I've never been fully comfortable using it, as it is a form of appropriation, having been coined by Black African Americans, for Black African Americans. CALD appears to be Australian in source. 

For the most part I will be speaking from a position of oppression and marginalisation, and so speaking upward, at those whom have privilege. Given this instance will be focused on racism, it could be interpreted as being solely aimed at white people, but my hope is to speak broadly enough to encapsulate the general axis of privilege.

This will bleed together events in America with politics in Australia.

For some of you it will be old hat. Don't worry about it, it isn't meant for you. For others it might be new, in which case I apologise for the coming torrent of jargon, but there's only so far down I can break this before it becomes too disheartening.

Onward.

The overt bigots are easy to spot. They're yelling "Fuck Off! We're Full!" or "Grab her by the pussy!" They're dangerous - literally - and it's highly unlikely that any of them will change their world view without something extremely drastic happening to them personally. There's been much discussion on what can be done in the days following T's appointment as president-elect, and a ghastly amount of that discussion pushes for people to reach out to and understand the 'other side', ie, those who voted for him. 

This actually reeks of White Saviour-ness, even though it is targeting predominantly the white demographic. 

Bigotry already has privilege, and in this case, power. To reach out to someone is generally framed as appealing to their better nature, and someone who already has power has no real impetus to change their circumstances. Casting bigots as just misunderstood and waiting for a kind hand to show them the way is assuming that this hasn't been tried. It has. For centuries. The oppressed can tell you that asking nicely accomplishes nothing. It also appears to forgive the bigot of all the harm and damage they have already perpetrated, excusing it as "they didn't know better". This ignores the voices of those who suffer at the hands of bigotry, who have be asking for consideration for a very long time. This is not something any one should have to ask for. 

There's also the assumption that bigotry will want to have this conversation with you, the privileged ally. For the most part, bigots don't think of themselves as bigots. They see themselves as realists, or intellects, and are acting for what they perceive to be the greater good. A conversation that may change their position must alter that definition of 'good'. People do not react well to the implication that their idea of what is good is wrong. 

I've had this conversation many, many times, with many and varied people. Mostly with very good people with very good intentions. On the occasions I've actually got through to someone, it is because they were already willing to actively learn and listen. I can count the number of times I've been successful on one hand, and these were people who were already savvy to the forms of bigotry. They deepened their understanding of the nuance of oppression, but they were already allies. 

For the most part, however, I receive push back and defensiveness. I won't count how many times I've been told that I've hurt someone's feelings by pointing out what they're saying is problematic, which typically prioritises the feelings of the well-intentioned ally over the feelings of me, the person being othered. This then puts me in the position of having to point this out as well if I'm to make my point. I assure you, they don't like hearing this any better. The whole thing where it is now considered more hurtful to be accused of racism than it is to actually perpetuate racism plays out in many different ways. 

I now assume that when I point out bias/bigotry, no matter how nicely or politely, this will be the outcome. It ends with me saying my part, and then saying no more as the other party continues to justify and excuse themselves. It does not end with learning. If learning is something that comes later, very few have come back to actually acknowledge their part in the interaction, and what it cost me.

You could say that's on me and possibly I suck at conversation, which is entirely likely. I might be able to bash out a blogpost, but I can't hold my own in a conversation to save my life. However, I am not the only person saying these things. There is a resistance at play which has nothing to do with my conversation skills.

Bigotry that is not easy to spot comes dressed in good-manners, is well-spoken and often sounds perfectly reasonable. While folks being abused and/or in physical danger need immediate assistance, if you want to change the culture, then it is the well-presented bigotry you must also challenge.

Geoff's original comment probably doesn't ring any alarm bells for the privileged ally. Or, perhaps it did, but the privileged ally was unsure of what exactly was off and how to address it. I explained in my first comment the problem with his framework. And in my second. He would not engage with the subject of the article, which I tried to bring it back to, and he thus attempted to control the direction of the conversation according to what he had decided was valid.

This was a derailment of the actual subject, and a derailment used to then dismiss the entirety of what was said in the article. The net result was the dismissal of both the voices and pain of CALD people. 

He further remarks that this is 'bad and divisive journalism'. When the marginalised speak of their oppression, specifically when speaking against the privileged and powerful, they are often chastised for being 'divisive' to the cause. This is one way the privileged silence the oppressed, as this implies that these problems faced by the oppressed are not legitimate, and that the problem is the complainant, not that there is something to complain about. Shut up and fall in line is the real message.

It becomes slightly more overt when Geoff states that it goes "beyond racist whites in the US". This is partly true: the current state of US politics is a giant mess of racism, sexism, classism, and probably many more ugly -isms, and in fact the current state of politics in Australia is the same mess, just playing out differently. However, Geoff is in this case using it to dismiss responsibility from the white vote, while at the same time ignoring the fact that the 'we' he claims need to seek answers also includes the article author, Hamad, a CALD person in Australia, whose article is actually guidance for action. 

By that point, it was pretty obvious to me that he was not listening. He hadn't listened to Hamad, wasn't listening to me, so I felt pretty sure that unacknowledged and unaddressed internalised bigotry - be it racism or misogyny - meant he'd already dismissed the voice of any CALD woman. There was basic groundwork he'd have to do on himself before this particular conversation was going to be in any way productive. 

Perhaps a properly white person would have had more luck. Perhaps he would have viewed my words coming from the mouth of another white person, or man, as being worth heeding. 

That particular comment thread ended civilly. This second comment thread, not quite so much. 




First of all; mad cheering to Lukas for stepping in. Bro, you have my sword. For context, Lukas is also CALD, and in the USA.

Second; Geoff's tone goes through a significant transformation. His first response to Lukas is almost conciliatory in nature. His second comment is another story. As indicated by the timestamp, it was edited. Initially it contained nothing but tags for myself and Lukas, presumably to get our attention. That's what I saw before I turned off, at any rate.

It appears that when neither of us came when summoned, that conciliatory tone evapourated and what is nothing short of white privilege having a foot-stamping tantrum came out.

For starters; no CALD person is at the beck and call of a white person, especially a white person who has previously dismissed and derailed CALD voices. Nor does any CALD person owe validation to a white person when said white person suddenly decides to project a sympathetic tone. Opportunities to do thusly had already been ignored, and as indicated by the foot-stamping, that attempt at sympathy and care was not sincere. It is likely at that point Geoff realised that he sounded like a typical privileged white person (because he did) and so was trying to alter that impression. He became aggrieved when we did not immediately appease this attempt.

This is exactly the issue with the safety pin. The words Geoff chose and when he chose to use them indicate that he was more concerned with not being seen as 'one of Those Whites' than he was with the actual experiences of CALD persons facing bigotry. When he was not rewarded for this 'goodness' he accused both of us of playing games with identity politics and of generally spouting BS. Not to mention going off at Lukas about discussing race politics in the USA, he who is actually living in the USA, which Geoff certainly isn't. It was Geoff who started with comments on the race of voters in America.

The implication here that identity politics only apply to CALD persons and is in fact divisive is based on the assumption that whiteness is not an identity, but the default. This is the basis of white supremacy. Lukas's final comment is a good summation and I will again point you toward this excellent essay as it contains a fine breakdown of how identity politics are used by the privileged and powerful all the time.

Geoff also implies that by calling for consideration, Lukas and I and the groups we signify are to blame for 'alienating' the left and centre. This is essentially tone policing, telling us we need to fall in line and know our place for the sake of white feelings. He is telling us to behave according to the expectations of the privileged. This is a means of silencing the anger of CALD people, by threatening to withhold support if said CALD person isn't 'nice'. Doing so indicates that the CALD person is not viewed as an equal person, thus the support dangled on offer is not real support. He also forgets that CALD people populate the left and centre. 

Due to the fact that the Australian media is currently fixated on American politics we have been inundated with updates on what T is doing and saying. This has had a palpable affect here. The re-election of the Liberal Party in Australia (here, the Liberal party is the conservative right, don't ask) along with the One Nation Party winning multiple seats has emboldened the bigoted elements in this country. T's appointment is further validation for many bigots, be they overt like the One Nation Party or standing in the closet door muttering about how the place is going down hill. Hate crime happens here, and the US election has seen a noticeable increase on what was already increasing. Giving platform to T and the like is giving them power. This is a great article here on the hypocrisy of Australia's obsession with the US elections, given our own track record and current practices. US politics are influencing the landscape of our society because we're listening.

Only two CALD people challenged Geoff's comments. No allies.

There are many reasons why this could have happened. This is specifically for those who didn't see the problem or didn't know what to do.

My suggestion has always been and will always be to listen to those over whom you have privilege. This isn't accusing you of bigotry, but pressing you to acknowledge the privilege you have. While I've primarily spoken here from the position of the oppressed, I have great big mountains of privilege. Within Australia, with my biracial identity, I am still in the position of coloniser over the Indigenous people of Australia. My privilege is being of Asian descent, which means in the false hierarchy of "which dirty migrants are worse" I'm actually not too bad. I'm a cis woman, largely heterosexual (tragédie), middle-class, and while chronic physical and mental illness restrict my abilities, I'm pretty much able-bodied. That is a lot of privilege. 

So when I tell you to listen down the privilege ladder, I'm not suggesting you do anything I am not already doing myself.

What this will do is broaden your understanding of the impact of bigotry, and more importantly help you to recognise the myriad forms bigotry will take. I'm guessing not many recognised the bigotry present in Geoff's initial comment; I did, because while I talk about these matters a lot, I spend even more time listening. In this instance, Geoff revealed his true colours with very little prompting. Learning to recognise nuance, recognise derailment, dismissal and erasure even when its dressed up with Cornell University figures, is the first step in challenging bigotry. You can't fight what you can't see. 

I owe a great debt to Blak and Black women, to trans, non-binary and queer people . Listening to them has helped me recognise much of my own unconscious bias and keeps me humble. The time they take to speak is a constant learning experience. I can only strive to earn what they teach. Thank you. It's from you that I have the courage, confidence and conviction to speak now.

Listening will assist you in being a better ally. An ally should not speak over or speak for the oppressed. That's once again the centring of privilege and making it about you. It may seem subtle, the difference between saying "I think X" and saying "So-and-so said this, which I agree with," but there are magnitudes of difference. The former positions you as the font of wisdom, the latter amplifies the actual oppressed and signals your support. It draws attention to the voices that should be heeded.

More importantly, listening will help you to identify the unaddressed bigotry you carry within you. We are all of us guilty of bigotry in one form or another. Growing up in a western country, surrounded by western media - the news and entertainment - and western advertising will plant so much conditioning in your unconscious that yes, you will reject the notion that there's even a speck of bigotry in you, the mere suggestion is abhorrent. I grew up surrounded by all this, and have had to, am still dealing with, all manner of internalised bias which is to the detriment of others and myself. My childhood taught me to be ashamed of my racial heritage. It takes a lot to unlearn.

Glass houses, thrown stones. You cannot challenge others for what you have not addressed in yourself. The most unconfronting way to do this is to listen, listen, listen, and assume, take for granted that you are part of the problem

No one can see you listening. You'll have time to apply what you learn to yourself, be disappointed in yourself, figure out how to do better by yourself, and this is far more comfortable than, say, having me decide to make an educational moment out of your comments.

But finally, listening empowers the oppressed. 

The oppressed demographics have been oppressed in western countries fooooorrrrr aaaaaggggeeeesssss. They have been repeating themselves foooooooorrrrr aaaggggeeesssss. What I'm saying now is what so many others have said before me. I am not saying anything new. 

If you want to know what to do: listen.
If you want to know where to donate: listen.
If you need the tools to take up this fight: listen.

In not listening to the oppressed, but heeding and following the privileged, we have ended up here, now. What needs to change; the oppressed have already figured that out. What needs to be done to bring about that change; the oppressed have already figured that out. The only thing needed to bring this about is for you, me, us, the privileged, to listen.

If you think by writing this I am out of line, mean, "bullying" or the like, I suggest reading through all this again. So often the onus of education is put on the oppressed. We are the ones who have to argue for our own humanisation. You can see me entering into a discussion in these comment threads, and I deliberately policed my tone to make it palatable. When those tools don't work, then I will use other tools. If you wish to control the manner of your education; educate yourself. Policing how the oppressed educate their oppressors is yet another example of privilege speaking, again. Pointing out that Geoff was not seeking education is once more centring on the privileged. The oppressed are not going to wait for their oppressors to wake up. 

The worst that may come of this is Geoff having his feathers ruffled and ego hurt. T is a clear example of the consequences a white man will suffer when exposed as a bigot, ie, none. I've done Geoff a mercy and not put his name in text, removed his surname from the screencaps. No search engine will link this to him.

What comes from the views Geoff broadcast is the further entrenchment of insidious bias and privilege, which enables the violent and abusive bigotry so many are focused upon. 

This isn't a call to dogpile. If you perceive it as such then you haven't been listening and I'm not sure I want what support you were going to offer. It would have been nice if some allies had stepped in to simply say "I agree." That time has passed; he's completed his emotional cycle. Because Geoff's position is founded on unacknowledged and unaddressed white privilege he was never going to hear me. He might have heard his peers though.

Geoff isn't throwing bricks through windows, nor hurling abuse. Regardless, his expressed views are bigotry. This unacknowledged, unaddressed bias and privilege won't lead to him starting fires, but it is this exact same unacknowledged, unaddressed bias and privilege that enables bigotry to flourish, to normalise, to become overt. 

Chances are that most of us will never actually have the opportunity to intervene on an abusive bigot and play the hero. Should such an instance arise, then hell yes step in. However, for the most part, fighting bigotry is unheroic. It involves frustrating and uncomfortable and tedious conversations with people you respect and admire, with your close friends and distant friends, it involves upsetting people, it involves being 'mean', it will end with people being angry at you, relationships marred and possibly ended, and it needs to be done.

It is just as important to challenge insidious bigotry as it is to stand up to overt bigotry. This must be fought, at all levels.



This was sent after I'd left the conversation, and before his foot-stamping.

I was not having a conversation.

I was challenging the bigotry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

So You Want to Go Back to School

Your education is more than 7 years old, well out of date. You will have to complete recognised bridging courses to meet the entry requirements.

Bridging course: $800

You are unemployed and Centrelink gives you $540 a fortnight in Newstart allowance.
The bridging course requires complete payment before study can commence.
You apply for a payment plan, providing details of your Newstart allowance.
Your application for a payment play is rejected as you do not earn enough.
You ask your parents for help.

At the end of the course, you will need to sit a final exam.

Final exam: $75

As you are a non-school leaver, you will need to take STAT tests to prove to the university that you are capable of study.

STAT multiple choice: $100
STAT written exam: $100

The STAT test must be booked and paid in full at the time of booking.
You use that tiny bit of savings you'd nestled away.

You must lodge your application for the course you desperately want to do.

Application fee: $50
Application fee after 29 September: $100

Copies of your academic transcripts are required.
After three days of unpacking, you find them.
You are not religious but some entity somewhere needs a blood sacrifice for sparing you the cost of ordering new copies.

You are a bit nervous about the STAT tests, as it has been close to 15 years since you last smelt academia.
There are preparation workshops offered for those sitting the tests.

Multiple choice workshop: $170
Written exam workshop: $170

It's just too much.

Ask again for financial help and improve your chances?
Skip the workshops and possibly screw your chances?

By this point, you have already forked out over $1000 for the ability to apply.

There is no promise you will be made an offer.

You aren't even thinking about the HECS debt.



Monday, January 04, 2016

2015: Acknowledgements

[The larger part of me is still afraid to bring any of what I experienced upon another, let alone the people I love, so I cannot name you. It is still important to acknowledge you, however. If you find yourself in this, then it was meant for you. I apologise now if you think you should be here but find that you aren't. I've tried to encompass all, but I doubt that's possible. I've lost my voice and my ability to brain confidently.]

Thank you for giving me a home that has always been open to me, whether I be child or adult. That sanctuary is not something to be taken for granted, and simply knowing it to be there has always given me strength. Thank you for being proud of me, though my unorthodox life choices have caused no end of worry, and for relishing in my strange accomplishments and adventures. Thank you for growing in me a sense of self determination and responsibility. Thank you for never doubting me. Thank you for making me someone who could do what I did and survive.

Thank you for opening your home to me, and letting it become a home for me. Thank you for letting me be a useless wreck and feeding me and nourishing me with your glorious cooking and house full of goofy laughing. Thank you for finding me, amid all the trauma and mental catastrophes, and showing me that I was still there.

Thank you for saltwater and sunshine, for sitting in quiet over avocado on toast and for squealing about big blue gropers and squid. You made it easy for me to step out the front door when it was at its hardest, because I knew you were at the end. Thank you for curling up with me on the couch and watching terrible telly. Thank you for being a safe place.

Thank you for your wonderful, luscious and vigorous conversations. I always felt safe drifting into rougher waters with you, because that grace of spirit that comes so naturally to you will see a smoother navigation than I in my mind. You are an inspiration of kindness and gentleness, two things I crave but find so wanting within myself. From your patience, I find patience. Thank you.

Thank you for being the cavalry. You amazon warrior valkyrie. You and that happy-maker I still have not met saved me. Saved us. For that, you will always have my love and loyalty, my door will always be open, and, and, there is no way I will ever be able to repay you. I know you don't expect or want repayment, but. Thank you. I hope you are never in such dire straits as to need cavalry, not ever. However, even if never called upon, this cavalry stands by solely to rescue you. Thank you.

Thank you for finding time for me when you can barely find time for yourself. You've always soothed this howling heart. You're a beautiful constant in my haphazard life.

Thank you for being so understanding. You listened, and gave me what I needed to continue as long as I could, and it is only because of you that I lasted that long. I doubt I'll meet another your peer for a long time.

Thank you, the staff at Coogee Medical, Equilibrium Psychology and Spiral Medical, for handling this shattered wreck with care, and making sure I survived the worst of it. I honestly don't know how I would have managed if I'd been put off at any point by a brusque encounter or indifference, such a damaged thing I was. Thank you.

Thank you for that phone call. You grounded me in the storm and showed me how to see the way forward. Thank you for laughing. Thank you for being the first person out there to say "You can do this."

Thank you, neighbourhood. for being so softly suburban, so muted and quiet. Thank you for rolling out great swathes of silence in the deep night, silences so vast I can hear the sweep of the night birds as their feathers tear the air. Thank you, home, for just not being right on top of a major traffic and pedestrian interchange, including buses, and seriously heaps of pedestrians, and look, if you're ever considering renting the flat above Oporto in Coogee? Just say no. Between the Pav turfing out its clientele at closing time and the 4am street sweeper you'll get maybe a couple of hours unbroken sleep a night. The texture of overgrown gardens and lawns, and greyed wooden fences, and lichen on tiles, and powerlines through trees, and a train in the distance, a car passes nearby, somewhere a door slams, and this is a soundscape in which I can exist. Thank you.

Thank you for being my friends. I thought I was lucky before all that happened, because I had to be lucky for having so many incredible and awesome people in my life. I don't really know what word is appropriate now. 'Blessed' perhaps, although I'm not religious, but the idea that it is a gift, and a divine gift. You are a fortress around my heart, and when it seemed all the pestilence of the internet was spitting at me, you just kept on being you, kept on being beautiful, kept on being in my life and telling me that I was worth having around as well. I love and am loved by you and not all the bile in the world can touch that. You are treasures no one can steal. I don't know what I've done to deserve you in my life and I don't care, I'm just glad that you're here, and you still choose to be here, and as long as you're here, I can't be that broken. It does one no good to rely on external validation, but I can't say there's any real belief in the internal validation I present myself. You've given me in so many words and acts undeniable proof that awesome people do not share my opinion of me, and see something here worth waiting for. I don't trust myself in the slightest, but you haven't changed. I trust you with me.

Thank you, new friends, who have seen something worth hanging onto amid all the breaking down I've done this year. This is a greater compliment than you realise, and it is very much appreciated.

Thank you for not telling people that I'm the person who did the thing. Thank you for letting me be unremarkable.

Thank you for being wonderful upon finding out I was the person who did the thing. I've lived in fear, waiting for someone to find out and have a go at me in person, so I really haven't let many new people in on it. You who do know, though, you're ace.

Thank you for that text message, DM, private message, email. Even if I didn't reply to it, I saw it, and it probably made me cry, because every grain of kindness, love and support given to me has been a precious thing. I have kept them all. I know I've been a dead end this year, there have been so many missives I just haven't been able to answer. I am sorry. Thank you. They meant and still mean much.

Thank you for the invitation, and for the fact that you keep inviting me, even though I barely pretend I'm going to attend. It's not for disinterest. Combination fibromyalgia, major depression, social anxiety and trauma echoes mean I just can't face people. It's definitely not you. I want to be living my best life, which includes turning up to help you celebrate that which deserves celebrating. One day, I hope to do this, and thank you for inviting me in person.

Thank you for sitting with me over a cup of tea and letting the conversation go where it may. Thank you for sitting with me in silence. Thank you for giving me your time and your company. I don't know that my own quality of company is worth your time at the moment, so your time is a greater gift for it.

Thank you to all the retail, hospitality and customer service staff who have just done their job with a friendly smile. Social anxiety means your smile is a life buoy. Thank you to all those too who have let me wander through unaccosted and unnoticed.

Thank you for all the support. All of it. I don't think I got to see even a percentage of what rushed by, and what I saw was as vast as only the internet can be. The long tail of trolls did its damage to me, but you, you're a voice that far outnumbered them. I can say that with certainty. Vile and loud as they were, there was always more than us than there were of them. In a weird way, this thing that completely destroyed me, has reminded me of what hope tastes like.

Thank you for asking me to take part in research, to be interviewed for projects. I'm sorry I've not been able to accept any of these invitations. The fact is, I just haven't had enough therapy. All these projects and dissertations are tasty, however, and I've started to see bits and pieces of research findings surface. This podcast does a great job of breaking down how hate speech affects social spaces, and ends on a comment that- It seems arrogant to believe because so many others have been doing hard work for so long, but if it is true, even just a little bit, then. I think it all might have been worth it. One day, I'll be able to give you what you want of me, and I'll be excited to contribute. Thank you for keeping on with the good work.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to prove myself. It is an honour and the work is so important I don't feel worthy, but I could not let go for the world now. This has become a rich vein of joy and satisfaction in my life, and the chance to prove myself to myself is very much appreciated. One day, I may have confidence again, and I'm certain it will grow from these small tasks. Thank you for trusting me with this, and for sharing so many wonderful stories with me. Thank you for letting me be a small cog in a good machine.

Thank you. You've born the brunt of my breaking, which has been a process of interminable hours strung together in endless months. You've seen the worst of me come out as the best of me fell away, and yet you still reach for my hand in your sleep. I am so sorry. Thank you. I've said these words so often I don't know if they mean anything anymore. I don't know what I am anymore, but I know that we remain, because you still choose us. Thank you.

I didn't get through last year on my own steam. I made it because of you. Thank you.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wine - alcohol in general - has never been a taste I've acquired, and so I cannot compare the silence to wine, nor murmur of how I drink it like wine and sigh with satisfaction. Having basked in this for a month now, I still notice that wondrous, lustrous silence. I've never prayed, and so do not know how to give thanks for the soft texture of the night and the great dimensions it governs, for there is a depth that can only be found in a silence that spans topography, in which a car door, the call of a sleep-startled bird can be heard across the valley. This emptiness and stillness is a treasure the likes of which I may never take for granted, and shall forever be of a value for which there is no number large enough to encapsulate. The grunt and tick of hard drives, the wheeze of the fridge, the sound of gutters shifting in the wind, my hair rustling against the pillow, the sound of my breath in my throat, once again I can hear the pulse of blood, my blood, my pulse. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

I'll Walk With You

Over at Book View Cafe, Vonda N. McIntyre has put forth the idea "I'll Walk With You".

I’m distressed to see that some folks who were planning to come to Sasquan are thinking of skipping Worldcon this year. 
Because they’re frightened. 
I understand why people are frightened, given the racist, misogynistic, and dishonest screeds they’ve been subjected to. It isn’t — alas — unusual for verbal abuse to escalate into physical abuse; and anyway verbal abuse is no fun to begin with. 
But I was thinking about what might help counterbalance the situation. 
Have you seen news reports of people responding to threats against a particular group by offering “I’ll ride with you”? Here’s the first Google hit off that phrase: 
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-30479306 
I will walk with you at Worldcon.

Finances being what they are, I won't be attending any of the large US/UK conventions this year, thus there is no decision for me to make. However, if money were no obstacle, what with PuppyGate and Vox Day continuing to be exactly what he is and the general climate of the SF&F publishing scene...I'm not sure if I want to attend. 

So I'm pleased to see #illridewithyou translated into the con-going crowd, with other Worldcon attendees offering to walk with anyone who doesn't feel confident roaming around the con. The culture of ribbons and badges is an already set up means for advertising this, and I've seen mention of formal organisation by the con organisers. What with more and more conventions implementing and enforcing anti-harassment policies, I hope this is another step toward making the convention scene less threatening and intimidating.

It's actually wonderful to see this without being directly involved. #illridewithyou will always draw an intense and rather complex emotional reaction from me, and I suspect it will be some time before I can write about it coherently (just composing this post has been difficult, and it isn't even that great a post). This I can view as someone offering to stand with me. Even though I am not attending and don't know most of the people stepping up in the comments, just seeing how many and how quickly people have volunteered for this is a warm ribbon around my heart. Visible and unconditional solidarity matters, it really does. I cannot speak for anyone else, but knowing this has started matters to me.

Once again, this doesn't have to be about the privileged being white knight for the oppressed. Those who feel threatened by what is going on in the scene, by the culture and climate of the world we live in and the fact that the bigots seem to be getting desperate and dangerous in their resistance to change; remember that you are not helpless, nor do you need physical prowess or the right gender or skin colour to act of your own agency. 

I created #illridewithyou as a non-white woman who learned of another non-white woman aiding a third non-white woman. 

The solidarity and support of allies matters, but needn't be waited upon. If I could attend, I would put my hand up too, advertise my presence, and just be visible. For my sake, and for all others who feel the threat and encroaching silence.

I might have created the hashtag, and I might be one of many grains of sand on the SF&F beach, but right now I'm not the person to seed this idea on this beach. Thank you, Vonda, for taking that first step.