Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year of Folding Hands

I haven't written up an end of year review for a few years now. Things fall apart. My control, or, my sense of control over where I am steering my life has slipped from my grip. A lot of things have slipped, and even more things I have let slide.

In Berlin, in a hostel in Kreuzberg, in the kitchen, with two other travellers sitting behind me, eating pizza they fried because the oven is broken, speaking with Australian voices, from Melbourne, from Frankston. A dorm room full of drunken snores entering in stages. Bad sleep makes itself at home in my joints. These are aches deeper than the dimensions of my body.

There is no quiet, peace, privacy. Alone without solitude. I am run ragged by people I have nothing to do with. They judge me because I do not want a beer, I do not want to chat, I do not want to go out. Not with them.

The people I want to be with are on the other side of the world. I am as far from them as it is near possible to be, and that is my doing. Christmas passed, New Years is passing, summer will pass, and that I have not spent my time in their company is a wistfulness sharp enough to blossom into regret.

I have seen a Southern White-faced Owl, a bearcat moving, Manhattan lights from the Empire State Building, a Gutenberg Bible, Christopher Robin's original stuffed toys that became Winne the Pooh, the biggest meteorite, the Northern Lights, the leaves change in North Carolina, a bald eagle hunting ducks, rats in a New York subway, mice in a Berlin U-Bahn, Nefertiti, the holotype of Archaeopteryx, DNA, the black beach, walked into a glacier, lost myself in medieval streets, stood in the Nuremberg palace where the Roman Emperors would reside, touch bullet holes and the Berlin Wall, watched polar bear twins dunk each other, watched manatees do nothing, touched the ash of new volcanoes, climbed through a lava tunnel more than a kilometre long and 5000 years old, seen shooting stars over the Atlantic from both sides, and bought a train ticket to Poland without speaking English.

I changed medications over and over this year. I had tests, I failed tests, I lost hope. I was passed over for permanent position for the job I was in three times. I moved back in with my parents and sacrificed my kingdom. I was told therapy couldn't help me. I did not write. I did not read.

I found friends. I misplaced friends. I found lovers. I refused lovers. I was a good friend. I was an unreliable friend. I was a useless enemy. I hurt, and was hurt in turn.

Church bells, ambulance sirens and free-range fireworks are the soundscape of Berlin.

I have left my job, and my home, my family, my dogs, my friends and lover. I have left the city of my heart. I have left everything I knew, and knowing everything I know, threw myself into everything I didn't know.

There is not so much different here. There is not enough different here.

When running from yourself, there will never be enough distance.

It has just gone midnight back home. My heart is in pieces scattered in a handful of individuals so far from me, in a different year to me now. Moving on without me. That is what life does. It keeps going, whether you keep up or not.

So many hands have been folded to get me where I am, in a position may would envy. I am told I am brave, when people look at what I am doing, but I am not. My demons simply come from other angles, and I am running and running and failling to escape them. So many hands folded, in external pragmatics and internal commerce. I am so compromised I no longer know how to define myself. There is no way to identify what is of my own making and what has changed because of medication.

I know I should be enjoying myself. I know I should be exuberant, wild-eyed with curiosity, delight and horror. I know the sight of snow on those plains should have brought me to tears. I know standing on a railway platform at night should be an event to record, remember, in every country. I know I should be learning, learning, learning, soaking drinking saturating myself in the world around me, for all these contrasting details, all these mundane little surprises, all the earmarks of my ignorance and all I have yet to learn-

But I am not, I do not.

New experiences and learning were to feed future writing. Without that purpose then what I experience has no point nor potency. This is an awareness I cannot shake. There is no purpose I can assign to my existence. It is all time wasted in agonising seconds.

I am tired.

I am here because I could not be at home. Now I find that I do not want to be here, and I know of nowhere else to be.

May 2012 fear you, respect you, and treat you with kindness.


Friday, December 30, 2011

3 set free, 1 imprisoned

Burnout - Rebecca Donner & Inaki Miranda

From DC's Minx line, comics aimed at girls. Coming of age story, girl with broken family starts up with a new broken family. Decent, but pieces of emotional development felt forced for the sake of the story. Art work palatable. It was exactly what I needed when I bought it, something to dive into, that would not challenge me greatly, and take me out of myself. I release it to the wild (aka, the book exchange shelf in the hostel).

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District - Ben Katchor

Had I been in a less fatigue-faded state of mind this book would have tickled my absuridism gland into hysterics. Each page a single piece, a sliver of story, or a train of thought before it is derailed, of strange and pointless things that are given accolades and attention. As it was, however, I am tired and more than a little misery prone, and all I could see in the pages was wasted time, wasted lives, mundane small narrow pointless useless valueless worthless. So I closed the covers, and I set it free.

Lori - Robert Bloch

A reprint of a book originally released in 1988, I bought it because I confused the author with Lawrence Block. So. My mistake. Riddled with typos, a plot that made no sense, and shit characterisation. Shit. Like scrotum. Did I mention the plot made no sense? And talk about forced emotional development. UGH. MAKING MASSIVE JUMPS TO CONCLUSIONS LIKE GRASSHOPPAAAAH?! If the book had a face, I would have punched it. Except I am not violent and it does have a face and I respect books, so I did not punch it.

Setting this fucker free. I pity da foo' who picks it up.

The Ganzfeld #3

This, I am keeping. The magazine has since been discontinued, which is a shame. It was full of wonderful odd angled articles that, to me, shared a common focus on examining a point of wonder. Not all wonder is good, nor enlightening, but it is all wonderful and interesting. Particularly taken with the piece by Rick Moody. This was included in the box I just sent home.

All items bought for half price at Modern Graphics, a fabulous comic shop in Kreuzberg. Found it completely by accident. Solid range of German, French and English books available. If they're open tomorrow I may have to go rummage some more.

The 3 free books are going on the shelf at Baxpax Kreuzberg.

I am tired, and although I have barely pecked at the surface, I confess I do not feel any great need to explore Berlin further.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Of death and epiphany together, let us say nothing. That's the space of the romantic, and the romantic always features an especially high body count."

—Canon, Rick Moody, the Ganzfeld #3

And yet without decoration.

The Neues Museum was born from the destruction of the old. Bombed in February 1945, the greatest of treasures were safely hidden in the zoo, and all else was incinerated and crushed.

The old museum lives in the new, with salvaged pieces of ornamentation pressed into the walls where they would have been, surrounded by new and blank plaster, so that the ghost of that majestic hall lives superimposed in splinters and fragments over the present day.

There are bullet holes in the walls that did not require replacing

The story is not only in the contents of the rooms. The foundations have memory.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

little lights, a little light

I went walking, and found a little galaxy. I took a slice of time and froze it into a visual representation, which I then converted into 0s and 1s, and now I am putting it here, for you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Responsible Adult

That's the mark of a true adult; total responsibility for self. It is a mostly exhausting process, sadly, and much of the time the rewards feel few and far between.

This isn't a reward as such. Traipsing about the world is an incredible luxury. Awareness of this cannot and should not be undone, and the opportunity not taken for granted.

At the same time, the only person responsible for me is me. I make my own decisions, pick my consequences and get to choose which regret to live with.

Tessa, come Boxing Day you will have been traveling for 2 months, the longest you've ever gone, and there is no known end to this. You were not at full capacity when you left home, and haven't operated on such for too long. To this journey you've assigned some purpose. There is something you need to prove, but what, and to who, you do not know.

You are not as strong as you think you are. It is okay to admit that.

While in Berlin, I give you permission to do nothing. Go out and tourist your little butt off if you want, or stay in the hostel dozing on the couch between cups of tea and look only out the window.

Ask nothing of yourself. Test nothing. Challenge nothing. Be nothing.

And maybe we'll get through this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and those Nürmberg drunks I mentioned earlier.

There was a soccer match on the other day. Footy fans and drunks - these are things that Australia and Germany have in common. Unfortunately.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Small hours on a German station, MAKE VIDEO BLOG

If you're going to watch any of these stupid videos of mine, watch this one. The South Coast of Iceland is just gorgeous, the little glimpses provided in here don't even give you a taste.

While I was standing inside the glacier I took my glove off to run my hand over the ice, and started laughing, as I do when something delights me.
"It's dry!"
"Yes," said the Dutch Man still lingering. "It is ice."
"Yes, but it's dry!"
He nodded, and stated again, a little slower, "it is ice."
There was too much of a language barrier between us for me to explain that where I come from, no ice stays dry.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Perils of Hosteling


There are three beds in my room. The other two are taken by a couple of German guys.

I have to admit, even though I try to be chilled and non-judgmental about exactly that sort of situation, I raised my eyebrow. Most hostels are all for keeping the sexes separated, which I imagine just saves everyone a whole lot of potential hassle.

Eh, I told myself, eh. Do not be uncomfortable unless they give you a reason to be uncomfortable (although I did grumble about the idea of having to leave the room every time I wanted to get changed, pfffft).

They reeled back after five in the morning, giggle-drunk and trying and failing to be quiet with such ridiculous earnestness I had to hide under the doona so they couldn't see me laughing at them. These boys, they be okay. Getting home so late was a bonus, I got some alright sleeping done.

When I woke up, I had to punch down a laugh again. Drunks do not know how to drive doonas. The guy opposite me was face down on the mattress, with one corner of the doona bunched up around his face and the rest thrown on the floor. He was only in his undies. I was tempted to take a photo. The other guy had managed to keep the doona on the bed, but he had wadded it up and was spooning it. Also only in his undies.

In this situation, I am the menace.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In the key of Nürmberg Durnk

Free wifi is awesome, but generally not made for heavy use. The wifi at the Rothenberg hostel freaked out at any sort of uploading, and the wifi here in Nürnberg bitchslapped me hard when I tried to upload another video bloq. Hopefully the hostel in Berlin is a bit more forgiving, otherwise you'll just have to be patient.

At any rate, when I left the hostel this morning it was to discover that a lovely dusting of snow had stopped by over night, making a ridiculously pretty town even prettier. I cursed it a mean streak while schlepping my stuff to the station.

No snow in Nürnberg, still cold enough to warrant my rabbit hat and scarf. (The downside to wearing a real fur hat, I have discovered, is that should you wander about in the rain, it will begin to smell exactly like wet animal. Gross.) I made an effort to go to Albrecht Dürer's Haus, as there is only one guided tour in English per week, which happened to be today. I was initially somewhat wary to discover it was a costumed guided tour, being led by Aqnes Dürer, Albrecht's wife, but those doubts proved entirely unfounded. "Aqnes" was exceptionally interesting and informative, without ever being twee.

Because I forgot to eat for 12 hours (THIS IS WHY I SHOULD NOT TRAVEL ALONE) I didn't have presence of mind to do any filming in the house. Poot. Managed some okay photos though.

This is a reconstruction of Albrecht's printing press, a reconstruction made possible as he had made a drawing of the press with such detail that it was practically a plan with measurements and instructions. The press is capable of exerting a ton of pressure. Which is alarming, to be honest.

One ton of pressure makes a pretty crisp print.

LETTERS. See that font? I can hear all the hipster designers of the world turning their pity and condescension on. HE'S THE MASTER, NOT YOU.

There was also a copper etching press set up, which was being used to create prints. They'd done up copies of Albrecht's more renowned images, which you could purchase signed by the printer if you so desired. A copy of a copy? I eyeballed the rhino - I have a great fondness for that rhino, but passed.

Albrecht is well known as being the first to do a sort of realist study of nature. This cabinet was full of bits and pieces from the wild; here a deer, beneath deer antlers.

Jars of pigment powders. The process necessary for obtaining some of these colours was staggering. To be a painter was a luxury, I must say. 8,000 sea snail shells from around India for a gram of puce-like pigment powder to be bought in Nürmberg.

There was a massive print of a medieval map on display, to show where the various ingredients for pigment powder were obtained. Australia did not exist as an idea at this point, and the Americas were only a vague line down the left. China did not appear to be well known, but I was surprised to see "Thebet" present.

Afterward I wandered around in a haze of low blood sugar. Nürmberg is a farçe of both the old and the modern.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Disturbia

Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Famous for its Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas markets for the non-Deutsch speaker. Also a very very ridiculous place. It's a complete medieval town, and dude, wtf. It's like walking around a gingerbread city, or a fairytale. It's like Sovereign Hill, ONLY IT IS REAL (little Victoria reference there).

They take Christmas seriously here, and today I went to the Christmas Museum, which is housed in a MASSIVE INSANE LABYRINTHINE MANDELBRÖT Christmas decoration store. I mean massive. I qot lost. Several times.

I stole a few fantastic photos, but unfortunately the connect at this hostel does not like uploading, so I'll restrict pictographs to only this.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


Whilst reeling about Rothenburg ob der Tauber this afternoon I happened across possibly the cutest little mutt in the world, and I say that knowing that the dogs back home are the cutest dogs in the world. He was part Dachshund, have that long body, short legs and a fairly lean muzzle, and wiry haired, which I've never seen on a sausage dog. Had the sort of colouring of a German Shepherd, you know, the black saddle and brown trim. AND HE HAD A RIDGE BACK. Seriously, from the top down he was massively shaggy, but then everything but his roof was short-haired! And he was trotting along with his low belly being quite amiable and cheerful and sooooooo CUTE.

I miss my doggles.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oh. Dear.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Caving! In ancient lava tunnels! Holy Magma!


  1. I am tired.
  2. It was dark.
  3. I am tired.
  4. Ice is insane.
  5. I am tired.

In addition, a sound clip I took while alone. That manic hiss is simply my poor old iPhone, unable to process the quiet.

1350m long lava tunnel, the sound of rain underground. by sirtessa

This isn't so much a self-portrait, as that term implies some sense of purpose, a point to that particular portrayal. This is one of those CHECK THIS OUT photos. My hair isn't wet. That's purely sweat.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Ólafur Arnalds - Live in the Lobby

As part of Live in the Lobby, a series of free concerts hosted by the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel, Ólafur Arnalds played a neat little set, and BY JOVE, WAS I EVER IN ATTENDANCE.

Setting up for Live In the Lobby in Reykjavik. by sirtessa

Accompanying him was a string quartet, and unfortunately none of my photographs of them are worth sharing. Tragedy, as they were glorious, and there really is nothing that can be compared to listening to stringed instruments being played live and perfectly.

In the music I could hear the landscape I beheld yesterday. I could hear the supreme absence of trees, bushes, shrub and growth, I could hear a land in which a note will never die, the wind will carry it on and on over the snow dunes and gracefully languid hills, with nothing to break it, and perhaps nothing to hear it.

They are scores that are stripped down to the bone, so reflecting that vast emptiness of the tundra. Perhaps Iceland could be captured by a full symphonic orchestra, but...that, to me, feels like too much. Too crowded. Too many voices, in a land that is voiced by only a few. Great voices, such as the sea, the endless wind, and grumbling volcanoes, great, but few. Not necessarily lonely, but lonesome none the less.

Having not seen Iceland in summer, I have to wonder how it would present itself in music.

Sublime; then disintegration. #liveinthelobby #olafurarnalds by sirtessa

An outsider's impression. I am projecting into the music.

I would have gladly payed for tonight's concert. Arnalds's music can be found at Erased Tapes (site down at time of writing) and BoomKat. If any of you have been curious as to my type of music, this is a prime example of what has been speaking to my heart of late. Should any of you be in town, he and the string quartet will be playing another concert at Harpa on the 17th.


Sir Tessa accidentally all over the concept of video blogging. Whoopsie.

In summary;

  • My hands are not cooperatinq enouqh to bloq reqularly or edit all my photos
  • There are videos from the Qolden Circle around Reykjavik
  • I have a hat


Monday, December 05, 2011

Icelandic Phallological Museum

After discoverinq that some scabbinq monqrel stole half my loaf of bread and all of my oranqe juice, I had a very anqry cup of tea, followed by very anqry toast, and then I set off into the snarky winter air to visit the penis museum. Anqrily.

It isn't a very biq museum. 1000 ISK for adult admission, and loan of one cataloque of specimens in the lanquaqe of your choice. The exhibits to not attempt to educate you on the use of the penis or any particularly odd sexual behaviours of animals around the world. It is simply a room stuffed full of penis.

So much peen.

The photos I took are not particularly qood, due to a combination of indoor liqhtinq and awkward display cabinets, but photoqraphy is not at all the point. The point is penis.

That is not penis. That is testicle. Two of them. From homo sapiens. Accordinq to the cataloque, it is,

Both testicles and epididymis from a 60 year old Icelander. Donor unknown. Autumn 2006.

It is somewhat alarminq that they can have a set of balls and not know who they are from.

I...think...this is boar dick? I could be wrong?

This is definitely boar penis. Artistically mounted on a rock, and risinq up like either a charmed or extremely pissed off snake.

So much peen. Those wee ones at the front are rat penis bones.

Mink penis. I'm not sure what the middle jar is.

Alarminq mink penis.

Cat dick. Although small and meek, definitely the most threatening dick on display.

Doq penis. And penis bone. From fluffy doqs.

Some impressive horse cock. And a phallusesque lamp.

Arctic fox peen. Many arctic fox peen.

The smallest exhibit, at less than 2mm, a hamster penis bone.

So the owner and curator also makes lampshades out of bull balls.

Here's a close up of the bull ball liqht shade, for your consideration. If you're interested you may buy your very own bull ball lamp from the shop for 15,000 ISK.

Here is a close up of a cross section cut of a sperm whale penis. Rather fiberous lookinq.

Mounted whale penis. On the left, a killer whale. On the riqht, a Fin whale.

Look at that chubby. Sperm whales, man, they're all about qirth. I mean, really.

Yet more mounted whale penis. Sei and Fin whale aqain. Qood thinq they're up hiqh. Could take someone's eye out with those thinqs.

Badly cured sperm whale. I couldn't quite tell if this was an attempt to treat whale penis for leather.

It's a qiant sperm whale penis. It is taller than I am.

No, really.

Minke whale qot a chubby.

That hurts to look at. Poor Sei whale. Qlad he was dead before that happened. (Well, I'm makinq an assumption there.)

Perch peen. Yes! Fish peen!

Hell, I don't know, lots of peen.


Polecat penis bone is somewhat alarminq. The hook is entirely unnecessary, really.

As for skunk penis bone, that isn't a hook...I don't entirely fiqure how that works.

A little something from home; wallaby penis!

The 2008 Icelandic Olympic Handball team! Silver medalists! YES. SILVER PEEN. A WHOLE TEAM OF SILVER PEEN.

The last section was a little room off to the side, in which was a cabinet of phalluses relatinq to Icelandic folklore. In this jar is the phallus of one of the Hidden People.

Catafox penis in the front, and Sea Howler penis in the back. I'd howl if there was a hole in my dick too.

Shadow-hound penis. Not at all like dog or fox penis.

A merman penis. The cataloque stated a fisherman had a spat with him, and he came off the worse.

Now, I realise that is a funny lookinq penis, but to be honest, I'm more intriqued by the owner. What is a 'rustic' elf? Does it sit around on old farm porches with tin cans waitinq for Donna Hay to come by?

I refuse to qooqle 'enrichinq beach mouse'. The mystery deliqhts me.

Damn riqht it's a troll penis.


I'm not qooqlinq 'necrophlaqic cat' either.

I saw more penis than you did today, and I'm willinq to bet money on it.

Also the museum smelt funny. Not of formaldehyde, althouqh no doubt that contributed. There was a definite MUSK odor in the air.

If that was too much cock for you, here is a pleasant chaser;

Aqain, the view out the front door, taken around 1.30 in the afternoon. There is nothinq but lonq liqht in this place.