Clusters. Glass. Nova. Roiling. Cellular freedom. Soil.
If you don’t wanna Spotify, here’s iTunes.
I crave retreat. Water hush and bones and branches. Red dirt and nothingness. The quiet stun of the star sky. I need to be away from this woman-hating world. A place where sexual and family violence is becoming more of a topic and an issue and a slogan, and yet my heart sighs at the enormity of tackling the embedded hatred towards women and girls: sex trafficking and rape and shame and all of the cultural variations of victim blaming, woman blaming, judgement, body hatred, body harming, assault, leering, comments, looks, the looks I get walking, or sitting having a burger and existing in my body.
A cave and a spring. Female baptism. The backing track of leaves only, and the wind. Washing out the micro aggressions. A break from the pressure to somehow find a way to respond to hateful comments, the words, the slut and ho and fat and ugly.
Sometimes I can be creative in my response. Sometimes I just move me and my goddamn shopping trolley to another side of the burger place so these fucking idiot men won’t stare at me. Sometimes I share feminist articles on Facebook.
But, I crave the creek and the gum and the place where my body can be on it’s own. Where I can look at my baby daughter and be free of those flashes of abusive futures.
Current and river bed and sleep. To be cherished, and sleep.
This podcast has a section at the end (about 42 mins in) that includes an interview with Hisham Aidi. He’s talking about French Muslim hip hop and how it is positioned by the French government, in particular, and how that affects different artists, including the curse of being endorsed as a ‘moderate’ Muslim hip hop artist. I may have something more to say about it in time (if you’re lucky), perhaps when I have read Aidi’s book. He put up a video playlist of Muslim European hip hop, too (with commentary by Charles Monroe-Kane).
There really are so many thread of migration, history, identity, and marginalisation that can be played out through hip hop. The ways that it is endorsed or else rejected by government and legislation is an interesting dilemma. And shit, of course.
There is a slight personal interest in this one for me as I am Sufi (and I am not, who needs a label …) and I have performed spoken word and been through a few incarnations as a performer. So, Aidi talks about the way that some Sufi artists such as Abdul Malik have been endorsed, and that their universalism can be played. Something I think about a lot. Haven’t solved that one at all: I feel and experience things spiritually that I know can be completely played by others politically.
Anyway, this is very timely given the whole facade of free speech discussion around Charlie Hebdo. Who’s free, and when? To say what?
Had my first massage with a new therapist, in our new hood, today. I felt like the playwright dwarf in Pratchett’s books that is pelted by inspiration: blog posts surged through me as I lay on the table. I woke up a bit over an hour before the treatment, so my usual two coffees to get me into being in the world were peaking.
You know, mind. Mind in the body on the table. Watching the therapist’s feet. Loving the feet as open to the carpet and what I see is the person and not, the intelligence physically feeling the carpet through the feet-form. Observing the person-soul of the moving feet and their opening to the surface underneath and listening to what this shows. Feeling the pain, tension, and habit in my body and the breath and watching the caffeine mind run.
Run about the love I have for people like this therapist, not a personal love, not a person love, but a love, well yes, ok, for people. But not personality. Ok, maybe personality, but not the love as it is sold. Love for the honesty in the feet. Love that there are people who are putting in work in an art, like massage, like healing. I have had this love for many, often teachers or practitioners. Or students of mine. It is a love for enquiry, loving those who are curious, who are developing skills, who are listening with their hands and their thoughts. Who watch muscles and bones, who see a flow in a yoga pose, who intervene to help with playing a rhythm. I love those who art, who teach, who support. Hold and flow. Move into the next soft knee lunge to move the stroke along my back.
This love and this ‘yes’ to a person is pure and good. It can also be accompanied by a rush, a dive, a leap, and this sometimes means that little warning bells are sped past. In the rush for the yes, the warning bell about the housemate or teacher or student or practitioner is brushed aside. I hear it, and sometimes I so want the yes, to enjoy all the rest of the yes, that I turn away from being with the bell. I want my new massage therapist. I want to feel at home through having a healing support here. I want my yoga place. Possibly, I could find my Sufi place.
But, hey, I’m a bit older, I don’t have to rush in. The rush is lovely and all, and has been a part of actually falling in love with partners: and at my age I also now that the rush can be looked back upon with … a sigh. A sigh that I knew that. I heard the bell. Doesn’t take away from all that is good and loved in the person or in our dynamic. And, yes, I would have liked the strokes to be deeper. And, yes, I can say that and speak up. And I don’t have to be 100%. And maybe there is no 100% liking everything about someone.
Maybe I look for the 100% because so much of the world and human creation is so shit, or has a violent, destructive impact on me. And on each other. Because I sense the aggro and the greed and the ugly, I then am keen to be: this. This is my one yoga place. This is my one massage person. Which has it’s own beauty, depth, and loyalty. Makes me feel at home, which I am currently not. Still.
Have some stillness in the rush, grasshopper. Some patience with the bells. Learning to hover and not force the landing.
All I know is that I am not; and that I am.
This PhD has been a very strange process. Incredibly long, and still going. Yep, labour pains were off the chart, any chart: incredible pain with no compare and no possible descriptor. And that was within a day. But, the dragged out niggling tension of this PhD process is – not as painful – but fucking stupid.
Because, of course, the outcomes and goals to focus on to get through the drawn-out tension all disappear.
I’m still in the stage of doing my revisions. Yes, I have a baby and housework and the admin of life and every now and then maybe I do some exercise or work on my business, but this stage has been very horrible in it’s own way. Many people have overtaken me and are done or graduating. Not that it’s about that, of course, but the mind will notice that.
I think the underlying depressing and disempowering nature of what happened with my examiner comments, one in particular, adds the biggest punch to this current state. Having no recourse, no response, to an abusive examiner is flattening.
Looking back, yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have had three supervisors with different ideas because maybe I have responded to that with trying to do surface bites of all of the different theories rather than one deep theoretical meal through the thesis. Maybe others with experience should have seen that that was happening. Maybe I should have actually had a stronger idea going in, or through it … but the mental health stuff/personality stuff/things that went on in my life/having three smart people giving their ideas meant that I pinballed between them. And that in some ways resulted in this thing that examiners have said needs a deep theoretical through line. Fair enough. The process of responding to the abusive examiner and me not having any direct voice or options in that was fucked, fucked, fucked though. How the hell is that the contemporary process? Bullshit.
So now I still have this response to the criticisms where I want to do little bites at a theory to make it go away, to get this thing done, cut this years years years long tension and get it out of my life. But that’s what got me here in the first place. So to really think about the theory and do an excellent or even ok thesis, to turn what I have into that … fuck. Who knows how long it would take. Long isn’t the thing. Well, it kind of is. And the measures of what is good theory or when I have written something that is deep or original or whatever … I have long ago experienced that this feels completely ad-hoc. When I get the response from a supervisor that, that was it, that was deep or original or biting or ‘it’ – this seems completely subjective and almost random. So I just keep stabbing at it, keep thinking, reading, re-writing. For fucking years. And yeah I could have made different decisions with my life, but I did the best at each junction of trauma, extremely low income, precarious work, relationship movements, fertility window, chronic physical conditions, fuck.
(So clearly there is also the internalised critic voice that gets reinforced by all this. Which I also keep in its place).
Just, look. This has been a weird process. Isolating and disempowering and very, very far from what an academic process is sold as. Yes, I have enjoyed a lot of my own intellectual process and interactions with my superiors and fellow PhD peeps and I have lots of love for those supporters, and, still, my topic (right?) but what a fucking monster.
There were web pages and html sumfin sumfin, early searches and email lists, forums and slow scrolls. Loading, the bit-dit-dot-krrrr noise and this mouse click and that. Social network and all, coalesce into walled gardens all bloated and full of pokes. Reduced vision, corporatised and easier. Those successes made glossy apps to keep us separate, encased. Then the apps get pretty much like the pages, particularly in mobile version, easier and more reduced and locked in, all the passwords autofilling across space and time. Ok, the apps need to share with each other and probably can just buy each other out so they are still separate but have little authorised holes in the walls between them. So meta apps are starting to be pushed that will house all the apps … which is kind of like a browser. But locked down again. And the friends with their babies and critique and rebellion and food porn are within the walls and shout sometimes and ooh, I wonder where to from here.
I have just moved out of the Illawarra. To the uninitiated, it’s a region south of Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, country of Australia. Main town is called Wollongong. It has a jaw-dropping coastline. Sheer escarpment all carved and weathery, a fresh wild ocean, nooks of trees and some pockets of interesting folks.
The Bulli pass slices a cross-section that divides a middle class North from everything else. There’s steel town history, serious White racism, blokey tradey surfy entrenched dominance, blokey blokey blokey public space. Sub-sub pockets of immigrant histories and the present. Depressed low-lying areas full of housing commission brick racking up the misery. Clusters of murders and abuse, drug drugs drugs, the South Coast train line which is often a gauntlet of meth addicts, hopeless white trash, uni students, internationals, those who fatten from the blokey powers-that-be commute in suits. The Northern Suburbs people with recycled shopping bags and kids in private school. All that. All that.
I have lived in different corners of this place, in a few main episodes, over the past 18 years.
(Hadn’t actually put that together before. 18 years. I think I have been saying 10 years for about 10 years).
So there’s the love maps of ex-houses and exes and ex-lives, but those maps are transparent now, delicate spider threads across the air of the burbs. I got peace with the times had and the now.
I have deep love for some people there, and the land land land. Stone and coastal wash, precipitous overhang of cliffs all moody and the always-beast of the escarpment. Points and beaches and dogs taking on the sand. Just-unheard trauma of murder and colonisation in all of the cells of the place. This pain and violence is a part of the place, and I love this place. I gave it time and listened to it. It was humbling, and I still bow.
The corruption and idiocy of the managerial leaders of council, the university, and members of government for this region still floor me, even when I thought I could not be shocked. The incredibly bad ideas and outcomes freeze my brain. How could they think that building another mall next to the existing one that is already an alienating dystopia surrounded by neglected small business and deep social detritus – how could they think that that is a good idea. How could they possibly believe their own spin? Corruption is the only answer that fits, unless, unless: they really are that stupid. They really think that casual minimum wage retail jobs will help the region. That they are a city of innovation. That it is a university of excellence.
The stupidity and waste of potential finally did me in. Well, it was a family decision, and we want to support our little troupe. My partner came to the region from New York City and the place was a shock to him, on all the levels. And, ah, there is no employment. We are two qualified educated people, all that, who are broad minded about the kind of work we might do and for whom, but this region got no love for that.
See, there is a carrot, which is that things could happen. We could get culture funded, connect with the refugees, we could put this environmental idea together with this resource and we could use these smart people and actually pay them and ..
And I listened to these ideas and saw them and talked about them and went to events for them over the 18 years. And then I didn’t, because there is something to looking realistically at the idiots at the top of the pile and their concrete refusal to encourage good stuff.
I know the people who still do good stuff. Get a bread oven happening for people. Fundraise. Film. Put on a gig. Get a co-op up. There are triumphs, and there will be, and I truly have all the power for these ones.
But there’s this knowledge of the ceiling. Don’t get too excited. Don’t expect too much. You have to have the steelworks on board, or council, or just have 10 people at your thing forever. There might be a cool thing that lasts for a while. But then you will have to deal with also being priced out of the rental market and having no stable work and try and keep your thing going then.
So, as you can see, I’m done. Sad. Sad and done. Still kind of in love with the core of the place from my core, weirdly. But done.
I don’t know if it’s lazy to do blog posts without taking you through the blow-by-blow, but, whatever, I blog for me:) This article about Ms. Lauryn Hill got all internetted, and then this response from Talib Kwali did too.
I mostly come down on Kwali’s side. Human beings are artists and vice versa, expression is key, and there are the ‘realities’ of both fans and performers being in a market. She can do whatever she wants and owes no-one nothin’. These two pieces are interesting when read together: two perspectives on a performer and a central album that can fill out the picture of fans, audience, insider knowledge, an artist’s perspective, a Black cultural ownership, a consumer. Both, or all, of these approaches will always be present. And fuck yeah to Talib speaking for the ones that he does.
I guess I could add: its not just a given that if you express honestly, you will have an audience of millions, or even that it is straightforward to make an album and receive money in a fair exchange. Luck, statistics, timing, visibility, cultural identification, industry gatekeepers … I don’t even know all of the factors that mean that some people get heard and find an audience and some don’t … but there are many, many, many (ooh, unexpected Fugees reference). Those times and places that are supportive and seem to create a pool of artists surely help (another reason while I am glad to be moving from a hard-times steel town). And, you know, ‘cos I always worry what this says about me: this isn’t jealousy, it is. Sometimes I think about how many amazing musicians, dancers, comedians, writers etc. there are in the world without visibility. Without even buying into the fame dream and all of it’s problems, that’s just gotta be some kinda statistical thing.
There is also the fact that she is an educated intellectual goddess. A prophetic Black woman who takes no shit, with precision. Clearly a monster composer and listener. A female musician. Let me say that again. Female. Musician.
(An Australian music journalist called her music ‘pop’, but then again that is a thing of his, to ultimately get over sub-genre distinctions and say everything is pretty much pop: a tiny grain of truth there about the range of rhythms and tonalities being similar, but wrong, wrong, wrong in this case in particular. As seen in these articles, and in my own life, this woman, her work, and that album aren’t pop or only pop: this is serious human impact):
—Some kinda bus trip with my brother between families as teenagers, that time to be suspended and reflect watching the foreground and background and yet the social world of the bus where I feel dismay at humanity and the gross fried meal stop: we talked (probably initiated by my brother) to an African American guy who was also doing the passenger thing. My brother has this way of picking out the other people who seem ‘awake’. This guy had a discman and had been listening to The Miseducation. His eyes and his face when he was telling us about it, the power of this music, the echo from this cultural volcano in far America that he gave us a snippetty whisper of: I don’t forget his feeling as he shared this gold.—
What more can both artists and listeners want, but impact? And what follows from impact: musing, reflection, inspiration. And (does it need to be said?) being missed is good. Always leave them wanting more, err on the side that will leave ’em hanging. Just like there is a whole not-so-spoken judgement here about being a mother (of goddamn six!) and doing that private sphere work of loving and raising and teaching as if it is invisible, gone, a career sin to have babies, where you been Lauryn? Why the pressure to be out and exposed? Both inside and out are good, the one-one-one riches of relating in a home and in a spotlight both have their place (I write, while breastfeeding …)
It’s kind of like this:
rocky abdomen pain pulling yearning cyclical suffering navigating relationships breaks and beginnings moves and fidelity, some loss, lack of income and precarious see-saw wobbling. Quite a lot of wanting and then the beginning, maybe another loss, then again, this gestation with vomiting-trying to eat-vomiting-wanting not to vomit-vomiting swollen heavy can’t sleep vague wondering daily daily daily dreaming, a worry, then fluid bomb limbs and visits visits vissa to the medical people and midwives and booking appointments all of the discussions some research no not too much research thinking of who I used to be but still being this one, somehow, and then a narrative with punctuated events that bring on the labour of new-galaxy pain that rips the mind sideways into primal primal tricks and then the impossible hill, the final test to push her out, and somehow it happens, I guess I must be able to do it after all, and then -coast-
silence, stare, chatty jibes presence presence presence intimate family core then thrown deep into hospital hell cut off my umbilical to the tribe bungee is untethered alone with toxic machine storm that bleeps neon around the clock and the wailing babies and silently flailing women feed like zombie cows on the sugar junk trying to get sustenance from the crap toast and jam and the walls butting walls appearing walls inside false air no darkness or respite or hush for the new one only walls trolleys bed bag table stuff stuff stuff walls and rackety curtains being pulled and hearing all of the narratives punctuated by events of the women and babies and families on the other side of the curtain and the visiting Africans being frowned upon for their volume and me being only desperate steel inside and then home
a new level of the job, of the fascination and skin-to-skin. Gradually and quickly learning through the cycles and patterns and mysteries and small movements and signals. Baby fuzz and growth and finding our way and new depth in all of us and housework housework housework wondering if I do too much housework resenting the gendered nature of it grateful for the sharing of work angry that it is so hard to tell what’s equal angry at the internal scripts about this getting overwhelmed at how much there is to do and
nappies nappies nappies wipes clothes dress undress nappies hands file baby nails mats washing washing washing soaking washing washing washing in washing out fold washing washing away washing in piles whites whites whites buckets and bins and plastic bags for bins and make cleaning products and body products and think about all of the blog posts and sweats and flushes and losing hair and weight comes back and neck ache and arm ache and upper back ache and heart width beyond the ribs and her smiles crack us open
in our partnership ways and this couple cosmos is a hard working one and there is graft and then, finally, employment. Nerves grated down to the raw impulse to get through the tasks and pass her between us and she is hilarious and stunning, a mesmerist.