Friday, April 29, 2005

Reviewing blogging

A recent post to a mailing list I subscribe to has got me thinking about why I blog. I have journalled off and on for a number of years. Recently I migrated to a software program called MacJournal. This program has a number of features for journalling that I liked including being able to write up an entry in MacJournal and then post it to a blog or a number of blogs. I used this for a while and I found that it wasn't really doing it for me. There was a sense of being cut off within the program and by my computer. Paradoxically, I think this was associated with where I imagined the writing to reside within the space of my machine. It was hidden away, buried in the directory structure of my hard drive. My desire to reach out to an imagined audience was somehow thwarted by the isolation of the medium within which it was produced. It was a conceptual isolation, in fact. Since there is no reason why blogging directly into 'blogger' is any different. A post is just a button away, not matter which program I was using.

I started up my own blog initially with the intention of logging my PHD progress. This was really all I had in mind. Something happened to me not too long ago that was one of those life changing and life challenging experiences and partly because during that time I was so preoccupied with just getting through it, I didn't journal or log events. One of the reasons I wish I had logged this period was that it literally shifted my reality. Writing for me, in addition to feeling like I am reaching out to others, although mostly imagined others, is also an anchoring device. It is in the traces of thoughts and feelings and in the materiality of the word, that I can see parts of myself in relation to things, events and people and how things change. Oddly, sometimes I do not recognise myself at all but this too is an aspect of my relation to the world. So I started blogging to record my PHD progress and this is still my intention. But somehow my blogging practice has broadened somewhat. The daily asides are more the meat, the PHD progress an aside. Interesting...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Outrageous Breakfast Show

I recently attended the Body Modification Conference Mark II held at Macquarie University. On the second day of the conference, "The Today Show" did a piece on the conference. Karl Stefanovic, Tracy Grimshaw and co spent the next ten minutes laughing and spluttering about the "wacky" conference and its "freaky" subject matter. From memory there were a number of dismissive statements about the so called incomprehensible abstract titles, questions about the relevance to students today along the lines of "what are we teaching our children at University?", and outrage expressed that we could be wasting tax payers money on funding such an event. The presenters laughed nervously throughout. Pardoxically many of the questions raised in their guffawing outrage required a genuine and legitimate response. Why isn't there help available for people who go through life believing that they would be more themselves if they had one leg instead of two? Why is it that we live in a culture where even to mention the words "my smell" evokes horror and terror by its utterance alone? Their discomfort revealed a real anxiety, I believe, about their own inability to address any of these issues with the seriousness and consideration they deserve. On a deeper level, it revealed a cultural anxiety about the issues of body modification. So why is it not acceptable to have a forum for seriously discussing this topic?

Not only were the titles of the papers mentioned mis-quoted, the purpose of the conference was completely mis-understood and its content mis-represented. No member of the coordinating committee of the conference was consulted to comment or provide any information nor did any of the presenters attend the conference to find out what it was about.

In short, it was an exercise in ignorance and anti-intellectualism of the highest "Breakfast Show" order. As viewers, we were presented with the view that we should not take the topic of body modification seriously because we do not WANT to take this seriously. And we should attack anybody who does, because WE have decided that it is not knowledge worth knowing.

Later that day the participants of the conference gathered in one of the lecture theatres to discuss the piece as well as the editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. I was there during the discussions and at the conference throughout.

What was discussed was the possibility of a response and it led to some really interesting debates about the status of education in Australia, the politics of education and the role of Humanities, the motives and tactics for an effective response were raised and discussed. Many believed that any response was a waste of time. But a strong contingent believed that it is not just necessary but crucial to engage with popular culture and take it seriously, particularly when it takes such an active stance of ignorance and an intention "not to know".

I want to say that the conference was one of the most enlightening and insightful intellectual experiences I have had. The breadth of perspectives and the level of discussion and quality of research was far greater than I had expected. We live in a culture, as Meredith Jones clearly and elegantly described in her presention, where "becoming is more desirable than being". We are presented with demonstrations of self-improvement from many quarters, and this "makeover" culture describes a broad set of current cultural concerns and desires. There are not many appropriate forums for discussing the immense effects and changes that go with these sweeping cultural changes. The conference was one of these. It was an appropriate and relevant forum for bringing together people from all over the world to present and stimulate discussion that will help us to understand and perceive this phenomema from a range of different perspectives and to engage in its complexity. The presenters and program makers of breakfast shows have a choice. They too, could offer a forum for discussing these issues and if it is expressed in a style that is relevant for its genre, then that's OK too. But there is no reason whatsoever to undermine other peoples efforts to understand because of their own ignorance and lack of desire to know or to simply to ask. No excuse at all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ode to old wheels

Stains on the passenger seat, faded over time
Indian dinner leaked from a plastic bag,
Traces of dog, white fur and finger nails,
Drivers seat depressed from repeated sittings
Small dents on the rubber bumper from touch parking
A scrape down the side from a poor reverse park
Globe blue, a colour from the nineties, no more
Citrus and Techno grey amongst todays colour schemes
My old car, dolphin of the road, sculpted by my presence and form
I parked her in a back alley in the end
Far from the shine and glare of her fashionable counterparts
I folded inside at the thought of leaving her there
Conveyor of memories and material from my past
Goodbye UDA 434.

Got myself a new set of wheels. I've been enjoying getting a feel for it, how it takes corners, finding the optimum revs to change gears to get the most accelaration but the smoothest changoever, becoming intimately familiar with handling the wipers and indicators, being able to swap CD's by touch (yeah - it doesn't have a six stack CD player unfortunately). Actually it's not really a particularly flash car as far as cars go and I certainly wouldn't call myself very knowledgeable about cars but I do love driving and learning to hear and feel the machine-body. And it's new. I've never had a new car. My last car I bought second hand in 1994 and it was two years old at the time. I loved that car. Dropping it off in the side lane behind the car show room where I was to pick up my new car, closing the creaking door for the last time, I really felt a pang of regret. How attached I had become to my old car. I felt like I was abandoning her in the back lot. So my initial encounter with my new car was a little mixed with sadness as well as excitement. I got the guys to take a shot of me with my old car and another one with my new. I felt they really understood. I asked them if they'd take care of my old car. They nodded and said "Of course".

This afternoon I was stuck in traffic on the highway I regularly drive down to get to Uni. I was on my way back from a special visit to the library in order to renew and then reborrow two books that were one day overdue. So there I was, music up loud, rain hitting the windscreen, the sweet smell of new car and dustless surfaces, my own personal bubble as Michael Bull would say. I turned to the side and to my amazement, saw my old car in the car lot of the place I purchased my new car. She'd had a makeover. New wheels, hubcaps and a polish. It was too quick to examine her new features in detail but my heart leapt at the thought that she would have a new lease of life and a new owner.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Zombie Pope

Where is Buffy when you need her? Doesn't she know that the undead is in St Peters Square? I mean can we be really sure that he is gone? Since he was almost gone for quite a few days. And all of these rituals involving teenagers and young twenty somethings worshipping his greatness strikes me as very hellmouth activity. Now that Sunnydale is a large whole of nothingness, perhaps the hellmouth has re-located to St Peters Square.

I'm seeing zombies everywhere at the moment and I guess that has something to do with watching Resident Evil II the other night and alot to do with the green and red pills I've been swapping between the last few days to facilitate continuous oxygenic intake and break up the mucous masses.

Drove out to Uni today to return the digital recorder after my first interview on Sunday. Someone at Uni needed it prior to going overseas so I hit the road clean. No green pills. I'm easily affected by these substances and it recommends on the packet not driving or using heavy machinery while affected. No shit! I wonder if that includes my computer. How heavy does machinery have to be before it's considered heavy machinery?

Friday, April 01, 2005


That was a great idea - meeting up with a friend for chai this afternoon. My mind was spinning from reading about the writings of Levinas. Not even the texts of Levinas but an "Introduction to Levinas" was enough to get me wondering if existence itself may have been disappearing out of a slow leak in my skull. It was only when I came face to face with my friend that the sense of disorientation and dizziness passed into a feeling of familiarity and acceptance. I am very interested in following up Levinas' writings on The Face. What about technology? What is it in the face to face encounter with technology, specifically digital technology but really any technology, any object, anything that is conceived as part of this world, that gives knowledge about that object and yet still have a sense of our selves as separate from it? What does Levinas' face tell us about the interface? What is kept separate and how in the human-computer encounter? Is the separateness important and something to savour? How can it be understood? There is a foundational act to this questioning because it raises the issue of whether there is a relationship to discover and whether it can be called such a thing. And yet, I know on a deep level that it is there, formed in myself in my body, dreams and in my every day use. It is so thoroughly embedded that I feel its loss when it is not there, although it can hardly be called gone.