Monthly Archives: October 2012

Alejandro Guijarro – Blackboards

I came across this wonderful art project (via Kate Crawford) the other day, and it was too good not to share.

Perhaps it’s partly the fact that I romanticise the shit out of learning (which I think is part and parcel of being an eternal student, like me), but there’s something so nostalgic and beautiful about half-erased equations and scribblings from the past, kind of like an accidental academic graffiti.

I love the banal-made-extraordinary in art, too. Blackboards are just blackboards, but there’s something very artistic about them — from the layers of formulas past as background, and the vignette effect of the unused corners of the board, to the way that one person’s handwriting differs from another’s, each one is a uniquely random project.

See the whole collection here.

The destruction of sport.

It’s time to talk about Lance.

I’ve been trying to avoid talking too much about the whole Lance Armstrong shemozzle.

I’m not much of a cycling fan. Unlike so many others out there, I don’t really get any kicks out of staying up all night to watch the Tour de France. I’ll watch the Olympic marathon, but I don’t care so much for the cycling road race. It’s a sport, and I like sport in general, so I will catch updates and sometimes find myself half-watching races for quite a while, but I don’t get excited over it. I don’t even really know what a peloton is, to be honest, and I’m not sure who I should be looking out for in the Tour from one year to the next.

However, the revelations about Lance Armstrong have really hurt me. I don’t like cycling, but I have an immense amount of faith in sport.

I love how sport unites people. I admire the dedication and strength of those who compete, at any level, really. I enjoy the excitement of watching a match, and the water cooler talk about it in the days after the game.

Most of all, I respect the honesty of sport. It seems to me like one of those activities that falls under the umbrella of a good, honest day’s work.

So when one of sport’s greatest success stories is revealed as a cheat, my world order is shattered a little bit. Is that the problem, though? Is the problem simply that we idolise normal people to the point of destruction?

I’m not into hero worship. I think Lance Armstrong, through his Livestrong foundation, has done many amazing things for many, many people, and should not be criticised for that. But I don’t look up to him, nor any other athlete, as a hero.

Yet, so many people do. Once upon a time, athletes and sportsmen (for they were primarily men, back then) would go out on the field or the track and play hard, then retire to the change rooms and drink a beer, smoke a cigarette, and eat a sausage roll. Today’s stars, though, are more automaton than athlete, more machine than man.

We not only expect them to run harder, cycle further, and swim faster than ever before, but we expect them to do it whilst being model citizens who wouldn’t think of downing a beer or feasting on a burger, let alone sticking a needle in their arm to get the illegal advantage that would help them to win and therefore keep us, the armchair experts, happy.

And when an athlete slips up and is caught with a recreational (albiet illicit) substance in their system, we wonder how they could fall so far. We feel offended that they have let us down. Is the pressure that we put on athletes really just destroying the system?

I’m not advocating Armstrong’s behaviour. There is little doubt, now, that cycling is an incredibly dirty sport. At the same time, I’m not angry at him. I’m more angry at us for expecting so much from people who, essentially, work out and play sport for a living, partly just to entertain us.

My faith is a little destroyed, and my pride in people is a little dented, but what’s the solution? I doubt this will ever end, until perhaps one day organic athletes become obsolete, and are replaced with man-made cyborg sports stars, capable of growing ever better to keep us happier and more entertained.

Debate-o-rama (or should that be debate-obama?)

I’ve managed to catch a little bit of the US presidential debates over the past couple of weeks, and although it doesn’t directly concern me – I’m Australian, I don’t get to vote on this one – I’ve still been pretty interested to hear what each of the candidates have to say.

Make no mistake: if I was American, I’d be voting for Obama. Even though I wouldn’t have to, because nobody has to vote if they don’t want to. I believe in voting, though, because I believe in having a say in the running of my country… and believe you me, that has me in somewhat of a bind when it comes to the next federal election here in Australia, because I don’t want to vote for either of the major parties, and my electorate is a very safe Liberal seat anyway.

Back to the US, though. I don’t feel that Romney is completely useless. As a businessman, I’m sure he’s probably quite good, and he seems like he could perhaps manage people fairly effectively. I’m not entirely convinced that he is the right person to hold the job of the so-called most powerful man in the world, though.

Without getting too far into it, the image of Romney that’s emerging from the debates is that his entire policy platform seems to be built on three things: mining the living shit out of whatever natural resources are left in America, rather than focusing on finding natural, renewable solutions; carrying on spending ridiculous amounts of money to build up the US military so the country can continue sticking its nose into everyone else’s business; and turning the whole of the United States into the magical mystical dreamland that is Massachusetts.

That’s all, right?

Late night study tunes.

I have decided to take advantage of the fact that normal people sleep during the midnight hours to up my thesis writing productivity.

So far, it’s working – nearing 2000 words tonight alone.

Normally I don’t listen to music with words whilst I study, which means I listen to lots of post-rock and post-metal, some classical, a bit of electronica.

The problem is that the music I listen to the majority of the time is hip hop (full o’ words!) and sad songs.

Sad songs are fine, but I can’t get too bound up in feelings when I’m writing.

This song. This song is one of the most perfect songs.

Glen Hansard is a genius. His voice speaks to me in the depths of my soul. When he sings, I feel it at the bottom of my chest, radiating down through my heart, into my lungs, and into my stomach. I understand biology, so I know this isn’t the case, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a space there where my attachment to music lives, continually making me fall in love and feel pain and remember good times and anticipate more.

His voice makes me feel hopeful and nauseous and comfortable and alone.

Falling Slowly is actually a cover of another song, also called Falling Slowly (unsurprisingly).

You are correct: they are both sung by Glen Hansard. You might have heard of his band, The Frames (but probably not – they haven’t received a heap of attention in Australia). They’re responsible for my favourite song ever, but it doesn’t fit in with this post, so I’ll post something else.

It’s one of the most heartbreaking songs in the world, but I did warn you that I listen to sad songs.

Whenever bad things happen in my life, I think of this song. When people die, when relationships end, when I feel I can’t go on. It’s almost my security blanket song, in many ways. It helps me to rebuild: if I stop feeling, if my heart gives up, I just get to exist and no longer care.

There’s a glimmer of hope in there, though, wedged in between the pain and the loss. It’s somewhere in the ferocity with which the song crescendos. It taps into the part of me that allows myself to own sadness and loss and disappointment and hurt, because I make a deal that after owning and feeling, I will move on and heal.

Don’t worry. I’m not there now. I’m just feeling reflective.

Asides from all that, though, it’s one of the best examples of Glen’s voice.

Get on board. He’s amazing.

[My favourite song ever? Oh okay. Here you go.]

Half.

I found Julie Kozerski’s Half gallery yesterday, and can’t stop thinking about it. [Definitely NSFW - nudity.]

Her images of her post-weightloss body are harrowing. Beautiful, but different.

It makes me think about the pressure we put on women to be perfect. What does perfection mean?

Julie lost half her body weight, but in doing so has been left with what could be seen as half a body.

I have fought a war with my body for my entire life.

Not because it’s sick, or doesn’t work as it should, or has failed me, or was incomplete to begin with, but because I feel that societal pressure that tells me I’m too big to be good enough.

It’s the same pressure that makes me feel like I’m not taken seriously.

It’s the same pressure that makes me feel like I should be ashamed of my body.

It’s the same pressure that makes me hurt when a group of teenage boys I don’t know yell at me in public and call me a ‘fat slut’.

Julie’s photos help me to reconcile the idea that it’s not always greener on the other side, and that all of us wear perfect/imperfect bodies.

I hate my body // it’s just a shell for my soul // and these rhymes will live long // after my bell has been tolled.

Self worth & making time.

I’ve been thinking about self worth a bit today, and the process of valuing one’s own existence.

It’s not as grim as it sounds.

My priorities at the moment are study, and uh, study. That’s it. I work to support myself, but when it comes down to it, almost every second of my spare time, when I’m not sleeping or keeping myself from being a stinky unwashed hermit, is generally devoted to getting my thesis done. In fact, until a couple of weekends ago, I hadn’t even socialised in longer than I could remember.

Because I put so much time and effort into my thesis, I feel really guilty when I do other things, like read books, or faff about online, or watch TV, or exercise. The other things I guess I can live without, but my lack of exercise is starting to bother me, because the longer I go without, the harder I find it to get back into the habit.

I’m trying to convince my inner exercise freak to unleash itself and become reacquainted with me. Exercise is one of those areas in which I am such an all-or-nothing person. I will work out like a demon for months on end, and then just stop. And not do anything else for months.

I’m currently in one of those slumps.

I walk my dog but that’s about it. I have a gym membership that is just languishing because I’ve convinced myself that I just don’t have time to exercise… yet I’m tired pretty much 75% of the time because I don’t do anything really good for my body. The other 25% of the time I’m sleeping.

Science and psychology (that second one is worth viewing for the creepy picture) have proven that exercise is amazing and important in so many ways. Asides from the obvious benefit of not being a complete lump of a human being, it’s also really great for happiness, memory, focus, energy levels, and stress. I’m a pretty happy person these days, but I sure could do with better memory, and I lack focus (often because I’m thinking about how guilty I am for not exercising!), and I’m always tired (as I said), and stress is definitely always hanging over my shoulder, waiting to bite.

Not only that, but every guide to doing a PhD that there is recommends exercise to keep yourself sane and give you more energy.

So it would appear that all there is left to do is to actually just do some exercise. I’m on the verge of printing out a calendar and sticking coloured stars on it for every day that I actually do something, which is very childish but my current stubbornness and unwillingness to exercise is childish, too, so it’s probably a fair way to deal with it.

My sense of self worth is shouting at me that I deserve to put the time aside to exercise daily without feeling guilty that I am taking time away from study, and I know that exercising will make my study time more efficient.

What would you do? Any tips for getting me out of the study and onto my yoga mat/the road?