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Monthly Archives: May 2013

For my 100th post here at countingletters, I’d like to share with you a piece – my first piece for The Modern Woman’s Survival Guide – about CFS/ME.

I know a couple of wonderful people who face daily the challenges Chronic Fatigue Syndrome presents and my heart goes out to anyone living and fighting these diseases. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are widely misunderstood conditions and so I’m extremely happy to be helping to spread some awareness for these causes.

For more information visit ME/CFS Australia, and you can read my piece here.

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I started an internship with artsHub today. artsHub’s About page states the site’s ‘editorial coverage is wide-ranging and comprehensive. 1,500 contributors support our in-house editorial team in covering thousands of large and small arts events throughout the year with reviews, previews, interviews, artist profiles and opinion pieces’. I look forward to my time with them.

The pieces I published can be found below:

PAINTING IS ALL IN THE MIND

DAVID GULPILIL, OAM WINS 2013 RED OCHRE AWARD

$250,000 SCULPTURE COMMISSION UP FOR GRABS

JK ROWLING AND THE NEXT ADVENTURE

CASH AND EXPOSURE FOR MUSICIANS

DRAMA IN FAMILY AS BELL JUNIOR WINS PLAYWRIGHT AWARD

On the train home from university this afternoon, I boarded a carriage with very few spare seats. I set up shop (read: positioned myself in a corner with The Age) opposite a distinctive group of individuals, who were chatting excitedly with smiles miles wide on their faces. Usually I try to steer clear of noisy groups, whether it be business men, school kids or screaming children, because I like to read in peace and relative quietness. But for some reason, I decided to stay put and have their conversation as a background soundtrack to my travel home.

The train took off and I started to read. But I was soon taken by the conversation this group of people were having. The first thing I noticed were their accents. Each person seemed to speak our mother tongue with their personal flavouring on top. Some were sweetened and drawn out, others spoke in sharp consonant soundbites. One man I found quite difficult to understand, yet another spoke clear and precise English, as if it was a language she’d known from birth, with just a hint of something special on the side. As I studied their faces, I noticed the diverse ethnicities they represented. Of the six people, some were dark, some of Asian heritage, and another appeared to be Middle Eastern. I heard one man speak of his hometown in Saudi Arabia. He was a hardware worker. One woman thought he’d said ‘hairdresser’ rather than hardware worker, and after clarifying his profession through adjectives they both understood, they had a laugh about their mixup. They bonded over their struggle to learn English but their pursuit of it, regardless.

I came to realise that among this group, one woman seemed slightly out of place. She was an Indian woman, significantly older, spoke of navigating Melbourne’s public transport system, and with correct grammar and articulation. She asked questions of the others, and stimulated conversation through these open-ended inquiries. The other members were only too happy to answer, practicing their English and enjoying the interaction and celebrating their achievements in managing to construct appropriate and coherent responses.

They discussed what might happen if they missed their exit station the next time they took the train, alone. The older woman pointed to the map on the train wall behind them, and used her finger to guide them along the line as she explained how to navigate the map of Melbourne. They were to get off at Parliament, today, and the group carefully named the stations before and after their stop, to familiarise themselves with the suburban stations surrounding the city loop.

As the train pulled up to Parliament, what I had thought to be a group of six suddenly ballooned into a group of a much larger scale. The woman turned around and announced to the seats behind her that they were arriving at their station, and to get their Myki’s out, ready to touch off upon exiting the station. As I scanned those I’d previously ignored in the nearby seats, I began to realise what they had in common. I can only assume, but I’m fairly confident, that each of those youthful individuals were new arrivals on our shores. These people were migrants from war-torn countries, others coming from backgrounds of poverty and hardship. Some had left behind their families and friends, and all were making an enormous change in hope of a better life in a land more prosperous and filled with opportunities, than their home.

It was incredible to see how excited they were. They were so full of energy, hope and delight. They were making friends, overcoming obstacles and making the most of what life has given them. And I was able to gauge all of this from about five minutes on a train. Not even speaking with any of them directly. Just overhearing their conversation.

As they left the train and stepped onto the ground at Parliament, my eyes turned back to my newspaper. I scanned the page titled World. Bombings, corruption, hope for basic human rights and democracy, suicide. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt. Bulgaria, Myanmar, Libya, and Syria. So much violence, and seems so far away. But it’s closer to home than many of us care to realise. We are a multicultural society, and it is so important that we continue to welcome people to our country. They may be escaping, fleeing, or simply looking for a better life. Some will stay, others may return to their homeland. But we should accept people not just for who they are, but because they are who they are. Everyone has a different story, and it is only through sharing these stories that we enrich our own lives and in turn, the lives of others.

These people appreciate what we take for granted, they persevere and fight for their human right to be treated with respect.

So in the midst the politics of 457 visas, stopping the boats, illegal immigrants and the like, maybe what we need to consider is the value of our culture as a melting pot. We should consider the risks people have taken and the choices they have made in coming to this country, and treat them as whole, and special, people. We need to stop treating people like abused animals; herding them, dictating to them,  mistreating them, and start to speak with them, as our equals.

Because that’s the right way forward for Australia. And politicians aren’t doing us, or themselves, justice, if they choose to act otherwise.

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of The Brainwash Project’s first print magazine. The Brainwash Project was created for young women as something “inclusive, empowering, intellectually stimulating and fresh”, by Melbournian, Jess Barlow. The Brainwash Project is somewhat of a healthy antidote to the countless publications that (un-intendedly?) serve to leave so many girls and women feeling inadequate, in comparison with the body, beauty and life ideals they promote.

The launch was such an incredible event. Set in a community hall, people from all walks of life came together to celebrate the magazine’s first print edition. The publication is bright, colourful, informative, entertaining and extremely professional. There were brave young singers, slam-poets and public figures to entertain the crowd, complementary nail polish painting, and other stalls with knick-knacks for your pockets. Professional photographer, Bianca Anderson ran a photo booth were attendees were invited to dress up as ‘Paper People’, a key aspect of the project as a whole. Barlow says that the idea of Paper People illuminates “how unrealistic it is to lust after a different appearance to our own” as well as “how easy it is to change [one’s] appearance using Photoshop or even just old magazines and scissors”.

I love this notion of Paper People, and the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. So often, we (both women and men, girls and boys) are presented with figures, images and ideals that are literally unattainable. Celebrities are one aspect of this saga, but aside from the photoshopping post-shoot, these people often have wads of excess cash to use on self-enhancement projects, absurd diets, expensive ‘health’ retreats, extravagant foods and surgical procedures that help to maintain the image they so desperately want to preserve.

Consider this article on the phone application, Pixtr. Pixtr offers you the chance to “put your best face forward” through giving you a plastic, fantastic, Barbie-like appearance. As journalist, Chris Taylor notes, this app is sure to be put to use on shameless selfies, embarrassing nightclub photos and any image in which the profiler deems themselves to be in some respect inadequate or imperfect.

Additionally, this recent Dove ad has received widespread coverage, urging women to challenge how they see themselves, and the value they place on their appearance. It has to be said that the ad has received some criticism which is hard to ignore, but the principle and what I assume to be Dove’s overall aim of the campaign, in nonetheless intriguing and it’s pretences are deeply upsetting. So many people judge, value and categorise themselves based on a single feature of their face or their body. People compare themselves to other people, denying themselves the very miracle they are born with – uniqueness. There are literally no two people alike. That’s pretty unbelievable.

Alas, there are many contributing factors to negative self-esteem, and the media is just one of these components. But the Brainwash Project is helping young women take a step in the right direction.

So I encourage you, I urge you, to find out more about the Brainwash Project. This first 188-page, colour filled magazine has also become a platform for young people to showcase their talents, promote worthy, youth-oriented causes, and has contributors from all over the world. The magazine speaks its message: the cover is plain white, until you cast your eye over the back, bottom corner, and that corner reads ‘don’t judge things by appearance’.

I have two pieces featured in the magazine. The first is a feature on Melbourne fashion designer, Eve Walton-Healey. She has recently launched her own label called White tailed Fawn. You can check out her blog here. The second, is an interview with local Melbourne band The Darjeelings. They are incredible and I’d definitely recommend reading the piece to find out more about their musical inspirations, how they manage to balance school, family, friends and music, and what their plans are for the future.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the Brainwash Magazine, you can enter the shop here. Delivery is available Australia wide, as well as internationally. Barlow is hoping to also make available a digital e-version of the magazine, so be on the lookout for that edition, too. While the price may be higher than your average girls or women’s rag, the it’s because the content and presentation is far from average. And it’s all for a worthy cause. So buy a copy for your daughter, your sister, your granddaughter, niece, or as they say in Parks and Recreation, treat.yo.self to a copy of Brainwash Magazine. Because if we’re going to take anything from the cosmetics industry it should be this: Because you’re worth it.

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*I first wrote about the crowd funding campaign for The Brainwash Project back in September last year. The Brainwash Magazine is the result of hard work, time, volunteering, talent and dedication. Congratulations to all those involved. Support the cause on Facebook, here.