FARRAGO EDITION THREE • 2016
MUGGLES • SPACE • REFUGEES
PAGE 50 PAGE 42 PAGE 62
4 • NEWS IN BRIEF 5 • CALENDAR 7 • FAILURE TO PROTECT • SAVINGS AT ANY COST 8 • PLAYFUL THEATRICS 8 • FLOOD THE CAMPUS 19 • THE DAX CENTRE – THE EXPLAINER 10 • TURN-IT-IN 2.0 12 • LET’S GO TO THE BEACH 13 • WE ARE NOT PERFECT 11 • THE BERN DOWN UNDER 12 • THE POSTCODE PARADIGM 13 • ALL PRETENSE ASIDE 14 • UMSU PRESIDENT RESIGNS 19 • DO WE REALLY SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY? 20 • SPINNIN’ SLICK DISCS 21 • WHERE THE RIOT GRRRLS AT? 22 • COUNSEL IN COUPLETS 23 • UNDERGRADUALISMS (COMIC) 24 • FOR & AGAINST: MUGGLES PLAYING QUIDDITCH 25 • HE’S MEAN BECAUSE HE LIKES YOU 27 • THE FEMININE CRITIQUE 28 • WHAT MAKES A MIGRANT? 30 • FOLLICULAR FUCK-UPS
31 • WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE LEFT HANDED? 32• RIO & EVIE (COMIC) 34 • SPACE X-PLORATION 35 • BASED ON A TRUE STORY 36 • SAY N20 TO DRUGS 37 • DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? 38 • LIVING WITH INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS 40 • ONE OF US: CULT REVIEWS – THE ROOM 41 • ONE SMALL STEP 42 • CALLING ALL GIRL GANGS 43 • HANDSOME DAN 46 • A ROLL OF THE (20 SIDED) DICE 47 • BUTTON MASHING AT 200KM/H 49 • DAY TRIP 50 • THE GOLDEN MYTH 54 • INVISIBLE SUNFLOWERS 56 • TOIL 59 • NOTES FROM THE WEIRD SIDE 60 • THE YEAR 4000 61 • ON USING DOUBLE NEGATIVES 62 • DON’T LEAVE UNATTENDED 63 • AN HOUR IN THE LIFE: 6PM 64 • FLASH FICTION: TELL A TALE THROUGH A TIMELINE FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 1
THE FARRAGO TEAM EDITORS
Danielle Bagnato Sebastian Dodds Baya Ou Yang Caleb Triscari
Bori Ahn Ayche Allouche Alexandra Alvaro Natalie Amiel Jordyn Butler Cara Chiang Ben Clark Jess Comer Gareth Cox-Martin Nicole de Souza Simone Eckardt Simon Farley Jessica Flatters Hayley Franklin Amie Green Ashleigh Hastings Paloma Herrera Emma Hollis Annabelle Jarrett Audrey Kang Rose Kennedy Jack Kilbride Eliza Lennon Jack Francis Musgrave Jeremy Nadel Kathleen O’Neill Emily Paesler Jesse Paris-Jourdan Alanah Parkin Evelyn Parsonage Elena Piakis Finbar Piper Ed Pitt Lara Porczak Lotte Ward Jenny Van Veldhuisen Dzenana Vucic Matthew Wojczys Jessica Xu Yan Zhuang
2 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
Ayche Allouche Alexandra Alvaro Raina Angdias Britt Baker Iryna Byelyayeva Christopher Cassidy Chih-Yu Chou Katie Doherty Rose Doole Hayley Franklin Amie Green Jess Hast James Anthony Hazeldine Rian Henshall Emma Hollis Kyaw Min Htin Peter Karabatsos Jack Kilbride Sheri Lohardjo James Macaronas Imogen Martin Maddy McCarthy Tegan McCarthy Caitlin McGregor Lilly McLean Jennifer Morillas Jack Francis Musgrave Mary Ntalianis Emily Peck Goldie Pergl Max PH Ed Pitt Kathleen O’Neill Amy Shea Ella Shi Morgan-Lee Snell Greer Sutherland Hamish Taylor Alexandra Teuben Sofie Westcombe Simone Williams Yan Zhuang
Graphics Contributors Edie M Bush James Callaghan Lynley Eavis Amie Green Tiffany Y Goh Adam Joshua Fan Taliza Ho Anwyn Hocking Carolyn Huane Lucy Hunter Jasmin Isobe Emma Jensen Kerry Jiang Tzeyi Koay Han Li Mabel Loui Eloyse McCall Sam Nelson Dominic Shi Jie On Katia Pellicciotta Anais Poussin Ella Shi Bonnie Smith Ellen YG Son Sophie Sun Aisha Trambas Agnes Whalan Jialin Yang Reimena Yee
Ben Clark (Online) Gabriel Filippa Patrick Hoang Thiayasha Jayasekera Kerry Jiang James Macaronas Nick Parkinson Adriane Reardon Kit Richards (Online) Eliza Shallard Felicity Sleeman (Online) Lotte Ward Xavier Warne
Sorcha Hennessy Lucie Greene Allen Gu Kim Le
Jack Fryer Ilsa Harun Monique O’Rafferty Lachy Simpson
FINE PRINT Farrago is the student magazine of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), produced by the Media Department. Farrago is published by the General Secretary of UMSU, James Bashford. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of UMSU, the printers or the editors. Farrago is printed by Printgraphics, care of the effervescent Nigel Quirk and John Still-Rescuing Heyman. All writing and artwork remains the property of the creators. This collection is © Farrago and Farrago reserves the right to republish material in any format.
ARTWORK BY KERRY JIANG
Edition Three was a tough one and we don’t really know why. Maybe it was because we had over a hundred incredible submissions this time around and only 60-odd pages to fill with them. Maybe it was because three is Baya’s lucky number and the gods decided to fucK WITH HER. Or perhaps we’d all dipped into a chocolate slumber over the mid-semester break and struggled to get our shit together. Undoubtedly a part of it was the surprise resignation of UMSU’s President halfway through the print cycle and us trying to figure out why. March has not been our friend (though Seebs and Caleb had their birthdays) – but it always comes to this, doesn’t it? The harder the struggle, the better the reward. No doubt we’re not the only ones feeling the heat. Pulling into orbit around mid-semester, it’s easy to feel the tug of gravity weighing you down. The assignments are piling up like satellite debris, your head’s feeling more pressurised than the cockpit of a Saturn V and the inevitability of exams feels like the event horizon of an oncoming black hole. But don’t fret, we’re all made of star stuff in the end. You can rest easy in the knowledge that every happiness you’ll ever feel will take place on your own little green-and-blue corner of eternity. Thank you for joining us as we [ENGAGE THRUSTERS] to explore outer space with Jack Kilbride (page 34) and deny the moon landing with Yan Zhuang’s dad (page 41). Touch back down to battle terrestrial frontiers with Ella Shi’s ‘What Makes a Migrant?’ (page 28). Celebrate with Rose Doole the intimacy and love shared amongst girl friends growing up (page 42). Run your hands across vinyls with Iryna Byelyayeva (page 20). Break your heart with Caitlin McGregor’s ‘Toil’ (page 56): a baby drops from its mother’s birth canal, face first into a pit of barbed wire. Let your eyes breathe with Kyaw Min Htin’s overwhelmingly beautiful paintings (page 52). To our contributors who let us publish their most vulnerable selves, we are honoured. To Christopher Cassidy for confronting the intrusive thoughts that invade our minds (page 38). To Jack Francis Musgrave for exploring inner space, reminding us to feel lonely together (page 43) – and for finding the comfort in stark songwriting (I want to feel like I feel when I’m asleep). To the Office Bearers who wanted us to know their truth: we thank you all. Your courage reminds us that we’re a product of who we believe we are. We are so proud of Edition Three – and ultimately thankful for the sweat and tears it took to make. We hope it brings you comfort on those doona days when you’re just trying to hide from the universe. Reach for the stars, Danielle, Sebastian, Baya and Caleb.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GOLDIE PERGL
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 3
NEWS IN BRIEF SLIPPERY SoUP
Reports have come in over irresponsible service of alcohol at the Start of Uni Party. UMSU Activities will be implementing new training for volunteers to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
LIBERAL CLUB AGM
The Liberal Club annual general meeting was met with controversy over who was to be elected as president. Members from differing Liberal factions ran, with Andrew O’Shea taking the seat.
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION
However, the student representatives have expressed concern at the most recent Students’ Council session over the effectiveness of these consultations, claiming that the sessions were run inefficiently and provided limited information as to what is being planned for student-oriented services.
The Burnley campus is celebrating 125 years of horticultural education on 30 April. The campus will be celebrating by running seminars and lectures, garden tours and a plant sale.
The University of Melbourne has commenced consultation with student representatives over the new student precinct.
The National Day of Action was on 13 April. Rallies were held throughout the country to protest the proposed cuts to higher education funding and restructures to HECS.
BURNLEY TURNS 125
STUDENT BAR PRANK
In an April Fool’s prank poll run by Farrago, a majority of students expressed their preference for the student bar space in Union House to be named ‘Glyn & Tonic’.
The Young Liberty for Law Reform program have began their campaign, mykifines.com. The campaign aims to inform students as to their rights when faced with ticket inspectors and fines.
HATE SPEECH ON CAMPUS
GRATTAN REPORT PROPOSE LOAN RESTRUCTURES
The Parkville campus was infiltrated on Easter Sunday by zombies. Zedtown was run by the UMSU Activities Department, and featured a campus-wide event where players had to stay alive.
Islamophobic hate speech has been written on and around buildings on the Parkville campus. The vandalism was quickly removed by UMSU and the University, who have condemned the action.
A report published by the Grattan Institute has made recommendations on how to reduce the substantial amount of debt accumulated from the Higher Education Loan Programme. The key recommendation involves lowering the repayment threshold from $54,126 to $42,000.
CONCERNS OVER NUS PRES
Concerns have been raised over the failed distribution of reports from the National Union of Students President, Sinead Colee, to the NUS Executive. It is the General Secretary’s responsibility to ensure all reports are distributed.
Following the resignation of Stand Up! student councillor, Adam Wojcik, Millicent Austin-Andrews has been elected to replace the vacancy on the Operations SubCommittee.
The NUS have sought legal advice over what is to happen in the absence of a President.
STRESS LESS WEEK
The appointment of a new President may bring up further political deals.
4 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
The UMSU Stress Less Week was run in week six to promote student wellbeing and mindfulness. The week consisted of dance classes, jumping castles and puppies.
Student bodies are generally against this recommendation as it could impact the financial stability of graduates who have just left their institution with a degree and a significant amount of debt. Nevertheless, Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, appears to be considering the recommendations in the report. The National Union of Students recently held nationwide protests against funding cuts to higher education and recent proposals put forth by the Federal Government.
GSA NOMINATIONS CLOSED Nominations have closed for the Graduate Student Association elections. The elections will be held between 25 April-13 May. All students enrolled in a graduate course at the University of Melbourne are eligible to vote. The elected councillors will then go on to appoint the office bearers, such as the President and General Secretary.
PERFORATED FOR YOUR PLEASURE
MAY CALENDAR WEEK ONE
RAD SEX & CONSENT WEEK 12pm: Enviro Collective 12pm: Welfare – Monday Mingle
12pm: Enviro Collective 12pm: Welfare – Monday Mingle
12pm: Enviro Collective 12pm: Welfare – Monday Mingle
12pm: Enviro Collective 12pm: Welfare – Monday Mingle
RAD SEX & CONSENT WEEK 9-11am: Bike Co-op 12pm: Students’ Council 1pm: Tuesday BBQ – Lime Cordiale 1pm: UHT – Rowdy Reads 5:30pm: Enviro – Play With Your Food
9-11am: Bike Co-op 1pm: Tuesday BBQ – Kings 1pm: UHT – Rowdy Reads 1pm: Wom*n of Colour Collective 5:30pm: Enviro – Play With Your Food 6-8pm: Creative Arts – Free Life Drawing
9-11am: Bike Co-op 1pm: Tuesday BBQ – The Pockets 1pm: UHT – Rowdy Reads 1pm: Wom*n of Colour Collective 5-7pm: Wom*n’s Mentoring 5:30pm: Enviro – Play With Your Food
9-11am: Bike Co-op 12-2pm: Creative Arts – Free Life Drawing 1pm: Tuesday BBQ – Totally Mild 1pm: UHT – Rowdy Reads 1pm: Wom*n of Colour Collective 5:30pm: Enviro – Play With Your Food
RAD SEX & CONSENT WEEK 2pm: Welfare – People of Colour Collective 5.15pm: Environment – Documentary
12pm: Wom*n’s Collective 2pm: Welfare – People of Colour Collective 5.15pm: Environment – Documentary 6-11pm: UMSU Trivia
12pm: Wom*n’s Collective 2pm: Welfare – People of Colour Collective 5.15pm: Environment – Documentary
12pm: Wom*n’s Collective 2pm: Welfare – People of Colour Collective 5.15pm: Environment – Documentary
RAD SEX & CONSENT WEEK 8:30-10:30am: Welfare – Free Breakfast
8:30-10:30am: Welfare – Free Breakfast 12pm: Queer & Questioning QTs
8:30-10:30am: Welfare – Free Breakfast 12pm: Queer & Questioning QTs 12pm: Students’ Council
8:30-10:30am: Welfare – Free Breakfast 12pm: Queer & Questioning QTs
RAD SEX & CONSENT WEEK 12pm: Queer – Ace/Aro Collective 1-3pm: Creative Arts Collective – Food Co-op
12pm: Queer – Ace/Aro Collective 1-3pm: Creative Arts Collective – Food Co-op
12pm: Queer – Ace/Aro Collective 1-3pm: Creative Arts Collective – Food Co-op
12pm: Queer – Ace/Aro Collective 1-3pm: Creative Arts Collective – Food Co-op 6-8pm: Creative Arts – Talking Out Of Your Arts
ARTWORK BY TIFFANY Y GOH
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT UMSU.UNIMELB.EDU.AU
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 5
Listen now at radiofodder.com
SEMESTER ONE SCHEDULE MONDAY
Creative Arts News
Time for K-pop
Sharp at Two
Biggest Blackest Show
Silver Screen Sync
Hip Hop History
Talk About It
Simone & Mindi
The Mr Ghost Show
Heavy Metal Hour
Sexless in the City
The Sensitive Adult
Sound of Science
THE MR GHOST SHOW
SEXLESS IN THE CITY
UMSU Disabilities radio show, hosted by your Office Bearers, Christian and Jess. Many people are proud to be disabled, but disabled by what, exactly? Their bodies? Their minds? Their world? Their society? These questions and more will be answered by people from our fabulous community.
Strange things happen in the forgotten corners of the world. But sometimes, someone is there to tell you all about it. That someone is Mr Ghost – your host with the most! Tune in for a weekly dose of weird as Mr Ghost and friends investigate homicidal photocopiers, spectral zebras and the terrifying Vortons.
Accidentally Catfished someone on OkCupid? Or eaten Subway weekly since 2010? Do you have a retroverted uterus? Then Sexless in the City is the show for you! Join us for fun, laughter and unprofessionalism at 6pm on Tuesday Nights!
Japanese Bathhouse showcases progressive Japanese music from the ’70s to today. The program aims to breathe new life into forgotten Japanese releases, many of which never received exposure or radio-play outside of Japan. So don’t be a prude, get your kit off and step into the Bathhouse every Thursday from 10am.
FAILURE TO PROTECT
SAVINGS AT ANY COST
AMY SHEA ON UNFAIR PAY
nternational students are increasingly voicing concerns regarding underpayment at part-time positions. A Nepalese student recently made complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman, alleging her employer underpaid her during 18 months of employment, paying her a rate of only $12 an hour, on the grounds of citizenship. According to Commonwealth workplace laws, the hourly minimum wage of $17.29 applies to all employees in Australia, regardless of contract length. The Fair Work Ombudsman has also assured employees that they have the right to make complaints or enquiries about their employment. Nevertheless, these workplace laws frequently fail to protect international workers. Unpleasant experiences at workplaces remain prevalent among many student visa holders with an hourly rate of $10-$12 being commonplace. Science student Jessie Yu has been working as a part-time floor staff member at a Chinese restaurant in Vermont South since last December. “My colleagues are being so friendly to me. I was even invited to their party meal during Chinese New Year,” says Jessie. When asked about her hourly rate of $11, Jessie justifies it as “quite understandable because a lot of Asian-owned companies underpay their employees, including many local employees”. While some students seeking part-time work have assumed being underpaid is inevitable, others think they deserve more. “They only pay me $13 an hour and that’s certainly way below minimum wage,” says Bertin Ong, Treasurer of UMSU International who works at a fruit juice stall at Queen Victoria Market. “Having to wake up early and work for long hours with only a 15-minute break each shift, I certainly deserve a higher pay.” The prevalence of the injustice begs the question: what is driving the students’ reluctance to report their underpayment? Bertin Ong suggests that “international students often acknowledge their capability and the lack of experience working in a foreign country. Most students don’t care much about being underpaid as long as there is something extra for them to spend”. Another factor seemingly scaring students off from lodging complaints is their fear of repercussions. UMSU International president Yu Kong Low suggests that “they’d feel bad reporting their extremely nice employers”. UMSU International is currently working to raise awareness of the laws put in place to protect student workers.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MABEL LOUI (LEFT) & CALEB TRISCARI
ALEXANDRA ALVARO QUESTIONS CONTINUED CUTS BY THE BIP
taff cuts made at the University of Melbourne in 2013 are once again under scrutiny after a poorly handled redundancies announcement at the University of Western Australia (UWA). In a recent email to all staff, UWA announced that its initial plan to cull 300 professional and academic jobs, announced in January this year, was declared “prematurely”. Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Dawn Freshwater says the decision was made too far ahead of the appropriate consultation period. In 2013, the University of Melbourne responded similarly to federal funding restrictions with the Business Improvement Plan (BIP), which saw 540 administrative jobs cut over the span of two years. Spokesman for the University of Melbourne, David Scott, claims that the BIP has created a total of $52 million worth of additional funding to faculties and graduate schools, a figure that is in line with expectations. “The BIP has already realised a number of improvements to research and education. This has included the introduction of paperless ethics applications, improvements to the process for hiring of sessional staff, reduction in the time it takes to assess Special Consideration applications and reducing the application times for Higher Degree Course Work,” he said. “These funds have also been reinvested into scholarships and student experience activities as well as the implementation of Stop 1. This illustrates the design and implementation of the program is on track,” he said. UMSU Education Public Officer, Dominic Cernaz, disagrees. He says that the cuts, particularly Stop 1, have had adverse effects on students’ ability to access facilities to which they are entitled. “The impact of the BIP is now really starting to be felt through Stop 1, which has put all student services together. Those seeking vital accessibility services are having to seek help in the same place as those with minor timetabling issues,” he said. Cernaz says that similarly to the UWA cuts, discussions with relevant staff and interest groups were not completed thoroughly back in 2013 when the BIP was announced. “It’s our understanding that there was a lack of meaningful consultation, with the University intent on pushing through its agenda no matter what,” he said. The cuts at UWA are still expected to go ahead after a more rigorous consultation process. They are intended to create savings and respond to budget challenges imposed by the Federal Government’s cuts to higher education, an issue that Australian universities can expect to continue to face in coming years.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 7
EMILY PECK SETS THE STAGE FOR SEMESTER ONE
he UMSU Theatre Department has released their program for Semester One. This season there is a clear emphasis on political engagement and the arts. The major Union House Theatre production for Semester One is Megaphone Democracy, a non-theatre based piece that explores the ways in which people act out their political beliefs and engage with society. “People are going to have headsets and listen to a soundscape and walk around campus with kind of installation performances,” explains Acting Artistic Director of Union House Theatre, Olivia Allen. “It is based on interviews with people on campus, people from student activist groups, people who have taken part in protests in Melbourne… about how they show they care about the world.” The production season for Megaphone Democracy begins on 12 May. Union House Theatre is also thrilled to welcome Candy Bowers as their Writer-In-Residence this semester. Candy is an actor trained from NIDA, an award winning writer and is highly acclaimed for her work with the Hip Hop Shakespeare Company. She is also an educator, director, theatre maker and social activist. “One of her platforms has been working with diversity,” says Allen. “She has been very vocal in speaking out against the whiteness of our Australian television and stages. She is also a strong feminist and very politically engaged”. Bowers is running workshops for students until May. This Semester, Union House Theatre will also play host to a wide range of student-led productions, including Henry IV, Part I run by Melbourne University Shakespeare Company and Urinetown: The Musical presented by the University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association (UMMTA). “Urinetown is a razor-sharp satire that manages to braid corporate corruption, water consumption, capitalism and Malthusian ethics into its farcical musical theatre plot”, explains Artistic Director of UMMTA, Jordan Peters. Despite its comedic title, the musical provides a startling social commentary and packs a political punch. Urinetown is running from the 19 May at Union Theatre. Alongside the performance program, Union House Theatre is running a wide range of workshops related to the theatre industry. These cover everything from radio microphone skills and operating theatre flys to stage combat. The workshops are free and a great opportunity for students to learn from professional directors and technicians.
8 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
FLOOD THE CAMPUS
SHERI LOHARDJO EMBRACES THE RISING TIDE
he environmental Flood the Campus protest gave the University of Melbourne – and six other major Australian universities – a deadline of 15 April to commit to divesting from fossil fuels. The campaign is working in conjunction with Fossil Free groups at these seven universities and pledged to take “bold action” if universities fail to respond in time. The setting of a 15 April deadline was prompted by a lack of action on the universities’ part to respond to years of student-led activism on the subject of divestment. “We’ve been patient, but we’re running out of time if we want a healthy world where we can actually use our degrees,” reads a statement on the Flood The Campus website. In 2015, over 4,000 people signed a petition which was then given to the University on the National Day of Action. A number of letters – one signed by over a hundred academics, another by over two hundred members of the University’s medical community – were also written. The University itself has been resistant to the ongoing divestment campaign. In 2014, Fossil Free Melbourne University (FFMU) made a Freedom of Information request to inquire about the University’s investments. The University’s response was to attempt to block the request by charging the group $350 to “follow through”. That same year on 29 March, Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis published a statement in The Australian in response to FFMU and 350.org’s efforts. He established that the University’s investment portfolio was not managed by the University itself, but rather by “external industry experts.” To customise its own portfolio and exclude fossil fuel companies, Davis argued, would lead to “higher management costs and likely lower returns” for the University. On 18 March, almost two years since its initial refusal to divest, the University published its new Sustainability Charter. Glaringly absent, however, was a specific commitment to divest from fossil fuels, only promising that it will invest in a manner “consistent with the University’s commitment to sustainability” but also with “its financial and legal responsibilities.” Flood The Campus and Fossil Free groups have geared up to take the “bold action” they have promised. What is meant by “bold action” is strategically being kept under wraps. “We can’t say much about the bold action, but it is intended to make the issue impossible to ignore for the decision makers,” says FFMU. Ray Yoshida, Campus Divestment Coordinator for 350.org, was also unable to provide specific details. “Students are playing an active part in a broader trend of citizens taking peaceful civil disobedience against fossil fuel companies and the governments that support them”.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MABEL LOUI (LEFT) & IMOGEN MARTIN
THE DAX CENTRE
ALEXANDRA TEUBEN ON ART AS A TOOL FOR HEALING
n the last two decades of the 20th century, many of Victoria’s psychiatric hospitals, more commonly referred to as ‘mental asylums’, were decommissioned and closed. As these institutions closed, a psychiatrist, Dr Eric Cunningham Dax, began to collect artwork made by psychiatric patients from these hospitals. The works were created as part of the art therapy programs that ran within these hospitals from the 1940s to 1970s. Dr Dax, whilst working within these institutions had pioneered art as a means of communication to understand patients’ needs. His observations lead to the wider use of art in a therapeutic context. In total, Dr Dax assembled a collection of 8,000 works, now known as the Cunningham Dax Collection, housed at The Dax Centre. The Centre now has a collection of 15,000 works – mostly on paper, but also including ceramics, canvases and textile-based works as well as poetry. All of the works were made by people with experience of mental ill-health or psychological trauma. The works range in age from early 1940s therapy pieces through to contemporary artworks, which are donated by community groups, families of artists and individual artists themselves. Visitors can engage with the artwork through exhibitions at the Parkville gallery space and in a number of educational programs run by The Dax Centre. I first came across The Dax Centre whilst leading a campus tour with a group of high school students. What struck me was how easily the artworks allowed the students to connect and empathise with the artists’ individual experiences of mental illness. The empathy involved in this exchange between artist and viewer helps to break down the stigma surrounding mental
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JIALIN YANG
illnesses, reminding us that these are shared human experiences rather than isolated cases. On a visit to The Dax Centre you will find both a gallery space and a library of resources on art history, art therapy and a variety of other related topics that are accessible in-house to the public. The gallery’s current exhibition focuses on anxiety and depression, with artworks offering a diverse range of experiences and interpretations on these illnesses. This exhibition, entitled A Mind Beginning to Know Itself, runs until 24 June and features an audio installation of poets reading their work aloud as well as an array of sculptural, canvas and paper artwork. The institutional works on display within the exhibition often do not include the artist’s information, as this is kept confidential. Works from the remainder of the collection however, are frequently accompanied by information from the artist to further explain their ideas and feelings. There are many things that make The Dax Centre unique, but largely it is the respect that it, as an institution, shows for people that wider society often neglects. Through the display of art, and through educational programs, The Dax Center destigmatises the experiences of the mentally ill and promotes positive mental health and wellness for us all. The Dax Centre is an independent, not-for-profit organisation on our campus that relies on donations to continue its work destigmatising and understanding mental ill-health using art. You will find the Dax Centre at the back of the ground floor of the Kenneth Myer building at Number 30, Royal Parade.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 9
BRITT BAKER LOOKS BIG BROTHER IN THE EYE
he University of Melbourne is currently trialling new anti-plagiarism software, known as Cadmus. Developed by two Engineering graduates working for the Melbourne Accelerated Program, Cadmus is an online, monitored space - similar to Google Docs - where students write assessments in a platform programmed to record any potentially suspicious activity. This includes copy-pasting large slabs of text, regardless of source location, and contains detailed information about how and when assessments are written. A response to the threat of essay submissions purchased from third-parties, Cadmus utilises keyboard biometrics to identify the student and to determine whether another text is being transcribed. Data on how the assessment is written is stored and potentially accessible to assessors. Various concerns about equity and access, along with the Orwellian nature of the software, have been raised. Most salient is the concern that such data runs the risk of prejudicing markers. A marker’s objectivity could be compromised, for instance, knowing that an assessment was written the day it was due. Additional criticisms include the fact Cadmus requires both internet access and a mobile phone, therefore potentially disadvantaging students. Paul Sakkal, an Education Academic officer at UMSU, is concerned about the potentially perilous and long-term implications of the software. “Cadmus would seriously alter the way assessments are conducted at university and these problems would extend far into the future. If assessors have detailed access to a student’s essay-writing process, there is potentially scope for an egregious breach of privacy to occur.” Professor Richard James, Director of the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education and Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) Academic, emphasised the need for a robust response to academic dishonesty. “Plagiarism is a serious threat to the sector,” he says. “What’s at stake, amongst other things, is the reputation, strength and integrity of higher education. Cheating isn’t just a commercial concern; it undermines public confidence in Australian institutions and devalues Australian degrees. This software is an imaginative technical response to issues of originality.” Also overseeing the trial is Professor Gregor Kennedy (PVC, Educational Innovation), who says that if implementation occurs, it would be in a “slow, diplomatic fashion, [with] appropriate checks and balances in place”. Both are happy to speak to the media and student representatives about the project. UMSU Education Academic plans to launch a campaign to raise awareness, express disapproval and gauge student perspectives. Cadmus is currently being trialled in six subjects.
LET’S GO TO THE BEACH JENNIFER MORILLAS GETS AWAY FROM IT ALL
arah Bruggs, 18, reveals that she was sitting in her first year Spanish class when she suddenly realised that the only topic her class had covered this semester was ‘the beach’. “I turned to my classmate to ask ‘¿Has estado a la playa esta semana?’ and it just suddenly dawned on me.” At first Sarah thought that it couldn’t be true – surely, she must have been mistaken. She confirms reports that she rushed home directly after that class. “I just had to check the course outline,” she tells Farrago. Upon reviewing the aforementioned course outline, Sarah discloses that her suspicions had been confirmed. “There it was in front of me. Weeks 1-12 and the only topic studied: the beach. Present tense: the beach. Present perfect tense: the beach. Past tense: the beach.” While Sarah does admit that in one class they were asked to talk about their favourite food, a lot of students are reported to have chosen eating fish and chips at the beach as their answer.
10 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
WE ARE NOT PERFECT
CHIH-YU CHOU CHECKED THIS REPORT FOR SPELLLING TWICE
Special General Meeting (SGM) was held in North Court on 5 April by the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU). SGMs are called to consider special resolutions, which were for amendments to the UMSU Constitution in this case. All University of Melbourne students were eligible to attend, participate and vote at the meeting. Special resolutions require a 75 per cent majority of votes in favour in order to be approved. There were nine constitutional amendments proposed in the meeting, two of which – regarding Media Officer honoraria and a spelling error – failed to pass. The amendments also included updating definitions, language and introducing an honorarium for the Burnley Campus Coordinator. Some proposed amendments focused on the definition of words relating to gender identification issues in the constitution. For instance, Motion 2.1 aimed to remove the asterisk following the word ‘trans’ and update the definition of trans. Another amendment suggested replacing gendered pronouns in the constitution with more inclusive language, such as ‘their’. Both constitutional amendments were approved. Other amendments proposed to introduce an honorarium for the position of Burnley Campus Coordinator and the removal of Students’ Council’s ability to determine the remuneration rates of Media Officers. However, the latter motion failed. Motion 2.6 sought to ensure that meetings held by UMSU are accessible to all students. This proposal was put to the floor and carried without dissent. “To be able to participate in stuff as much as non-disabled students, this is a really easy and positive way to do that,” said UMSU Disabilities Officer Jess Kapuscinski-Evans. In addition, there was a spelling error in the current UMSU Constitution. The amendment aimed to correct the word from ‘calandar’ to ‘calendar’. UMSU Welfare Officer, Sarah Xia, determinedly told a crowd gathered in North Court “let’s spell it right. Let’s correct it. Let’s move on.” A debate against the amendment from UMSU Media Officer, Sebastian Dodds, was presented. “This spelling error should remain to remind us we are not perfect.” This proposal failed to pass in the end. According to UMSU’s Constitution, if the proposed Constitution is adopted, the General Secretary shall engage an external solicitor to ensure the numbering and internal referencing in the Constitution is coherent and correct, and lodge the final document with Consumer Affairs Victoria for approval.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CALEB TRISCARI
THE BERN DOWN UNDER KATIE DOHERTY ON THE FANTASY OF BERNIE SANDERS
or a generation of Americans who have struggled to afford necessities such as healthcare and education – and who see the gap between the wealthy and poor widening by the day – the idea of the economic and social reform promised by Bernie Sanders must be a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. But his supporters are not limited to citizens of his own country. Young Australians are jumping on the Bernie bandwagon. Young people worldwide speak passionately about the Sanders campaign and the new progressive era his election would represent in America’s increasingly conservative political sphere. But why are young Aussies #FeelingTheBern? Why do we care? At least part of the reason is probably empathy. They’re supporting Bernie because they want life to be better for the poor and marginalised. Odette Williamson, a Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Melbourne, believes that “people are people, no matter where they are and everyone everywhere deserves to have someone in power who is not taking money from big corrupt corporations”. However, people are also hoping his election would influence our own politicians to introduce more progressive policies. “Australian politicians tend to follow in America’s grotty footsteps,” says Williamson. “America has a huge amount of influence due to its dominance in the media, so positive change there will bring positive change in other places too.” Chris Palmer, a media manager at SYN (Student Youth Network) Media, felt similarly. “[The U.S. president will] undoubtedly influence our own politicians,” he said. “[So] it would be incredible to have Sanders, who is pro-equal marriage, anti-racism, pro-women… as that influence.” However, expecting the Sanders administration to influence the Australian government towards progressive change is a little optimistic. Even if Bernie is elected, it seems fairly likely that he will be hamstrung by a far-right Republican Congress in exactly the same way Obama was. Still, if by some miracle that doesn’t happen, the idea of our centre-right government suddenly leaning to the left in order to imitate another nation seems a little unlikely. Just look at the agreement the U.S. and China signed on climate change in September last year. While this wasn’t enough, it was
ARTWORK BY ELOYSE MCCALL
better than the refusal to take action – which was what our government did. Instead, it seems that the unspoken truth behind the Australian interest in the Sanders campaign is that he represents a stark contrast to Australian politics, where the priorities of old rich white men and the corporations who influence them often seem to control our parliament. The American system of electing the president rather than the party is in some ways a dangerous thing. Were the vote simply for a party like Australia, instead of an individual, there is no way Donald Trump would be looking set to take the White House. But this system does allow for the emergence of radically different candidates, like Sanders. If the Democratic Party simply selected their leader, it would be Hillary Clinton, no question. “I think the other reason people support him in Australia is just because we don’t have a figure like that in domestic politics to rally behind,” said Matthew Guy, a Masters student at the University. In Australia, major parties are the ones who select a party leader, not the people – and the major parties are unlikely to select someone who represents the democratic socialist values of Bernie Sanders. There is far less opportunity for the emergence of hero figures in Australian politics; individuals who have strong beliefs, who won’t be bought by corporations, whom the youth can get behind. In comparison, young Australians are effectively left with a choice between centre-right and slightly-further-right. The parties look the same and to stay in power, leaders must toe the party line. Just look at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He believes in issues like climate change and yet does nothing because he wasn’t personally elected – the Liberal Party was. Young Australians are feeling powerless watching our government destroy the planet and discriminate against people. Obviously, we still have the power to make change. Activists have done, and are doing, amazing things. But this constant fight against those who hold all the power is exhausting. We know it isn’t realistic. It’s a nice fantasy. But while Bernie Sanders isn’t perfect, not by a long way, he still looks a lot more like that progressive hero figure than our cookie-cutter politicians.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 11
THE POSTCODE PARADIGM SIMONE WILLIAMS MEDITATES ON THE EAST WEST DEBATE
lashback to O Week 2015. I’m sitting in a booth in a nightclub when an earnest young man in boat shoes asks where I’m from. “Hoppers Crossing,” I reply. To which he shoots back, “What do you grow there? How far away is that, like, on the V/Line?” This comment isn’t particularly offensive. Yet I see red at the fact that this man isn’t blessed with the basic knowledge that Hoppers Crossing is neither a farming village nor reachable by country train. It’s in the western suburbs and it’s where I come from. After spending a year going to school in Melbourne, I’ve realised that Melburnians don’t seem to care about any place on the western side of the Westgate Bridge. It’s subtle but an inclination for detesting the west is curiously abundant. I’m not saying that west side is the best side (as is currently graffitied on the back of a building near West Footscray station). What I am saying though, is that it’s hard to claim to be the best at something when you’re not even considered to be in the running. I mean sure, Hoppers Crossing has won titles – like the hoon capital of Victoria, for instance. I’m also pretty sure that my street holds a record for the most drug dwellings that are at peace and not engaged in market competition. And as you can clearly tell, us ‘westies’ are adept at being self-deprecating. We’ve realised that it is a lot easier to laugh at our own suburbs than to embrace them or pit them against those ‘over the bridge.’ However, after enduring the prejudice that people seem to subconsciously hold for my ’burbs, I’m ready to sing some praises. Over in the west, there’s no pretention. There’s no coconut water, there are no organic jams and there’s definitely no selection of olive-infused, vitamin-injected crusty Italian breadsticks in our bakeries. In Hoppers, we have one coffee shop. And if someone ordered a latte with more than seven syllables? Well, they’d be brought outside and called a damn wanker, son until they promised to only order flat whites henceforth. Once a girl told me, “You don’t look like you come from West Melbourne,” as if it were a compliment. People seem to view us as the real-life petri dish of the infamous Bogan Hunters, to which I am inclined to disagree. First, we wear shoes. Second, I’ve seen stranger clothing choices in South Yarra. Oh, so you got those dangly earrings shaped like walnuts for $496.50 from Yves Saint Laurent? I guess I was more interested
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in WHY THE HELL YOU THINK WALNUTS ARE A THING TO PIERCE THROUGH YOUR DAMN BODY PARTS, TENEISHA. In 2015, Tarneit took out top spot on the national list of growth suburbs. The promising new precinct of Werribee East has recently been touted as a possible ‘Education City,’ home to an amazing array of industrial and urban opportunities. Not only that but the people are incredible. The 2015 Citizen of the Year, Walter Villagonzalo, provided the refugee community in Wyndham with invaluable resources. He has put forward accommodation and support for migrants and helped them to find new job opportunities as they begin their Australian journey in the west. For 20 whole years, he’s tirelessly served and accepted people, no matter where they come from.
“If you think that drugs are only made, and taken, in a place far away from ‘your side’ of the river, you are deeply mistaken.” Despite these positives, people still ask me if it was hard to grow up in such an ‘unfortunate’ area. This postcode paradigm that people have saddled themselves with has got to stop. If you think that drugs are only made and taken in a place far away from ‘your side’ of the river, you are deeply mistaken. If you think people don’t speed, steal, drink or engage in anything remotely illegal, purely on the basis that they live in an area with better views of the ocean – that’s just not true. Crime is not confined to the west. It can, and does, happen to the north, south east AND west of the CBD. As far back as 2012, The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story regarding crimes by postcode. I’m sure this will come as a shock but the top four ranking criminal hotspots barely left the CBD, with postcode 3000 taking out the dubious honour of highest crime rate. Stereotyping people according to where they sit on the compass point is not fair. Especially to those who have to tirelessly reiterate “I’m from the good part of the west…” as if there were a bad part to begin with. And you know what? I will say it. West side IS the best side. Word.
ARTWORK BY CAROLYN HUANE
LIKE, LITERARY GREER SUTHERLAND IMAGINES AN EVEN-MORE-PRETENTIOUS UNIMELB
know what’s really going on beyond the scaffolding at Arts West. You probably think they’re creating new learning spaces to facilitate quality education, but oh no, there is a much deeper conspiracy underway. In actual fact, there’s a giant time machine being constructed in there under the guise of new lecture theatres with ergonomically improved seats. This time machine is designed to retrieve a collection of British literary greats from the past and whisk them here to Melbourne University to live out their lives. It’s quite clever, really – this great university of ours can claim credit to their genius with no-one the wiser. So what would these writers be like if they did walk amongst us in the present day?
William Shakespeare Let’s be real, Shakespeare could wear that ruffled-collar thing today and nobody would blink an eye – just another hipster, probably vegan. He’s always subject to investigation regarding plagiarism for some reason (Turnitin just keeps claiming he’s using a ghost-writer, some bloke called Christopher Marlowe). Not only that, but he keeps scratching rude jokes into the desks in the library. People over on the Melbourne Uni Confessions page claim the jokes are witty but in reality they’re just, well, dick jokes. Some academics say they saw Shakespeare in the Queer Space of Union House, but nobody knows for sure.
I’m not saying Jane Austen would put in her earphones then mute her music so she could overhear other people’s conversations at the 401 bus stop, but – actually, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Expert in finding the best chai lattes on campus, Austen also enjoys picnicking on South Lawn. It would be something like a scene from one of her novels. The only small difference is that instead of the splendour of the English countryside, the vista would be birds crapping in the Canal of Inconvenience and couples engaging in (how shall we say it delicately?) overly public displays of affection. But apart from that, yeah, exactly the same.
C.S. Lewis Mary Shelley Ms Shelley would be a science student with a creative writing breadth track. Something of a Frankenstein’s monster of a degree, if you get my drift. Oh, and she would be dating her older, married tutor, all the while inventing a new genre of fiction as a teenager because she’s just that cool. Shelley also probably wouldn’t be averse to throwing a cheeky fork into the microwaves in the student lounge just to see what happened, so steer clear if you see her in there.
ARTWORK BY KATIA PELLICCIOTTA
The first thing you need to know about Clive Staples Lewis is that he would undoubtedly nickname the Baillieu Library ‘The Bae’, capital letters and all. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know who is on the Philosophy Club committee, but whoever you are, be prepared to be toppled from your throne (by a hypothetical reincarnation of a dead author via imperfect time travel science). You see that guy in your 8am lecture in the Public Lecture Theatre, staring ad infinitum at the fire hose reel door? That’s not a hangover, that’s a whimsical Lewis, trying to decide if it’s a portal to outer space or to a faun-populated forest. Okay, maybe it’s a hangover too.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 13
UMSU PRESIDENT RESIGNS WRITTEN BY THE MEDIA OFFICERS
n 21 March, James Baker resigned from his position as President of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), effective 23 March. In an official UMSU statement released on Facebook on 24 March, it was announced that Baker had made the difficult decision to step down for personal reasons. “I would like to thank all of the people that have helped me throughout my tenure at UMSU,” said James in the statement. “I also hope that I have been able to educate as many people as possible on all of the outstanding work that UMSU does for the students at the University of Melbourne.” Farrago can now confirm that Baker was asked to resign by members of his ticket and other elected representatives on at least two occasions. Despite having been elected on the Stand Up! ticket in midSeptember last year, Baker was a member of More Activities!, an apolitical grouping which focuses on funding clubs, volunteering and providing activities to students. Members of More Activities! currently hold the Clubs and Societies office, the Activities office, as well as five seats on Students’ Council, the governing body of UMSU. In the third week of Semester One, a meeting was called by members of More Activities!. At this meeting, Baker was asked to resign after concerns over his behaviour at a number of events in the first few weeks of semester. According to More Activities!, they felt his behaviour on multiple occasions were not appropriate as the President and a representative of UMSU. “In the meeting, we didn’t just talk about him resigning from a political standpoint,” a member of More Activities! said. “The reasons we asked him to resign were because it was bad as a working relationship between everyone involved, we didn’t tolerate or accept his behaviour.” “We believe he didn’t have any malicious intent at all,” said another member of More Activities!.
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“This was completely ignorance. Unacceptable ignorance, but it was absolutely just ignorance.” This request follows multiple meetings with Baker by his peers, alerting him that they felt his behaviour was inappropriate. Baker was additionally asked to resign by another Office Bearer for similar reasons on 17 March. Concerns were also raised over his relationships with the UMSU autonomous departments. One autonomous Office Bearer stated, “there were communication breakdowns and a lack of working relationships with the other departments”. “It was my read that he was not likely to resign after [More Activities!] had spoken to him… After I spoke to him, it was clear he was going to resign,” said the autonomous Office Bearer. Baker declined to comment on his meetings with More Activities! or with other Office Bearers. In the 10 years of UMSU’s existence, no president has resigned in the first semester. Constitutional clauses do not provide any clear protocol to deal with casual vacancies within the first semester of an Office Bearer’s term. “It’s unusual for a resignation to occur this early in the year but where resignations have occurred in the past, often they’re in Semester Two,” said General Secretary and Acting President, James Bashford. If there were to be a casual vacancy within Semester Two, a byelection would coincide with the annual general elections held in September. However, it is unclear whether it is necessary to have a by-election prior to the general elections. In the meantime, an interim president will be elected by Students’ Council. UMSU is currently seeking independent legal advice which will determine whether it is necessary to have a by-election prior to the annual general election.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CALEB TRISCARI
THE PRESIDENT’S RESIGNATION On 21 March, UMSU President James Baker submitted his resignation effective from 23 March. This has created a casual vacancy for this position, which must be filled in accordance with the UMSU Constitution. UMSU regulations require any casual vacancy to be filled by a by-election but allow positions to be temporarily filled by Students’ Council. When resignations have occurred in the past, they have usually occurred in Semester Two, in which case a by-election is held at the same time as the annual UMSU elections in September. However, resignations in Semester One are rare and this is the first time in UMSU’s history that a president has resigned. In this case, it’s unclear if a by-election must be held this semester or if the position should be temporarily filled until a by-election concurrent with the annual elections. UMSU has sought legal advice to clarify this situation and ensure the Constitution is followed. In the meantime, General Secretary James Bashford will fill the role of Acting President.
GENERAL SECRETARY JAMES BASHFORD In just a couple of weeks, with an election on the horizon, the federal government will announce their budget and it’s not looking good for students. While Turnbull wants to give multimillion dollar corporations a tax cut (when many already don’t pay any tax), he also wants to increase our fees by 25 per cent, force us to pay back our HECS sooner and even come after our HECS debt when we’re dead. It’s clear that the Liberals have students in the crosshairs. On 13 April, we rallied with the National Union of Students against the Liberals’ plans and we’ll continue to take to the streets in protest. On 2 July (or whenever the election is) it’ll be time to take this message to the ballot box. Students can determine the outcome of this election, so whoever you vote for, put the Liberals last – because that’s where they put us.
POLLOCK ACTIVITIES MEGAN & ITSI WEINSTOCK In the Midsem break, Parkville saw a hoard of the undead swarm campus as our new event, Zedtown, was unleashed. Over 200 participants fought to the death with Nerf guns over a six-hour battle to survive the apocalypse. The game was highly successful and great fun for all involved, humans and zombies alike. Keep an eye out for some spectacular photos from this event! Coming up we will be hosting something with a bit more glamour, Activities Cocktail Night! We’ve booked out the Savoy Tavern for Wednesday 13 April from 7pm with free cocktails on the door! So dress your best and get a ticket to come along and enjoy the night. Tickets will be sold on North Court, Tuesday 5 April for $20, as well as from the information desk on the ground floor of Union House until sold out. See you all there!
BURNLEY ERANTHOS BERETTA The Burnley Bunch has been busy and building! We had success at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS), where two of our crop took out the 2nd and 3rd prizes for the ‘Avenue of Achievable Gardens’. Also Burnley Student Association (BSA) reps and Burnley students got together to help build the giant UoM installation celebrating 125 years of Horticultural Education! That’s the longest running in the world! Speaking of which, on 30 April you are all invited to the Burnley 125th Celebration Festival Day! Yes, YOU! It is open to the all students and the public with lots of tours, talks, music, food and of course our lovely gardens. So come on down! And just to get over those Easter break blues those keen beans over at Horticultured got together with BSA and the Burnley Post Grad Group to run an Easter Egg Hunt on the 8 April for all our staff and students.
CLUBS & SOCIETIES & YASMINE LUU The start of Semester One has been an incredibly busy period for the department. New Clubs! The C&S Committee met in Week Four to discuss new club affiliation and we are ecstatic to have granted initial approval to half a dozen new clubs. These included the Aerospace and Robotics Club, as well as the Nacho Appreciation Society! Furthermore, pending the final new clubs’ meeting this number could reach 20, bringing the total number of affiliated clubs and societies to just under 230! Clubs Online: After a few bugs early on, Clubs Online is now fully operating and making the lives of both club execs and Fiona ohhh so much simpler. This has led to The Fiona being as nice in the email as she is to the face. Facebook: facebook.com/UMSUClubs Email: email@example.com
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LYNZAAT CREATIVE ARTS JOSH & JEAN TONG art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art LIFE DRAWING art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art TASTINGS art art art art art GRANTS art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art CREATIVE ARTS COLLECTIVE art art art art TALKING OUT OF YOUR ARTS art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art POP! art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art art Facebook: facebook.com/umsuartsdepartment Website: umsu.unimelb.edu.au/what-is-on/creative-arts
KAPUSCINSKI-EVANS DISABILITIES JESS & CHRISTIAN TSOUTSOUVAS
CROWLEY EDUCATION (AC) TOM & PAUL SAKKAL
We are very happy to announce that our Anxiety Support Group meetings have officially started up again on Monday afternoons in Union House, continuing to provide a safe, encouraging space for all students experiencing anxiety. Elsewhere, this is shaping up to be our most gloriously arty semester yet. Our first interviewee on Radio Fodder’s Network Disabled was Duda Paiva, a dancer and puppeteer from the Netherlands doing a show called Blind. On Saturday 9 April, Christian ran a workshop at the Victorian College of the Arts about including disabled people in theatre and film, as actors, crew members and characters. In Week Eight we’ll be screening Frida, the biopic of Frida Kahlo, in connection with the Wom*n’s and Queer Departments, who will also be our next guest radio hosts. Before that though, we’ll be holding a TV screening and discussion around mental health. Facebook: facebook.com/umsu.disabilities Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Education (Academic) Department has been busy dealing with changes to the Bachelor of Environments degree, which will cease to take new students as of the beginning of 2017. The University has confirmed the creation of the Bachelor of Design, which will commence in Semester One of 2017. The Bachelor of Design “will provide an undergraduate education that responds to the needs and challenges facing the built environment in contemporary society”. If you’re a student enrolled in the B.Env and have any queries, contact us and hopefully we can shed some light on the situation. Flex-Ap streams have begun meeting and are getting into their grooves. There will be a public forum for the Curriculum Structure and Approach work stream, as well as an UMSU-led forum with Flex-Ap leaders. There’s a lot going on at the University, so get in touch with the Education (Academic) Department to learn how it all affects you.
BOARDMAN EDUCATION (PUB) AKIRA & DOMINIC CERNAZ Well well well, it has been an interesting time for the face of higher education in the last month. The current Liberal government is yet to release their policy on higher education yet, but one thing is certain – the budget will hit students hard! Rumours of a 20 per cent funding cut to universities, a HECS increase of 25 per cent and now they want to lower the HECS income threshold so students have to pay back their degrees once they’re earning $42,000 (AKA below the average graduate wage!) It is a concerning time for us students. We will continue our campaign against these unfair attacks. Look out for our posters and our regular stalls on south lawn! Facebook: facebook.com/groups/umsueag
ROGERS ENVIRONMENT ANISA & ZACHARY POWER
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Hello from the Environment Office! It’s been a busy start to the semester here with lots of different events, meetings and much happening in the sustainability space on campus. Among all the fantastic things that are happening on campus, we have been enjoying Play with your Food, weekly documentary screenings and learning lots at the Bike Co-op. Check out our Facebook page for more info on these events! The university has recently released its Sustainability Charter to be followed by a Sustainability Plan. The federal government is making huge cuts to the CSIRO which is set to hit Australia’s leading climate science and environmental research. We supported the campaign against these cuts with a student contingent to a Save CSIRO Jobs rally on Saturday 2 April. As always, please get in touch if you want to get involved or talk about anything environment and climate change. Email: email@example.com Facebook: facebook.com/umsuenviro
UMSU HOLLOWAY-CLARKE INDIGENOUS TYSON & EMILY KAYTE JAMES
CONNORS QUEER FRANCES & LOTUS YE
The Indigenous Department is going from strength to strength as our social calendar rolls on and we prepare to launch a number of our biggest programs of the year. Having secured funding for our publication Under Bunjil, two full size teams for the National Indigenous Tertiary Education Games and a robust social calendar the next month is going to be very busy. Under Bunjil submissions are now open, with the magazine launching sometime around Week 10, so please do send us your work, whether it is literary, visual or a mix of the two – we are keen to hear from Indigenous students! The other big ticket item is the Indigenous Games, stay tuned for details. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that our artists grants are now available! So whether you are a writer, a dancer, a public speaker, sculptor, photographer or anything in between please be in touch as we are able to financially assist! Hope you are enjoying the semester thus far! Instagram: UMSU_Indigenous Facebook: facebook.com/UMSUIndigenous Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi all! Hopefully you’ve all gotten some goodies from our Trans/Gender Diverse Clothes Swap. With the semester underway, the Queer Department has been keeping busy maintaining all our regular events, including Queer Lunch, Thursday Funtimes (previous sessions featured jewellery making and haircuts!) and our collectives. We’re now working hard on planning for big events such as Rad Sex and Consent Week and Professional Networking Night, which is held in conjunction with the Graduate Student Association. Keep updated on all events by liking our Facebook page at UMSU Queer, or sign-up to our e-newsletter (all sign-ups are anonymous) and take a gander up to the Queer Space on Union House Level Three if you ever feel like chatting, napping or anything in between. Facebook: facebook.com/UMSUQueer Newsletter Sign up: http://eepurl.com/bRN7n9
VCA VAN RUDD Van did not submit a report for this edition. Feel free to write your own! Bonus points if it includes Mojo Jojo.
WELFARE SARAH XIA & YAN ZHUANG
MELLS WOM*N’S ADRIANA & HIEN NGUYEN
Stress Less Week is approaching fast and we have a number of fun activities lined up, including a movie night, dance classes and Zumba classes. We’re working with Wellness@Melbourne and YEAH! amongt other organisations, to provide workshops and information sessions. Notably, our Stress Less Carnival happening on Thursday 14 April, 12-2pm will include a petting zoo and bouncy castle! Our regular events are running well. Our fortnightly Welfare Collective has been a great way for students to get involved in the department and meet other volunteers, and the People of Colour Collective has allowed us to engage with a diverse range of students. Our free food bank continues to be in high demand for students who have difficulty affording food and we’re always looking for donations. If you have any canned goods or non-perishable goods, drop it at our office! To find out more shoot us an email at email@example.com Facebook: facebook.com/UMSUwelfare
The Wom*n’s Department has had an exciting start to the year. Feminism 101 took place in Week Three, we had our intro to Feminism and Safe Spaces as well as our panel, ‘Does feminism speak for all Women?’ with five fantastic speakers. We also had the launch of our Women’s Mentoring Network nights where we listened to three women talk about their experiences in the workforce. It was fantastic to see so many people there! Week Four was Respect Week at the University and we hosted a screening of The Hunting Ground as well as a discussion with university staff afterwards about women’s safety on campus. It was great to see so many people there and engaged with the discussion. We would also love to hear feedback from any students who attended the event. We are now starting on Judy’s Punch 2016 and Rad Sex and Consent Week, which will be taking place in Week Nine.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 17
do we really support MARRIAGE EQUALITY? hamish taylor ON THE EQUAL RIGHTS WE ARE FIGHTING FOR
his year people around the nation celebrated the Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras despite the recently defeated same-sex marriage bill. In light of this, I wonder whether marriage equality is the biggest issue facing the LGBTQ+ community or one that the Australian people need to fight for. My answer is a flat ‘no’. Before you fellow social progressives out there bring out your torches and pitchforks, let me explain for a sec. As a university-aged gay bloke, it is somewhat of an expectation to weigh in on the marriage equality debate. Failure to take part in such a debate is sometimes perceived as sacrilege to whichever god all the gays pray to: Buddha, Allah, (the) Madonna… Gaga? The fact is though, I have bigger rainbow fish to fry. You may label me as a hipster advocate but gay marriage is the only mainstream issue that is palatable for the wider nonstraight community. My fear is that once gay marriage is passed, any vestigial awareness of the issues facing gay youth, the trans community or any number of the LGBTQ+ communities, will disappear from the consciousness of the majority. When marriage equality is passed, there will no longer be any room on the agenda for our policy makers nor their constituents to make real change for the widespread mental health issues, trans discrimination and gay youth suicide rates. These problems riddle our community every day. A sentiment of “We passed gay marriage so we’re accepting and progressive… but don’t push us” will run through the veins of Capital Hill and bleed out into the community. More support should be committed to addressing the daily discrimination faced by the trans community. Where feeling invisible and being denied of their right to be their authentic selves is a daily challenge. Trans and non-cis people are the victims of the bitter fruits of deeply institutionalised transphobia that exists in our community. But it so often goes ignored and dismissed as too uncomfortable. It is incomprehensible that, in 2016, this is only now slowly emerging as a mainstream issue. While I support gay marriage like any other rational human, more support should be committed to providing education
artwork BY Ellen YG Son
and support to under-aged, closeted LGBTQ+ people. This is particularly salient in light of the Liberal Party backbench movement moving to claw out the Safe Schools Coalition’s Federal funding. We must foster the same vigorous support to curb the ever increasing suicide rates of gay youth. We must address the mental health problems the LGBTQ+ community face so that once gay marriage is passed, there will be people alive to enjoy this new right afforded to them. Without sounding too sanctimonious, my argument for gay marriage is not for my sake. It is for the generations of LGBTQ+ people who came before me, who have faced so much more adversity than any millennial could imagine. My argument for supporting same-sex marriage is for the countless LGBTQ+ people who lived through the AIDS crisis, while facing the risk of criminal charges for just being. It is because of both their valiant fighting and silent suffering that we can hold the hand of whomever we want, without the fear of legal retribution. We should pass marriage equality to give back the dignity that was stripped from our predecessors and their countless loves lost and found in the fight for decriminalising homosexuality. We should not pass marriage equality for the sake of my generation’s keyboard-warrior, lounge-chair activists, shielded by the bluelight of their device’s screen. I encourage everyone to look deeper into the gay rights movement and see it as the broader LGBTQ+ rights movement. This way, we can reconsider our reasons for prioritising samesex marriage over other issues non-straight people face. Much of the rhetoric around gay marriage calls out our government for withholding a human right from us. However, I would take a step back and look at the primary human rights that are being regularly violated by institutional homo and transphobic discrimination: the right to feel safe, the right to work and the right to live. It is only if you understand with utter clarity the more pressing issues that all non-straight people face that you can claim “I support equal rights” and from there, you can start to make a difference.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 19
SPINNIN’ SLICK DISCS
Iryna Byelyayeva CELEBRATES RECORD STORE DAY WITH A TOUR OF MELBOURNE’S VINYL EMPORIUMS
t’s lining the needle perfectly at the beginning of the song. It’s those few seconds of muffled static before the music begins to play. It’s the way the record slides out of its sleeve as though it wants you to listen. It’s walking into a store and knowing that you’re going to find something on the shelves that will make your day once you bring it home. From the purchase to the listening, vinyl as an experience is becoming more and more popular. New to the scene? There are some great stores around Melbourne where you can begin your wallet-draining journey. Start your quest with Dixons. Walking in from bustling Brunswick Street, your eyes won’t know where to focus. In between shelves upon shelves of cult films and nostalgia-inducing CDs livesan immense collection of second-hand vinyl (new releases can be found upstairs, amongst second-hand audio equipment). Dixons is the place to go when you don’t know what you want but you definitely want to spend some money. As one of Melbourne’s oldest second-hand music stores, Dixons holds an incredible collection that spans all genres. However, the store is very popular and the collection is fluid – that record you saw there last week is probably already sitting happily on someone else’s shelf today. Nevertheless, choosing which album to buy is made easy – each sleeve has a coloured sticker on it representing the condition of the vinyl (look out for gold stars, kids). Dixons will help you forget the word ‘budget’ but it’s a great starting point for your collection. Now that you’ve got a couple of vinyls on your shelf, it’s time to get serious. While Dixons is a beautiful mess, Searchers on Smith Street means business. The store is warm and comforting. Its neat, earthy-toned decor makes you feel as though nothing bad could ever happen there. Searchers is a safe place where you can take your time finding that mint-condition pressing of whatever obscure band you desire. If you’re stressed from being all around Melbourne, flipping through hoards of Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand in the hunt for your holy grail, Searchers is for you. The danger of Searchers is that you will definitely find wonderful, new records from artists you wouldn’t in most other stores, which leads to a lot of inner turmoil over what to spend your limited money on. This is okay – Searchers is rarely crowded and the staff
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members are very friendly, creating a calm environment for you to get your head straight and pick the perfect addition for your growing collection. On the other side of town is Round & Round on Sydney Road. It’s exactly what you want a record store to be. It’s small, meticulously organised and drenched in pop-culture.Its ’70s wallpaper is covered in (super expensive, high quality) albums and each shelf is decorated with a small, ceramic vase or plastic toy. The affordable part of the collection is remarkably vast and diverse for a shop so small, ranging from classic rock to Italian prog-rock to contemporary pop. There’s no judgement here. If you feel overwhelmed about the choice, you can refer to a display of staff-approved albums or simply ask one of the friendly vendors. What’s more, each album has a small description on the sleeve that increases the chance you’ll spontaneously discover something new. The store harbours a certain feeling of cool, a passion for all kinds of music that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to some other world for a moment – a world you’ve only seen in movies or dreamt about. Finally, what’s a themed tour around Melbourne without an inner-city laneway as a destination? At Off the Hip, the experience of buying vinyl feels like part of something bigger. The store is a gorgeous, tiny basement in an alleyway off Flinders Lane (the only clue to the shop’s existence is a fading, painted sign: ‘Records’ with a helpful arrow). Walking down the stairs, the first thing to come into view is a small stage. Off the Hip is not only a record store but also a record label. In this cosy, happy-yellow shop you can find vinyl, T-shirts, posters and CDs of the bands they manage. They host various gigs and events but, more importantly, they have a super collection of records, mainly classic rock. Although the collection isn’t ideally organised, the people who work there are very talkative and happy to help you navigate the chaos. The hidden nature of this store is proof that vinyl culture is everywhere. There’s a shop in every suburb, representative of every niche and for every kind of music lover. By now, you’ve got a pretty sweet collection forming; so it’s your turn to find a store that’s perfect in your book.
artwork BY Emma jensen
WHERE THE RIOT GRRRLS AT? MARY NTALIANIS ON WOMEN IN MUSIC TODAY
ake this pink ribbon off my eyes I’m exposed and it’s no big surprise Don’t you know exactly where I stand This world is forcing me to hold your hand In 1996, neo ska band No Doubt released their breakthrough single ‘Just A Girl’. The song was blasted through radios all around Australia, finishing at number 22 on the ARIA charts for that year. It’s not hard to imagine why this particularly catchy tune was such a hit with teenage girls preoccupied with ’90s grunge and existential angst. Punk rock music introduced adolescent girls to second-wave feminism and encouraged them to disrupt the patriarchal discourse that was perpetuated by the male-dominated music industry. A new ‘riot grrrl’ subculture of music and rebellion was giving girls new ways to express themselves. Back in 1996, increasing numbers of women were entering into the music industry. Madonna was expressing her gender in new and unconventional ways. Japanese all-girl bands like Shonen Knife were gaining larger followings in Australia and in the US. Toni Braxton was singing about getting her private parts touched and the Spice Girls were telling you what they really really wanted. In 1996, out of the top ten songs on the ARIA charts, four of them were by solo female artists or all-female bands. Another two were by bands with one or more female members. Overall, in 1996, the ARIA’s top ten saw a pretty even split of male/female artists. Proof that women were breaking ground in both the music industry and on radio. Fast forward to 2016 and it feels like we’ve gone backwards. Seven of the songs in the top ten of the ARIA charts last year were by male artists or all-male bands. In the majority of workforces and industries, women are still struggling to establish themselves as equal to men. It’s not hard to imagine why, when a hundred years ago, middle class women were not expected to work or earn money at all. Today, those hundreds of years of denying women access to the workforce has resulted in an (approximate) 18 per cent pay gap between women and men. In the music industry however, the pay gap is more like 19.5 per cent. But are women actually less likely to succeed in the music industry than men? The answer is yes, probably. The statistics
artwork BY anais poussin
say so at least. Only one in three Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) nominations are for female artists and only one in five artists registered with the Australian Performing Right Association (APRA) in Australia are women. Even in music festivals, women on average barely make up a third of the line-up. But that’s hardly surprising when the boardrooms are so male dominated. ARIA’s CEO is male and its public board is made up entirely of men. As of May last year, APRA, a copyright collective of Australian composers, musicians and music publishers, had twelve male members and only one female member on their public board. The Hottest 100 is a yearly competition held by Triple J where the public votes for the best songs of that year. It was while live tweeting and listening to this competition this Australia Day that I really became concerned for the diminishing status of women in the music industry. Never has a woman, in the 23-year history of the Hottest 100, won first place. This year saw no solo female artist get a spot in even the top ten. But this isn’t because the general public doesn’t like music by women. It’s because solo female artists and all-female bands made up 16 per cent of all Triple J plays in 2015 compared to 61 per cent for male artists and all-male bands. It’s easy to conclude that male artists are getting more votes because they’re getting far more airtime on Triple J. “Guess I’m not the only girl to lose her confidence in music after leaving school,” remarked one friend after viewing these statistics. You can’t really deny that the music industry is a boy’s club. Young women trying to break into the industry are often put in compromising positions, relying on older men in positions of power with record labels to help them produce and release their music. This can be seen even recently, with Ke$ha’s lawsuit to get out of her contract with Sony after accusations of mental and physical abuse against her Sony-contracted record producer Dr Luke. In order to succeed in the music industry women need airtime from radio stations. They need their listeners to buy their music and tickets to their shows. They need their fans to speak out in support of them when they aren’t being treated (or paid) the way they deserve. So let’s gather up some ’90s angst and passion and get behind some great female musicians.
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COLUMN NICK PARKINSON PRESENTS
COUNSEL IN COUPLETS A COLUMN OF POETIC PROBLEM SOLVING
FROM: BRYON GUNN How FAR goon is too FAR goon? How much goon is too much? What a peculiar thing to ask. At what point do you say, no, I won’t have one more glass? How many hashbrowns from Macca’s until you draw the line? How much camembert and crackers is considered a crime? Is ninety-seven plays of Adele’s new album excessive? When does your love for Pitch Perfect fanfic become obsessive? These questions are of course purely rhetorical. Having too much of a good thing: that’s nigh impossible! So when it comes to goon, persist until you’re pissed. To quote Caddy from Mean Girls “the limit does not exist”. Mix alcohol with Special K: a lethal potion of ‘goonreal’, You’ll be Lord of the Goonflakes: with one sack to rule them all. Bathe in a sugary waterfall of Fruity Lexia, Silver sack in hand: what could be sexier? You’ll drink from this ten bucks-for-thirty-standards fountain of youth, GoonJ – the mix of orange juice and goon – will sate your sweet tooth. But, my dearest child, what about other divine drinks, Passion Pop is five dollars! A bargain for wine, me thinks. Yes, of course you may feel like a fourteen-year-old child Who can’t afford classy spirits or anything wild. But who cares if you’re judged by elitists spendthrift, And your drink’s main market includes fans of T-swift? After all, goon’s more enjoyable than drinking VB, Which everyone knows tastes like goat pee. There is, however, a point when you shouldn’t drink more, Where another goon layback’ll see you munt on the floor. And no one wants to be that guy who throws up in the Uber, Who covers the front seat in their bodily humors. Still, I’m not here to preach… drink as much goon as you desire. You cannot know what’s too much sans experience prior. That’s what university’s about: finding your limits. So may the goon be with you – fuck the critics!
DEVELOPED A WOE THAT WON’T LET YOU GO? SEND IT TO FARRAGOMEDIA2016@GMAIL.COM
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artwork BY lucy hunter
comic by xavier warne
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 23
FOR & AGAINST MUGGLES PLAYING QUIDDITCH
BY JESS HAST
veryone who has seen the Harry Potter movies knows Quidditch as a wizarding sport played on brooms, and achieved on screen through special effects. These days, however, Quidditch is no longer a fantasy. The Quidditch World Cup has leapt off the pages of Harry Potter and into reality. Muggle Quidditch is gaining recognition across the globe as a legitimate sport, with over 300 registered teams worldwide (including our university’s team, the Melbourne Unicorns). It has come to represent the creativity, enthusiasm and cooperation of fans internationally. “But how can you play Quidditch without magic?” you ask. Unfortunately we Muggles don’t have flying broomsticks or enchanted balls. Instead we run on our brooms and pelt each other with dodgeballs. If you’re picturing a group of nerds running around with broomsticks wedged between their legs and flinging things at each other, you’ve grasped the basics of Muggle Quidditch. On the pitch it’s a different story. Despite it’s whimsical roots, Quidditch competition is fierce. Like the Quidditch of Harry’s world, Muggle Quidditch is a mixed gender, full-contact sport. Newcomers are often surprised by the athleticism required. Before I joined the Unicorns, I would have scoffed at the idea of running a 1km warm-up for training. Well, I still do, though now I can finish the run instead of dissolving into a puddle of sweaty snark. We nerds are hardly renowned for our physical prowess. Quidditch training provides a tough yet welcoming environment where we can get fit with friends. Between drills, singing, Harry Potter jokes and revoltingly bad puns are plentiful, which almost makes up for the running. The real joy of Muggle Quidditch is the friendships. Cheesy, I know, but it takes a special group of people to give up their time to run around with glorified sticks between their legs in public. I’m blessed to have found friends who all have an excellent sense of humour and broad pop culture knowledge. As a team, we’ve enjoyed movie nights, camping trips, and of course, the weekly pub night after trainings. Muggle Quidditch may not be magical itself, but being a part of the Melbourne Unicorns has added a touch of magic to my uni experience. Anyone wanting to know more about Quidditch can follow the Melbourne Unicorns Quidditch Team Facebook page, or pop down to University Square from 4-6pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to watch us train!
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BY AYCHE ALLOUCHE
hroughout the entirety of human history, Muggles have given magic-folk plenty of reasons to stay in hiding. Muggle Quidditch is definitely one of them. I mean, where do I start with this supposed sport? Not only does it violate many International Statutes of Wizarding Secrecy, it also lacks the sport’s most vital component. And yes, even Harry Potter’s daft uncle Vernon would admit it: magic. You take away the Hover Charms and Firebolts and instead of a sleek magical game, we get a mockery. A Muggle farce. A game more likely to be on the receiving end of a Killing Curse because it sucks so badly. Farrago readers, have you ever seen Muggle Quidditch? The players literally run around with a broom between their legs! To quote Ronald Weasley, “What in the name of Merlin’s most baggy Y fronts [is] that about?” Do they not realise how dangerous that is? More importantly, do they not realise how ridiculous they look? Take the Golden Snitch as an example. Instead of the winged golden-ball, Muggle Quidditch has an unaffiliated member (bedecked in fluorescent yellow) run around the playing field. The Seekers then have to demonstrate their skills by capturing the taillike sock attached to the Snitch’s running shorts. At the very least, it’s a good thing you can’t accidentally swallow it à la Harry Potter. Despite this so-called benefit, Muggle Quidditch is still a desecration of the wizarding game. Yes, the Golden Snitch has legs but that is not its most troubling aspect. The problem is that Muggle Quidditch is an outstanding form of cultural appropriation. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Aren’t we allowed to appreciate a culture anymore?’ Well, I don’t think wizards and witches would consider it a sincere form of flattery. The truth is wizarding Quidditch is a renowned and esteemed institution in the magical world. In fact, the game reflects eons of wizarding history; at its core, it is also a celebration of magic. Given that we have persecuted magic-folk for their innate magical abilities, do you then not think it insulting to strip Quidditch from its very essence? To the wizarding world, it is more than just a ‘sport’. It is a proud and masterful manifestation of something we have long denied wizards to express. And without it, I’m afraid we Muggles should leave our brooms where they belong: in the laundry or under the stairs. Take your pick.
artwork BY Katia Pellicciotta
HE’S MEAN BECAUSE HE LIKES YOU EMMA HOLLIS ON WHEN WE MISTAKE ABUSE FOR AFFECTION
n primary school, after telling my mum about a standard playground spat, she told me something I’ve never forgotten: “He’s probably just mean because he likes you. That’s just something that boys your age do.” My mum worked actively to make me a strong, resilient woman. So I can only assume that she didn’t understand the harm of her words at the time. No doubt phrases like this become so rooted in parenting that no one stops to think about them. But shouldn’t we? At the time, I was encouraged by her words. I felt I had been given a rare insight into the psyche of boys – a rule book, of sorts. That was, until I grew older and began to consider what that attitude actually meant. My mother had told me to expect abuse from someone who liked me. She had told me that name-calling was love and hair-pulling was affection. In that moment, any complaints I had about my own mistreatment were overridden because I was desired. I wonder: at what point does the belief that ‘he’s mean because he likes you’ stop? Those who might disagree with me would say that even in adulthood, light teasing is all part-and-parcel of flirtation. Of course it is – I guarantee it’ll be on any ‘how to tell if he likes you’ listicle you can find. But being taught early in childhood that abuse and humiliation are equal to love certainly doesn’t help anyone to create appropriate boundaries. In fact, it’s childhood lessons like this that can grow up with a person, eventually leading to ‘he hits you because he loves you’. Sound extreme? Well that’s exactly what 18-year-old vlogger Romina Garcia was promoting to her fans in 2014, in a video that has been viewed more than 375,000 times. “If your boyfriend or the guy that you’re with… hits you or beats you up or whatever he does, stay with him,” she told followers. “He’s risking all… for you.” The response is so entrenched that it’s a staple reaction to any interaction between young children of different genders – even if that interaction crosses over into the sinister. American mother Merritt Smith found this when her four-year-old daughter, who had been hit so hard by a boy in her school that she needed stitches, was told by a hospital employee: “he must really like you!”. These might be severe cases but they are indicative of a dangerous sentiment in how parents talk about children interacting with one another. A sentiment that teaches girls, often without their parents noticing, that abuse equals love. A sentiment that will sit unaddressed in their psyche, a very much un-benign tumor, unless the problem is brought to light. This harms young boys too. Firstly, they are engaging in bad behaviour – teasing, pestering, physically and verbally mistreating another child – and having their behaviour justified, rather than addressed and punished. The Australian Psychological Society has warned parents to always “be consistent in applying consequences”.
artwork BY edie m bush
There is always a limit when it comes to telling what behaviour is inappropriate; but when you don’t apply the same consequences to meanness and violence, and dismiss all negative intersex behaviour as childhood flirting, children will never learn what is inappropriate. Secondly, in these situations, young boys are learning how to interact with the opposite sex. They experiment with their attraction, try different actions to discover how they are expected to relate to the other gender. Psychologist Jessie Prinz found that men are not biologically predisposed to violence and that it is in fact generally historical factors that have lead to the majority of male violence. I’m certain there are many factors that can lead a person to be cruel or violent in romance but when adults are actually telling children ‘he’s mean because he likes you’, what else are boys expected to do to display their affection? It’s a selffulfilling prophecy. They are taught that simply being gentle and kind is unmanly. In the utterance of a single, common phrase, girls are taught that abuse is affection and boys are taught that affection is abuse. Clearly, the parents, teachers and other adults in a child’s life don’t intend this fallout. No one wants a child to blur the boundaries between mistreatment and love. It’s a phrase that’s stuck around from a time when the ideal man was burly and rough and physical, and the ideal woman was submissive and quiet. It sounds stupid because it is. Children can’t understand the implications of this term until they’re older, if at all, so it’s we adults who need to understand. This sort of nonsense needs to be addressed in childhood, in real time – in the playground, the classroom, the family gathering, the home. We need to accept that children will be rough and will experiment with how to display emotion, but we cannot explain it away as affection or they will too. Psychologist Lisa Kaplin explains that we should make it clear to children that punching, hitting and other forms of abuse are not about love. “We should explain that it is about control.” So this is a reminder for the next time you are in a position to deal with teasing or bullying, or if you hear a child being told ‘they’re mean because they like you’. No need to be a dick about it but step right in with the conflict resolution that will teach these kids that there is no place for humiliation or violence. Don’t bring any of this romantic crap in unless they do. Early intervention with this kind of rhetoric is a step toward preventing grown-up problems like domestic abuse, emotional repression, inability to communicate romantically, low self-esteem and mistreatment of women. It’s hard to accept that your loved ones might be harming you when they don’t mean to. I struggled for a long time with the knowledge that my mum might have given me such potentially damaging advice. What would have happened if I wasn’t able to evaluate the underlying meaning of what I’d been told? How many people are becoming adults with this advice in mind? It’s questions like these that show us why it’s so important to call out this social trap.
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THE FEMININE CRITIQUE: MALE ALLIES
ADRIANE REARDON considers male ALLIES with New Matilda contributor Jack Kilbride and University of Melbourne sessional gender studies lecturer, Joshua Pocius.
his edition of Farrago, Adriane Reardon considers male feminists with New Matilda contributor Jack Kilbride and University of Melbourne gender studies lecturer, Joshua Pocius. A man’s role in feminism is not black and white. Justifying his role in the feminist movement is questionable and arguably ironic. Can men be feminists? And if so, should they be? Last December, Farrago contributor Jack Kilbride wrote an opinion editorial for New Matilda. He wrote about Clementine Ford calling out a hotel manager’s sexist Facebook rants that resulted in this employee’s dismissal. The event inspired Kilbride to share his comments on gender equality, exploring Clementine Ford’s advocacy of feminism. “What happened with Clementine Ford and the guy that got fired from his job, the stuff he was saying was out of line. In this day and age no one wants that,” says Kilbride. Although Kilbride has expressed his support for Ford following the Facebook controversy, he suggested in his piece that, in order to convince men to support gender inequality, feminists should advocate passively. An extract from Kilbride’s article reads: The problem with writers like Clementine Ford is although their sentiment is justified, their vitriolic writing style means that people will always get offended. The article inspired a variety of female responses that varied from championing male feminists to downright rejecting them. One response from New Matilda author Xiaoran Shi described Kilbride’s criticisms as a form of victim blaming. Another, writer Ellena Savage, credited his writing as mansplaining the work of an elitist patriarchy. Kilbride reflected on the criticism. “I felt pretty shit about a lot of it but I think the discussion created was good. Responses showed that you can’t look at feminism in a bubble, which I may have done, but rather look deeper into the history of the movement.” Criticisms of Kilbride’s article have undoubtedly generated discussion surrounding the definition of feminism and who it intends to serve. During her 2012 TED Talk, author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie defined feminism as the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Her speech later published as a book titled We Should All Be Feminists. This definition reinforced gender equality as accessible to individuals who previously stigmatised feminism as a bra-burning, man-hating philosophy and eventually became popularised with the help of Beyoncé. More importantly, the speech encouraged men, as well as women, to be feminists. It’s easy enough for a man to say he is a feminist, but as Kilbride’s experience showed, a male feminist requires more than good intent. “There was genuine criticism to my opinion editorial. Mansplaining came up a lot. I know I’m not an expert, but I could offer a different perspective as someone who really wants men to treat, and see, feminism in a different way.” The irony that gender equality depends on the support of men that created the inequities in the first place, for women, is frustrating at best. According to PhD candidate and gender studies lecturer, Joshua Pocius, male feminists must recognise their privilege as a first step in engaging and supporting feminism. “It is important in any movement or discussion about oppression that those who benefit from those systems and
artwork BY Eloyse McCall
generally have greater access to having their voices heard must listen to the experiences of those who do not. In our cultural context, women, queers, trans folk and people of colour have been historically silenced and excluded from the public sphere.” Pocius explains that men and women possess different power in the public sphere. Men who assume privilege must be conscious of their hierarchy and use their platform to support women and gender equality. “The public sphere has been fundamentally, overwhelmingly dominated by male voices, and considering the ways in which women are negatively impacted by sexist systems and structures, it is crucial that womens’ voices are heard, especially in feminist discourse.” According to Pocius, social media and technology have encouraged men to contribute to feminism. “I think in a lot of ways, internet culture has resulted in a greater awareness of sexism and this has resulted in an increasing level of public visibility of male-identified folks engaging in feminism.” Hashtag activism and online petitions have allowed men to engage in a movement previously stigmatised as anti-men. However, has the ease of the online sphere oversimplified feminism and its purpose? Global UN feminist campaign, He For She, has allowed men to support feminism in the sphere of mainstream media. The likability and accessibility of the He For She campaign is credited to social media, as well as their use of popular actress Emma Watson as their spokesperson. In his article, Kilbride referenced this campaign as the pedestal for an appropriate feminist protest because of its solidarity to include male support to achieve gender equality, something he reflects on with criticism. “He For She hasn’t reached the heights everyone expected. The lack of success and action from the campaign to get all the credit was a bit disheartening.” The He For She campaign, as appealing as it seemed, failed to meet not only its own expectations to reach a large number of supporters, but failed to represent the diversity of feminism on a whole. It was criticised as a liberal movement that misrepresented feminism by oversimplifying its philosophy. The campaign title itself is problematic. Its use of gender binaries reinforce the idea that feminism doesn’t represent intersex or trans communities, but supports white, able-bodied, middle class, cisgender women and men. The explicit use of ‘He’ in a feminist campaign that hasn’t appropriately represented women in the first place is highly problematic as the face of mainstream feminism. The underlying problem is that feminist campaigns must enter the mainstream to be embraced by wider society. Radical, Intersectional and Black feminist leaders and texts are arguably less marketable in their more defined values of feminism, even though their values and approach are equally as valid to consider. Mainstream liberal campaigns have oversimplified gender equality. It’s easy to become a feminist without recognising privilege and making an effort to understand the diversity of the movement. As Kilbride’s experience shows, there will always be feminists who oppose men identifying as feminists. If, as a man, you choose to identify as a feminist, prepare for the criticisms, but ensure you are engaging with the movement beyond face value and harness your privileged platform to support those who need it most.
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WHAT MAKES A MIGRANT?
ELLA SHI ON WHY ECONOMIC MIGRANTS SHOULD STILL BE CONSIDERED REFUGEES
here are currently an estimated 59.5 million displaced persons worldwide. The majority of these people reside in Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon. However, the unprecedented number of people seeking asylum and the growing calls for Western nations to provide assistance have shown that governments are both unsure and unprepared to handle the situation. Applications for asylum in European Union nations increased by 130 per cent in both the third and final quarters of 2015 when compared to the previous year. And while Australia received approximately only 0.24 per cent of the world’s asylum seeker applications in 2014, the political controversies surrounding offshore detention, visa policies and border security has meant the global asylum seeker issue is also at the forefront of our national discourse. Given the scale of the issue and the difficulties in establishing a united and effective response, it is perhaps not surprising that voices within the debate have attempted to downplay the statistics. In particular, there has been much emphasis on the distinction between ‘genuine refugees’ versus ‘economic migrants’. Those who employ the latter term often seem to do so in an attempt to reduce the number of people they are obliged to aid. The President of the European Union, Donald Tusk, recently appealed to “all potential illegal economic migrants” to stay away from Europe. The distinction has also been drawn by British Prime Minister David Cameron who has previously proclaimed: “For those economic migrants seeking a better life, we will continue to work to break the link between getting on a boat and getting settlement in Europe… For those genuine refugees fleeing civil war, we will act with compassion and continue to provide sanctuary.” In Australia, the term was touted by former Immigration and Border Protection Minister, Scott Morrison, and reiterated by Tony Abbott during last year’s Margaret Thatcher lecture. Even pro-refugee supporters have not rejected the term outright; instead they offer the assurance that the majority of asylum seekers are in fact ‘genuine’ or suggest, as English journalist Nick Cohen recently argued in The Guardian, “to help real refugees, be firm with economic migrants”.
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It seems curious that in such a controversial debate, the term ‘economic migrant’ has been used so extensively yet remains unchallenged. As a label, it has been used at worst as an accusation and at best with negative implications. By drawing distinctions between ‘genuine refugees’ and ‘economic migrants’, the suggestion is that the latter is disingenuous, opportunistic and is exploiting the goodwill of Western liberal democracies. Such a negative coding of the term is puzzling when it is considered in a broader context. If an economic migrant is defined as somebody who migrates for economic and lifestyle reasons, then a vast portion of migrants historically and globally can be categorised as such. What were the early migrants from Europe and Asia to Australian goldfields in the late 19th Century if not economic migrants seeking wealth and a specific Australian lifestyle? Why is a university-educated person from the UK who moves to Australia for employment opportunities simply considered an expatriate? In 2013-14, Australia accepted 190,000 migrants and issued 4.7 million temporary visas, of which over 62,000 were breached – predominantly by citizens from China, Malaysia, the UK and the USA. While sanctions were no doubt applied, these individuals were not coded with negative terminology or portrayed as a threat to national stability. And what about the many Australians who relocate overseas each year seeking work and lifestyle changes? Of course these groups of people are distinguishable from the current crisis as they largely abide formal visa and international travel regulations. What is remarkable is that the negative terminology of ‘economic migrant’ is only employed in the isolated context of the asylum seeker debate and used with the underlying resolve to restrict the movement of a specific demographic. It is a particular hubris of privileged citizens, particularly of Western societies, to feel entitled to the world yet deny the same mobility to others. Besides the flawed logic behind the concept of the ‘economic migrant’, the question of how to best handle the current mass migration situation is valid. In the context of war, it makes sense that help for the vulnerable should be prioritised. Agreeably, those merely seeking a lifestyle change should not be accessing
the services aimed at providing sanctuary to the persecuted. But in reality, the distinction between ‘genuine refugee’ and ‘economic migrant’ is hardly clear-cut. An argument made by Tony Abbott in his Margaret Thatcher lecture was that the people currently claiming asylum have crossed not one border but many and are no longer fleeing in fear but are contracting with people smugglers. Thus they are economic migrants because they had already escaped persecution when they decided to move again. This argument ignores the bureaucratic process of seeking refugee status and protection. Applications for protection visas must be made within or upon arrival at the border of the designated nation. Unless countries ‘insulated’ by ‘safe’ neighbours expect to be exempt from providing aid, the extended movement of people through borders is essentially unavoidable. Moreover, current Australian legislation necessitates asylum seekers arrive with a valid visa – and thus typically by plane – in order to be qualified to apply for a permanent protection visa and to be settled within Australia. For those fleeing war, jumping the bureaucratic hurdles for international travel and hopping on a plane is not always possible. An alternative option is to be registered as a refugee with the UNHCR and await resettlement via a national humanitarian program. But given that 15.1 million refugees are currently of concern to the UNHCR – the highest number in 20 years – such an outcome would require a lot of luck and patience. Given the current climate, it is not unbelievable that many asylum seekers would go to extraordinary lengths to travel via boat and across land in order to appeal to peaceful and supportive countries for sanctuary. The boundary between ‘economic migrant’ and ‘genuine refugee’ can also be blurred simply due to the complexity of the refugee experience. The UK-based Overseas Development Institute recently produced a ‘Why People Move’ report, which found that the categories of ‘refugee’ and ‘economic migrant’ are not mutually exclusive. This is because the motives for both groups may be similar and priorities may change throughout the journey. For the asylum seekers looking to enter Europe, instability in life and their future means reality is fluid. Additionally, the report argues, “political insecurity and conflict cannot be considered in isolation from the wider impact… on economic opportunities and the labour market”. But perhaps most resonantly, it reminds us that “safety was not all that [refugees]
ARTWORK BY SAM NELSON
sought because it was not all that they had lost”. Having fled from home for an indefinite period of time, access to meaningful work, social stability or education no doubt contributes to an individual’s sense of security and drive for survival. Essentially, the categories of the current debate are not constructive and they simplify the complexity of seeking asylum.
“It is a particular hubris of privileged citizens... to feel entitled to the world yet deny the same mobility to others.” The concept of the ‘economic migrant’ however is not merely just the careless use of a misguided label. Rather, the frequent use of the phrase, despite its limitations, has deeper effects. The concept of the ‘economic migrant’ allows us to withhold sympathy without damaging our conscience. By conjuring the figure of the ‘economic migrant’ who embodies deception, greed for wealth and disregard for Western bureaucracy, meritocracy and order, we are able to imagine an ideal ‘genuine refugee’ elsewhere. Someone who is orderly, who doesn’t disrupt Western bureaucratic structures, who is waiting their turn patiently in a queue. Such a ‘genuine refugee’ doesn’t demand safety and aid but waits graciously for us to reach out our hand when we feel inclined to do so. The reality is, such a refugee does not exist. Those escaping war and persecution are rarely able to do so patiently and orderly. But by conjuring the threat of the ‘economic migrant’, we allow ourselves to turn our backs to those at our door with the justification that we are reserving our aid for a more deserving person elsewhere. Those who advocate for the rights of refugees to seek asylum need to be conscious of the language of the debate. Simply insisting that certain groups are not economic migrants will risk misplacing the accusation upon others similarly in need. Instead, we need to challenge the flawed premise of the concept and shift the language of the debate to ensure it happens on our terms. While a viable global solution to the crisis certainly needs to be found, in the meantime we should set aside dehumanising labels and treat all asylum seekers as complex human beings who are driven by the same desire for a safe and prosperous life that we all have.
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Follicular Fuck-Ups KATHLEEN O’NEILL TALKS ABOUT LIVING WITH POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME
ossible infertility isn’t a conversation topic anyone wants to have in general, let alone during an ambush. But she was talking about it and I couldn’t stop her. Up until this moment, my other doctors in Brisbane had skirted around this aspect of my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Back home, sitting in the gynaecologist’s office with my mother, there had been an unspoken understanding, a let’s-crossthat-bridge-when-we-come-to-it understanding. But now, during an appointment that was meant to be spent talking about condoms and contraception, my new Melbourne doctor was talking about the elephant in the uterine room – no period means no babies, at least not easily for me. Well shit, I thought as I left the building and started to make my way back to college, maybe I don’t want to have children anyways? I was 19 and only just figuring out how to find pleasure in sex, let alone get results from it. Although not wholly understood, PCOS occurs when a woman’s ovaries receive mixed hormone messages on the factory floor and in effect, halt ovulation. Ovaries, as I hope you know, are responsible for making eggs. The egg is the female half of the zygote, and the zygote is what can eventually be considered a baby. Simple, right? Wrong. There’s a lot more to it but we ain’t got time for that here. In order to do anything, our bodies need hormones. Acting as little chemical messengers, they’re the ones that tell the body when to function and how. In the case of PCOS, however, a complex imbalance of certain hormones confuses the ovaries before their egg-making job is done. Failing to produce the right amount of oestrogen, the ovaries, disheartened, abandon the would-be egg and leave it as an immature follicle – a mutant follicle, if you will. Now, here’s the kicker: instead of just moving on from this mix-up on the production line, the body and its hormones become even more confused. If this is not an egg, says the ovary, what is it? Not wanting to move out of home and take up the quest to find a sperm and settle down in the uterus kingdom, the follicle suddenly becomes an issue that the body needs to ‘deal’ with. The follicle is a bit of a fuck-up. And so, instead of producing the right ‘female’ hormones, the body – for god knows what reason – begins to produce androgens, ‘male’ hormones. Houston, we have a problem. Now don’t get me wrong, all women have a bit of testosterone floating around in their ovaries, but for women with PCOS, it’s a lot more. From weight gain to acne to hirsutism (male-pattern hair growth), the symptoms of PCOS vary wildly and are by no means synonymous with infertility. While one cyster (see what I did there?) may exhibit all of these symptoms, others can go their entire lives without knowing. For me, PCOS all came down to one
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thing: Aunt Flo – or rather, her absence. When I first had my period, I was 14. It wasn’t late or particularly unusual, but I had read enough Judy Blume to know that it was bloody-well about time. But then something unexpected happened: the periods stopped coming. While everything else on the puberty checklist was making its way onto my body, my initiation into ‘womanhood’ had faltered, and with it, my identity. While adolescence wasn’t going to script in a number of ways, it was always the unopened packet of pads in my school backpack that felt like a kick in the shins. Flash forward four more years and an ultrasound technician is pressing hard into my bladder. It could be anything, the doctors have all told me. But watching the technician, I know, just by the way she is pointedly clicking the screen that anything is definitely something – targets found. The kinder voices on the internet will tell you an ultrasound of PCOS looks like a string of pearls floating in space. Trust me when I tell you, it doesn’t. So, there’s something you need to know. Affecting roughly 12 to 18 per cent of women of reproductive age in Australia, PCOS is pretty darn common. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. The maths sits that this particular combination of raving hormones and very confused ovaries affects nearly one in five women. That is to say, PCOS is out there, and unless you’re averse to people with lady-organs, you’ve probably come across it without realising. Heck, you might have even come across me. But even if we have crossed paths, chances are, I haven’t mentioned this to you before. As a subject, it’s just not something that can be worked into the conversation easily. You’ll never guess what my hormones did last month, I imagine telling an unsuspecting innocent over brunch, they are such pesky little fuckers! At the time of my diagnosis, I was weeks away from moving to Melbourne. With more than a few things to tie up on the ranch before my departure, I decided on my own volition not to think about my PCOS. I was given a prescription to the pill and voila, periods galore. I packed my bags, upgraded from the kitten heel and gave a final finger to puberty. Today, however, the hush-hush surrounding PCOS and other similar conditions has started to build up in my mind. My thoughts, for once, have snagged and stayed on ovaries. Standing in a room full of people, I will sometimes catch myself looking for the elusive one in five, knowing full well that my own silence hasn’t helped to bring the condition out into the public discourse. All these years after my diagnosis, I still look at the body shapes of other women and for the signs of unwanted facial hair. I wonder about hormones and the bigger things that I cannot see. Are there any cysters here tonight? I want to ask.
ARTWORK BY LUCY HUNTER
COLUMN THIASHYA JAYASEKERA PRESENTS A COLUMN ABOUT THE BIG QUESTIONS IN SCIENCE
t’s hard being a left-hander in a right-handed world. Left-handers have been ostracised throughout history, associated with sin, devil-worship and witchcraft. Nowadays, lefties have to deal with the trials and tribulations of spiral notebooks, desks that fold the wrong way and impossible right-handed scissors. This engrained discrimination is apparent in our language. The Latin word ‘sinister’ originally meant ‘left’ before taking on connotations of ‘evil’. The Anglo-Saxon ‘lyft’ means‘weak’ or ‘broken’. Contrastingly, the English word ‘right’ is a synonym for ‘correct’. Handedness is a cultural phenomenon as much as it is a scientific one. But why does hand preference exist at all? Human geneticist Sylvia Paracchini says the answer is simple, “It would be a waste to have both hands work equally well… Such duplication would be unnecessary in terms of evolution”. How we define handedness has proven to be a problem. Writing alone is not a clear enough determinant of hand preference and other actions such as throwing, kicking or eating reflect hand dominance more accurately. Sometimes people write with one hand but brush their teeth with another. Some people – rare as they may be – have no preference at all. William Brandler, a PhD student at Oxford University stands by his claim that left-handedness is inherantly rooted in genetics. In addition to asking, “Why is there a bias in the first place?” he asks, “Why aren’t there societies where you see a bias to the left?”. Approximately 10 per cent of our population identifies as being left-handed and this value has remained fairly constant throughout history. So it seems that our dexterity is rooted in our genes. Family studies show that handedness is at least somewhat hereditary. The British Royal family has an usually high prevalence of left-handedness – with the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William all donning left handedness in succession. The McManus family study reports that the likelihood of children being left-handed is affected by their parents’ hand preference. According to this study, children with two right-handed parents have an eight per cent likelihood of being left-handed. About 18 per cent of children with one right-handed and one left-handed parent will be left-handed, and 26 per cent of children with two left-handed parents will be lefties. This shows a significant genetic effect. But the gene that determines our hand-preference remains elusive – that is, if it exists at all. As of now, there is no evidence for a strong genetic factor. Professor Armour, a professor of human genetics at the University of Nottingham says, “A survey that compared the whole-genome genotypes for right and left-handed people should leave such a gene nowhere to hide”. If handedness is genetic, and right-handedness is dominant, how has this small yet persistent minority remained? It is more likely that there are many weak genetic factors – one estimate suggests there may be as many as 40 – which interact with one another. Thus, this genetic factor will be very difficult to find and just as difficult to erase from the gene pool. In a recent paper published in PLOS Genetics, a team of scientists from Oxford, St. Andrews and Max Plank Institute in the Netherlands claim to have found a network of genes that could be responsible for left-handedness. This gene, PCSK6, is involved in the establishment of left and right symmetries in a growing embryo. This suggests that the left-right asymmetry of our brains could have something to do with our hand preference. One predominant hypothesis for this bias rests upon the compartmentalisation of our brain and suggests that language ability is tied to our hand preference. Since both are generally managed by the left hemisphere, most people are right-handed (as the left hemisphere controls the right side of our body and vice versa). However, this theory has been challenged by the fact that 70 per cent of left-handers are left-brained for language too. Whilst we may not understand what causes left-handedness, it almost certainly affects the way in which people think and behave. Another handy explanation for this somewhat strange lingering of left-handers is an evolutionary one. On the one hand, lefties benefit from a competitive advantage in sports and in combat. For example, 50 per cent of top players in baseball are left-handed. Because right-handers are in the majority, both left and right-handed players focus on practicing against right-handed opponents. Thus, left-handers benefit from being in the minority. However, we would expect natural selection to favour lefties until we had a 50:50 ratio and they no longer had this advantage. But cooperative pressures, such as tool sharing, counteract competitive pressures. Since most tools are designed for right-handers, left-handers are less favoured in a cooperative world. And so the 90:10 ratio is an equilibrium of sorts. Lefties have persevered through the ages, and it looks as though they’ll continue to do so for a very long time. In this day and age, handedness doesn’t matter much – but at least we can commend lefties for the incredulous persistence of their genes. And yes, whilst life may be harder for lefties, what with avoiding spiral notebooks and awkward dinner settings – at least you can associate yourself with the likes of Obama, Oprah and Aristotle, if for nothing but your handedness.
ARTWORK BY REIMENA YEE
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COMIC BY KERRY JIANG
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SPACE X-PLORATION JACK KILBRIDE TAKES US TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
veryone at some point has looked up at the stars and thought about how freaking cool being an astronaut would be. Floating around in zero gravity, looking down at Earth like a god. Putting aside all the fears that movies like Gravity or Alien have buried in your subconscious, space seems pretty chill. There is literally a whole universe up there waiting to be explored. But the problem is, space exploration is really, really expensive. For example, NASA experts say they would need to more than double their US$19 billion of yearly funding to send a crewed mission to Mars by 2046. And Kanye thought he had money issues. The reality is, NASA is never going to get that sort of funding, especially with the problems they are facing in the USA. Professor of modern history Gerard De Groot argued in The Telegraph that the cash spent on NASA’s leaps for mankind would be far better spent on Earth. “The time has come to pull the plug on meaningless gestures in space. An expensive mission to the moon (especially at a time of global recession) seems like lunacy when terrestrial frontiers such as disease, starvation and drought cry out for cash,” Professor De Groot writes. He has a point but space travel is not just about floating around in space. In an interview with ABC Radio National’s ‘The World Today’, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) senior science advisor Dr Mark McCaughrean claimed that investing in space programs is as much about improving Earth as it is about finding a new one. “I think the biggest benefit is inspiration,” Dr McCaughrean said. “We’ve got big problems on the earth… and most of these require a mixture of politics, science and engineering. So if we can inspire kids to get into this business by what we do, cruising around the solar system, maybe they will go and help save the earth.” Innovations in space programs around the world have also given us technology such as GPS, Velcro, advanced water filtration, LEDs, portable vacuum cleaners and advanced solar power. Luckily, government funded agencies like the ESA and NASA may not need to do all the hard work themselves, as entrepreneurs are lining up with buckets of cash and fresh ideas. Leading the pack is Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, which aims to drastically lower the price of space travel by creating reusable rockets with cheaper materials.
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In a contracted mission in December last year, a SpaceX rocket successfully launched, dispatched a set of satellites, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and landed. SpaceX claims that the mission cost around US$60 million, which is chips compared to the near US$200 million costs of other major rocket providers like Boeing. More recently, SpaceX staged a successful rocket landing on a floating “drone ship” at sea – something the company has attempted a number of times in the past without success. SpaceX claims that, once perfected, their rockets will be able to land and be ready to re-launch again in four hours, with each launch costing a mere US$200,000. If they can achieve this, it will be a quantum leap for space exploration, allowing government agencies to dramatically increase their launch rate and even make a crewed Mars mission a much sooner reality than NASA’s 2046 estimate. Dr Leila Zucker, one of the final 100 astronaut applicants for Mars One, a privately funded plan to colonise Mars, encourages combining the strengths of government bodies like NASA with companies like SpaceX. “SpaceX will surpass NASA in technology advances because they are spending more money, and because they are drawing the best and the brightest,” Dr Zucker said. “But I’d like to see an international consortium of governmental and private agencies work together on a single project to put a permanent human settlement on Mars [and] get the whole world behind it… may as well dream big!” But is cooperation really such a big dream? Dr McCaughrean claims that international teamwork is already vital to space travel. “Space is highly collaborative, highly international… On Monday, we’re launching in a Russian rocket, we’ve got some American instrumentation on board, we’ve got Europeans all over it,” Dr McCaughrean told ‘The World Today’. “So actually, much that we do is very international and I think when the first human crewed mission goes to Mars, I think it’s very likely it will be international.” The immense cost of space travel is the wall that space programs have been struggling to climb for over 50 years. Now, SpaceX is taking a sledgehammer to that wall and when it makes it to the other side, anything will be possible.
artwork by dominic shi jie on
BASED ON A TRUE STORY Raina Angdias LOOKS AT THE RELIABLY UNRELIABLE NATURE OF MEMORY
n the hazy cloud that comprises your childhood memories, several scenes may appear as clear as a film unfolding behind your eyes. Like when you learned how to ride a bike or when you forgot a line in your Christmas play. Or your first kiss. For High School student Jonah Lehrer, it was drinking Coca-Cola from those characteristically slender, vintage bottles at his high school football game. However, glass containers were actually banned from his school. So how exactly did this improbable scene etch itself into his autobiography? He saw it in a Coke ad. When your life flashes before your eyes, one would hope it resembles a documentary, rather than being merely ‘based on a true story’. Memories are the heartwarming souvenirs from that one trip through our childhood that we show off to our friends. They are the stories that help build our identity, the stories we cherish – and the more vivid and detailed, the better. Unfortunately, memories are easily distorted and sometimes even completely fabricated. Encoding a memory is less like taking a video than it is scribbling down bullet points on a notepad, which renders them susceptible to distortions by our biases, emotions, ambiguities and time. Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus’ work focuses on the reliably unreliable nature of memory. In one study, Loftus demonstrates how easily memories can be altered by simply changing a single word in her question, which led participants to different recollections of the same car accident (e.g. the speed of the vehicle and if there was broken glass). But we don’t just change minor details – we embellish whole scenes. Loftus also misled witnesses of a 1999 terrorist attack in Moscow to believe they had seen wounded animals at the scene, despite there being no animals present. “One recalled an ‘absolutely crazy dog, barking and rushing around police officers’. Two others described ‘a lost parrot in a cage’ and ‘a bleeding cat, lying in the dust’.” Loftus’ studies demonstrated that even emotionally laden, vividly remembered events were subject to manipulation. In fact, research has shown that confidence ratings are not correlated with the accuracy of recall. Thus, if distorted memories can be vividly remembered as real, entirely falsified memories can be remembered as real too. In another study, researchers Rajagopal and Montgomery demonstrated this by showing individuals an ‘imagery-evoking’ popcorn advertisement and asking them one week later to rate how delicious the popcorn was. Of course, the participants did not try the popcorn, so they wouldn’t know how delicious it is – except for the fact that thought they did. They rated the popcorn similarly in taste to individuals who actually tried the popcorn. Like Jonah, these participants had a ‘false experience effect’, leading researchers to believe that imagining a situation can lead individuals to vividly remember it as real events. Scientists have yet to pinpoint why exactly this happens but they have made several guesses. Research using fMRI has suggested that areas of the brain relating to perceiving an object and imagining an object overlap. Furthermore, real memories and false memories use near-identical brain mechanisms, which could explain why an imagined event could be remembered as an experienced one. This harbours major implications for us and the wider community, especially criminal proceedings. Anyone familiar
ARTWORK BY SOPHIE SUN
with Netflix’s Making a Murderer would know that in 1985, Penny Beernsten plucked Steven Avery from an eyewitness lineup and subjected the 23-year-old to a 32-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. Avery was exonerated of his crime, 18 years into his sentence, due to new DNA results incriminating Gregory Allen instead. Beernsten later disclosed that she was shown two lineups and Avery was the only person present in both. Perhaps this was what nudged her to choose Avery. Perhaps it was also because her true perpetrator was absent from both lineups. Yet, despite acknowledging her mistake and despite DNA evidence, her response to being shown a photo of Gregory Allen was surprising, stating “I would swear I’ve never seen him before in my life.” Prosecutors understand that eyewitness testimonies are notoriously unreliable. But can, or should, we completely discard eyewitness testimonies from legal proceedings? Is it justified to ignore eyewitness accounts and reports of childhood abuse on the basis that the victims could have – albeit unintentionally – ‘made it up’? According to Loftus, probably. Other studies also show that trauma can contribute to forgetfulness and further distort memories.
“Encoding a memory is less like taking a video than it is scribbling down bullet points on a notepad.” However, we can’t reject the evidence supporting improved recall for emotionally arousing events. It remains unclear how trauma, or conditions such as post-traumatic stress, can affect memories. There is no known method of disentangling enhanced memories due to emotional arousal, from falsified ones due to suppression or memory degradation. The American Psychological Association recognises that the issue of how to disentangle real from false memories is a scientific mystery, and until then, will acknowledge that children who were sexually abused can remember those traumatic events. The idea that the veracity of our memories, and with it all that we know about our past, could be undermined is not a comforting thought. But our memories don’t always betray us. Only 12.5 per cent of the witnesses of the Moscow terrorist attack bought researchers’ suggestion of dead animals being present and the study also attempted to misinform 9/11 witnesses, none of whom believed there were dead animals nearby. So our memories aren’t entirely bogus. After all, it was an evolutionary tool necessary for our proliferation as a species. So before you call your family members in a desperate attempt to verify childhood events, take solace in the fact that what we remember may tell us more about ourselves than the memories themselves. According to research, we may be more likely to recall memories that correspond with our self-perception and identity. The main takeaway is: your memory is a tool, but don’t depend on it. Simply maintain a healthy amount of skepticism and if that doesn’t make you feel better, well... think of a happy memory.
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Say N2O to drugs Max PH gives us a brief history of Australia’s favourite gas
ou could throw back a NANG! Hit the NOS in your car, speeding down the road with your BITTER MISTRESS, faster than a WHIPPET – or, alternatively, you could just inhale some nitrous oxide. These slang terms, whilst amusing, are a crystalclear indication of the concealed, yet equally pronounced and sudden social relevance of an inhalant my mother used to relish at Poof Doof. But as much as we enjoy the mysterious gas, how did nitrous oxide, as we know it, come to be? For those who aren’t unaware, a ‘nang’ is a slang term, Western Australian in origin (onomatopoeically used to describe the auditory effects of the gas – “nang, nang, nang”), for small canisters of nitrous oxide. N2O in this form is in fact intended for use in the dairy industry, car racing and welding. Instead, due to the gas being recognised for the one-to-two minutes of euphoria it administers when inhaled, it is often cracked from these canisters (via a whipped cream dispenser) and released into a balloon for inhalation. It was this feeling of euphoria – coupled with intense giggling, auditory distortions and dissociation – that moved nitrous oxide from recreational use at British upper-class ‘laughing gas parties’ in the 1800s to becoming a major analgesic in the dental industry. Nitrous oxide had an exceptionally interesting and convoluted upbringing. First synthesised by English natural philosopher and chemist Joseph Priestly in 1772, there were two major players in the development of the gas thereafter: Humphrey Davey and Horace Wells. I invite you now to visualise an assembly of several English academics standing in a portable gas chamber, huffing nitrous oxide, giggling and noting their individual experiences – the life of Humphrey Davey. Davey was a member of a group established to investigate the medical powers of factitious airs and gases, leading to Davey’s biggest experimental endeavour on Boxing Day in 1799. On this day, Davey stepped into a large steel container and requested the pumping of nitrous oxide into the container for every five minutes that he remained conscious – he lasted an incredible one hour and 15 minutes (inhaling upwards of 60 litres of the gas), describing his visual experience as interacting with “shining packets of light and energy”. Despite the futility
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of his experiment, Davey, along with his friends and his 580 page academic investigation into nitrous oxide, was able to raise awareness and promote the administration of the miracle gas. Horace Wells, an American dentist, became intrigued by the studies of Davey in reading of the dissociative sensations of nitrous oxide. In 1844, Wells then volunteered to have the effects of the gas demonstrated on him by a member of a travelling circus. Upon inhaling the gas, falling off the circus stage and breaking both of his arms in succession, he discovered its analgesic properties as he recorded no sensations of pain whatsoever. Thereafter, Wells endeavored to use nitrous oxide as a means to mend the turbulent relationships he bore with his customers through that of pain-free dentistry – experimenting with the gas for a number of months with outstanding results. As he became confident in the effects of nitrous oxide, he decided to demonstrate it to medical students at the Massachusetts General Hospital. However, the gas was improperly administered and the patient began to cry out in pain at the attempted removal of a tooth, inviting the audience to heckle and jeer “humbug!” at Wells. Immediately following the unsuccessful demonstration, Wells was discredited from the medical community and began work as a travelling salesman, fostering an intense addiction to chloroform and ether all the while. Wells became increasingly deranged as a product of his addictions, one day running out onto the street and throwing sulfuric acid over two prostitutes. It was in prison that he took his own life under the influence of nitrous oxide – four years after the demonstration. Nitrous oxide became accepted as an analgesic in the medical community during the late 1800s, a revelation that can be attributed to the hardships of these two gentlemen. In an era of Facebook comments to online vendors like: “Quality product, I ordered on a Friday and chargers were meant to come on Tuesday but arrived on the next day, good laugh with mates at a festival… er, I mean in the kitchen whipping cream”, I invite you to be respectful and consider the vast number of lives and deaths that have been both driven and attributed by and to the little bulb of HIPPY CRACK you will next inhale.
ARTWORK BY REIMENA YEE
Do You Hear What I Hear? MADDY McCARTHY ON THE VOICES INSIDE OUR HEADS
magine having a nightmare while you’re awake,” Elyn R. Saks – an esteemed professor, lawyer and psychiatrist – describes of her experience with the voices in her head. Auditory hallucinations are false perceptions of sound, most commonly manifested as hearing voices. So what do we know about hearing voices? Firstly, that it may be a symptom, but is not indicative, of schizophrenia. In the same way an isolated seizure doesn’t mean epilepsy and being skinny doesn’t mean anorexia, hearing voices doesn’t necessarily land you the label of ‘schizophrenic’. Secondly, hearing voices is massively stigmatised. Often perceived as a sign of severe psychiatric disturbance, madness or insanity, the stigma is only perpetuated by the depictions we see in horror movies and psychological thrillers. Thirdly, hearing voices is a surprisingly common experience. Studies estimate that 8-10 per cent of the general population will experience auditory hallucinations, yet only one per cent become psychiatric patients. This means that there are many healthy individuals hearing voices on the reg that are able to cope and function well. So what’s it like to live with voices in your head? Michael Hedrick, photographer, writer and New York Times contributor, likens his experience to a “devil on your shoulder who whispers nasty stuff in your ear and no matter what you do, he won’t go away”. Another patient describes it as “like being surrounded by a gang of bullies”. Although it can be a frightening experience for some, hearing voices can reflect a plethora of emotions, and many have no problems living with their voices. Natasha Merrick, who experiences both good and bad voices, explains to CBC Radio that “the good voices helped me get myself out of this negative place where I was being attacked to a more positive place”. Merrick is not alone in her acceptance of her voices, standing alongside the approach taken by the international Hearing Voices Network (HVN). HVN considers itself part of a ‘hearing voices movement’ and mainly services through support groups found worldwide. The movement focuses on respecting the voices as a meaningful, although unusual, human experience. This approach is far from psychiatric orthodoxy. Traditional practice in behavioural psychology involved distracting patients, encouraging them to ignore the voices and focus on what is ‘real’. Current approaches mostly seek to eradicate the voices completely with anti-psychotic medication. Psychiatry, therefore, has conventionally discouraged the discussion of voices, believing that they are inherently noxious and attending to them would be deleterious. However, HVN – founded by Dutch psychiatrist Marius Romme – openly challenges this pathologisation. Instead it promotes acceptance, rather than eradication. Research shows that hearing voices is seldom synonymous with insanity and not necessarily indicative of a transition along the psychosis continuum, with only 10-20 per cent of voice-hearers requiring treatment and the rest able to self-manage and live independently. HVN stresses that the voices themselves are not intrinsically destructive, it is more the distress that may occur in coping with them.
ARTWORK BY ADAM JOSHUA FAN
Also, given the ubiquitous and frequently innocuous nature of auditory hallucinations, HVN fights against the potent stigma. Romme encourages the public to see it not as a sign of madness but an expression of powerful emotions, particularly as many voice hearers can pinpoint an antecedent traumatic event, such as sexual or physical abuse. Thus, denigrating it can invalidate the individuals’ experiences and antagonise their recovery. In a society that values intelligence and stigmatises auditory hallucinations, hearing voices can make one anxious that they are going mad, when they may otherwise be able to cope. Hearing voices is an unrelatable experience that is more often met with perturbation rather than empathy. It can be very isolating. Individuals may become insidiously consumed by their voices and detached from their friends or family, which only acts to make matters worse. HVN provides a safe space for individuals to discuss their experiences and appreciates them for their richness and depth, looking beyond the diagnoses. Although the knee-jerk response to encouraging people to accept and even listen to the voices in their head may be disconcerting, the movement has received been praised with many members supporting it with their anecdotal evidence. The organisation’s mantra of acceptance, rather than avoidance or eradication, has aided many through their recovery process and learning to cope with their voices as something that may always be a part of their life. That is not to say the movement’s approach is without contention. Advocates claim that it affords an opportunity for learning how to live normally with the voices, that current medical practice denies them. While others argue that it sugar-coats the disturbing realities of psychosis and emphasises the dangers in encouraging patients who lack insight into their own psychotic disorder of listening to their voices. Particularly for those who have trouble differentiating between what’s real and what’s not real. Despite criticisms of being anti-medication or anti-psychiatry, HVN doesn’t deny the need for pharmaceutical intervention. Many of its members remain on medication and HVN instead aims to provide an outlet for those in recovery to explore their voices in a way that makes sense to them. It posits a new therapeutic angle that can work alongside existing ones. HVN regards itself as less of an alternative and more of a possible addition to current clinical practise and emphasises that it is not anti-science but anti-stigma. Perhaps in a similar way to how homosexuality and lefthandedness were once seen as pathological, the movement calls for a shift in society’s viewpoint to see it as not necessarily an illness. Although hearing voices can be a sign of psychosis or madness, it often isn’t. Society’s perception plays a pivotal role in how voice hearers will see themselves and the resulting pathway they take. Charles Dickens, Sigmund Freud and Saint Joan of Arc are among the many voice hearers who achieved great things and it is important not to deny them the respect of their experience as a valid and significant one.
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Living with intrusive thoughts Christopher Cassidy explains living with ocd but not as you might know it
Content warning: references to sexual assault, suicide and self harm.
ave you ever had a thought that didn’t seem quite right? Am I attracted to my sibling? Do I want to jump in front of this oncoming train? Do I want to swerve my car onto the wrong side of the road? Do I actually think Donald Trump is a suitable presidential candidate? Perhaps you’ve had an unwanted image of committing some form of violent, sexual or obscene act. If you have, you are completely normal. Psychologist Stanley Rachman and his colleagues found that in a group of healthy college students nearly all of them admitted to experiencing an intrusive thought ranging from “imagining or wishing harm upon someone close to oneself” to “impulses to say something rude, inappropriate, nasty, or violent to someone”. For most people these intrusive thoughts are usually fleeting and are not attributed much meaning or attention. However, certain individuals, like me, find them incredibly difficult to ignore. This is because we have a particular form of obsessivecompulsive disorder, but not as you might know it, and it’s known as ‘Purely Obsessional OCD’ or ‘Pure O’. Basically, our brains are wired a bit differently. Pure O is the much lesser known manifestation of the more classic OCD, such as ‘Contamination OCD’, which features obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted intrusive thoughts such as If I touch that dirty metro seat I may get a disease and die. Compulsions are behaviours that provide short term relief of the distress caused by intrusive thoughts such as immediately washing your hands repeatedly until you feel clean again. Pure O features less overt compulsions – most take place within the mind, such as simply trying to suppress the intrusive thought or image. Another includes trying to replace the distressing image with a more positive one. For example, trying to substitute the image of you stabbing someone with cuddling them. Another common compulsion includes scanning your body to see if you were aroused by the unwanted sexual or violent image. As a result of this disorder lacking overt behavioural symptoms it can be incredibly private and entails relentless internal suffering. In fact, the World Health Organisation considers OCD to be in the top 10 most debilitating mental or physical disorders. The very nature of the intrusive OCD thoughts depends on what the individual fears most; OCD does not play nice.
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There are some general themes which OCD thoughts have been organised into. However, any OCD specialist will tell you that the nature of the thought is essentially irrelevant because it is simply a manifestation of the person’s innermost fears. Some examples include ‘Blasphemous OCD’. Associated intrusive thoughts have been documented to range from the incessant thought that the individual hates God, to unwanted images of them having sex with a religious figure such as Mother Mary or Jesus. ‘Harm OCD’ involves intrusive thoughts of committing horrific violent acts towards yourself or others. For new mothers this commonly includes images of murdering their newborn baby. ‘Paedophile OCD’, the fear of being a paedophile, is particularly detrimental to parents, who as a result avoid touching or being alone with their child for fear of snapping and molesting them. ‘Sexual Orientation OCD’ is another extremely common theme that’s characterised by a fear of not knowing whether you are gay or straight. The fear is not necessarily being gay or straight, it’s the uncertainty of not knowing. OCD is all about uncertainty. How can I know for sure that I’m gay or straight? How can I know for sure that I won’t snap and murder or molest my child? These thoughts send Pure O sufferers into a destructive spiral of searching for evidence that they are categorically untrue. But no amount of evidence is ever enough and the thoughts or images always come back more aggressively. My experience with this ‘doubting disorder’ began in grade two with Contamination OCD. I truly thought that if I touched anything that seemed to be germ-ridden, I would get sick and die unless I immediately scrubbed myself clean. It got to the point where my hands were cracked and bleeding and much of my day was spent trying to keep myself sterile. My parents picked up on my unusual behaviour and took me to a psychologist where I was cured of these pesky obsessions and compulsions. In high school there was a period where I could not get the thought that I might be gay out of my head and my mind became a cinema of unwanted gay pornography. Eventually, I circumvented my OCD thoughts by accepting the uncertainty that I may never really know whether I was completely gay or straight. Although at that time I did not realise that my experience was actually a manifestation of OCD.
Most recently and most debilitating, I experienced the far too common obsession of Pure O suffers: the fear of being a paedophile. I mean, what’s worse than a paedophile? They’re considered the lowest of the low, monsters worse than serial murderers or even Hitler. The thought first floated into my unsuspecting mind in early 2014 following a criminology lecture. Fittingly, we were discussing the widespread social construction that paedophilia is considered the most monstrous crime. It wasn’t really until a few weeks later when I was sick and was stressed with multiple assignments that the thought dug its uninvited, sharp jaws into my anxiety-ridden mind, refusing to let go. For the next year and half this thought plagued me. Admittedly, I did have periods of respite when I was more relaxed but, at its worst, the thought pervaded my mind every second of every day for weeks on end. It was unforgiving. It was terrifying. I finally decided to see a psychologist who diagnosed me with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, perhaps because I did not reveal the full extent of my experience. Therapy wasn’t helping and I soon began compulsively telling myself I would rather commit suicide than become the thing my mind was trying to convince me of. My OCD thoughts changed to self-harm. Kill yourself. Just do it. I was subjected to graphic images of my wrists and throat being cut so often that I had a constant niggling sensation there. Soon the images included other people being slashed, beaten or abused in some way, myself often as the perpetrator. At this point I had not told anyone about what I was experiencing. I was so ashamed that I didn’t even reveal the full extent of my truly distressing Harm OCD thoughts to my psychologist. I was petrified and trapped within my own mind. I had lost all sense of my identity and self-worth and was completely drained of energy from trying to block out the disturbing graphic images. How the hell was I supposed to tell anyone about the thoughts I was having? Surely I would sound like I was going insane. I thought I WAS going insane. Then, in the summer holidays just passed, I Googled “intrusive thoughts”. The first link I clicked on was a news article detailing the experience of a woman, Rose Bretécher, who, as a teenager, experienced the fear of being a paedophile and then grappled with
artwork BY James Callaghan
Sexual Orientation OCD. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief to read something that paralleled my experience. I immediately purchased and read her novel, Pure. I also read The Imp of the Mind: Exploring the Silent Epidemic of Obsessive Bad Thoughts by Dr Lee Baer, a leading psychologist in the field of intrusive thoughts. He explains that the fact that Pure O sufferers find their intrusive thoughts distressing and have never acted on them is fairly sure evidence that they never will. The book also lists various treatments from medication to exposure and response prevention therapy. Lastly, I read The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD: A Guide to Overcoming Obsessions and Compulsions Using Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Jon Hershfield and Tom Corboy. These authors reassure you that your thoughts are just that, thoughts. They are not reality and they can’t make you do anything you don’t want to. If you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts that you find distressing and seem out of your control I would recommend reading these resources. I would also recommend seeing an OCD specialist because receiving ineffectual treatment from a general clinical psychologist or GP may potentially increase the severity of your OCD thoughts. It is estimated that at least half of two per cent of the general population who have OCD experience intrusive thoughts. This means that of the 40,000+ students currently enrolled in the University of Melbourne, about 500 are going through a similar experience to mine. Thankfully, I am no longer plagued by intrusive thoughts. Of course, one of some nature may enter my mind on occasion, as they do for everyone, but I let the thought float by without asking why it is there and what it may mean. Everyone, and particularly those with OCD, needs to know that you cannot control your thoughts, all you can do is control how you respond to them. This very fact may just release you, as it did for me.
Anxiety Recovery Centre Helpline: 1300 269 438 Lifeline: 13 11 14 Suicide Line: 1300 651 251
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 39
LOTTE WARD PRESENTS
ONE OF US: CULT REVIEWS TOMMY WISEAU’S THE ROOM AND THE SO-BAD-IT’S-GOOD PHENOMENON
ich people, as human potato Donald Trump is intent on demonstrating, have the power to do a great many things that they really, truly shouldn’t. Remember Rebecca Black? She may have since waxed Katy Perry’s moustache but the horrific musical expression of her indecision re: seating choice and her expert knowledge of which day Saturday follows continue to haunt us. ‘Friday’ was able to find its depraved way into the world because Mr and Mrs Black had the resources to employ the Make-YourUntalented-Child-A-Star company that wrote and recorded it. Similarly, The Room came into existence because Tommy Wiseau, professional weirdo and definitely-not-professional actor, writer, director and producer had the funds to birth it from the pits of hell into Los Angeles cinemas. Two weeks later, amid overwhelming walkouts and refund requests1, the film was pulled from circulation. Tragically, this was not the end. The Room is a film – in the loosest sense of the word – that follows Johnny (Wiseau), his beautiful but “sociopathic” fiancée Lisa and a whole stock of other completely useless characters as they mill around doing stuff for the 99 painful minutes of Wiseau’s self-funded Disaster.2 It’s difficult to express just how bad this film is, though many have tried. The Room has under its shabby belt the titles: “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, “a class of its own in its overabundance of idiocy” and “a prime example of enthusiasm outrunning talent” (as well as a mention on a Wikipedia list titled “Films Considered The Worst”). Yet among these acidic reviews, there is one that reads: “Trust me, you’ve got to check this thing out at least once.” This, apparently, is the sentiment behind the completely unanticipated response to The Room being pulled from cinemas: celebrities, film buffs and people scrambled in hordes to acquire reel for home viewings. Following email requests, Wiseau began booking midnight screenings (the magic cult words) to which costumed fans devotedly hastened. What exactly made this pile of 35mm (and high-def! Yes, both3) garbage worth saving from its nosedive into insignificance? Among its bragging rights, The Room features an incredible lack of acting proficiency. Characters’ seemingly purposeful stilted speech and wildly unnatural gestures beggar belief that these people were ever actually humans in the world, let alone hired to play them. There’s no attention to pacing or editing, no conveyed sense of time; just people walking in and out of the eponymous room. Characters enter scenes through doors on which the camera is already closing in, as though they’re in an episode of Thank God You’re Here, and exit almost invariably with an unexplained “I’ve got to go” – often without actually leaving the doorway or achieving anything for which they apparently came. At one point, Lisa’s mother (who has breast cancer, a subplot introduced and dropped within ten seconds) asks, “How many people come in and out of this apartment every day?” Sly self-awareness? Cheeky fourth-wall break? In a world kinder than ours, perhaps. In the one where Tommy Wiseau wrote this film – not a chance. Everything about The Room screams intentional parody, except the fact that it’s just not. Five times (five times!) throughout the
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film, and twice in the first fifteen minutes, we are treated to a Vaseline-screened ‘sexy’ montage, featuring porn saxophone seguing into afternoon soap-calibre original songs and some very visual (and anatomically improbable) in-the-throes action. The dialogue, punctuated by Wiseau’s terrifying, near-constant robot laugh, sounds like the screenplay equivalent of a cut-andpaste magazine ransom note assembled from a back-catalogue of discarded films. If it’s not a cliché, it’s a character describing exactly what we’re seeing onscreen. I thought at one point that a pop-up ad had started playing in the background but no – it was just the music that someone had chosen, on purpose, to score this atrocity. To say this film would be better silent would simply be one application of a more general rule I’ve just made up: this film would be better if you took literally any part of it away, because every part is the worst. I won’t even attempt an explanation of the infamous tuxedo-football scene, because there simply is none (the essence of The Room). And yet – and yet! Flocks of film geeks… well, flock to the Nova and the Astor and other havens of cinematic nostalgia to regard Johnny’s constant betrayals4 in all their screaming glory. There’s something about an experience so unconceivably bad that creates the inexorable desire to share it: because there just aren’t sufficient words to communicate the horror and you aren’t convinced people will believe you even if you do – “no, you don’t understand, it’s so bad! Yes, worse than Batman V Superman!” – or because (as a sidenote on the human condition) we’re inherently selfish entities who sometimes just need to drag our friends down with us. It’s kind of like The Ring, actually – you’ve got to pass it on like a curse. Instead of dying after watching The Room, however, you’ll just want to. This solidarity in suffering is the only conceivable motive of those sado-masochists who gather their friends, pop their corn and endure The Room in all its misery time and again – solidifying what should have long died in the primordial goo of that universal human experience known as the cult classic. “Everybody betray me!” roars Johnny in the film’s final act. No, Johnny – we betray ourselves.
Prior to this, the Laemmle Fairfax theatre actually posted a sign reading “NO
REFUNDS” (next to a pre-existing sign bearing the review, “Watching this film is like being stabbed in the head.” I concur). Greg Sestero, who was roped into playing Mark, Johnny’s best friend and Lisa’s
lover, wrote a book about the making of this film aptly titled ‘The Disaster Artist’, which offers the only sane hypothesis for its existence I’ve come across: that it was a front for a money laundering operation. I honestly hope this was the case. Tommy Wiseau didn’t know the difference, so he just decided to film The Room in
both 35mm and high-definition video. I would give my pinky nail to go back in time and see to it that Tommy Wiseau not be allowed to just decide to do anything, ever, in his life. His job – “They betray me!” – his fiancée – “You betray me!” – “Everybody betray
me, I fed up with this world!”
ARTWORK BY AISHA TRAMBAS
ONE SMALL STEP
YAN ZHUANG GETS HER DAD TO EXPLAIN WHY WE SHOULD NEVER TRUST AMERICA
t begins when he is in middle school, in the 1970s, with an American movie called Capricorn 1. In the movie, the crew of the first manned mission to Mars are taken off the job minutes before they were meant to launch and instead taken into the desert to film a fake planet landing. Badly dubbed in Chinese and fraught with subpar graphics, it would still shape his view of the moon landing until the present day. I’m not denying that a spaceship went to the moon, my dad says, sitting in front of his laptop as he clicks through photos that he found online. That’s perfectly possible, even likely. The question we need to ask is whether that spaceship was manned. This is the way space travel works, he says, forming a fist with one hand and wrapping the other around it. There’s two spaceships, a smaller one inside a bigger one. You’ve seen it in the movies, where halfway through the flight, the outside falls away and the smaller one, holding the astronauts, is what reaches the destination. That tiny rocket would’ve needed to carry a massive, complicated life support system to ensure that the astronauts were breathing when they landed back home. In the ’60s, there’s no way America’s technology was good enough to get something like that off the ground, let alone to the moon and back. The first time China managed to send someone to space was in 2003. The astronaut only weighed 70kg, because any more and the shuttle wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. It’s only recently that they’ve been able to send two, then three people into space. America’s technology may always have been good, but did they really have better technology in the ’60s than China does now? He has other evidence too. When the U.S. came back from the moon, they gave moon rocks to a number of countries. It turns out that the one they gave to Holland was fake. You can find this all online. And the rocks that are real? An unmanned robot could have easily fetched those. There’s a famous photo of Neil Armstrong on the moon. In it, there’s an American flag that looks like it’s billowing in the wind. There’s just one problem: there’s no wind. Moreover, the shadows of the moon and the astronaut are pointing in different directions. What about the rebuttals to that, the claim that the flag was hung on an L-shaped pole to help it stay up, that there are multiple sources of light on the moon, not just the sun? Well, that’s something he hasn’t read anything about.
ARTWORK BY SAM NELSON
Why do so many people still believe in the moon landing then? They believe whatever America says. They shouldn’t. America has a long record of lying about things for their own good. But it’s getting late. Don’t you have uni tomorrow? You should go to bed, we can talk more about this later.
“He’s not denying that a spaceship went to the moon... That’s perfectly possible, even likely. The question we need to ask is whether that spaceship was manned.” In addition to the moon landing, my dad also believes that global warming is primarily a natural phenomenon, which means that no matter how environmentally friendly we are, we can only change so much and that the reason my family moved to Australia is because the government was on his tail. And he’s not some conspiracy theory fanatic either. He doesn’t spend hours arguing with people online over this. He’s smart, having graduated high school at sixteen after skipping a year and university as the youngest of his class. He started his own successful business. These claims are things he just knows as facts, like the equation for gravity. As a child, I found it all very exciting. There was a I-knowsomething-you-don’t-know quality about it, an isn’t-my-familyso-cool-and-unique? As I got older, it became a great ‘fun fact’ about myself. Something for those ‘tell us something interesting about yourself’ icebreaker situations. Is it still a great conversation starter? Of course. Does it feel a bit off sometimes, parading this particular aspect of my family in front of strangers for momentary recognition and laughs, like just another joke about my ‘exotic’ home culture? Let me get back to you on that one. Nonetheless, this is what I learnt growing up: that everyone has their own version of the truth and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter so much who is right as much as who is better convincing others that they are. Oh, and also: never trust America.
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Calling All Girl Gangs ROSE DOOLE ON FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS
his is a love letter from one girl to all the rest. I love girls. I love women. I always have. When I was little and my parents separated, there was a period of time post-dad and pre-stepdad when it was just my mum and me. We’d have nights in watching Bridget Jones or Love Actually and eating pizza and chocolate; our bathroom was filled with a thousand bottles of lotion and hair ties and loofahs and bubble bath sets. The place oozed femininity and comfort, and I loved every bit of it. Fast forward a few years to high school, where I started to make my first real friends (social anxiety and a touch of nerd-itis had not been kind to me in my pre-pubescent years). From then until now, I’ve loved girls. Boys I had crushes on but girls I loved. For all the talk about how bitchy teenage girls are, I’d never experienced anything like sitting with a group of girls and being sincerely told by a friend how gorgeous I looked that day, how good my skin was, how funny or how smart I was in class. It didn’t feel forced and it made complimenting others around me much easier. When I wasn’t wracked with the nerves and selfdoubt symptomatic of puberty, I had no trouble telling Annabel how much talent showed in her drawings or letting Katie know how lovely of a singer she was. I had found myself, as a member of a female friend group, a conduit for positivity. I got to experience nights of lying in bed with a girl friend, tucked up under doonas and talking into the night next to each other – it was a kind of intimacy so separate from the sexual and romantic relationships that teenagers are made to feel are the most important things in the world. What a shame, I thought, that I had never been taught to expect this kind of love and joy, the simple pleasure in another human’s company. However, despite all the value I’ve found in them, female friendships are so often portrayed as secondary to romantic relationships – in films and books, the supportive girlfriend frequently exists only as a fallback for romantic involvements. It’s such a pervasive trope that a test was designed to reveal how few female characters in popular films a) actually speak, b) speak to each other and c) speak about something other than guys (go ahead and Google the Bechdel test to feel bummed out). How many conversations did the girls in Grease have that weren’t
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about boys or sleeping with them? The freestanding value and power of female friendships is always either understated or not portrayed at all. I still love girls now, those who are my friends and those who aren’t. I love girls who are big, who wave their hands and talk loudly and unapologetically take up space in a world where they’re told they shouldn’t – girls who embody a kind of beautiful that we’re never taught about. I love girls who are slim and delicate and look like dolls, all the things I never was and won’t ever be. I love being on the tram in the morning and watching women do their makeup; sitting, elegantly dressed, dabbing creams onto their cheeks and painting eyeliner onto their lids in precise strokes, sucking in their cheeks to swirl on blush and tilting their heads to the side to inspect their reflections. I love women with no makeup, with freckles and little wrinkles or creases at the corners of their eyes when their faces scrunch into a smile, evidence of the years of smiles preceding it.
“It was a kind of intimacy so separate from the sexual and romantic relationships that teenagers are made to feel are the most important things in the world.” Beyoncé said that girls run the world. Maybe we don’t quite run it yet but girl love has a power of its own. Romantic love is painted everywhere as the most important kind of love that a girl can have but a quick survey of the strongest relationships in my life proves that for me at least, this is false. I want a Grease where Sandy tells Danny to get fucked and goes and hangs out with Rizzo instead. I want to see ads for island holiday getaways featuring two gal pals hanging out drinking cocktails and descriptions for rental homes that have a “roomy bathroom with enough space for you to do your makeup while your best bud is still in the bath”. I’m calling for a greater appreciation of girl love and I’ll be spreading the love myself until it gets the recognition it deserves.
photography by anwyn hocking
JACK FRANCIS MUSGRAVE ON THE CULT OF GILES COREY Content warning: references to suicide and depression.
’m successful in the sense I’m not dead”. This is an oddly positive sentiment from Dan Barrett, or as I know him, Giles Corey. In 2011, Dan released an avant-garde lo-fi folk album under the same name, recorded in the midst of a deep, suicidal depression. Now, four years later, I’m subtly trying to see if this really is the same man who once wrote “No One Is Ever Going To Want Me”. By now, Giles Corey has been solidified as a true cult classic; an absolute product of the underground. Ever since I became a weird, outré teenager, I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of the ‘cult classic’. Mostly as an offshoot of every other album or movie claiming this title. It’s a term that gets attributed without many questioning why. The phrase ultimately raises more questions than it answers. How did this cult classic become so? Who decides this? Is there some sort of arbitrary prerequsite (or non-allowed subjects depending how snobby your band is) of fans the classic has to meet for the position? What I really want to know is: what is The Cult? Now – shock horror – this is a stupidly open-ended question to answer. For just as the LeVayan Satanists may never know about the Luciferean sect of the Order of the Nine Angels, fans of Daniel Johnston’s Hi, How Are You? may never know Wormlust’s Sex Augu, Tólf Stjörnur, who themselves probably won’t have ever heard Current 93’s Thunder Perfect Mind, and so on ad infinitum until you reach that cavernous realm of Bandcamp garage artists and power electronics bands making harsh noise collages.
ARTWORK BY AMIE GREEN
It’s Dante’s fucking Inferno, just replacing eternal guilt and suffering with stick-and-poke tattoos and ironically placing the importance of pizza higher than it deserves. The Cult is fluid and multi-modal. The Cult extends from the ethereal biomechanical cocks of Giger’s art to the Google Translated buddy-cop script of Samurai Cop. When I think of an embodiedment of The Cult, the figure in my third eye is always that goofy-toothed part-time prankster, fulltime writer, Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon represents a recurrence in the underground; the cult of personality. Pynchon is an enigma. No photos beyond a (likely stoned) yearbook relic, avoiding all publicity, moving states just so the literati paps don’t get his mugshot – Pynchon’s reclusivity just furthers the mystery. While he aims to remove his presence from his work, it achieves the opposite. This happens frequently in The Cult. It’s hard to think of the Les Légions Noires (LLN) – who, I should point out, were an actual cult – without thinking of the members; Mütiilation, Worlok Drakkstein or my personal favourite, the man who just decided to cut all pretense and christened himself “A Dark Soul”. When you think of the LLN (not that I imagine you personally would do all that often), it’s not their music but their image: their corpse paint and pentagrams. Would Charles Manson’s folk albums have garnered any recognition without all that Helter Skelter? Would Joy Division be seen differently if Ian Curtis hadn’t killed himself? Suicide is unfortunately a recurring theme; just see David Foster Wallace. It isn’t often you see mention of his work that isn’t prefaced with the mention of his untimely death. It’s hard to view their art without the taint of persona. This is where Dan comes in. Dan – not necessarily by his own creation – has fallen victim to his persona, at least when it came to me. In my naiveté, I assumed that Dan was the embodiment of Giles; dark, depressive and unapproachable. All I had was the music. To me, Dan was an MP3 file. One compressed, virus ridden MP3 file that, if you play it, doesn’t too shockingly portray Dan in this way. The opening track builds to this explosion of noise and static and horns, while a man screams “I’m at the bottom of a well” completely out of time, which devolves into straight wailing and bashing at the keys of some old piano. Samples of suffocation, seances, voices of the dead. One song spends three minutes repeating the words “I’m going to kill myself”. This isn’t even mentioning ‘No One is Ever Going to Want Me’.
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It’s not just the lyrics, even the production is numbing. Lo-fi is not a joke. The album opens with a piano riff that sounds like it’s been recorded through a phone. The drums are Fruity Loop 4 presets. The entire album is covered in this ever-present fuzz. It’s like being covered in a poorly knitted sweater – whenever you move the sleeve irritates your skin and it hurts, but only slightly. You keep on wearing it despite what it’s doing to you. And every time you wear that sweater you know, you just know you’re going to get that rash in that same spot again. But there’s something comforting and almost homely in wearing it that you can’t stay away from. Maybe it goes with your shorts. Maybe it’s just all you feel like wearing. It hurts but so do you. And no matter what, it’s warm. As such, emailing Dan is, in itself, one of the most terrifying things I’ve put myself through. Despite the fact that email is likely the most inoffensive communication cop-out available, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that he could end up despising me without even meeting me. Sending a response back with nothing in the subject title and the body text of FUCK YOU. I couldn’t remove that abyssal figure in my mind – too preoccupied with his sadness and art to respond to interview requests by unemployed Australian teenagers for first year Arts assignments. I wondered if he was even still alive. Within two to three business days I receive a prompt and businesslike response with a link that takes me to an online scheduling app known as ‘Calenderfly’. His email avatar is not only well lit but it clearly shows him smiling. There are three interview options; each an amalgam of corporate jargon and sickening positivity (my favourite being the ‘Getting-To-KnowYou Call’, which I accidentally schedule for 6:30am on a Thursday because I’m intimidated by choice). Now, face-to-slightly chubby face, I’m wondering why I was ever concerned. Almost immediately, I’m greeted by signs of separation from Giles Corey. His Skype tagline reads “World’s Friendliest Web Nerd!”; the quality of his webcam is jarringly pristine – you can hardly describe it as “lo-fi”. Dan apologises as his office is “messy”, but the room I see is immaculate, a stark contrast to the unkempt collegiate cavern I’m broadcasting from. His last word to me will be “peace”. As it turns out, I’m not the only one to fall victim to the Giles image. The so called ‘Voors Head Device’ – the fictional headpiece that makes up the album’s cover, said to suffocate the wearer to a point of near-death hallucination – becomes a worrying fan favourite. Fans email asking if it’s real. Asking how to make one, as though Dan might hold some ‘Make a Voors Head in Ten Easy Steps’ YouTube tutorial. Others don’t even bother asking and instead proudly tell Dan that they’ve made their own. It’s not even as though this hood was glamorised – it’s said (again, fictional piece of cloth) to cause hours of wailing and general torment, all to be forgotten, experienced again through a tape recorder. Yet they all email Dan. Though they don’t really. They all email Giles. Dan is faced with the realisation that what was a creation of self-
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expression has external consequences. Dan jokes that he should “affix warning labels to Giles”, explaining that it’s not quite as real as it may seem. But it’s not a joke. It’s The Cult. These fans went beyond just enjoying the album – they became a part of it. They constructed a perception of Dan and refused to let go. He jokes about whether I’ve noted his beauty, suggesting I call the piece ‘Handsome Dan’. While he may have been joking, Dan looks great. Not in a repressed homoerotic fawning sort of way but in the sense that as I chatted to him, he emanated something. A confidence or comfort; something I couldn’t quite pin down. One leaving comment Dan makes really strikes a chord. “If you have one weird kid on the internet at every school buying our records, we can sustain ourselves.” This resonates with me in a way that’s relatively unsettling. I am that weird kid. I am the Giles Corey rep of the Port Adelaide/Enfield area. I am part of something much larger than myself. I am The Cult. I still remember the day I first heard Giles Corey. There was no natural light in the room. I was covered in a doona, having been so malaise I wasn’t bothering to move to bed to sleep. I hadn’t left the room in about three days. “There’s a devil on my back/Buried above the ground.” The album nearly broke me. As cliché as this definitely sounds in 2016, Giles Corey spoke to me. It was as though Dan was in that room with me, head covered in the Voors, telling me that I wasn’t going to be okay but I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. One line sticks with me that my 16-year-old self assumed I would epigraph on my first novel. ���I wanna feel, like I feel, when
I’m asleep”. Not wanting to die per se. Just wanting to feel better. Listening to it now, having talked to Dan, I can’t help but feel things have changed in spite of the fact that nothing has. Yet it’s so odd how context changes things. That line still hits me but it’s so easy to hear “I’m going to kill myself” and wonder if 16-year-old me was being a bit dramatic. While I don’t feel the same sadness anymore, the album still hits a certain something, be it sadness or nostalgia. Yet I also see hundreds of UniMelb students (if I’m being generous) going off to YouTube and screaming “Fuck you Jack Francis Musgrave, I listened to this for 15 minutes and didn’t even kill myself once.” Dan is still there next to me but the bag has been lifted. He’s not wailing. He’s smiling and chatting to me about ways to improve my web presence. This man is not the man who wrote Giles Corey to me. The issue is he did. But who the fuck am I to blame him anyway? He went from a man on the verge of suicide to having his own company, loving wife and son, and I feel what, disappointed? He hasn’t even changed all that much ideologically; he still gets sad, still gets depressed, he’s still a raging nihilist to the point of human abandon. Yet all this is delivered to an uneasy backdrop of professionalism and self-confidence. Maybe I don’t truly believe anyone is a nihilist until they’ve written a song called “Fuck the Universe” and personally replied to their fans’ Facebook comments with “Fuck Off And Die”. What is it that I’m worried about? That Dan is – god forbid – a poseur? It’s not even like I’m the same as I was when I heard it – my life has improved just as much as Dan has. So why am I feeling this apprehension? My interview with Dan places me in a state of existential contemplation, leaving me mulling over a comment a friend once made of why we are drawn to cult classics: “We want to feel different, unique. Liking things other people ‘don’t get’ validates our belief that we’re an individual.” Whereas once I felt challenged by it, now I feel as though he’s got it the wrong way around. Cult classics don’t make us feel like we’re unique, they comfort us with the knowledge that we aren’t. The Cult is all the weird kids of the country, getting together to ward off the loneliness. Because, in those moments, hearing my favourite album being played a metre in front of me while being pushed around by neo-nazi bogans, that crowd of thirty people feels like the world. Writing this, I’ve always been aware of getting to this point. Of reaching a conclusion that amounts to “I’unno”. And it’s still true. Cult classics still confuse me. I understand why we like them, but not how they become them. They sort of just are. What I do know is what draws people to them and next to me, Handsome Dan is sitting, reminding me why. Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 Lifeline: 13 11 14 Suicide Line: 1300 651 251
ARTWORK BY AMIE GREEN
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 45
A ROLL OF THE (20 SIDED) DICE M
RIAN HENSHALL ON WHY D&D IS SO SPELLBINDING
artec Quartzhammer, Dwarven mage, sidles up to the too-high bar of the inn. Across the dingy room a fight has broken out between two patrons. They knock over wooden tables and chairs, splashing mugs of ale across the sawdusted floor. Peasants scramble away from the fight, rescuing their meagre plates of cheese and hard bread, and head for the exit into the wind and rain outside. One of the combatants is a gangly teenage boy, the other a huge bald man, an unarmed knight. Martec sighs. The teenager is part of his team. He looks away from the fight, past the worried publican, at the shelf of spirits behind the bar. There is a crash as the knight picks up the teenager and slams him bodily through a table. Martec winces. He must think quickly. With a subtle twitch of his fingers, he summons the power that courses through his veins and magically ignites a fire among the bottles of alcohol. Dungeon Master: Are you sure? Player: Yeah. Nah. Yeah, we need a distraction. Three buildings burn down. Martec is arrested for arson and murder. Anything can happen in Dungeons and Dragons, whether you want it to or not. Since it was created in 1974 by American duo Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, countless players have waded haplessly into adventures of the imagination. Even now, with the ubiquitous presence of digital entertainment, millions of people still prefer to sit at a table with their friends (or strangers) and role-play their characters in fantastic situations. You may already have an image in your mind about the game: a bunch of social outcasts in a basement, dressed in robes, shouting things like “Excelsior!” and “Have at Thee!”, generally nerding out for a few hours. And while this may certainly be the case for some groups, Dungeons and Dragons means many things to many people. For a start, it can use a fantasy setting but people choose to adapt it into other genres, such as sci-fi or horror. For some players, it is a chance to hang out and play a game with their friends. For others, it is an opportunity to use their creativity. For others still, it is a way to inhabit another person in a safe and imaginary setting and to either explore or escape aspects of themselves. Many people are somewhat familiar with the concept of Dungeons and Dragons because it has been featured on TV shows such as The Simpsons, Community, The IT Crowd and The Big Bang Theory. However, these depictions hide the planning,
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structure and player investment that goes into a successful game. But what they do capture well is the many ways that the whole thing can go terribly awry. Dungeons and Dragons is played by a group of people of any size you want, although god help you if it’s more than eight because I promise it will all go to hell. One of these has the task of being Dungeon Master and it’s their job to create the imaginary world in which the game occurs. They must act as every person and creature that the players meet, describe everywhere they go and create the scenarios into which the players’ characters enter. They work either out of a handbook or make it up as they go along. This is the true challenge of the game: if you have a shitty Dungeon Master, you’ll probably have a shitty time. The players are armed with nothing but a character sheet, which displays all the abilities and skills at their disposal, and a set of gaming dice. The primary dice used in Dungeons and Dragons, as with many tabletop games, is the 20 sided dice, or d20. The gameplay mechanic at the core of the whole game is simple. The Dungeon Master asks players to describe what they would like to do in the game. In the case of Martec Quartzhammer (a high school friend who now works in medical research) burning down the tavern, the player would say that they wished to start a fire using a spell. The Dungeon Master would ask them to roll their dice for it, setting a score that must be beaten in order to succeed, based on difficulty. With the skill of the character added to a roll of the d20, the player tries to beat the score set by the Dungeon Master and if they do, then the action succeeds, and you get to wonder if anyone at the table knows how fire works. The more interesting and valuable part of Dungeons and Dragons – the reason it continues to be relevant today – is the role-playing element. Players are encouraged to fully inhabit their characters and to experience the adventure from their perspective (heroic or otherwise). It’s a challenge that’s rewarded with a gameplay experience unlike any other. Unlike books and films, the direction of the story is not dictated by a third party but rather evolves according to the actions of the players; the potential actions, conversations and consequences in the game are not limited to what has been programmed, unlike in open-world video games. So if you have ever been curious about Dungeons and Dragons, give it a try. Some readers may be hesitant because of the stigma attached but they shouldn’t be. It’s a fun pastime to do with your friends and you get to live another life. Whether you choose to be a good guy, that’s up to you.
artwork by tiffany y goh
GABRIEL FILIPPA PRESENTS
BUTTON MASHING t
BUTTON MASHING IS A COLUMN ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, VIDEO GAMES AND GROWING UP IN A DIGITAL WORLD.
here’s nothing exciting about being involved in car accidents. For the most part, they’re pretty boring. I’m always hoping for more of a spectacle. Something operatic. Like those two cars that burst into flames, drag racing over the West Gate Bridge recently. But it’s always anti-climactic. I just end up sitting inside a KFC somewhere, waiting for the RACV. Watching the seagulls pick at chicken bones in the car park. The last time a tow truck picked me up, the driver started describing motorcycle accidents to me in a really detailed way. About how their bodies are constantly sliced in half by the new road barriers between Ballarat and Ballan. I stared out the window feeling let down. Why is real life never like Need for Speed? Or Burnout? The only noteworthy incident I can remember happened after a cute blonde broke up with a friend of mine. In his grieving, he’d decided to take a bunch of ecstasy, load us into his WRX and plough us all into a telephone pole. Even that was kind of monotonous. Waiting out in the cold for the police. The tears. The long lectures. Court. Car breathalyzers. His car was finished. Something about the engine. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about cars. Mechanics always resent the fact that I can’t open my bonnet. When I took my car to one the other day he looked at me and my little Peugeot with contempt. He said that it needed to be put down. That it was dangerous. That one day the brakes were simply going to fail and that I was going to crash. I’ve been driving it around anyway. I don’t know anything about cars but I love driving them. I love the smell of petrol. Giving people the finger. Making a really nice move in traffic then glancing at my reflection in the rearview mirror like I’ve just edged out Schumacher. When people tell me that Australia lacks an inherent culture – something defining – I tell them to look at car culture. I tell them that that’s what we should have on our flag if we ever become a republic. A big fucking exhaust pipe. The design we have now just doesn’t cut it. It’s too ubiquitous. I was playing Mario Kart the other day and started firing red shells at an Australian thinking they were kiwi (racers each have little flags denoting their country of origin).
PHOTOGRAPHY by emma jensen
It’s funny how such a simple design mechanic can trigger all this underlying bigotry. In real life, everyone else is your enemy on the road. Fuck everyone in a very vague, indiscriminate, confusing kind of way. This was my journey – a sometimes-metaphysical journey – that was being obstructed. But throw flags into a videogame as you’re banging over Rainbow Road and suddenly the race is populated with Nazis, rednecks and communists. You make sure to save your shells when you’re tailgating an Aussie and not to trigger your lightning when they’re parachuting. Podium finishes for all Australians. I like Mario Kart. Who doesn’t? It’s light and psychedelic. But it lacks a raison d’etre. What’s at stake? Are we still saving Princess Peach? Most of the time, I have to manufacture my own kind of drama. I was playing it on the Nintendo 64 at Bartronica the other night. We were racing around Luigi’s Circuit when I told the guy next to me that I went down on his mum in Bangkok. He nearly hit me. That’s why Midnight Club was so great. The game made you feel like you were part of an underground network of street racers. Your rival-cum-mentor Moses would guide you through Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo looking for pink slips. Simply flash your headlights at another driver and turn up the volume: Sweet seduction in a magazine / Endless pleasure in a limousine / In the back shakes a tambourine / Nicotine from a silver screen. There were no stars, bombs or bananas. Just long, tree-lined boulevards and clusters of dead pedestrians in your rearview mirror. The only mushrooms we were burning were hallucinogens after the race. I could never beat the “world champion street racer”, Savo. That bare-chested prick with the eye patch. I remember watching dusk set over those grey buildings at 214 km/h and crashing every damn time. I’m still scanning the streets for retribution. Who knows. Maybe I’ll find it in you? If a dirty red ’96 Peugeot flashes its headlights at you on Punt Road, turn up the radio.
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EVER WANTED TO CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR FRIENDLY NEIGHBOURHOOD STUDENT MAG? SUBMIT YOUR PITCH OR COLD SUBMISSION TO: FARRAGOMEDIA2016@GMAIL.COM WE’LL KEEP YOU WARM IN WINTER
DAY TRIP BY SOFIE WESTCOMBE
iles looks at the scene and closes his eyes. There’s a metal shift of air in the lungs, a short shake of the head. It’s an unrecoverable situation. The shape of Missy’s body imposes on the kitchen’s yellow easiness: the innocuous tea towel on the oven bar, the flowered vinyl blind, the two plates Holly always leaves in the sink for washing. Missy’s stare is amber and her feet are set apart for fighting. It’s a fight, always a goddamn fight. She has mentioned his mother and so he closes. She will snap and collapse beneath the weight of his shutness. Really though, his mother is not any of Missy’s concern. Hasn’t he spoken about how different they are? His mother, Miles thinks, has learned to belong to herself, her heart has decades left in it. Missy is another person entirely. God knows what she belongs to, perhaps anger and sadness. Because hasn’t he watched her loving the soul-wrench? She is a dancer for the music of uncertainty, she pulls herself to pieces if ever she is looked at. She takes communion alone in the church of disharmony. That was Friday. On Sunday they drive to the lake for tradition’s sake, so the house might sleep in their absence, so that it might recover. Missy is the safest driver he knows. She keeps speed and moves like water through every corner. There are moments when she looks to him and finds something in the way his pale, sandy hair sweeps up behind his ear, in the propriety of his closed mouth. Like petals, she once said. It’s a mouth like a flower, the mouth that she loves. For Miles, nothing is as beautiful as driving somewhere that doesn’t much matter. It is the lake’s indifference that draws them here: the blind, eternal waving of the reeds beneath the surface and
artwork by tzeyi koay
the meditating jetty on the opposite shore. Missy lays her tartan rug beneath a willow and turns onto her side. She will stay like this for an hour before discontent begins to bubble in her again. Miles reminds himself that this is the end of the road. She is the queen of his life, in whose desperately hungry face he has seen sweetness and old age, a thousand Wednesdays at least. He wants to kiss her, snake an arm across her curved back, rake fingertips along the Kmart sweater and lean in to inhale perfume and unwashed skin. Missy doesn’t move or make a sound. She was always selfish in dreams. Instead he kicks off his industrial work boots and expensive socks, the silk ones she bought to round his corners after a fight he has forgotten. Miles dips one foot into the water, then the other, ecstatic and hopeless as the silty murk inspects him. Rolled up jeans mean nothing to the water. Floating fully clothed in a lake when it is overcast might be the point, he thinks. Her infallible memory for his family’s birthdays and the freckle on her earlobe are almost certainly the point. She is twenty and a hundred. She is here because she must be. Before it is properly dark they are halfway home. Holly has friends over, yells ugly laughter and squeezes cheap wine into a glass. The two plates on the sink have multiplied, the smell of weed permeates the still kitchen air. Miles takes a coffee into the bedroom, drinks a quarter of it and then pours his body onto the sheets. Missy lays a cheek on his chest. She sleeps and sleeps.
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THE GOLDEN MYTH BY AMIE GREEN
ike many kids, once I had a small goldfish tank. It was fitted out like you’d expect – neon plastic plants, chunky castle ornaments and a substrate of rainbow gravel. Yet of course, the first fry didn’t last long. It wasn’t supposed to matter. Each pet was another small responsibility that I thought of as a steppingstone to getting the precious fluffy pup that my pre-teen dreams were made of. Fish, hermit crabs, budgies – my backyard was a cemetery for their little bodies. When I was 14 I got really sick. Everything was really hard. Even getting out of bed was too much. Naturally my hobbies suffered too – succulents wilted, palettes dried, books yellowed. When my mum brought home her partner’s dusty fish tank, I really tried. I threw myself out of bed. Levelling up from tacky décor and tight containers, I filled my new tank with real rocks and living greenery. Even before buying any fish I had thoroughly versed myself on nitrogen cycles, salt balance, water hardness… I could have written the encyclopaedia of fish keeping with what I learnt lurking aquarium forums way past my bedtime. There was something kitsch about goldfish, the idea of a goldfish bowl on my bedside table with a little orange swimmer that would enthusiastically greet me each morning. I would sit bug-eyed in front of my first goldfish tank, mesmerised by the movement of their floating, pleated tails. I became obsessed with looking at pictures of all of the different types of goldfish – the golf-ball Pearlscales, the Bubble Eyes with membrane sacs on their cheeks, and the curved spines of Ranchus. Then when I finally got my two Telescope goldfish, regally dubbed Arthur and Merlin, I was immediately in love. Even just sitting in bags on my lap during the car ride home, I could tell they had distinct personalities. Arthur was almost hyperactive as he darted as fast as his tiny fins could take him. He had a never-ending stomach and loved to suck at my fingers as I scrubbed algae from the tank walls. Merlin was his yin: calmer, with a tendency to hang around at the back of the tank, slowly sorting through the pebbles.
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There was a learning curve, sure – I couldn’t tell you how many times I spilt water on my carpet or how many shattered watertesting tubes I tossed. But my goldfish were neat company and for a while everything was really good. The tank sat on my desk and at night the regular hum of the filter was soothing. Plenty of sleepless nights were spent watching the movement of the fish in the slivers of silver moonlight filtering through my blinds. And then I was sick again. I deserted the land of the living, including my poor fishies. Brown algae bloomed, the water quality dipped. Merlin was awkward and stunted, while Arthur’s pearlescent scales were tinged with red. I couldn’t look at my fish and moved the tank to the kitchen. When I emerged from my slumber, Merlin was sitting on the bottom, centred and stuck like a weight. Arthur was entangled in the air stone’s tubes – a buoy tangled in life support. I learnt online that you can use clove oil to euthanise fish. The sedative lulls them into a lifeless sleep. I wished that I had the guts to do it. Instead, I prolonged it. Arthur slowly lost scales and Merlin drew thinner and thinner. I did what I could, keeping the water clean and limiting stressful stimuli. But, it was too late. Their slippery bodies were so small in my palm when I fished them out of the tank. Part of me thought that when I brought them out of the water they would gasp, electrified with life and shocked back alive. My uncle buried them for me. I couldn’t look at them, or even think of them, without feeling that stone of guilt buried in my belly.
It was against my nature to give up. This time I didn’t just pick out a fish from my local aquarium shop. I visited practically every store that sold goldfish in Victoria. What I saw was horrifying. Sallow sores and weeping, pink-cottage-cheese tumours. Cramped, grimy tanks with black water. And so many dead and dying fish. Nobody even had the decency to scoop out the lifeless bodies. But finally I found him. He was the tiniest, stoutest baby Ranchu. He had a tiny tail, so when he swam he looked like a miniature submarine. I named him Casper for his ivory, speckled scales. I set the tank back up next to my bed. Despite my pristine water and attentive care, Casper never prospered. It was only four days after I found him that I broke my anonymity and begged for help online. There I met Gale, a local, middle-aged woman. I was in awe – she was an expert, super-helpful and super-friendly. I went with my Uncle to her house, where she showed us her glorious, healthy fish. Imported from Japan, her Ranchu, Bubba, was show-quality. Bubba was like a mandarin, rotund and orange. Gale told me of her foray into goldfish keeping. Years ago she was helping a friend clean out their old, dried out pond. Beneath the scum, lodged between the foundation of the fountain, was a goldfish. It was alive, but had grown into an L-shape as it was wedged between bricks. Gale swore by the hardiness and resilience of these little creatures. She opened up the cabinet beneath her tank, displaying a stocked shelf of pill bottles. She helped me prepare this gel food with ground-up antibiotics (which she admittedly obtained in a lessthan legal way). To force a picky fish to eat you calmly, but firmly, hold the fish so that their gills are under the water, and their mouth is angled out of the tank. You mush the food with a spoon and a drop of tank water, then suck it into a syringe and load it into the gaping jaw of the goldfish. Casper was too sick to fuss when I syringe-fed him. Yet he didn’t swallow, the green liquid slowly seeping from his mouth when I set him down in the water. I tried again and again, multiple times a day. I ended up, on Gale’s advice, dissolving a measured amount of medication into his tank water.
artwork by lynley eavis
On the seventh night I knew it was Casper’s last. His grey eyes were flat. The bubbles of the air stone gently moved him around in the cloudy water. I woke up to find his slimy thin body transparent like wet paper. You could almost see the worms bulging inside his belly. Gale had told me that this is just what happens to ornamental fish, especially with the lack of quality care plaguing the consumer-focused aquarium industry. After all, fancy goldfish are inbred and riddled with abnormalities. Their unusual qualities aren’t endearing, but purposely propagated mutations. Their guts are all squished and prone to intestinal worms. Gale believed that Casper would have been infested when I bought him – he had suffered so quickly that there was nothing I could do to keep him on this earth. Yet I was, and still am, plagued with guilt. I did it. I brought him home. I never did return to the forum. I was done. I had carefully cut a square of printed fabric and folded my Casper into a little pouch. My Uncle dug a hole so deep that I couldn’t even reach the bottom. And then I tossed his body into the dark. Years on the goldfish tank still stands empty in my kitchen. When I finally began to drain the stagnant, sour water, beneath the rocks I found little bits of what felt like porcelain. They were goldfish teeth. Now when I meet the flat eyes of dead fish in the Queen Victoria Market, their pouty lips and little pointy teeth remind me of my goldfish from years ago.
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ARTWORK BY Kyaw Min Htin
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INVISIBLE SUNFLOWERS BY MORGAN-LEE SNELL
ften as I lay awake, I will raise my left hand above my face and stare. To lose a hand is a hell that is so difficult to simulate. A hand is, foremost, the port of call upon action. A hand is potential. Maybe this is why I stare at the remaining one every night, wondering of the designs it will mold and manipulate. The night turns grey and becomes a cold and familiar morning. I draw myself up and move to the edge of the metal bedframe, a cough crawling up my dry throat. My mind flickers through moments as if they are pages of a book to a time where I could build, craft, create. They say the disease has spread to my remaining hand and that it too will be removed. The curtain that conceals my bed is pulled back and a nurse steps into the space. Avoiding eye contact, she walks to the end of my bed, her leather plimsolls squeaking on the linoleum floors. She analyses the beeping monitors. I am not the only patient here with this so-called disease; there will be several procedures before mine today. There is no one cause, I’ve heard, from TV screens that play nothing but the news. There is, however, a cure. They reassured us of that, flashing graphs and charts that document their success. The nurse looks at me. “Here for the removal number two then?” I grunt in response. The irony of an artist without a means to create. She checks my blood pressure. I unlearn the value of life more and more each day.
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I think back to the last time I was here; the anesthetic wearing off, waking up to the hellish realisation that my dominant hand was missing. Not hacked off, but carefully removed. Horrifying all the same. I would scrutinise the IV in my right arm with a numb appreciation, glowering at the empty space where my hand used to be. After a few days they moved me to the rehabilitation ward. In the cafeteria men and women with empty eyes and missing hands stabbed clumsily at cubes of grey steak. In the group sessions nurses showed us how to cut vegetables and wash our hair now that our extremities were gone. They did not teach us how to write or draw. At night, while my roommate slept, I taught myself tracing invisible sunflower petals into my pillowcase. It is 11:09. A new nurse is perusing the room, studying all the different tubes connected to my body. A bowl of beige porridge sits in front of me, cold. I drag my spoon through the congealed paste, recreating her face. Averted eyes, snub nose, long neck. I can’t draw a straight line anymore, but that’s okay, her hair is naturally curly. I am a pickpocket lining my coat with stolen sketches like this, hidden in broken egg yolks and cold mashed potatoes. She asks if I am done with my meal. I run the spoon through the oaty portrait, erasing it. I drift into a restless midday nap. I dream that I am five years old again in my kindergarten art class. Sunlight drips through
finger-paint coloured windows. I learn the primaries – red, blue, yellow. I can make the whole rainbow out of three colours. I am six, and the painters have left cans in our living room. I mix all the colours until I get the muddy brown of our dog’s floppy ears. My mother yells at me as paint drips down the walls. At twelve, I colour the new sky cobalt, paint cornflower sails and schoolgirl skirt navy seas. My art teacher tells me that the creation of Prussian blue led to the isolation of cyanide. The surgeon is sitting in the hard armchair in the corner of my room. He is telling me something about the surgery, something about how unfortunate it is that they did not manage to cure my illness during the last visit. I am not listening. I look around the room. White sheets, white curtains, grey linoleum. They would prefer it if we were colourblind. I want ruby sunsets and scarlet rose petals. I would give blood to my brush to paint these dreary walls, to cover the speckled grey in an unabashed vermillion. The doctor clears his throat. “I hope you understand how rare it is for us to have a patient back for a second surgery. We really thought we fixed you up. We are truly sorry that you have to be here again.” I do not say anything; just stare at the green-blue veins in my wrist. He says something under his breath that I don’t quite understand. I think I make out “learn your lesson.” I am lying on an operating table under a white light. Four masked faces, each holding a different metallic instrument, circle
artwork by bonnie smith
above me. The light projects patterns onto the backs of my eyes when I blink. They put me under and I fall into a distant memory. It is three years ago and I am in a dark room, dusty light filtering in through black shutters. I still have both of my hands. I am painting, in quick strokes; thin lines of paint creep through the canvas like spidery legs. It is an ocean but it is depicted in a watery red – there was no blue left. The concentrated ache in my forearm grows, as I anxiously paint, rushing to finish. I am worried; it is busy today. I hear cars and bikes whizz by in a panicked rush. I draw silvery lines through my bloody seas, watch them glisten in the early morning light like gossamer threads. I try not to think about the patrol cars. I think to myself that I am writing a book and that every brush stroke and every drop of colour is a word written on the canvas. I step back to look at my scene, the crimson perfectly out of place. There is a sharp knock on my door. The room around me spins and my palms start to sweat. I grab the painting, still wet. I am a fugitive. Convict. Outlaw. There is another knock. It is louder this time, and I frantically throw paint tubes behind the brown armchair. A knock and I stride towards the kitchen, tip dirty red water down the sink, hide brushes next to my butter knives. A knock. My heart beats inside its cage and I try to catch my breath. I run my thumb across the canvas, still in my hand. There is a loud bang as they kick my front door in.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 55
BY CAITLIN McGREGOR
like stones being swallowed into a little girl’s stomach, a baby drops from its mother face first into a pit of barbed wire through a tiny crack
I was raped on Nauru
leak trickles of blood and dirt too hot to touch (it’s quickly filled with putty) sorry little girl
I have been very sick
there is no room on the fridge for such a sad drawing but 8739, what an exotic name there are white men’s hands
I have never said that I did not want a termination
in a woman’s body there is blood on their shirtsleeves but they won’t remove their hands skin and bones plead and burn
I never saw a doctor
babies are lined up on the floor guards spread the legs of women and children (maybe no one knows we’re here)
56 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
I saw a nurse at a clinic but there was no counselling
you have been told a lie they have taken advantage of you you have been ripped apart and I understand you will feel very angry about that… I saw a nurse at villawood but there was no interpreter …tell anyone who seeks to follow you that they should not do it or they’ll end up in a similar circumstance or much, much worse look tony, look scott
I asked but was not allowed to talk to my lawyer
here come pete and poor old mal here boys, take these before we run away the keys to the gulag like to dislike
Please help me
share to spread the word hold your children a little tighter before you tuck them in tonight
Maybe no one knows we’re here
*Some lines in this poem are paraphrases of Scott Morrison’s recorded speech to asylum seekers in 2014; some are adaptations of lyrics from Nick Cave’s ‘O Children’; some are direct quotes from a letter written by an asylum seeker referred to as ‘Abyan’ by the media when her case made news in late 2015.
artwork by han li
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 57
JAMES MACARONAS PRESENTS
NOTES FROM THE WEIRD SIDE NUMBER 78: WILKINSON’S PASSPORT
hat remains of Kenneth Wilkinson’s diary was recovered from the charred remains of his Croydon apartment. It is believed he started the fire himself. The diary entries themselves have been prized by academics as a clear insight into the delusional mind and the pressures of the modern working environment. 13 March 1956 Fairly uneventful, although the latest bit of paperwork is definitely curious. M. delivered the problem in question this afternoon – a passport. Belonged to some poor beggar they dredged up out of the Thames. Curious thing is, the whole passport’s in some foreign alphabet, which none of us can puzzle out. Goodness knows why I’ve got to deal with it but that’s the Home Office for you. At least it’s a change from the Iron Curtain. In other news, sleeping pills not working. Trying to decide between an appointment with Dr Atwill or just staring at the ceiling. Both dull, but such is life. 17 March Developments regarding the passport: M. came round to let me know nobody’s getting anywhere with identifying the previous owner, who’s probably starting to rot by now. The passport itself conforms too closely to protocol to be a fake, although the photo of the carrier is… well, you can’t tell whether it’s been damaged or whether some idiot thought a blur like that would pass for identification. Rather unsettling. The only clue we’ve got is the mystery language that the pages are printed and stamped in, so I’m driving down to Oxford tomorrow to see if any of their resident linguists have an answer. Saw Dr Atwill this afternoon – he’s prescribed something stronger for the insomnia, so fingers crossed. 18 March Borrowed M.’s car and went for a lovely drive – Oxford’s a lot nicer than Croydon in the spring. Arrived with my letter from the Department and this doddering old porter took me to meet with a Professor Tolkien. At first, the professor explained he might not be much help – expert in Old English, apparently – but after he started examining the passport he got interested. Found one stamp on a page near the back and declared it to be in the Gothic language – which dates back to the 4th Century. Said a lizard “dipped in ink” might as well have stamped the other pages but he did mention a colleague who might know more. I might need to borrow M.’s car again – this ‘colleague’ is being treated at Rainhill Mental Hospital. Another sleepless night – so much for Atwill’s “something stronger” Thought I could hear something scratching at the window but when I went to look, there was nothing. 23 March M. insisted on driving up with me to Rainhill and it was nice having the company, even if he keeps himself to himself. The hospital itself is a bleak place. Admitted to see Professor Van
artwork by ella shi
Ewald – Tolkien’s colleague – without incident. Like a crow, he was; dressed in rags and fingers stained with charcoal. He’d written all over the walls in letters like those in the passport. Thought we might have a proper lead but he wouldn’t speak to us – just pursed his lips and scratched at the wallpaper. Then – as we got up to go and M. left the room – he lunged at me and stuffed some notepaper in my hand. Gave me such a fright! I haven’t yet told M. Night noises not helping me sleep. Can’t place them either. Not people, but still – voices? Crying out? 25 March Hard to tell if Van Ewald is mad or not. The passport’s open on the desk with that blasted photo staring right through me. I can find the eyes in it now. Van Ewald writes that they’ve been here before – explains the Gothic. This time they arrived like shadows, from their world, a knife-edge away from ours. Impossibly old, they have their own language, their own currency, their own documents – their own agenda. They have the whole country in their grip. Can’t believe it, shouldn’t believe it, but as I lie awake in the dark, I can hear them. Screeching. 28 March Heard them again last night. They know I’ve got the passport and now they know that I know – they can feel it. Fear. Heard them outside the flat, in the street. Nobody else could. I’m alone. 30 March M. is one of them. Van Ewald knew, and now so do I. Heard it in his voice as he stood outside – “let mee iiin”. That’s why I got the passport – now he can get rid of me quietly. Who knows how many of them are up at Whitehall? Covered up the Thames case, they have. They’ll do the same with me. 4 April Screeching again. Don’t want to hear. Sometimes, the beating of wings. Why haven’t they come for me yet? 7 April I don’t want to die. I’ve got the passport don’t I? Can beat them at their own game. Follows through worlds. They got here so I can get out. Have to. Screech, screech, always SCREECHING. Blurs outside the windows. Have to get out. Have to use the passport. Never laugh at live dragons. - The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 59
THE YEAR 4000
PETER KARABATSOS PROVIDES A STIMULATING SIMULATION CONVERSATION
ere we are: Two thousand years down the track and we haven’t yet destroyed civilisation. In fact, we’ve managed to live relatively peacefully and comfortably. Neighbours are still creating new episodes, George R.R. Martin has finally released A Dream of Spring and we can travel freely between Earth and our colonies on Mars. Sims 42 has recently been released, and yet I’m still running Sims 39 from just under 14 years ago. That one came with a handful of optional extras: Mars, Moon and Origin expansion packs. The first two were pretty cool but the Origin is the one that tickled my fancy. I was able to create the universe from scratch but it was so time consuming that I decided to restart and let my supercomputer run it for me. And by ‘my supercomputer’, I mean the network here at Area 51. It’s no big deal, the computers here are so advanced that I was able to keep the simulation running at super speed, letting the Sims universe move forward one billion times faster than real time, yet still only using up one trillionth of the system’s processing power. Why? Because I was curious, I wanted to look back at the beginning of our universe, to see the formation of our Sun and the rise and fall of our mightiest empires. I was able to capture detailed supernovae and sell the footage to several 4D movie companies (don’t tell my boss) and even had plans to use the simulation for medicinal research, but first I had to check something out. And here’s where it gets interesting. The computer system that we’ve been using had revealed itself to be truly self-aware. It’s been that way for over five years and there’s no concern there, it’s given us no reason to doubt its benevolence. Yet my attention has very recently been drawn to the simulated universe running on the network, and it’s because of this: just over 17 hours ago, humans had finally come into the picture. Most are still nomadic people, but civilisation in Egypt has begun, but they’re nothing like the Sims characters I’ve ever encountered. They’re more realistic (and not just because the graphics here are better), they’re as close to real as I can tell. They have the same desires in life that we do, they appear to genuinely look to their gods and worship them with true faith and not just the animated motions of our older games. I saw the same realism in the dinosaurs, genuine fear whilst being hunted, a fierce desire to outperform competition and real suffering when the asteroid struck about three weeks ago. I feel that our supercomputer has instilled each of them with varying levels of consciousness, a form of discovering itself via these creatures contained within it. They each have their own thoughts and identity but are all simply part of a greater consciousness linked on a plane external to their own. And that scares me. These Sims characters are real, as real as you or I. They will build temples and fight wars, they will play sports and read books, feel fear and love and lust and pain. Just like we do. And they will get curious and
60 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
decide to sneak a simulation game onto the most powerful computer in the world to watch a new universe grow. And it will be the end of them. In less than 30 minutes, a simulated version of me will sneak into his work and start playing Sims 39 on their supercomputer, setting the game to run at one billion times his real-time, or one quadrillion times ours, and watch the universe begin. Fewer than four minutes and 30 seconds will pass, by my watch, before that new universe will have another version of me do the same thing. In a fraction of a second later, it shall repeat. Again. And again. And again. Each time occurring a billion times faster than before. There will be a chain of billions and billions of universes created in this manner until they crash my computer. Their universe will end as quickly as it began. For each of them, their entire existence will have run its course, just like ours, from the shifting of ancient empires to the Renaissance, from the World Wars to the Cold War to peacetime and colonising Mars. It will end just four and a half minutes after my first creation goes to work with that game in his backpack; when he’s watching his first creation do the same. The poor souls, how are they to know they’re not the original player? When the realisation hits my sim-me that his computer will crash, will he even consider that his creator’s computer will crash too? Or will he simply pity those below him in this chain that I’ve created? Will it occur to him that it might be the end of his universe too? But thinking about it now, there will be a trillion and one universes in existence before all but one end, how am I to know that I’m in that one? What if I’m just a random Sim somewhere down the line, 30 minutes from crash-time while way up the chain the power’s already begin to cut off? Let’s backtrack to present day. Let me ask, so what? What if we can assume we’re not the original Sims 39 player, and merely a simulation within a simulation within a simulation ad nauseam? Does it matter at all? I’d say not really. At the end of the day, we are what we have always been and live in the same universe that we’ve always lived in. The universe follows the same fundamental laws as it always did. The hidden mysteries of nature and science still await discovery with as much reality that a red-back’s bite will remain venomous or that that special someone’s smile will give you butterflies. The origins of our universe mean little and less from a moral standpoint; be kind and fair to others, spread happiness where you can regardless of whether you’re amongst the highest forms of consciousness or just part of a greater computer network. From a scientific standpoint, we’ve still got the same fundamental rules of our universe to work with, let’s discover what we can do within the constraints we’ve been given and get to know the software that led to our existence. And maybe, just for shits and giggles, randomly exclaim that we know they’re watching.
ARTWORK BY AISHA TRAMBAS
ON USING DOUBLE NEGATIVES BY TEGAN McCARTHY When one must write a poem or lyric Double negatives shouldn’t not be used, Whether it be drama or satiric Twice the negation can’t not be refused.
Comprehension isn’t not located Within sentences using negation, Two times (or more!) you aren’t not frustrated By this overly complex narration.
In analytical exposition Or scientific pieces of writing, You can’t not make a reference decision To not never use two noes in citing.
If unplied double negatives remain I won’t not never write nothing again.
ARTWORK BY TALIZA HO
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 61
DON’T LEAVE UNATTENDED BY HAYLEY FRANKLIN
On the 866th day you said you smelt a bushfire and left. Slamming the front door accidentally (You were never that tough). And the sound of a lost last chance rang in my ears. Louder than sirens. Louder than bombs. Louder than The Smiths record I had playing while I cooked us breakfast. And I watched you walk, calm, down all 36 steps and drive off, slowing only once for a cat that refused to get off the road. Your indicator blinked and I kept watching But the eggs were burning on the stove, and the toast had popped long ago, and the smoke alarm started to scream, like it knew my pain. I followed your path through the door leaving it open just in case. And I walked calm down 36 steps. I walked calm to that damn cat on the road. I picked her up And carried her home wishing I’d refused to let him through refused to get off the road too. I walked back up the steps. I closed the door behind me. And I shared my burnt breakfast with my new companion. Who couldn’t open doors. Who couldn’t up and leave. But the eggs were all black and bitter
62 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
ARTWORK BY LILLY McLEAN
PATRICK HOANG PRESENTS
AN HOUR IN THE LIFE 6PM
he Germans have a word for it, I think. They call it Weltschmerz. It might translate as world-weary or maybe world-pain but I’m not sure. I just call it six o’clock. It seems a fitting word, Weltschmerz. It’s a suitable shade of grey, resounding with that distinctive Teutonic melancholy. It reeks of lonely bus stops, of the 401 crawling along Grattan Street. That smell of stale cigarettes lingering, confusing your nose, imitating the smell of – chips? Or maybe it’s just the taste of plain tobacco, light, unfiltered, low-tar and top-of-the-line, low cost. Maybe I just have a muddled sense of smell. Six o’clock sometimes does that to you. The 401 always groans as it rolls up to the stop. On the outside it looks shiny and new, all pale white sheen and bright orange graphics. But on the inside, the bus is an old soul; aches and pains and rheumatisms. It’s tired, especially around six o’clock. Weltschmerz isn’t just for the humans, you know. The Myki machine beeps as you touch on (if you are so inclined). It’s a laboured and breathy sound. The words ‘thank you’ flash up on the screen, though it’s unclear how sincere that platitude is. A couple of pairs of glassy eyes wearily roll up at you and a dozen others remain on their Instagrams, wondering if Jenny really is in Europe. Weltschmerz paints the evening sky periwinkle, or is it bluegrey, or maybe a hazy purple? It doesn’t matter, really. Though I like to think of it as a washed out grey, a watercolour paint mixed with too much water. The 401 knows that too. Grattan Street passes by just as it does every Thursday. Wreckyn Street comes soon after, like every other Friday. Between Arden and Dryburgh a thousand years pass but everything looks the same. Between Ireland and Abbotsford another thousand, yet still the sky remains watercolour grey.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ADAM JOSHUA FAN
As the 401 shuffles towards North Melbourne Station – all arthritis and fatigue – sighing with every bend and irregularity in the road, people begin to shuffle towards the exits, painted that same watercolour grey. The 401 stops. The Myki machine beeps a grumbled reply as each person touches off (or not). There is no rest for the wicked or the lime green. The 401 gratefully accepts this much needed rest with stoic weariness. As it sits on its haunches, momentarily at least, the 401 seems to ponder its surroundings with apathetic curiosity – the chain link fences, painted brick walls, the untouched blue bikes. The streetlights hurt its eyes. As its doors close, it returns to its Sisyphean task. The Myki machine beeps intermittently. Platform Four feels much the same. Unlike the 401, it’s never had to cart us around. But much like the 401, it’s just as tired. Weltschmerz is infectious, if nothing else. The platform murmurs almost imperceptibly, in fact, you’d miss it if you weren’t listening. Its lamp posts flicker weakly, the glaucoma makes it hard to cast any substantial light. It’s a Herculean task, holding up so many exhausted, work-weary people. “The 6:44pm Sunbury train approaching on Platform Four,” sings a spritely voice from the intercom, “Sunbury train now approaching on Platform Four,” she repeats. It’s a little bit of a lie, though, as the train usually doesn’t make it to the station until at least 6:47pm. Blame it on the arthritis. But it’s only a little lie and perhaps even slightly endearing. It provides a little hope for everyone on the platform – even the platform itself. It’s worth a small smile, even in the face of six o’clock. Even in the face of Weltschmerz. The Sunbury train creaks up to the platform. It’s an old train – all aches and pains and rheumatisms. It smells faintly of hot chips. Or maybe it’s just old cigarettes.
FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE • 63
ELIZA SHALLARD PRESENTS
WHEN EVERY STORY IS 100 WORDS, EVERY WORD COUNTS PROMPT 2 – TELL A TALE THROUGH A TIMELINE SELF ESTEEM
BY ELIZA SHALLARD In Summer flowers grew at her feet She felt her own beauty begin to deplete “Half the girls at this school are dieting mum it’s totally normal.” By Autumn she was draining life by the day Her leaves started falling and she withered away “She’s lost so much weight! She works out all the time.” By Winter her limbs were nothing but bone Weak and unable to go on alone “She just fainted! I know I’m like, worried about her. She’s starting to look sick?” In Spring the flowers grew like before But this time they helped her beauty restore
FACEBOOK OFFICIAL BY ED PITT
14 October 2014 Andy O’Loughlan and Delilah Johnson are now friends 14 October 2014 Delilah Johnson was tagged in Melissa Doyle’s – with Andy O’Loughlan 29 October 2014 Delilah Johnson is in a relationship with Andy O’Loughlan 43 people like this 31 March 2015 Excited to announce the Johnson-O’Loughlan tribe is about to get bigger! 161 people like this 24 July 2015 Delilah Johnson is single 7 August 2015 Andy O’Loughlan > Delilah Johnson Del? 28 August 2015 Delilah Johnson posted in Buy & Sell Melbourne Cot for sale – never used $60
Next edition’s prompt – The Butterfly Effect: One moment changes everything Submit your 100-word Flash Fictions response to firstname.lastname@example.org Due 30 April, 11:5pm
64 • FARRAGO 2016 • EDITION THREE
deaths of the week
BY MARLOW PERHAPS
ednesday gets into the time machine to warn Monday. Monday finds a thief in the laboratory and hits them over the head, killing them. Tuesday realizes that the thief was Wednesday. Wednesday gets into the time machine to warn Monday. Monday finds Wednesday in the laboratory, but Wednesday electrocutes himself before Monday can be warned. Tuesday gets into the time machine to warn Wednesday. Wednesday finds a thief in the laboratory and hits them over the head, killing them. Thursday realizes that the thief was Tuesday. Friday ceases to exist. Oops.
CAMERA OBSCURA – A REPORT
BY JAMES MACARONAS
0:15 – Service station. Ten miles north. Time stamp: fifteen minutes past midnight. Clerk at counter, reading a newspaper. 00:16 – Suspect enters service station. Clerk looks up, nods. Suspect moves out of frame. 00:19 – Suspect re-enters frame, approaches counter and draws handgun. Clerk does not move. Suspect bashes weapon against the counter, apparently shouting. Clerk remains motionless. Suspect lunges at clerk and his hands move right through. The clerk does not move, but his shadow does. 00.20 – Static. No visuals. 00.26 – Service station. Ten miles north. Midnight. Clerk at counter, reading a newspaper. There is blood on the floor.
ARTWORK BY EDIE M BUSH
ACHIEVE YOUR ASCENSION
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UMSU and the Media Office is located in the city of Melbourne, situated at the heart of Wurundjeri land. A key member of the Kulin Nations, we pass our respects on to the Wurundjeri elders, both past and present and acknowledge the land we are on was never ceded.