Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm Doing Something Right I Guess

I'm not good at travel, I always feel like I'm letting somebody down when I go. Because I can never come back and just be 'It's AMAZING, WOW!!! My whole perspective in life has changed!!!' blah blah blah.

My mother, (who worries) is worried about this past behaviour of mine. I've never been the excitable type, but I'm not the type to go travelling like I'm getting some kind of hit.

I'm really emotional and reluctant to leave. Part of this I'm sure is that I am losing my sister to New York while I'm away, I'll probably not live with her again and she will simply be gone when I come back. Another part is that John my coconspirator will have moved to Sydney whilst I'm away, and he will be missed as well.

But I also just miss Melbourne. I've never been able to relate to people who have a desire to leave it. Maybe if you grew up here, I don't know. I find that 'travel broadens you' is fundamentally true, but isn't some silver bullet cure all.

I remember a line from 'In the Lake of the Woods' a prescribed text when I was in year 10 or 11 that read something like 'they moved there as if happiness was a physical place on earth.' which I think many who 'love' travel are prone to thinking.

I also remember in Lisa Pryor's 'Pinstripe Prison' on the lifestyle sale of jetsetting corporate worker's travel experiences 'I think a lot of people who travel want to because they aren't happy where they are.' as in travel is an escape, quite literrarily escapist.

Not so, I. I am also reminded of crappy self help book that's contents is literally on its cover 'it's called a "break-up" because it's "broken"' and think that 'taking a break' kind of implies that you are attempting to fracture or destroy your life by journeying abroad.

This was certainly the case last time I left the country - I literally packed all my life into boxes and within 24 hours had nothing but a passport, a credit card and some pyjama's in a capsule in Osaka.

I'm afraid that this trip will be that trip writ small, that I will have my strange isolated depression that I got in Thailand, where I couldn't force myself out of my hotel room before 1 in the afternoon and then on the pretext of needing to eat.

There is some stuff in my life that needs breaking, but not much. Bad routines I've fallen into. And it will be nice not to have to work. And it will be great seeing all my people's of Japan, whom seldom use facebook, call or think outside the boarders of their own country, whom love me as dearly as I love them.

But I decided to do this trip at New Years, I let them know and gave them my word. My word I take very seriously, but I'm so reluctant to let go of this city, my home.

I love Melbourne, I love its people, I love my life here. I guess if anything my anxiety at leaving even for a relatively short 6 weeks reflects that my home is truly a home and I'm doing something right.

Superfluous H: What could have been and was.

So superfluous_h had there first and ostensibly last performance last night. This was my first time performing as an artist. The whole thing is a blur to me. The process of drawing is so absorbing that I really was only conscious of what I was doing between pieces and right at the start, just getting started.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, like better than I ever could have hoped for, I guess once again proving I'm my own harshest critic. The only thing I found odd was people clapped between each piece/song in our set. I found this strange, getting appluaded for a drawing. Not good or bad, just strange. I guess I clap after each number in a bands set, so I don't know.

At the same time I felt really self conscious. Just like my face was burning up the whole time, it was weird, I don't think I choked or anything.

We played for an hour and did I don't know somewhere between 8-10 pieces in the end. John layed down his tracks really well, and I didn't have a single composition I needed to scrunch up midway through.

For my part, the drawing side, it's been really bizarre and incredibly interesting project to develop. There's a number of challenges in trying to bridge the audio/visual divide and a number of solutions that John and I have been looking at and exploring. Maybe I'll give you a brief run down of the history of the project.

It started with a copy of Japanzine which I read in early 2008, featuring VJ and artist Shantell Martin whom really is as far as I can deduce the pioneer of this 'illustrated music' thing, as in doing it live.

She used digital painting on a tablet projected at nightclubs to avant guard dance music. I don't like dance music, and particularly not avant guard ones, so I approached my sax playing friend from the Skylines about doing something like this, using the terms VJ and sending him some clips of Shantell's work + De La Soul's 'I Be Blowin' suggesting we do something like that together. Sean never responded to my email.

Then I mentioned it to a drummer whom was initially keen, but fell through when I started running wild with my imagination and talking about how ambitious I wanted the project to be and how much work was involved. I also was really getting into 'The Pleasure Principle' at the time, which was far from the preferred jazzy style of that collaborator.

Then came looking for an exhibition space for a solo show. Ironically John came at me with feedback about my unbridled ambitions for the show and suggested I do something smaller and more grass roots. Contrary to his advice on cutting back I asked him if he was interested in doing this VJing thing.

Emails were exchanged and here is where John was for me at least an ideal collaborator. He could at once accept the scope and magnitude of my inspiration and ideas, whilst pragmaticcally drawing everything back to something that could be achieved.

It became this challenge of trying to make an accessible visual/audio artpiece. Drawing to music. The problems being many just to name a few and whether musician or artist I would definitely recommend taking on these challenges some day:

1. With drawing the 'details' or soloing, takes most of the time, the construction or 'rhythm' of the piece is important but takes less time to lay down. Music is the reverse, the rhythmic components of the song, the chorus the melody are 90% of the composition or more, the solo is the least.

2. 14 minutes is a really long song but a really quick drawing. 7 minutes is flying.

3. It is much easier for me to draw any kind of subject matter than a musician to play any style of music.

4. A visual composition is usually fairly linear - foreground to background, left to right, top to bottom. Music jumps around.

These are really the tip of the iceberg of interesting things trying to draw live to improvised music. Then there's how to match musical sounds to an artists repertoir of mediums and tools. What does a sharpie sound like compared to a copic marker? These are different from the more obvious questions of how does green sound compared to blue?

So we just rehearsed, and built up a repertoir of tricks and things and ideas, and many of the quality ones we managed to pull off in new and improvised ways last night for a crowd of 12-15 or so. Which I was exceptionally pleased with.

And yet, it's bittersweet. I'm losing John to Sydney. We really only scratched the surface of what we can do as an act, and that was it, that was our one and only act. I'll definitely resurrect it in one form or another, but John is irreplaceable.

He really was the perfect collaborator for this project. Like me he is largely self instructed in music, we have similar approaches to problem solving.

John is one of those rare people that is both reliable and easy going at once. If he says he'll be somewhere he generally will be, but at the same time, is not anally retintive with holding others to such expectations of reliability. He assumes the respect he pays others but does not expect it of them. Its qualities like these I strive to have, whether I do or not is not my subjective experience to say, but John in my opinion does.

As sure as I am he will read these words I'll also miss him as an evangelical supporter of my creative works.

It'll be hard to work with other people that don't read too much into my highly self-critical (extended to collaborators) approach that he never actually seemed to take personally or attribute any maliciousness on my part. (I just calls it as I sees it). Somebody willing to put in the hours of practice, without acting like I'm putting them under pressure.

They will be literally big shoes to fill.

I wish superfluous h could continue, and play bars with data projectors and fancy drinks and lemon slices in the complimentary water. I wish we could practice performing for 3 or more years till we become a true example of creative synesthesia. It's not going to happen, at least not like I want it to. But what we've done is more than most other audio/visual collabs seem to achieve (John maintains he couldn't find any examples of people doing anything like it, the audience we had seemed to act that way as well)

So this is a notch among my notches on my notch system of self esteem and achievement. And a farewell to John.

John on the guitars ladies and gentlemen...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing Again

I finally started writing a comic script, I have been not doing that for too long. I was reading Rafael Grampa's blog and how he just decided to write a comic one year. He seemed so slap dash about creating his eisner winning debut comic. I don't have his artistic ability yet, but just adopting that mindset of 'I need to make a comic' made me think in a way that I've been putting off.

I actually looked at an idea I've had kicking around, and rather than worrying about it's derivitiveness, it's obtuseness or substantiveness, I just thought 'if I cut out that, quit trying to do that and just get this done it can work.' and sat down to write it.

12 moments helped because I've gotten used to working with other people's scripts that I know where to cut corners in the writing process. Because I'm my own artist and translating my visual conception into a script to then be retranslated back into visuals, I just write things like 'Page 4: A bunch of panels' knowing I can figure out the layout when I thumbnail it.

Still I have only written half a chapter of a 5-6 chapter story so it's early days yet. But expect a new webcomic relatively soon.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Coupon Millionaire

I have completely forgotten who I was talking to when I went completely off the radar over the extended weekend of drinking and stuff. But I have come to realise that I never wanted money, never have and hopefully never will (since infuriatingly for others, it seems to simply fall into my lap) but I do fantasize about being a millionaire-in-kind.

The things that thrill me, make me happiest are when I recieve some gratuity from a friend, like being put on the door at a gig, or getting taken out for dinner. I'm at the stage where if I can't live off my artwork I can at least eat off it.

This is the future I am building towards, where perplexingly I can be wealthy simply by being a guest of other wealthy people.

But I wish to emphasize that I don't mean to just basically freeload, I feel success to me is being appreciated by the people I most appreciate. Rather than exchanging money, I wish to exchange favors with people I love more than say 'customers'.

As salt 'n pepa said 'The difference between a hooker and a ho and nothin but a fee.' I guess I want to be a ho rather than a hooker.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I'm male, white and straight. As my friend said to me 'your stars are all aligned' I have a frictionless path through the norms of the society I live in and thus little to gain by understanding the world through the prism of LGBTIQ issues.

Why then touch anything remotely gender studies related? Well for me the exercise is probably intellectual, reexmining 'gender' is like having your thumb pressed over the hose of a beer bong (hear me out). The social conditioning of gender is so omnipresent in everyday life that the exercise of actually thinking about it is like removing your thumb from the onrush of alcoholic beverage that you have no choice but to swallow and makes you feel confused and disoriented in a short space of time.

I thought though I should post my views about gender before I actually get enlightened so I can go back and compare after the process of reading books on the subject. So here in no particular order is a list of my probably naive and ignorant views.

Lou Gehrig

Malcolm Gladwell is fond of an old Jewish saying 'To a worm in horseradish the world is horseradish.' To which my operating assumption is, to people whom Gender is an active part of their identity... I should clarify what I mean by that. My gender is not a part of my identity, by which case it is, but it's just a box I tick and don't think much about much like my street address or postcode, it occupies the same conscious importance. Although I do feel like a Northern Suburb person trapped in an Eastern Suburb often... so yes.

But for people who are oft, identified as having a Gender Identity Disorder (GID) clinical words not mine, I imagine gender becomes a big part of your identity, not just a box you tick but a constant confrontation. If you don't neatly fit in one of two boxes, that struggle to define your gender can occupy a large part of your conscious life. To be melodramatic it can become your whole life.

Now if you are not already aware or have deduced, pretty much all the thinking I do is of the 'quick and dirty' variety, I argue almost always from analogy, and equivocate things. So to borrow for convenience the dubious GID label, people identified with GID to me are similar to people suffering Lou Gehrig's disease. That is it's A) beyond their control, B) a huge part of their life C) not broadly thought about by society.

I imagine that there are differences as well to having a debilitating condition and GID's for one thing, if you are suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease your family will probably rally round you in support rather than passively or actively oppose your treatment/identity etc. Also, you are probably more likely to be in sync with your families desire to NOT have Lou Gehrig's disease. This is why such thinking of mine is quick and dirty.

Gender is Quick and Dirty

All binary thinking is. And it works, in the same way as a 'rule of thumb' works. Or in the same way that left and right handedness works, with exceptions like Ambidexterity and people with no coordination whatsoever like John Howard.

But when I say 'works' I must admit that it is confronting to think of how few situations where it actually needs to. All of the situations to me involve sexual preference. That is public change rooms, and people's aversion to perverts.

I have a sexual preference, I don't want a cock in me, ever. I'm sure there are many guys that identify as straight that wouldn't mind being penetrated by a ladies finger or taken to by a woman wearing a strap on, I am not as far as yet, one of those guys.

Some people have two preferences, others a whole rainbow spectrum. But nevertheless, women who want women and women who want men would probably neither appreciate me arbitrarily identifying as 'F' and taking a seat in their change rooms. Or even getting changed in their changerooms.

Will the future see more unisex public toilets? This is often the norm in small restaurants, many public parks, some bars and the Ally McBeal office. As someone who quickly and dirtily identifies as male, I feel this would only result in everyone losing. There are a bunch of guys, who piss all over the seats. I don't understand their psychology, I don't think I want to, I don't identify with these 'men' as being in the same gender category to me and often affix 'not-real' to the identifier men.

Aside from that, mens and womens clothing is pretty arbitrary and 'men's and women's jobs' is archaic. Gender shouldn't actually crop up that often.


'Real' is the important qualifier. I most often hear the term 'Real man' and can't think of a time when I heard somebody use 'real woman' more often hearing 'whole-lotta-woman' or 'proper lady'. But real-men is used, by myself and others.

If I had to guesstimate, to anyone transitioning genders or even gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, the issues are mostly centered on the word 'real'. I feel notions of 'real men sleep with real women' and vice versa to be not worth my talking about it, because anyone educated enough to use the term 'zenith' or 'nadir' in a conversation is probably not going to rough up gays and lesbians.

But to somebody born with an Xand Y chromosome that feels trapped in a 'male' body and wishes to become a female faces the uphill battle of ever being acknowledged as female.

This is gender identity issues as far as I thus far understand, these labels that seem obligatory in our society and the difficulty with which some people find to get identified as one and not the other, both or neither.

So you were born, raised as a female on account of your vagina, told you were a female but always inside knew you were male. You manage to consciously articulate this to yourself, then to others, then chose to start identifying as a male, then you told me and I was all like 'dude, you're a lady.'

I reject your chosen gender identity. This is not because I have known you for ever, disrespect you and wish to oppress you, but because your life consists of situations where you are introduced to a stranger like me and my eyes, ears, possibly nose are making quick and dirty decisions about whether you are male or female, and I will come to a (probably) subconscious decision one way or the other as to your gender and in most if not all cases will think it rather than say it.

And that is annoying, upsetting etc. for anybody transgender or 'suffering' from a 'GID'. I after reading up, may come to be less assuming about what one's gender is upon meeting and even now would probably say 'I stand corrected' if my normative assumptions are contradicted by what people report to me.

But seemless, frictionless integration into what my life is like as a 'male' is the dream and the nightmare to achieve by anyone transitioning in the male direction. They can have surgery, take hormone treatments and order a whole new wardrobe, but children 6 and upwards are going to look at them like something isn't right (and some will come to identify with them, which is heroic) in the same way that people don't trust assymetrical faces instinctively.

To my current speculation/understanding surgical solutions to gender identity are imperfect, and in my view perhaps quite imperfect, in the same way that somebody who's conscious experience rejects the 'normal' number of limbs and has a strong desire to have an arm amputated that is mechanically and cosmetically 'perfect' is hard to understand, I'm sure if growing a new 'male' or 'female' body in a vat and then having your conscious transferred to it was an option, almost no gender transition surgery or hormone treatment would take place.

If we could hang our physical bodies on a rack in a wardrobe and switch as easily as we can clothes, almost none of these issus would exist and they'd be replaced with a whole bunch of new ones.

So in summarium of the 'real' man and 'real' woman topic, I empathise with both sides. It is far easier to negatively screen man and woman than it is to come up with a checklist of qualities that make you a man or a woman. Having said that even negative screening is a difficult undertaking.

I chose to identify myself as 'tohm' that's my name. It is annoying and perplexing to see people inevitably pronounce my name 'to-HM' when they first learn of this vanity, even after people figure out it's pronounced 'tom' like 'john' is pronounced 'jon' people often miss the fact that I always spell my name with a lower-case 't' and don't use a surname. Because of all the boxes in society, I am required to fill out a surname for email accounts, jobs, facebook etc.

My choice to identify as tohm is not one I ever expect the world to embrace, that a consciousness raising campaign would rectify and that my wikipedia page wouldn't include 'born Thomas William...' somewhere in the introductory paragraph. It's annoying, but it is part of my identity, and not as actively or passively rejected or confronted as something like gender. But people's insistence on pronouncing the 'h' is what I would call a normative or natural reaction. It is not worth actively getting frustrated with, people get over it and come to accept it.

I imagine one by one, people will accept your gender or sexual preference in time, their ability to do so also becomes their problem not yours. (though yes, there may be real consequences for you).

A numbers game

I have little to say beyond the fact that I believe gender to simply be one of those quick and dirty rules that works for most but not for some. They are clusters though rather than boxes, with overlap and hazy edges, and simplifying them into boxes has come with a huge bunch of problems for a relatively small bunch of people.

I just read that 1 in 2000 babies born has 'ambiguous' genitalia and requires an expert to determine the 'true' sex of the child. Physicallity of sex aside, the number of people who are queer in gender and/or preference must be a significantly larger proportion.

I don't know/don't care to much about the exact numbers, suffice to say I'm sure that any of the LGBTIQ crowd or combined are still a minority. I am a member of a minority myself being left handed, and as a lefty I wonder if that ratio were to hit 1 in 10 or higher (and for LGBTIQ to achieve some kind of actual solidarity, I have seen little of the LGBTIQ but I'm pretty sure it's a capital 'L' a giant 'G' and then diminishing b-t-i-q's in terms of causes identified with by the protest turn outs) then many of these issues would need addressing.

Whether you have the most obscure gender identity issues on the planet, I firmly believe that nobody, NOBODY is worth neglecting, or passive or active rejection from society. Well, fucken antisocial 'criminals' but gender identity is neither anti social nor criminal in my view. But if the numbers were large the issues would probably be addressed.

I was in primary school at a time when I actually had to ask for left-handed scissors and teachers went scurrying off to find the few pair the school owned. They had their own colours and picked me out in class like armbands in a warsaw ghetto. Except primary school bears no real comparison to the holocaust (or Poland), but eventually some genius figured out that it would be easier just to make/order ambidextrous scissors.

I hope increasingly society defaults to pansexual solutions, and gender identity becomes an ever diminishing part of everyone's life. In the same way I hope for a future where it is no big deal for any guy in any bar to approach another guy romantically and for 'sorry I'm straight' to be the response rather than 'get away from me you fucken' queer!'.

Which I guess I'm saying, how I would naturally react when meeting Chaz Bono for the first time in said future, I don't know, I really don't know.

But I should point out that Lou Gehrig's disease is a horrible condition and we should all do what little we can to help find a cure, ease the lifestyles of those who are afflicted with it.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


I have run a marathon. It cannot be unrun, it can never be taken away from me, even though my legs might. I ran it in 3:46. It was hard, but I'd still say preferable to a competitive 800m.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

One Nice Thing

6 years ago if you'd asked me would I experience/find true love I would have said 'yes.' And I would have been exactly right for the exact wrong reason. Because 6 years ago I envisioned myself in the arms of some crazy and beautiful woman. Which didn't happen. Well briefly that happened as well...

BUT if you take as a working definition (a behavioural definition) of love 'elevating the needs of another to those of your own.' then yes I have this true love, but instead of some beautiful and crazy woman I have a family of aghani refugees.

You know you have achieved the above definition of true love when 'the line between giving and recieving becomes blurred' and when I took the Nazari's to Imax so that little Fatima could see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 in 3D I felt wonderful.

I can go and basically see any movie I want any time I want any day of the week. It's not a big deal for me, I have a highly disposable income and am pretty much master of my own time. But to be able to score some free tickets for a family with no disposable income and see them go to the movies together, to give them some respite from the almost constant struggle their lives are, gives me a kind of joy I could not buy for myself.

Well maybe, I felt an intense euphoria when I waved them into the cinema and went back out into the sunlight, probably more intense than anything a movie like Harry Potter will evoke, and I feel it is an achievement to feel such euphoria without taking some kind of opiate.

This is one of those nice things that I think allows me to die having done a good job in life. I would regret dying of course, but much less than if I was just some self indulgent prick...

except when you indulge somebody you love, you indulge yourself. That's the catch isn't it.