Oh, this journey we call life

Recently I went to a very quiet place to be very quiet. I will write about this quiet time soon (which in my head was, in fact, quite noisy), but for now I wanted to leave you with this from the delightful Margaret Atwood. It really says everything I want to say about my recent journey and, yes… life.

Mostly

that travel is not the easy going

from point to point, a dotted

line on a map, location

plotted on a square surface

but that I move surrounded by a tangle

of branches, a net of air and alternate

light and dark, at all times;

that there are no destinations

apart from this.

“Journey to the Interior” — Margaret Atwood

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20 Historic Black and White Photos Colorized

My immediate response when viewing these colorized pictures was: “oh, no! That’s not at all right.” I wondered what the reasons were for my abrupt reaction. Was this initial response an objection to the particular colours used? Upon closer inspection I couldn’t say that it was. The hues and tones seemed fitting for each context. ‘Well, fitting enough,’ I thought, ‘because how would I know what the colour of the world looked like at this time?’ I realised then that my initial objection had nothing to do with aesthetic techniques and everything to do with the rupture in time that the manipulated photographs caused. In short: it offended my sensibility of time. The past—the “long ago past,” or what children endearingly refer to as “the olden days”—has always been represented in photography in black and white. Painting and written text have gone a long way to colour this era for us, but photographs assume a certain authority on ‘reality;’ an authority that, however false, has clearly fooled some part of my brain into categorizing a large portion of history as black and white, as colourless. These artists have messed with that categorization and ultimately provoked a question I am always interested in exploring, namely, is time and history static, or is it something moving, complex, and non-linear? Projects like this move us towards the latter position. They allow us to problematise grand narratives of time and history; to think about what is in the frame and what is left out; to interrogate how representations affect our understandings of the past and the present.

Needless to say, I like this project a lot 🙂

TwistedSifter

 

One of the greatest facets of reddit are the thriving subreddits, niche communities of people who share a passion for a specific topic. One of the Sifter’s personal favourites is r/ColorizedHistory. The major contributors are a mix of professional and amateur colorizers that bring historic photos to life through color. All of them are highly skilled digital artists that use a combination of historical reference material and a natural eye for colour.

When we see old photos in black and white, we sometimes forget that life back then was experienced in the same vibrant colours that surround us today. This gallery of talented artists helps us remember that 🙂

Below you will find a collection of some of the highest rated colorized images to date on r/ColorizedHistory.

I’ve also provide a list of some of the top contributors (in no particular order):

zuzahin aka Mads…

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Been There, Heard That: 6 September 2013

This week on “Been There, Heard That,” we see a solid mix of everyday life and the Australian election campaign spurring people’s discourse.

Rudd v Abbott

It’s all too easy to stress about not stressing. My friend K-Maz on the tricky issue of managing your stress levels. Ain’t it the truth.

What it actually just means is that when you go to buy your choc-mint ice cream at the supermarket it will be, like, 50 cents dearer. Seriously. Get fucked. My friend Yacob on theLiberal Party’s bullshit “recession doom: everyone panic!” rhetoric. The Chaser Team further explain:

If there is a hell, mine will be waking up in Ray’s Outdoors and being forced to try on pants—cotton drill pants—endlessly. My brother, Antonino, on his loathe for Ray’s Outdoors and their lack of well-fitting pants.

Kevin Rudd, racist coward; we don’t need another Howard! Protesters against Asylum Seeker Policies on Kruddy Politics. Can’t argue with that.

That guy is really weird. He was always, like, ‘I don’t have very many friends; people aren’t very nice to me.’ He was so shy but always trying to talk to me. He’s also…well, you know, CHINESE.  Melbourne tram commuter on why she does not like some guy. (Namely: he’s Chinese, and she’s racist).

How do you create that kind of environment? It’s not by having a room full of bean bags. John Denton on the need to foster business environments that are supportive of creative risk and innovation.

Classic Bean Bag Room

And there were even some new words bandied around:

#Unbefuckingliberal—robust word used to express exasperation at Australia’s Liberal Party, delivered by one Mr McCallum .

#Monetzing—1080’s word to describe something as amazing as Claude Monet’s paintings. It’s like amazing but more Monet, you see?

#Snoopy Deal—look, it’s no big deal.

Where Am I? A Lesson in Calming the Fuck Down

I awoke yesterday morning after dreaming of the Australian continent, or an ambiguous mass that my dream mind knew to be Australia. I was hopelessly trying to pin something on it, like someone tries to pin a tail on a donkey while blindfolded and dizzy from being spun around. I just couldn’t grasp it, pinpoint it. When I awoke I felt suitably displaced, perhaps even more so as I remembered where I was: Melbourne, Australia.

 

I arrived in Australia after a 23 hour transit from Vancouver to Adelaide. The weeks leading up to that flight are a blur, all mashed up into one long hazy day. Five days after arriving in Adelaide my partner and I jumped in our car and headed East to Melbourne. Ten hours later we arrived at our friends’ home, greeted by hugs and news of the past year. Three days after that we were signing a lease for a new apartment. One day following and we had the keys to said apartment and were moving in. And somewhere in the midst of that I was inducted into my new office at uni, I picked up some boxes of my Canadian life I had freighted to Melbourne airport, and I sifted through even more boxes of my Australian life I had locked-up in a storage unit while away in Canada. In short: I really had no idea where the fuck I was, or which “life” I was currently living!

 

I’ve tried not to panic too much about this. Having just spent ten months living abroad independently and then partaking on a whirlwind move back, it seems pretty reasonable. It surely takes time to consolidate the pieces of one place with another; one time with another—and this has been a big shift in both place and time.

 

When I awoke yesterday, however, my mind did not find this justification reasonable. Not good enough, it said, not today! Of course it had a lot to do with that thing that happened the night before. That thing where our Labor Gillard Government got upended from the inside by Kevin Rudd, who I watched get signed in as the new Prime Minister via a webvideo the next day. Well, I half-watched. I had to close the video box before his oath was over because it was too much for me to take in. Don’t like this reality? Just click the red box; close the internet; shut down your computer! Too bad it’s so much harder to shut down your mind.

 

I came back to Australia uncertain of myself but certain of many other things, including that Julia Gillard was our Prime Minister and Tony Abbott was our Opposition Leader and there was going to be an uphill slog to keep it that way at the September election. But in the time it takes to check your Facebook newsfeed this fact became history. Not having a TV or wifi or even a radio set up yet in the new apartment I pieced everything together via Facebook status updates and a quick news search on the smart phone. Fuck! That is about all I could muster. Fuck. When I finally went to sleep that night my subconscious set off trying to find “Australia” all night long but to no avail.

 

I woke up bewildered, agitated and somewhat lost. Something about the leadership changeover triggered off the part of myself still confused about why I was suddenly in the Southern hemisphere, what emotions such a move should manifest in my body, where I’d left off and needed to pick-up from, and how I was going to reconcile my time in the foreign country with this fresh start at “home,” which in fact felt uneasily foreign itself right now.

 

My mind proceeded to chase after its own tail for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon; hunting its identity, country, political ideology, opinion and all other things that go along with the term “home” and any disruption to it. After a few hours of (pretending to do) PhD work in my office, I stumbled down Sydney Road in Melbourne’s Brunswick with a buzzing head. How do you feel, dannijean? What do you make of all this? How much of last night’s government debacle is about misogyny and gender? Did you even really like Julia? Is it even about liking? How does this compare to the Harper government in Canada? Oh, Canada… Do you miss it yet? Do you wish you were still there? But didn’t you want to come back? My thoughts were thankfully interrupted when I spotted a thrift shop and walked in. I bought a potted parsley plant for $1. It was a clear and obvious attempt to attach myself to something that had roots.

 

While waiting for the bus home, clutching my small plant, I overheard two elderly women complaining about the unreliability of the bus system. One lady commented: “bus drivers just don’t care anymore, they just don’t care,” and my mind, caught up in a neurotic self-questioning, immediately thought: ‘what does it mean to care in 2013 Australia? What is “care,” exactly?’

 

ERGH! I AM SUCH AN ANNOYING PHD STUDENT SOMETIMES.

 

A few minutes later, having boarded the bus still clutching my parsley, I watched a woman hop-off with a toddler strapped to her back and a small child skipping behind her. I thought, ‘that woman probably has to go home now and spend the next however many hours looking after those little beings: prepare them food, bathe them, entertain them. She might have swirling thoughts like I do but she probably does not have the time or capability to indulge them.’ And then, as if the blindfold used in my pin-the-tail-on-the-country dream game was removed from my eyes I thought: ‘well, I DO have the rest of this whole day to indulge my swirling thoughts… But, I also have the rest of this whole day to put them aside for now, water my new plant, drink a cup of tea, have a bath, and lie on the couch PERFECTLY STILL if I choose.’

 

Well, hallelujah, dannijean. Welcome to Perspective Town, population: growing.

 

It seems that when you are able to put yourself at the centre of everything you generally will, and some days you will let your mind go traipsing down the road which has too many speed signs and not enough stop lights. All of the questions I was sweating over are interesting, and most of them are certainly worth thinking about, but just because I’m trudging down this road doesn’t mean that clear thoughts and structured arguments are as well. I believe psychologists describe this predicament as: “analysis paralysis.” The truth of the matter is, sometimes I really do not know how I feel or what I think and nothing but time will sort that out for me. When this happens, I thank small parsley plants and Mums with children for reminding me that there’s a place beyond my relentless questions and expectations—this place has no “I,” is not concerned about how or when the unresolved questions will be answered, and—most importantly—it is very, very quiet.

 

Canadian City Comforts

Last week I found myself travelling on a bus again, this time heading North into Canada after a lovely time with my partner in the state of Washington. I’ve travelled with this bus company so many times this year that I was given the ride for free, as a loyalty reward. (Yeah, that amounts to roughly three cinnamon buns, or a six-pack of beer—a small but nonetheless welcome win for a student traveller).

 

My chest was heavy from another farewell, another stuffed suitcase, and another imminent border crossing. I only have a short time left in Vancouver, six weeks or so, and I know I need to lift this heaviness if I am to enjoy the remaining time. And dammit, I would really like this last hoorah to be a “hoorah!” Gazing out the window at the dying light I set about making a mental list of things I know I can find comfort in while travelling here in Vancouver. Here it is:

 

1. Leonard Cohen. When I first arrived here, I listened to Leonard Cohen on repeat, especially at night while trying to sleep. Funnily enough I did not make the “listening to a Canadian-songwriter while in Canada” link, at least not consciously! In hindsight it was clearly a Freudian slip. Regardless, it is perfectly apt that Cohen has animated so many of my Canadian memories. His music makes me cry but there is something like a sincere hug delivered in it—a certain empathy translated by it. Let the Cohen marathon begin!

2. “The Northern Lights.” There is a patch of lights at the top of one of the mountains that shadow the city from the Northern horizon. I assume the lights are either Cypress Ski Resort or Grouse Mountain; either way it is lovely to know that if I look North at night I will see that sign of life sparkling. I am a sucker for city lights at night. They give my solidarity company and make me feel connected in a mobile world.

3. The tulips. At last, the sunshine is out and Vancouver is bursting with bulbs that make one’s heart sing.

 

Wreck Beach

 

4. The #9 from the menu at my local Pan Asian Restaurant. A heart-warming bowl of beef pho served by friendly staff, back-dropped by terrible R’n’B club music, and costing a lean $6.50.

5. Shiatsu. Since the start of the year I have been having regular shiatsu therapy. It is my new favourite thing. I actually sleep soundly for a few nights after I have a session (no small miracle in my world), and I return home feeling nurtured, relaxed and happy. The therapist is a beautiful Czech-Canadian with a face you know must belong to a woman who has lived a long life, but that shines so warmly you have no way of telling how young, old or otherwise she is. She has the body of a jiu jitsu competitor and a wit as dry as my own. Her compassion is in no way contrived and I feel sincerely lucky to have crossed her ethereal path.

6. Those crows. Every afternoon, a little before sunset, a murder of crows makes its way from West to East across the city. By murder I mean: hundreds upon hundreds of crows. Every evening, like clockwork. If I’m having a bad day I try and watch those crows fly over. I like that I can count on them to show up every day, and watching their routine flight reminds me that there are bigger things happening on this planet than the stresses of my today.

7. Enjoying a giant coffee and a book in the sunny window of Liberty Cafe, Main Street.

8. A jigsaw puzzle—started at my previous Vancouver sharehouse and left there to be finished. Better hop to it if I am to make those pieces fit before I depart…

9. Art exhibitions. It’s always great to lose yourself in someone else’s creative world. This time I am going to choose to lose  myself in the latest exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology (MOA), UBC: Safar/Voyage, a collection of works by Arab, Iranian and Turkish artists. While I’m at it, I might stroll down the wooden stair-trail hiding behind the museum. Last year I found the trail quite accidentally and followed it all the way down to discover this:

 

IMG_0623

 

10. Swimming. I started swimming at my local pool soon after arriving in Vancouver. I have had a fear of swimming laps for most of my adult life, not because of the pee or athlete’s foot, but because I grew up in a country town and we had our swimming lessons in the ocean. We would swim laps between two small jetties. I was a strong swimmer, but there were no ropes or lanes or swimming caps where we swam… only salt water, seaweed and spray bottles of vinegar for the jelly-fish stings! I was terrified I would not understand the etiquette and get publicly shamed via the scolding of a fit, greying version of Thorpey. Turns out, it really isn’t so terrifying at all and thus far I have not been scolded. And being reunited with my love for swimming has been so rejuvenating. It’s not nearly as good as swimming in the ocean, but I love being in water, any water, and having to focus on my stroke and breathing allows me to switch off from all else. I haven’t swam since I moved into my new neighbourhood a few months ago, but it is indeed time to again do so.

 

Oh, the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone …

Oh, I hope you run into them, you who’ve been travelling so long…

(Leonard Cohen)

Fairhaven: Ships In the Night

I am on the 99 B-Line listening to The National and thinking, yes, it is true, I am ‘half awake in a fake empire.’ It is grey and raining outside and the scene is smeared by the condensation forming on the windows of the bus, which is becoming increasingly packed as we near the Cambie Street interchange. Five thirty in the afternoon. We, “the people of Vancouver,” are fleeing home, but the mood is damp, not what you’d expect from people who are escaping the clutches of the weekday. We look at each other distantly, sharing only the understanding that while we have reached today’s finish line tomorrow will place another one ahead of us.

I am tired after condensing a gamut of nervous energy into a thirty-minute presentation on a chapter by Elizabeth Povinelli, the formidable Columbian University scholar who incites all sorts of visible reactions from people: raised eyebrows, agitated wriggling, side-wards glances. She is the kind of scholar we all want to be, but pain not to be, as well, and this is perhaps why I prepared the presentation so reluctantly in the midnight hours last night.

Relief touches me briefly thinking that the assignment is over and now I can rest, but I do not let this feeling settle. I am growing tired of the rise and fall of study, the on-loop nervous anticipation and its crashing release; I want long-distance consistency, a steady line. I wonder why it is we do the things we do; why I stay up late labouring over Microsoft Powerpoint critiquing someone else’s critique. Some days I have some answers to proffer but not today. I think of Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism—how we are compelled to work towards “the good life” in the current biopolitical moment—and then I think of the cruel optimism that clearly drove her to write the book.

I smudge out a rough circle of the window fog with my finger—trying not to indulge any O.C.D. tendencies by dwelling on the germs I just acquired—and look through the peep-hole onto the street. I see only pavement and the long yellow line bounding the edge of the road.

_________

Two days later I am in Fairhaven, Washington, squinting my eyes in the foreign light of the sun. The skin on my face is shocked but in spite of itself I feel it unfurling its pores. I stumble upon a record store and John Lennon urges me to imagine that there is no heaven – ‘above us only sky.’ When you think about it, I think, the idea of only sky is not necessarily any more motivating than there being no heaven. This could be depressing but since it comes from a Beatle it is not (things from a Beatle are always tinged with happiness and fancy).

__________

I wake up at three am to the sound of blaring ship horns. I could never be sure if it is one horn from one ship or many horns from several, but my night’s mind is certain it is two separate horns from two distinct ships—one coming, one going. The ship leaving the port farewells the town with an ambitious sound, carrying with it—like all ambitions—both dreams and dread. It passes a ship coming into dock, and this latter ship gives it a nod of good luck with its deep echoing horn. There is a moment of silence, and then this homecoming ship signals twice more quickly: a blow of relief and of a “home, sweet home” that only means so much in this moment because of the outgoing ship that it passes.

I drift back to sleep, restful and comforted at last.

Fairhaven