sherrinakblog

Why I do what I am doing…

Black Clouds Descend

The issue of depression is something that is so misunderstood. Mental wellness and health issues have been demonised and stigmatised in such a way that to admit to having some form of disorder or illness is to brand one’s self a leper.

The Australian government recently issued statistics showing that more of Australia’s (male) youth are dying by suicide than via car accidents (http://aimhs.com.au/cms/index.php?page=facts-about-suicide). How can this happen? How can this be? A country that has so much sunshine, theoretically a supportive social welfare and non-discriminatory health system has a higher suicide than road death toll? Where has this new, mentally unwell Australia come from?

If we knew the answers we could save a lot of family and friends a lot of heartache. If those answers were easy to discover perhaps the extreme distress these victims endure and buckle beneath would be enough to ensure ongoing healthy support. There are so many misconceptions about what mental illnesses and disorders are that it is nigh on impossible for someone weakened by them to seek healthful support and recover.

 

Sunrise

Sunrise

https://www.lifeline.org.au/About-Lifeline/Media-Centre/Suicide-Statistics-in-Australia/Suicide-Statistics

 

Graphic Novels – The Eleventh Hour Saviour of Literacy Around The World

…“There’s nothing more off-putting than just a block of text. We live in a 140-character world. Easy to digest is what we’re going for.”… ~ TomKickoff

Graphic Novels was one of my favourite units at uni. Traditional concepts and preconceived notions of what this media was, were shattered and I developed a deep respect for the pioneers of this genre.

The subversive nature of many of the comic books which predated the format graphic novels have become, tarnished social acceptance of one of the most powerful forms of communication developed in the last three hundred years that does not require electricity to function.

Art Speigelman created Maus, and this two novel story shattered predefined boundaries of what graphic novels might have been. Maus exposed the reality of the Holocaust in ways that photorealism couldn’t. Created when the Holocaust was still firmly within the boundaries of living memory, it could easily have been lost in this collective story and memory. The stark black and white, hand drawn images which relied on texture, line and form rather than shade, was densely symbolic. There were no shades of grey, nothing that could be disputed, nothing could be concealed or alluded to by shadows.

Alan Moore’s V is for Vendetta has had radical influence from the moment it was originally published. Back in the early days of publication, it was firmly aimed at Margaret Thatcher’s hardline conservative government. George Orwell’s 1984 was oozing unstoppably toward the proletariat; and Moore, like so many others, was deeply concerned by the far reaching implications of zero tolerance, hardline conformity, constant surveillance and increasingly violent sectarian conflict flaring up at both a faster rate and increasing intensity. Incredibly enough, the pop duo Tears for Fears echoed the sentiments and these became the foundation for their album Sowing the Seeds of Love.

To think, without The Harlot’s Progress or The Drunkards Progress which – despite being delightfully risqué etchings and lithographs of the late nineteenth century which pandered so generously to the Temperance Movements of the time – were the foundation from which the medium arose. It’s really quite perverse and amusing, that a medium so carefully employed to communicate proper moral graces, would evolve into one of the best vehicles within which subversion and discontent could be voiced.

* “Tom” in Logan Hill; http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/02/okcupid-most-desired-people-in-new-york.html

Oh! The Humanities!

I love the Big Bang Theory. And it’s because of Sheldon.

Sheldon is one of the biggest nutters on the planet who knows he is sane, because”[his] mother had [him] tested”.  His friends (Penny, Raj, Howard and Leonard) provide a perfect foil for his outlandish condescension of all things beyond his immediate interests and work (comics, experimental physics, advanced psychology to name a few). The group of science geeks travelling through Sheldon’s dysfunctional shenanigans have generated widespread acceptance for the previously derided and stereotypically lacklustre nerd-herd. On the contrary, nothing about Sheldon is dull. His flaws become his super-powers and his strengths do double-duty as his weaknesses. He embodies all that is both right and wrong in the world.

Sheldon’s main flaw is his arrogance toward “less worthy” intellectual schools. Begrudgingly, Howard Wolowitz narrowly qualifies to be in his presence – as he only holds a Masters degree (albeit from MIT) but is the best friend of Dr. Raj Kuthrapali. All others require doctorate level qualification or some elite qualification (like Stan Lee) to be taken somewhat seriously by Sheldon, although intellectual snobbery is far more pervasive than this fictional character on a highly rated sitcom.

A particularly poignant episode appeared in season four, where Sheldon’s refusal to attend a fundraiser for CalTech faculties, has left fundraising in the hands of his “less qualified, less brilliant” colleagues. Sheldon’s girlfriend (Amy) is a neuroscientist who adroitly manipulates Sheldon, using reward based theories and exploitation of his prejudices and vanities, to get him to attend.

Amy: Well then, prepare to be terrified. If your friends are unconvincing, this year’s donations might go to, say, the Geology department.

Sheldon: Oh no! Not the dirt people!

Amy: Or, worse still, it could go to the liberal arts.

Sheldon: No!

Amy: Millions of dollars being showered on poets, literary theorists and students of gender studies.

Sheldon: Oh, the Humanities!

 ***

So, what initially appears to be a clever play on words exposes a common discriminatory academic attitude – that the humanities are worthless degrees, without merit in a capitalist, profit driven world. Jeremy Bentham and John Locke would be ecstatic to observe how their postulations are solidifying into reality, while others – like Philip K. Dick, Jules Verne and Charles Dickens would recoil in horror at the ways of contemporary “civilisation”.

I don’t know what response will be offered to those who think it’s funny to ask me “would you like fries with that?” or “may I upsize that for an extra fifty cents?”, because they think my degree has no worth in this world.

The “offending” scene in all its comedic glory!

(The Benefactor Factor: The Big Bang Theory (Season 4, Episode 15), February 10, 2011.)

 

 

 

Where your morals grow: Crowded House and Mansions in Slums.

Once upon a time, a song was heard. It spoke of mansions in slums, trampolines in front rooms, caravans in hills and laughing at yourself. But is it the despair of the catch-22 of the debt/quality of life balancing act of contemporary society? Or rhetorical questioning of the spiritual pressure in a world that revolves around money?

Where ever it sits in the ideological spectrum, this song introduced the concepts of altruism to a twelve year old girl’s world. Fairy tales reverberated those themes, in highly abstract and supernatural fashion, depicting costs and benefits of giving over receiving; promising great rewards for living according to those lessons. “Donkey Skin” and “Mother Holle” issued dire warnings of consequences for laziness and greed, while promising great rewards for kindness and compassion.

“Mansion in the Slums” was that song, which used words she could understand within her reality. She saw possibility because of those words and sowed ideas of how she wanted her life to look. Too quickly in time, she would rely on those words, as pollution of realities of (small town) life seeped into her experience.

Abuses – the likes of which were beyond the scope of reasonability and the law – stole beloved friends. Acts of violence slapped mortality and fallibility of the human body into the foreground of her life. Growled threats and poisonous jealousies combined, cracking the foundation of her innocence. She felt trapped in a twisted version of those fraudulent tales, with their broken promises of bad people and their selfish, cruel actions getting them their duly earned punishment.

Worry was constant: What would the next minutes, hours, day bring? More threats? More isolation? How on earth was she supposed to deal with this? This was way beyond the petty jealousy, healthy competition, mild envy she had experienced in normal childhood squabbles. Oh, no… This was pack mentality. But who or what was the pack? Their faces, their names… Unknown, vindictive and anonymous. Shiftless and shapeless, but so crushingly powerful. But, she had found that song.

Her adolescence bore the fruit of shattered illusions created by those stories – the reality that goodness and kindness brought no reward, instead summoned the attention of those who were cruel, malicious and unkind. Her inability to comprehend how crimes  against the laws of “What Is Right” and “How Things Are Meant To Work” could go unpunished. Those crimes and lack of consequence crushed her ability to trust those around her. She never recovered the innocence, light and love she had been before her heart and trust was broken. But, she still had that song.

It was a constant desire through all of this, that she would never build a mansion in a slum, or gain from another person’s expense. She lived better because of that song. She lived longer because of that song.
 

 

The Influence of the Original BFG, Roald Dahl.

SHOWING YOUR WORTH

The Influence of the Original BFG, Roald Dahl.
by sherrinak
My work routine is very simple…
You have to keep your bottom on the chair and stick it out.
Otherwise, if you start getting in the habit of walking away, you’ll never get it done.
~Roald Dahl.

The BFG at his best!

The BFG at his best!

Nina Levy, what an inspiring and brave human! The message I really got from her experiences was that to do the things that set your soul alight, sometimes you have to believe in yourself and your abilities in spite of the little voices in the back of your head.

The books of Roald Dahl are irrepressible, exciting, addictive and celebrate the world with childish imagination and an abandoned glee that carries across generations. Dahl created alternate realities which provided an antidote to propaganda of empires past and their colonial times. Novels which were characteristically dry, didactic and moralistic; conscientiously designed to teach children to never question the authority of superiors (adults), to know their place – be it social, racial or gendered. Dahl’s Child Protagonists navigate seas and ravines of adult ridiculousness, often standing as the sole voice of reason in worlds beyond rationality.

Dahl’s children were everything a creative and intelligent child wished to be, and nothing like the indoctrinated miniature adults that appeared in other children’s literature.The element of mischievousness, lateral thinking and a disregard for social paradigms previously settlement for children and all things childish, bestows each of the heroic children – facing down some of their worst fears and chasing their most precious, secret dreams – a power that is theirs by virtue of not being enamoured (just yet) by adult, worldly, material things.

“The BFG” inspired mixed emotions: revulsion, excitement, fear, celebration and the wish to be granted beautiful dreams by the BFG. A fairly complicated, but absolutely believable, emotional journey orchestrated by the ultimate of child wranglers, Mr. Roald Dahl. I wonder, really and truly wonder, if he imagined the unique gift he left this world’s children?