Links Of The Dead July 2019

Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwijck

Vanitas with Sunflower and Jewelry Box by Maria van Oosterwijck

A gathering of death-related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {July 2018} | {July 2017} | {July 2016} |

💀  Why New Zealanders Love DIY Coffins
💀 6 Ways to Support a Grieving Teen
💀 What I Learned Photographing Death
💀 The Fraught Culture of Online Mourning
💀
A Course In Dying: Interview With Mortician Miranda
💀
How the Paris Catacombs Solved a Cemetery Crisis
💀 Speaking with the Dead: Life and Learning in a Cadaver Lab
💀 How a hospice in Wales is memorializing children with birdsong
💀 Black Funeral Food Traditions Are an Essential Part of Grieving
💀 This Chrome extension makes you ponder your mortality while wasting time on social media

Here Comes Little Sarah!

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“Here Comes Little Sarah!” That is something my late Mawga used to say when she heard my presence somewhere in the house or saw me peeking at her from around the corner and knew I was readying myself to run into her arms.

Sarah is not so little anymore (she wasn’t very little back then, either) but “Here Comes Little Sarah!” is something I still whisper to myself when I’m about to embark on something that feels big and important, or more precisely when I’m about to finish such a thing and reveal it to the world.

I am somewhere between the two right now, midway on my journey of beginning and finishing a thing, and when my sister shared with me this stash of photos from my childhood that had been recently uncovered, it felt like such wonderful timing. Firstly because I need a new author photo (ha!) but mostly because it’s such a powerful exercise to gaze into the past at that round little dumpling face and channel that jaunty insouciance from say, the featured photo up top, or that sense of wonder and curiosity exuding from the photo of be-mulleted, lavender crop top-wearing little me at the very bottom.

I look forward to seeing the other versions of myself that emerge from this mysterious cache, and all of the other little Sarahs that I may have forgotten about along the way. Here she comes! There she goes! Where does she end up? I’ll check back with you right here and let you know when I get there.

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Ten things: Favorite European Botanic Gardens by Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

For a few years there, every time I got super excited about discovering a new artist who it seemed that no one had yet written about or interviewed, without fail, there were always the same two bloggers who had beaten me to the punch. One is a lovely individual who I have interviewed before, and the other is Jantine Zandbergen… who is visiting us today for our July Installment of Ten Things!

I must pause here to say that one might be inclined to presume, that if you’re constantly running into someone who is getting the scoop before you do, then one might begin to consider such a person your nemesis (and don’t get me wrong, I have always been a little bit obsessed with having nemeses, much like Roxane Gay ) But I reckon that while there is an appropriate time and place for collecting nemeses– those people “whose very existence troubles your soul”– I believe that in other situations it is far smarter and more soul-satisfying to attempt befriending those kindred folks who obviously share similar interests and passions with you!

Jantine Zandbergen is a designer and an art enthusiast in the Netherlands who blogs at The Quiet Cold, who writes fascinating guest features about incredible artists at Beautiful Bizarre, and whose art blog, Bleaq was a gorgeous gallery of  visual inspiration featuring the kinds of art that I love best–fine arts, design, illustration, photography and fashion, all touched with a tinge of melancholy, of morbidity, of the macabre.

Jantine, please don’t think that I for even a second considered you my nemesis, though! Every time that Bleaq showed up first in a google search as already having an article or a profile on an artist that I was pursuing, I would always take the time to read your thoughtful words and marvel, and thank the heavens that yes, Ok! Maybe you did beat me to X/Y/Z artist! But in a world of routine reblogs and careless, context-less shares of imagery sans source or artist credit (or any sort of research at all) you are always so thoughtful and respectful and reverent about how you presented the artists and the work that interested and intrigued you. You were someone that I wanted to be friends with from the very beginning, and there was no nemesis-ing about it

…And I hope Jantine is not too weirded out by this introduction! Anyway, I do not consider Janitine my nemesis, and, as a matter of fact, I recently discovered in discussing my budding interests (pun intended) regarding plants and botanicals and horticultural things, that we have yet another interest in common! And that is how this guest post came together.

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

When Sarah and I started brainstorming about what I could write about for the ‘Ten Things’-series it took us around two minutes to come up with something plant related. Although we met online through our mutual love for art (I guess, right Sarah?) (Editor: hee hee, yep! See intro above!) we both turn out to be #crazyplantladies, something that gave me plenty of inspiration for this article.

A little backstory before I start: I live in Rotterdam, the second-largest city of the Netherlands. The city is located in the so-called ‘Randstad’, one of the largest metropolitan regions in Northwestern Europe. It’s great for work and life, yet when you love nature as much as I do it’s not easy to find a good, quiet green spot. Next to slowly transforming my house to a plant sanctuary I also regularly visit greenhouses and botanical gardens to get me my much-needed nature-fix. There are many fantastic gardens in the Netherlands, and once I got hooked I visited beautiful gardens during travel in other European countries as well. Today I’d love to share ten of my favorite European botanical gardens with you.

The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland

The first garden on the list will always be special to me since it changed my green interest into a serious hobby: the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, Ireland. I was in Dublin to attend a work conference and extended my stay over the weekend to explore the city. Glasnevin Cemetery, next to the gardens, was number one on my list (I’ll forever be a cemetery fangirl!) and when I found out they filmed scenes for (my favorite) tv-show Penny Dreadful in the gardens I knew I had to visit.

The garden itself, and especially the amazing, Victorian greenhouses, blew me away. There’s a huge variety of especially orchids and palms to see and the combination of the architecture and the plants are fantastic. 

 photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, Netherlands

Then on to my own country, the Netherlands! The Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is the most famous botanical garden in the Netherlands – if not for its beautiful variety of plants it certainly is for its highly Instagrammable pink wall in the cacti-greenhouse. The garden dates back to 1638, when it was founded to serve as an herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. The rich history of the place is well documented and make visiting a must when you visit Amsterdam. As of most of Amsterdam’s tourist hotspots it can be super crowded though, so an early visit is recommended!

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photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Botanic Garden Zuidas, Amsterdam, Netherlands

If you are looking for a quieter green place in the Dutch capital I’d suggest you check out the Amsterdam University Botanical Gardens, located in the ‘Zuidas’ area. Although not as big as its famous sibling, there’s a lot to see! I especially love the wonderful wild garden and the greenhouse filled to the brim with all kinds of cacti.

Fun fact: plants that are taken into custody at Schiphol International Airport are all taken care off in this garden! Many confiscated plants are on the endangered species list and are protected and taken care off by the staff here.

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Hortus Botanicus Leiden, Netherlands

The oldest botanical garden in the Netherlands, and one of the oldest worldwide is located in the beautiful city of Leiden. It was first mentioned in 1587 and founded in 1590 to help the medical students of Leiden University.

Today the garden has a wonderful collection of subtropical plants, a collection of trees that are over 300 years old and a very busy bee-hotel :)

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Technical University Botanic Garden, Delft, Netherlands

As a part of the Technical University of Delft, this garden plays a big role in scientific botanic research. Fortunately, it’s also open for public, and with a nice tree garden, fern meadow and greenhouse with spiral staircase it’s one you shouldn’t miss. 

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Botanic Gardens, Utrecht, Netherlands

The province of Utrecht is home to several beautiful fortresses, so – of course – the botanical garden based in its capital with the same name also features one. When you enter the gardens, the fort is the first thing you see and is an entry to a wonderful rock garden featuring a large collection of plants. The garden also has several tropical greenhouses, showcasing a big selection of plants from the Neotropic area of South America. Oh, and don’t make the same mistake I made last year and visit on one of the Summer’s hottest days. So. Warm. 

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photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Botanical Garden Wrocław, Poland

One of the first things I do when I travel is check Atlas Obscura for creepy places and see if there are gardens I should visit. Wrocław turned out to have the second oldest botanical garden in Poland, so when I visited the city on my company’s annual city trip, one of my colleagues and I sneaked out of the program for a quick plant-fix.

We visited the garden in early October, and with its beautiful Fall-colours, patches filled with pumpkins and a warm, October-Sun my colleague and I enjoyed every minute of quietness before returning to our hectic group. 

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Jardin Botanico, Valencia, Spain

When you’re from Northwestern Europe, a visit to Spain feels like Summer holidays. The weather is great, people are super relaxed, and there are palm trees and cacti growing in the wild. The city of Valencia is amazing – it has a lovely old historical center, plenty of street art, and a lot of green areas. And, of course, a botanical garden.

The first mentions of the Jardin Botanica date back to the 14th century, with the herb garden turning into a public botanic garden in 1802. The garden is known for its lush greenery and I was especially amazed by the huge cacti, palm trees and Monstera plants all over the place. Also made some cat-friends over there, so I need to plan another trip to see how they are doing 😉

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Arctic Botanical Gardens, Akureyri, Iceland

The botanical garden in Akureyri, a town in Northern Iceland, is one of the most Northern situated botanical gardens in the world. Although really close to the Arctic circle, geographical factors ensure quite a moderate climate in the city, making it a great place for a botanical garden.

The garden itself is filled with Arctic plants and a delight for plant-lovers. Iceland has a rich variety of smaller plants, yet lush and green patches like in this garden are scarce in the country. There’s an architecturally beautiful café in the gardens where they serve a great soy-latte, so if you’re around I definitely recommend a quick stop before you return to Iceland’s epic North.

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

photo credit: Jantine Zandbergen

Arboretum Trompenburg Botanical Garden, Rotterdam, Netherlands

The last garden on this list is one very dear to me: the Trompenburg Tree Garden in Rotterdam. To say I visit this place all the time might be a bit too much, but since it’s only fifteen minutes from my house I try to visit at least once every season.

The garden itself feels a bit like a hidden gem: not many people from Rotterdam know it’s there (old people definitely do: try a visit on a sunny Sunday!) and because it’s not situated in the city’s centre it’s not on the to-do list of the tourists. 

Being an arboretum (a tree garden) means the park is filled with some of the most amazing trees. There’s this little ‘pine-alley’ that I love, as well as a magnificent setting for ferns, a cacti and succulent greenhouse and the best bench to read in the whole city. One of my most remarkable visits was on a cold Winter morning: a tiny layer of frost sparkled in the low Winter sun’s rays and I was just incredibly happy to be there.

That’s all! Thanks to Sarah for letting me share these places with you. 

Find Jantine: website // blog // instagram // twitter

Needful Things For Summer 2019

needful-slippers

My summer 2019 edition of Needful Things is up over at Haute Macabre this week! I love to put these lists together every quarter (or season, or twice a year, or whenever our fancy takes us) because they’re really just the personal stuff we’re into at the moment. No one’s really trying to sell you anything or promote various products, it’s just stuff that we honestly love. Stuff that we actually use! Heck, some of it’s not even tangible “stuff,” per se. Head on over to the Haute Macabre blog today to read about my personal, current Needful Things and feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about what you’re into right now, as well.

Currently {Mental Health Edition, July 2019}

I am currently in a hardcore avoidance mode. When this mood sets in, I get the sudden urge to clean house when most other times I can’t be bothered in the slightest; I get in at least 20K steps a day due to the sudden desire to keep fit; I uncovered a scattered ambivalence of WordPress drafts that I started two years ago and I center all of my focus on them because clearly, that’s a priority right now! The bottom of the barrel items which are so insignificant that they don’t even register for the to-do list suddenly become of vital importance when I am avoiding certain work or projects. I made jam this past weekend, for god’s sake! Which…to be fair…making jam is totally a thing that I would do, so that’s not a great example. But I should absolutely not be making jam right now! I have things to do! Which is also why I rearranged all of the art on my walls.

art1 art2

…and since I am still not doing the things I should be doing, I thought it might be a good time for a small update.

I have been going to a new therapist since January of this year. I say “new” like I’m trying to distinguish her from all the other therapists I’ve seen, but really, that list is not terribly long. I tried one out back in 2015, right around the time my grandfather died, but it wasn’t quite a fit. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like an asshole, but I just didn’t love the feeling that I might be smarter (maybe a lot smarter) than the person who is counseling me. I mean, how can that be? They went to school and got degrees and all that sort of thing, so I can’t be all that much smarter, right? AND YET.  Also, I don’t want this person to be too chipper. Or too “normal”. I don’t even know what I mean by that, but basically, I just don’t want to get therapied by someone who reminds me of the most average person in my high school class. The sort who was probably raised in a nuclear family with a nice mom and dad and was in a sorority and grew up to have three kids and who gets regular blowouts and does Zumba classes (and I KNOW these are all ridiculous qualifiers but I can’t help it!) I can’t talk to that person about my problems and I can’t take advice from them.

Right now I am seeing a therapist, twice a month, who reminds me of a grown-up Pippi Longstocking, which I find somehow really comforting. She drives a jeep with a “Chewie is my co-pilot” sticker on it. She wears skirts but doesn’t bother to wear stockings with them. I like that. Not that she needs me to like it, I just mean I dig the carefree aesthetic. She doesn’t seem to say a lot. I don’t know if therapists are supposed to? I find myself talking until I’m hoarse, and during this time I have observed that she barely even guides the conversation. Is that normal? Is this how it works? Oftentimes there are silences and I jump to quickly fill those in. I don’t want to be thought of as a bad conversationalist, but is what’s happening even considered a conversation? It’s a one-woman show, really.

…and yet. I have of late found that in these hour-long sessions I seem to shepherd myself along a circuitous route to some fairly impressive epiphanies and revelations. This is unexpected. What does it all mean? It’s hard to know. It’s maybe to soon to tell. I have been holding space for my wounds and trauma and broken bits for so long, I am not sure who I would be without their strange and dreadful companionship. It might be interesting to meet who that person is, though. I’m open to it.

One of the things that came up is how sometimes–most times, really–the only way I can get myself to actually go somewhere and do something, is because I know that afterward, I shall have a memory of having done it. It’s the pursuit of the perfect memory that finally compels me to do the thing, whatever that thing might be. But funny enough… the things I have the most wonderful memories of, are those unprompted moments– the things I did on a lark, decided on a whim, without having time to hem or haw about it or to have worked up a fine amount of dread.

On the way home that particular day after non-talking with Pippi, we grabbed some coffees at a cramped but charming donut shop, and as we were readying to leave, we realized that an accident had just occurred on the street just outside the building. A damaged truck was lodged on the curb right behind where we were parked, and we couldn’t back our car out of the parking lot to leave. As we waited for the police to take statements, we stood holding hands under a flimsy awning in a downpour, its meager shelter barely keeping us dry…and in the space of that moment, I was so inexplicably joyful. I have no idea why. But I knew I would stash this afternoon away in my mental drawer of mind-nibbles as one of those wholly unexpected morsels of happiness.

currently

Another instance of this spontaneous joy happened while I was visiting BGF in Philly last month. I had been fiercely looking forward to the trip–to seeing her, to decompressing after a few months peppered with more stressful kinds of travel–and though we had a few things planned for my time there, it was a late afternoon hour or so spent walking through the city as the sun was setting, glaring directly in our eyes and blinding our vision, that remains a memory to cherish. I was practically trotting, attempting to keep up with her long-legged stride as we hoofed it through a more worrisome part of town, and either right before or right after that, we walked by the park where the Chinese Lantern Festival was being held. Nothing was lit up yet, so I didn’t really get a sense of what it was all about or how beautiful it would be after dark, but I did snap a photo of this lovely sidewalk Chinese zodiac along the way. I was overheated and overstimulated and my feet were bruised and blistered and bone-sore, but that time spent with my beloved friend on that particular afternoon left a vividly buoyant feeling in my heart that I can still summon when I conjure the imagery of those moments.

During my most recent visit with my therapist, I began what I believe will be several sessions of EMDR, which is a treatment designed to diminish the distress associated with traumatic events. I don’t think I am quite ready to talk about it yet, but I will share that I was a walking wound afterward. My eyes were raw from all of the savage, furious crying until well into the next afternoon. That was a week ago. Now, when I attempt to call forth the feelings I’ve associated with that particular experience, I feel a little differently about it than I have for the past 25+ years. It’s still very tender when I probe at it, but I think I may be looking at it from a different perspective now, through different eyes. I was stuck at that point in time, and it’s a little easier now to see it through the eyes of someone older, someone not standing so close.
Is this progress?

I sought guidance from the cards, above. Which is somewhat absurd, since I am not really all that knowledgable about the tarot. I just like the art, much like my mother did when she was alive …which is funny, because she is a major source of the angst and trauma I am currently working through. Oh, universe! You’re such a hoot. I am sure that someone much more well-versed in this divinatory art than I could give me a more thorough analysis and interpretation, but from what little I understand, I was encouraged.

Nine of pentacles + Three of cups + Two of wands. Seems…promising?

This psychedelic eyeball tarot deck is designed by artist Oliver Hibert, whom I have written about before.

Maison Francesco Scognamiglio Fall 2019 Couture

Maison Francesco Scognamiglio feature

The Maison Francesco Scognamiglio Fall 2019 Couture collection, with its contrasting play between excess and restraint-the undulating satin, that see-through tulle, those rivulets of crystals and embellishments!–call to mind languid lady vampires swanning around an abandoned moonlit chateau, or perhaps flickering amongst the bleached bones scattered throughout the sandy stones of a coastal cliff-side ruin at twilight.

If there is a sigh between salacious and celestial, I think it is in that whispered instant that this collection leaves you gasping.

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Photos via Vogue

Depop Updates!

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The olde depop shoppe has been updated! Have a peek! But please don’t ask me lots of questions/ask me to hold an item/ask me to lower the price on an item… and then end up not buying anything at all! That’s annoying as hell, and actually kinda rude, and you will fall quite a bit in my estimation.

Wow, I am such an engaging and enrolling shopkeeper, huh?

 

Links Of The Dead June 2019

Image credit: David Jernigan

Image credit: David Jernigan

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {June 2018} | {June 2017} | {June 2016}

💀It’s All Grief Yoga
💀Could Trees Be The New Gravestones?
💀Post Death Internet Service (or; A Newsletter After I Die)
💀Running into My Dead Mother at 7-Eleven
💀Will Millennials Be the First Generation to Stop Fearing Death?
💀Having a Dead Sibling Is Full of Contradictions
💀Why Did This False Euthanasia Story Spread So Quickly?
💀Surviving the Death of My Son After the Death of My Faith
💀Five Things we wish we’d known before our daughter died from brain cancer
💀Memento Mori: Life and Death in Western Art from Skulls to Still Life
💀‘Hadestown’ On Broadway Re-Envisions An Ancient Story Of Love, Loss, And Distrust
💀8 questions about the unexplained tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic, answered

10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything) by Ekho

ten things ekho

This month’s installment of Ten Things is brought to us by my friend Ekho, whom I originally met over on instagram and while now I don’t recall the exact circumstances, you can bet your booty there were lots of books involved.

I am consistently awestruck and wonderglobbed by all of the unique, diverse, and interesting titles and beautiful cover art they share– and my to-read list has grown exponentially in the time I have known them. But more important than the book envy they inspire are the super fun chats that we have on topics ranging far and wide; humorous, heartfelt, and well, just very human things: dreams, therapy, the dumb idea of “glowups”, the vagaries of our physical meat suits (and the skeevy rando turdmuffins who offer unsolicited comments about same) and ever so much more. Ekho is such a phenomenal companion for conversation … I was actually going through our DM history just now, and to be perfectly honest, I think we would be so fascinating to eavesdrop on!

Ekho is a nonbinary trans person living on Wurundjeri land, writing, daydreaming, doing social anthropology, dyeing their hair colours in the blue/green spectrum and looking for shortcuts to mushrooms. Find them on Instagram or check out their blog they promise to update soon. In the meantime,  however, I am so happy that they have generously contributed to Unquiet Things this month with 10 Things to Stop You Burning it All Down (the World, the Universe, and Everything), featuring Tolkien tenderness, why comic books have no gender, and how they fill their broken heart.

ten things ekho

Acknowledgment of Country
Before I begin, and you begin to read; I wish to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Wathaurong peoples of the Kulin Nations, the traditional and original landowners where this article was mentally gestated and developed as a digital taskscape, whose sovereignty was never ceded. I pay my respects to the Elders, past, present, future, and, emerging.

Introduction
These 10 Things might not be for you, they might not inspire you to keep fighting the good fight. This might in fact just be a wee snapshot of the insides of my mind and how I reason with myself to get out of bed, put on my clothes in that very specific order I need to keep myself going, make that coffee, take my dogs out to the loo, switch on the laptop and do what needs to be done. Generally what needs to be done is University work (for some strange reason, that began with a hole in my heart, and sorrow I couldn’t fix; I have been enrolled in various Uni courses since 2010), or attending to life stuff like waged-labour and making sure my world doesn’t fall apart. I recognise that I have manifested a portion of self-harm into the research and uni work I do. I tackle the hardest, most painful topics, I refuse the easy way out, I go above and beyond with research and I write out my pain in complex, analytical anthropological essays. I am not fully ready to work on this and make it something more positive. We develop in stages and it is enough that I am willing to think about it and evolve these behaviours in the future, however; sometimes I need to remind myself that I cannot fight if I am dead. The why of the fighting will emerge throughout this article, and the reasons I stay sane might be inane, cute, childish, simplistic and definitely not cool but here we are… I don’t have time for cool anymore, it’s 2019. As 2 parts Anarchist and 1 part Nihilist I will tell you cool is pointless and the pursuit of it is just subscribing to social approval but that might also be the 90s kid or the Gemini in me.

Radical Vulnerability
(Making time to heal, and acknowledging that healing looks, smells, and feels like a dumpster fire.)

Let’s start with something really easy, like the concept of Radical Vulnerability. I hate being vulnerable, ew (have I mentioned I am a Gemini) and vulnerability generally = feels, and weakness. For the past decade, I strove to make myself indestructible. As someone with a shopping list of medical and mental health diagnosis, we can see that panned out really well. Radical Vulnerability is something I saw trans nonbinary icon Alok Vaid Menon start mentioning on their IG. They would discuss when they were hurting, they would acknowledge their abusers were likely hurting too and told others what they needed (a hug, love, friendship, safety, an escort to a cab or home, etc). Through being vulnerable, and expressing it, we normalise the very human need for help and kinship and love (of all forms) and we invite others to experience it too. We allow those around us to let down their walls//their golden hair//and allow others in.

I do believe now that Radical Vulnerability has changed my life this year. At the end of 2018 I had yet-another-health-scare and ended up having to see bunches and oodles of specialists, changing my diet and supplements yet again, and do tri-weekly body conditioning. I do not believe in Cartesian Duality so I anticipated the physical struggle would be accompanied by an emotional/mental struggle and that perhaps if I got through it, I could change some of the unhealthy mental landscapes I was existing in. Radical Vulnerability had a big part to play, communicating to myself and my friends the changes I wanted to make, what I wanted to introduce into my life, communicating (EW) feelings, communicating when boundaries had been crossed, allowing others to be vulnerable, admitting I wanted to heal/myself/things… this list goes on. And it’s not easy. I have spent a really long time not being vulnerable, burying feelings, being stoic or angry but defs-not-vulnerable. This has taken practice and active brain rewiring. It has been exhausting. I am also happier this year than I have been in forever because I feel as authentic as I can be.
Please follow Alok on IG  see their shows, buy their poetry etc.

10 things pokemon

Pokémon
(Something I can always rely on and turn to when my brain is noisy and my heart hurts.)

Something totally different… As a kid who grew up in the 90s I was left salivating after Pokémon cards, Red and Blue, OG Gameboys, yet I was not allowed to participate in that world. I don’t think my Mum liked it. I don’t think she got it. I think she thought that the cards were a waste of money and we were too middle class (aspiring) for that. Who knows? Then my sibling and I got Gold and Silver. My life was forever changed. I remember the moment my egg hatched into an Eevee and the love of my Pokémon life appeared. I was dedicated to Pokémon, I had books that I filled with my analysis of patterns in the game, when specific Pokémon appeared, when items went on sale in the underground Poke-Marketplaces, how to make Pokémon like you more (haircuts). I was 10. I was obsessed. It was the best summer of my life.

Since then I have had my fluctuations with the games, times where I was less inclined to game. But the reinventions and changes have brought wholesome additions to the Pokémon experience. Pokémon Go has introduced a level of accessibility that bypasses the privilege emphasised by being able to afford games. As a free app, it is pretty easy to avoid in-game purchases. This level of accessibility is so important because gaming is expensive. There are so many testimonies to the benefits of the gaming experience as well, with folks playing it to de-stress, increase exercise, socialise, deal with anxiety in its many forms and also network. I used to play it a lot more when it was first released but then went back to the DS games. I have recently started Let’s Go Eevee and am reminded why these games help me alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. The new gaming format has a bigger emphasis on compassion and empathy, and the games have always had a big respect for nature, animal life, nonhumans, and compassion. Introducing these ideas to kids, and adult-kids, is no bad thing. A world where we are compassionate to one another, to animals, to ourselves isn’t a bad place. If you have not checked out the Detective Pikachu film yet then please do, it was for me, what the War Craft film was for my Dad (family of #gamers). If it wasn’t for the fact that a cute person had started holding my hand (see- Ew gross- Radical Vulnerability), and felt the need to talk to me throughout the entire film I probably would have been in tears coz that is the world I want to live in. It was beautifully depicted and so wonderful.

10 things pratchett

Terry Pratchett
(His writing can be relied upon to remind me others empathise with the world and the situations we are in and anger is a valid tool to get shit done; he didn’t have his days of rage for nothing.)

One day Terry Pratchett became my favourite author, the end, good bye. I never imagined that would happen to me. Me, an outrageous gothic queer, a nonbinary dreamer, an activist academic (aspiring)… perhaps that is why he became my favourite author. You cannot read a book of his without realising he was/is pro-equality, a dreamer, and a realist; able to dismantle social justice issues then reboot them into heartbreaking sci-fi fantasy narrative.

At first, I didn’t exactly click with his writing. Discworld has no chapters and that was a bit of a head fuck, plus his older writing is short and satirical; which took time and probably maturity to adjust to. Pick up a Discworld book towards the middle of the series and they are different books and he is a different writer. He turns literary clichés on their head while still weaving an amazing gothic narrative. He gives us ghetto gang warfare but between trolls and dwarves and still breaks your heart. DEATH is a kind, curious anthropomorphic manifestation that I hope will usher me on to the land of black sand. I still weep that Terry Pratchett is gone (sort of, I mean he lives on in his books and creations and our imaginations) yet he politically resonates more than ever.

Good Omens the TV show was a perfect culmination and evolution of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimans’ book brain baby. It was a pleasure to watch with a lot of discourse that is gender affirming in a sense of nonbinary gender and the lack of gendered behaviour. The main characters which had always appeared campy and gender nonconforming in the original text are beautiful soft marshmallow babies who deeply love each other (whether you interpret that as platonic or romantic) and fumble around and don’t really save the world (a very practical witch does, and a young ordinary boy who happens to be the antichrist) but maybe they save each other. Read it. Watch it.

10 things mushrooms

A Short Cut to Mushrooms
(Rewilding is a gross buzzword I won’t mention here or again because it’s ridiculous but also go out to a forest or a stream or a sand dune or some tundra or a bonfire and get out of your own messy head once in a while.)

It’s no lie that when I am stressed out, the stressed get going – to the forest – to look at mushrooms. I adore fungi. I am not a mycologist so I do not know everything about them but I know enough to look and not touch coz somehow the edible ones in Australia also look like the ones that give you the runs and also look like the ones that make you cough blood and also look like the ones that will kill you. The most distinguishable, in fact, are the ones that will get you high, which I think the local parks council has realised much to my dismay when I went to my favourite wet bush walking spot and half the place had been dug up. Now, I get where they are coming from. They think ‘fellas some class A drugs are growing IN THE GROUND’ and probably ‘we Australians need to make this forest Australian again so we will dig up the introduced holly, psylocibin fungi, non-native trees and let’s just hope the ecosystem bounces back and looks like the hardwood forest pre-invasion’; (hot tip that forest was decimated by logging by colonisers to make happy homesteads and farms, it will never ever look pre-invasion, not a single one of those trees exist anymore). The land there seems sad. The land there seems like it is waiting. I deeply love the Macedon Ranges, it welcomed its self to me in its damp mossy ways and I plan to live in this area as long as is feasibly (fiscally) possible. I spent a lot of time in this forest looking after my mental health (by walking and taking photos of fungi), many a friendship has been forged as I forced a pal to walk one of my dogs here, and I have spent freezing afternoons with the heater in my car pumping while starting (gasp) the prelude to a romantic relationship. Spending time in a spot that I feel deeply enriches and soothes me is one of my favourite parts of living in the Australian state of Victoria, and living on Wurundjeri land. The land is diverse, exquisite, and bursting with narratives. You only need to step out your front door to encounter stories, old, new, and emerging to help you fall in love with the land.

ten things elderlings

Realm of the Elderlings
(This book series reminds me that having everything crap happen to you makes for a hell of a narrative, forgive me Beloved Fitzchivalry Farseer.)

As a series of books I passionately love. it is a little bizarre that I haven’t reread these novels yet. The Realm of the Elderlings is a recent turn of phrase for the sprawling universe Robin Hobb developed with her multiple fantasy series. It begins with a coming of age story, a boy and his dog, except this child is nameless and then given the lovely term of endearment Fitz (yikes) and begins many an adventure as an emotionally underdeveloped and unreliable narrator. You may wonder why I adore these books as Fitz is pigheaded at the best of times and downright problematic when the occasion arises. Hobb is a brilliant writer (is why) with a beautifully constructed gender diverse character who weaves their way throughout the entire series (sort of) also SPOILER. Hobb gives us a crash course on how fantasy can be hugely gender inclusive and gender diverse without mirroring transgender narratives in the Western world. I refer to her writings when discussing great ways to be gender inclusive to author friends who want tips and do not want to rinse-repeat the male-to-female, female-to-male coming out trope. It’s trope even in our world; something frequently expected of trans people to experience. What if that person was always nonbinary but had a doctor assign a different gender at birth because we equate genitalia with gender. What if that person was always male regardless of what stage they are in with their physical transition; they’re not trying to achieve masculinity because masculinity is a social construct, they are just on their gender journey to their gender destination. Fantasy and sci-fi books can be fantastic ways to think about these things and apply these concepts without people breathing down your neck telling you what trans is/isn’t or spewing transphobic rhetoric. Oh, wait they do that anyway to the author?

Damn. I guess this circles back to Radical Vulnerability, writing about this stuff makes me vulnerable, and as soon as a transphobe opens their mouth (or Twitter account) they are vulnerable too and fear leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side, and dark side leads to goth, and goth leads to emo, and emo leads to scene kids, and now we have Instagram Influencers with big eyebrows and snatched things and I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S SNATCHED I AM TOOOOOO OOOOOOLD I am one sprained ankle away from Baba Yaga and a cauldron full of semen and smeg (neither of which are gendered either, they are simply bodily emissions and some folx can do both).

ten things star wars

Star Wars
(This cash cow brings me a lot of binge watching down-time pleasure. Also social justice in space, Finn and Poe are my princes, maybe Rey will bring balance to the Force?)

A Long Time Ago, in a cinema… far far away; I was 7 years old, it was 1996 and I was watching The Empire Strikes Back because the films were in cinemas again and my little sibling was being babysat and my parents wanted to take me. No, I wasn’t scared. Yes I ADORED HAN SOLO he basically is the same person as my (Grand)Pa and OMG DARTH VADERS’ VOICE is exquisite thank you James Earl Jones (I am sorry they stuffed an old bald white guy into your sexy rubber suit for Return of the Jedi). I watched the full trilogy on VHS and yep dug it, medieval space battles, magic swords, and celibate wizards. Got it.

Then oh boy, then… The Phantom Menace came out. I have zero interest in debating whether this is a good film, I literally don’t care if you don’t like it. It was a bloody masterpiece with a martial artist actually getting to play the character whom he is doing the judo chop for, and Yodas’ furry green ball sack; Darth Maul changed my life. Gothic af, his aesthetic is still drool-worthy, his stunts and choreography are breathtaking and John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” is still my favourite cinematic score and basically the soundtrack to my internal dialogue. Whenever I am frustrated, I build Star Wars Legos, I jump into a generally trashy Star Wars novel, I chuckle about all the forced celibacy and sexual yearnings of the Padawans and Sith apprentices, and I let myself emotionally uncurl and unspiral while watching podracing … and try to not write mental essays on the colonisation of Naboo and reoccurring, always-there-NOT-A-NEW-THING-social-justice politics embedded in the narratives.

ten things buddy reading

Buddy Reading
(If I burnt everything down, who would read with me?)

A few years ago I relocated from the place I grew up to the place I am now. I did in fact make a handful of IRL friends, however, our calendars often clash and I often have not enough spoons to physically go out (and they, for the most part, don’t have cars). Creating a Bookstagram on IG became a wonderful healing process where I connected with all kinds of bookworms and discussed my love of literature, comics, novels, and all-round geekery. I have had my Booksta account for around 3 years now and due to this, I have made some incredible lifelong friends. I love finding odd nooks of the internet where all of a sudden your nerd herd emerges and you are no longer alone.

The chaos that the TV adaptation of Good Omens has brought to the internet has kept me going all June. It is a gender non-conforming queer life force. Buddy reading, this was about that. It really got me communicating with likeminded people and sharing my bookish love. It is this wonderful feeling to curl up on your couch, in your time zone and send a voice message to a friend overseas about where you are up to in the book you are reading. Or send photo reactions for your heartache. Or grieve together for the death of a fictional character. It has really helped fill that sense of lacking within me due to loss of community and has brought me back to myself. There are less intense ways of participating in Buddy reads of course; like, you do not actually have to record how much you have cried over The Faithful and the Fallen (by John Gwynne) but if you are so inclined, you can. You can be as extra or as introverted as you wish. Did I mention this has somehow formed kindred spirit type friendships and also made friends for me, with folx in my own new-to-me city?

ten things comics

Comics
(Beautifully illustrated and written capsules of narrative, I would miss you the most if I burnt everything down.)

I was lucky to have access to comics from a really young age. A few years back when a lot of femme readers came forward to me saying they felt gate-kept by the comic community and like it was something just for cis-boys I felt really confused. My Mum would take me to the corner store to buy Archies, Jugheads, and Sabrina Double Digests in the 90s. My Dad would take me for my Birthday, and then again for Yule, to the expensive comic book store in Brisbane city to buy me 2 trade paperback comic books (that was basically all I got for those events and I literally do not care, priceless) in the early 00s. No one around me read comics so not only did I NOT FEEL LIKE THEY WERE A GENDERED ACTIVITY, as an Australian I was seeing very little evidence that it was a masculine thing.

Growing up in Brissy, the cis-boys were skateboarding or surfing or playing AFL. The cis-chicks were playing netball or softball or getting orange fake tans coz it was Brisbane in the early 00s. Geekery has no gender (none of the above-mentioned activities have genders either FYI), so for me, I never felt like I was reading something for boys. The rebirth of the comics industry ESPECIALLY WHERE IMAGE COMICS ARE CONCERNED works to cater not only to being gender inclusive but simply put; inclusive AF.

You want POC driven feudal fantasy? I got ya, fam. You want empathy robot children in space with sexy cyborgs? I got ya, fam. You want alt-world Batman where the Joker is a woman and Barbara Gordon is in charge? I got ya fam. You want a queer urban fantasy with pop-icon deities in stunning fashion? I got ya, fam. You want a femme murder mystery with drama galore? I got ya, fam. You want comics written and illustrated by Indigenous creators? You want comics written and illustrated by women? You want comics written and illustrated by queer folx? I GOT YA, FAM. All of a sudden, I realised the stuff I loved about comics, was beloved by more than me, and these people weren’t sitting on their hands (like me) wishing they could create, they were creating, and I was reading and buying their work. Not only are comics for everyone, (ok unless you are blind, I mean there is word-to-audio conversion programs but unless it describes what has been illustrated this is not as accessible as I imagined 2 seconds ago), ahem if you are willing to pay, they are being made by… everyone.

Look around and women are taking over DC, Latinx creators are getting their voices out there, DC has an Aboriginal superhero (WHO DESERVES HIS OWN COMIC), Marvel is writing trans characters and Image is covering every base there is. If a new identity emerges I know Image will feature a creator or include a character by next comic book day (so Thursday).

ten things reading

Reading
(Because it builds empathy, slows you down, gives you access to more voices than the ones in your head, and ideas can change this world.)

Reading has saved me, and many a friend, many times over. It’s what I turn to when life gets too much (so, daily) and it has been a companion from a young age. One of my earliest not-quite-memories is of walking over to my Mums’ tabby cat Cosmo and throwing a pile of board books on her head screaming “READ TO ME” like the demon child I was. I think my Mum had to surgically remove the cat from my arm. My childhood was full of bizarre health issues which impacts my behaviour and moods and often made doctors send me off for CT scans. When things got too much, my Mum would read to me. Read absolutely whatever, but as a bookworm. the children’s lit library she developed for me, and then for my sibling was, and is, phenomenal.

One of my fondest summer holiday memories is after swimming for hours we’d sit outside drying off (in the Brisbane humidity, yep it took a while) and she would read one chapter of The Hobbit, acting out sections and doing scary voices where necessary. I was petrified of Flies and Spiders, and my sister wept when Thorin lay dying. My Mum was bemused, “didn’t you say every afternoon you hate this book?” I remember my sister replying, hands crushed in fists against her eyes, golden curls refracting blistering sun “bu-bu-but I loved [Thorin] him”. That dried my tears up quickly. I knew as the loud, annoying older sibling that this was teasing dynamite. I was ready to explode. My Mum saw this immediately and made it clear I was not allowed to tease other people about their feelings. I still maintain that feelings are gross.

ten things lotr

The Lord of the Rings
(Middle Earth is debatably where I belong, I am definitely an Orc, an eloquent Orc however.)

My family took me to Middle Earth at a young age, (no not New Zealand, still not visited yet) and introduced to me to a wonderful universe. As an adult, I have had my fair share of qualms with Tolkien, pastoralism not the least of them, but on average they are wholesome books with wholesome characters and wholesome adaptations and SO MUCH QUEER CODING SWEET BABY GANDALF. Something I really adore about the film adaptations is the tender masculinity present in the characters. Aragorn kissing his friends’ foreheads and singing poetic verses. Sam weeping over salt or rope or potatoes or Frodo or Rosie or pints. The sweet sexual tension between Gimli and Legolas. Legolas’s facial expressions. Pippin and Merry–the bffs or friends-with-benefits?

These characters fought the good fight, for others, not themselves. And some are lucky enough to live, but never to live unchanged. They give me hope in dark places when I need courage, and when I need to remember that the smallest of folx can make big ripples in this universe. Plus the LOTR community make pretty sweet memes. And fanart. And fanfic. When I am stressed out I put on Howard Shore’s An Unexpected Journey (perfect for reading any kind of fantasy book or just having on low volume for naps). When I am weary I binge well, the LOTRs film trilogy, not the Hobbit so much; this is an article about things keeping me in the world or keeping me from destroying the world so SKIPPING OVER THE HOBBIT FILMS (the first is not so bad, and Thranduil is glam af) is a good idea or I may just need to write a follow up rant article on 10 Things that Make Me Want to Take Back My Word and Burn Everything.

Whether you think Bilbo and Thorin are perfect soul mates or just platonic enemies to frenemies, there is a lot of comfort in these tales. I think that’s what Tolkien set out to achieve, to talk about awful traumatic things that change the shape of your world and how you then relate to that changed world and your changed self. There is a sense of comfort whether it’s imagining Bilbo’s larder and pantry (drool), listening to Thorins’ singing voice (drool), pushing yourself to go on an adventure without your damn pocket handkerchief, crossing over to the Grey Lands as some kind of … assisted dying with emotional support group; there is a lot of beauty in Middle Earth. Which means that it is a beauty that can still be found in our world; Tolkien based his creations on Saxon, Norse, and Anglo myths to bring new meaning to the history of the land he lived on and fought for. This resonates with us; we live now seeing the outcomes of these wars and like a Nazgul on the horizon, we know too that another war is coming. We don’t know how it will be fought, I cannot anticipate this stuff despite my study, despite my heart, despite my paranoia. But we have the stories of our ancestors, our transcestors, our Elders, and we still have time to learn. Maybe that’s what Tolkien set out to do, not build a great faerie tale or a mythic cycle for Britain, but caution us against ourselves and our shared history of violence. To be gentle, to be tender, to kiss those we love (ew), and to find a peaceful mode of living.

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