Miss Manners? Disability, the lost art of etiquette and things you can do to enable members of your community.

Clara with  Abrams at Postmodern Jukebox in 2016.

I suffer invisible dis/Abilities and most of the time I could probably pass by undetected in the population who don’t count their days by the humble spoon; though in Australia, 1 in 5 people are termed “disabled”. Like many people with disabilities, I was born with some but acquired others as I got older. In the Western world, most people with disabilities don’t actually get diagnosed until they are in their teens and early twenties, the probability increasing with age. And accidents happen all the time, it could happen to you and I consider you to take the position before you dismiss the following.

Most people are civilised enough to make way for someone with obvious impairments to mobility and sight or accomodations for a condition like asthma, but if you are like me living with invisible dis/Abilities, you often see the very best and the very worst of human behaviour. Like a rip tide just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there and it’s not devastating to live with the consequences of it.

This week, I was at Flinders University doing an intensive archaeology course in human osteology, and while I can state without hesitation that we absolutely without a doubt have the best support at university in the country from our Disability Officers and academic staff, in my experience, the rest of the university population were simply the worst and exams doesn’t excuse it.

So instead of complaining about what I suffered, I’m going to make a few suggestions about how you can make a few simple changes to your behaviour that don’t ask anything too onerous of you and enable people like me to get by without having the soul crushing experience of having to disclose or ask you to change:

• Situational awareness – be aware of what is going on around you. Someone like me who suffers chronic pain and has bandaged hands really appreciates it if you hold the door a second longer so it doesn’t slam in our face. It’s just good manners…

• Give people on elevators and escalators room to alight. You can’t get on when the occupants of the previous journey haven’t departed and also make room once your on the lift to accomodate other people. I’ve never met someone who is as big as the lifts at university! 

• Respect my personal space in crowded situations. There are many ways to be a good citizen in cramped peak hour public transport – it won’t kill you to put your bag on the floor or give me a better handhold if I ask for it because saying I’m clumsy is easier than explaining living with chronic pain to complete strangers who have read on the internet that fibromyalgia isn’t really pain because pain is sensed in the brain so I’m not really in pain I just think I am. Yes, this happened…

• Believe my condition is real. I’ve actually been to several specialists with years of experience before receiving my diagnosis and I have only started on medication this year that doesn’t provide complete relief from my neuropathic pain despite what you’ve read off a science feed on Facebook.

• Also don’t offer me cures you’ve read about or know helped if I mention the diagnostic label of my dis/Ability. You’re not a doctor and more importantly even if you have a medical degree, you’re not my doctor

• Understand if I mention I’m low on spoons in any conversation, I’m talking about spoon theory. I’m not obsessed about cutlery, I’m not feeling well, I’m unable to fully function or I don’t have the energy to do everything I need to do today or let alone do in a day. It’s not an opportunity to discuss spooning on Facebook messenger which might be the only contact I have with people that day (true story).

•Know I’m doing the best I can and don’t diminish the effort I’m trying to participate in society. Know that undertaking a masters degree is my primary occupation and I’m paying fees to do it. Understand that I have limited functionality and to me my time is precious so I’m going to prioritise it above everything else including my laundry but I’m not going to miss out on showering and eating because I’m volunteered and ran out of energy. If I haven’t done something, it’s not that I’ve forgotten or I don’t feel guilty but that something is preventing me from doing it. Like the choice between basic maintenance or intellectual labour.  

• If I talk about my disabilities, I’m only human and need to vent, so just listen and don’t try to fix it. Especially with politically correct bandaid solutions. The world for me with my bandages under my clothes is like being a cyclist in a world whose default status is designed for cars. I am at a genuine disadvantage a lot of the time and you can try to change what you can in your own sphere of influence, but I’m allowed to call society out on it until I’m  equal. Equality and accessibility for someone in society is making accomodations for the least abled as your basic line of inclusion. 

• If I ask you for your seat or I’m sitting in a disabled space, assume I need it and believe me when I ask for it. Ask me if you think I’m being too polite to ask you as I’m swaying and I’m facing the choice of asking you and your kid or the elderly woman at the bus stop because I’ll sit anywhere right now including the gutter because I haven’t got a choice. It is not easy to pull yourself out of the gutter when there is no where else to sit and one person is dominating the space…

• Give me the tools to participate as fully as possible. You’ll be surprised what we can achieve together, enabling me isn’t giving me an unfair advantage. All it proves is if you give anyone the right toolkit to succeed, they tend to succeed.

• When presented with an opportunity to make a better choice, take the better choice. I try to be the person I need in society and it’s not natural at first and it can feel like you’re stretching but eventually you fill that personal vaccum with the actions you made in changing the small bit of world around you. 

Clara Santilli, 4th November, 2017.






How to write a good music review (by someone who studies the arts, listens to music and knows a band or two).

Everyone loves a rockstar…or this is what a good music review is from my years of exposure to various aspects of the music industry and studying popular culture… a lot. Music is an art form that you tell people who can’t listen to what you’re hearing and why it’s worth their time. It sounds easy right? We all have an opinion. Musicians don’t have the edge over the general radio listener and if you want an in their own words experience, interview them or ask them for feature quote if they are accessible!

What does make a good review? You want to capture what it is about the artist and the song that makes it worthy of your recommendation. Today I looked at a review that was barely adequate by a musician for a local band and nothing about it made me want to go and see the band or buy the song despite listening to the band, watching an interview and researching the band whose live sound is very different to their studio project.

First and foremost you are endorsing this band and you should justify why you think other people would enjoy their music. You are putting your name and reputation to something in a review and you should be creating the choice that your reader has to check out this band or at least you make enough of an impression so that your audience remembers them.

A good starting place is that you want to provide a context for the artist or band, this the creates relevance and situates them such as “local boys” or “ an upcoming chanteuse”, so ask yourself where are they in the music industry and career? What other angle makes them interesting? If you can’t answer the latter, research it.

When you are documenting a musical experience, research and preparation are just as important as conveying your enthusiasm or you come off like a “fangirl/boy/drone/content scraper” or someone who isn’t really into the band and is just doing this for [reasons dubious and mysterious].

Next, ask yourself what musical genre is this, what is their aesthetic and who is the audience? Consider how you might label something and how the normal listening population would label your artist. So that if you were a grunge rocker, what does “easy listening” suggest to a general audience? I know I personally I’d think smooth jazz or pop music of a balladic temperament and I’d be pissed off that I ended up at a band sounding more like the progeny Nirvana and early Foo Fighters if I was planning a relaxing night out. I’d complain and ask for my money back. Then the band is faced to refund an angry customer and they find out who called the Silver Chair tribute show an easy listening experience in reviews.

Good ways to end a career in music and pop culture journalism before you’ve even hit as a blogger…Artists, their management and very angry punters have long memories, when you put your name to something like a review, you are essentially creating a brand relationship with the artist, even passively. Long memories, like elephants, rookie mistake I made in my first year as the Lonely Archaeologist.

Who and what does your band sound like? Those are your audience and who you are writing to convince to get out and buy the album/song! And I do mean buy it because musicians endure a lot to get to the stage they have multiple albums and have played more hours to almost empty rooms than…drifted off there. How do you describe the song or sound of the artist? A description like “scratchy vocals” over “big guitars” clearly indicates it is not easy listening! That firmly could be could said to be rock. Know your band, keep in mind your audience and their audience.

The way you describe a band should be poetic but economically descriptive prose anything is using filler vocabulary – a good writer doesn’t need to use generic adjectives like calling the band “mind blowing” or “epic”. A test I use is that is what I’m describing useful to someone who is yet to listen to this song/album? You can quite easily say it has “chunky guitars, brother” and it reads like an analysis by an unimaginative year 12 student doing rudimentary musicology. Like a song, you have to find a hook in 2 ways, song content and song sound.

Content is what the song is saying and why you think it is relevant for your intended audience. “I really loved it!” is not helpful to someone- always looks the “because” that should have featured in place of the exclamation – who might get a kick knowing it’s a kiss off anthem that captures the angst of Kurt Cobain but the lyrics have the drama of a Taylor Swift song. What a weird love child that had to be!

Then there is the sound, “mind blowing”* and other effusive praise again it doesn’t tell me why I should listen and keep reading your review and then possibly listen to a good but not great song by a promising act beyond the first uncomfortable riff …because it hurt my ears. That is literally what happened today, it seems like a lame response but science has found humans have short attention spans. Then I read a review and went back on advice and listened to the whole the song really- it just has an inaccessible beginning. So be specific!

Are they a big band reimagining of classic pop and rock hits – say a la PMJ or a string quartet of album of Brit rockers, The Killers, featured on hit tv show, XYZ*.

…sideways divergence…And don’t scrape pictures from their Facebook page without asking the photographer, not the people in them. You may be treading on another artist or worse and end up with a copyright issue. You can google what happens with those…have a media policy and develop some ethics if you intend to write a lot of reviews. You can use a picture of an album cover under fair use for review. Your reputation is only as good as your integrity…

Back on track. You really need to get people past the intro of a song and into the first chorus so they’ll commit to the full song and album. A good description should be like: “They have a classic rock sound with clear grunge influences like Other Bands* and when heard live, their sound for Previous Album was pared back to a raw, emotional state that only a black hearted bitch from the underworld of Asgard couldn’t love*.

Fans are in for a pleasant surprise with This Album* – it’s so different beast to the live sound of BlahBlah*! This is their second outing in the Australian music scene, act two is different and sophisticated mix compared to their debut, First Album Recorded In A Garage By the Drummers Dad!*

Well known for the hit ‘I’m seeing Thor tonight*’, this record is a juicy, polished reimagining of Ask!Me!* They have grown up with a more full, refined sound with trademark catchy big guitar riffs in ‘Love This Song’*. It is an anthem for an army of the living dead and a giant wolf.*

Clearly the year touring the nine realms* and new bassist, Almost Loki* and have created a textured edgy version of ‘Love Hit Song’* also appearing on This New Album* with ‘Also Love That New Song’* .

It’s really a new hiphop swing rockabilly jamming with spoons and dubstep sound for BlahBlah* and an interesting change of direction artistically, it’s a great option for those who are new to the AskMe* music scene or devoted fans that enjoyed their live numbers or That Famous Garage Album*!”

Finally, ethically don’t ask a band member, their management or a family/friend of the band, to review a band and expect an uncritical and helpful review. Always disclose your relationship to the band if it’s more than catching the bus with the bassist. If you want in their words, quote them or write an interview. Many local to medium acts are more than happy to answer email interviews or even meet for coffee (the expectation is that you buy).

A great strategy I picked up from my friend Matt is that if you really do want to interview/review a band, make it relevant to them and your review’s intended audience. And then buy the song/album/a ticket to see them if you possibly can and make the relationship reciprocal artistically. Musicians gotta eat, instruments need maintenance and power doesn’t pay for itself.

Tell Facebook it was mind blowing with that blurry stage shot you took. Sell the band to the world (or at least me) with your review.

*Names are fictional and yes I saw Thor 3. I’m giving people until the weekend to write my how to write a film review film review, only this time using a real film! review. Stay tuned.

Clara Santilli, 2017, this is article may be reused under fair use. Please buy always music and remember to attribute artists!

Texting yes and the right to privacy: carving out space in the age of social media.

I’ve got a million thoughts in my head as I’m walking to the cafe this morning. I have 4 or 5 dialogues across social media going on. I’m working out how to use my realestate agency’s maintenance app to describe plumbing issues I don’t have the vocabulary for and I’ve been reading forums to try and work out if the issue needs a plumber or me turning the tap clockwise. Which way is it again?

I get to the cafe, order and sit down. This is my morning ritual, to go get breakfast after having some medication with awful side effects and then quietly enjoying my tea and toast as I put my phone away. The cafe is busy, and then we segue three ways. The first time, it’s an elderly gentleman from somewhere more exotic than Radelaide and he wants to sit down. The cafe is busy and with no tables free, I smile weakly and offer him some of the table when asked. He wants to sit right beside me, close, and I find that uncomfortable, my first nope red flag. I definitely don’t want him in my personal space. I suggest he sits the other side and then he starts trying to engage me in conversation and interrupting my meal to the point where I want to move – I see another table is free. I have to move the entire tea set and myself and get dirty looks from my unwanted companion.

I thought we were just sharing a table and I used enough soft no indications before noping across the cafe to indicate that I was not wanting contact. I am perturbed as I drink my drink, because hot tea is required while I try to silence my thoughts and I find I automatically pull out my phone. Why doesn’t life have a do not disturb function?

The second and third time at the cafe are identical- two older women come in alone. I’m alone too. I quietly go about my ritual of my three cups of a pot of tea- too milky and sweet for some but it’s just what I need on a stomach full of prescribed sanity. The morning medication hasn’t kicked in yet despite my breakfast veering into lunch territory because I slept late again- the new drug for my fibromyalgia is making me very drowsy at night when I take it and it rolls heavily into the burden of waking after slow release antipsychotics. In the morning they take a few hours to clear my head so I sleep late and then start fretting for the day and go to breakfast where I’m one with the caffeine. Jittery and unsettled despite trying to find peace of mind with my phone in my bag. In easy reach.

The women aren’t getting much attention as the cafe owner is busy though he tries to be personable with every customer (what a good public face game he has cultivated as the caring local cafe owner of Glenelg) and they seem to need the human contact ordering something meagre at a cafe brings. They make some remark to no one in particular and I find myself replying to the hanging remark inadvertently. This empty space where the comment hovers precariously is almost where these women seem to be socially. It’s meagre words.

I’m also a single woman dining alone and I reach across the space and make small talk even though I’m an introvert today. The strangest bit of the encounters for me though, is the end, where the women thank me for actually talking to them. It wasn’t that hard to step across and make a place for her in my day. I hope someone will do it for me when I’m older and then remember the SBS post I made on social media about saying hello (that I forgot to read). I try to post about mental health yet sometimes I get distracted…

It’s another day and ruminating over my tea, I think about the first encounter with Mr Not-My-Surgeon and what was my discomfort with the first man. Initially I thought he was my surgeon for my upcoming brain transplant and was only there to pick something up as it’s close to his surgery (which I can see from my flat if we are creepy and all Rear Window) then I worry that if it is my surgeon to be, that I’ve jeopardised my chances of getting all the help I can within my price range. I call my mother and fret because the truth is, I find faces hard to remember.

I find it extremely hard outside my cultural group though it isn’t kosher to admit that in the humanities and I spent a good ten minutes comparing the nosy man to the photon of the surgeon. I think they are different in the ears and my mother assures me that the surgeon would have ethical boundaries and if he had sat down, it wouldn’t have been beside me. I realise that he is intruding on my time away from being constantly accessible online and disconnecting so I can mindfully eat my breakfast.

Breakfast. It’s my space away from social media: it’s called privacy and a lesson I learned from a stark genius that it’s alright to be accountable in your public face but your privacy is a space to guard. Yet with face to face contact there is no block feature or a mute button…The second and third encounters in my musing make me realise there’s a generational gap into the idea of social spaces we occupy and how people who have spent a lot of time online socially seem to (not unreasonably) want to disconnect after the furious dance of eyes and fingers duelling, waltzing across the touch screen with 23 tabs open in the browser and 3 different apps to manage banking, bills and how you’ll get the tram to Victoria Square in time for poetry in the pub and the featured poet is Calamity, who is he again? Checks Facebook. We are friends, when did this happen again?

Over my tea, I think I’ve sent enough social cues I don’t want to engage every morning and that’s why the first encounter unsettled me. The man was demanding my attention, acting entitled to my personal space quite literally when he wanted to sit close to me, maybe share my tea?! I read about an SMS sent by some of Yes marriage equality campaigners and how many people feel it’s a violation of their personal space. I understand this sensation my space has been violated in a way I can’t articulate, despite the sharpest mind I know telling people that it’s just an SMS that took a few seconds to read and delete it.

Pragmatic me knows she’s absolutely right but another part of me recognises that social media – texts, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and messenger apps just to pose a few for my definition of what it is to occupy e-space – has become an extension of their actual self identifying space in reality (or meatspace!) And when I think about how I rely on my phone probably too much but it has become an extension I use to enable my dis/Abilities. I’m so invested in my technological microcosm, that my e-space occupation is an unavoidable consequence of communicating mostly by social media, I understand why we can’t articulate that sense of being violated because the definition of contact has changed.

It’s why I was bothered by my *gentleman friend* because he couldn’t read my body language. It’s a cultural shift in symbols like headphones but no music or a news paper to peruse. And because we spend so much time connected, we want to disconnect and don’t give this desire for peace of mind it’s own physical embodiment.

Sadly this doesn’t go well when people occupying small parts of society want to connect. In another Clara-needs-more-therapy story that probably should be in Thought Catalogue: last year, I was cyber stalked by another student wanting me to do her work. A lot of her work. I reported it, I was told I responded appropriately but if she was told to back off, it was confidential so it felt like she’d gotten away something at my expense. I just couldn’t put my finger on it exactly it my body reacted as if she was an imminent threat.

The problem was that she creeped out of e-space in my mind and creeped into my meatspace & started to set off ptsd reactions despite there being no physical danger. And this is how I imagine a ‘vote yes text’ feels to someone very caught up without the sensible divide between ‘online’ you using social media and meatspace you that occupies a distinct physical and social space. Reality isn’t the lens you are looking through when you react like that to a veiled threat, you aren’t responding with a considered approach. Instead there are overwhelming feelings that create a cognitive dissonance so reality and your reaction aren’t congruent.

The text probably felt like some stranger had walked into your bedroom and sat on your bed and started preaching the Yes campaign. I once had two old women come into my house when I first was living alone and forgot to lock the door; I remember then making themselves at home while I was in a daze and I still doubt the memory but it was a real event and they were there in my house and I don’t know why. I honestly don’t remember inviting them in but I definitely remember asking them to leave. I suppose unsolicited texts leave you with the same vague anxiety, but thing about anxiety is that it’s not logical or rational. My cyber stalker elicited the same hypervigilance and anxiety as her physical presence would have if she’d shown up in my home.

I was asked to work with the cyber stalker on an assignment and with her persistent demands on me, I couldn’t do the group work and so she sought to punish me when I wouldn’t hand over my material I’d gathered for my own essay. The lecturer insisted on my participation in the group work (despite her asking me to do her work for her) as it was a vital part of his teaching pedagogy; despite him being advised to let me present alone as an accomodation. Later when discussing my participation (or non), he called me arrogant when I was confident in my abilities (after 15 years of university I bloody better well be) when a male student trying to occupy the space I’m taking would not have been criticised. The equal opportunity officer was the one to write my fee remission and retrospective withdrawal letter so I definitely had a case. I told The cyberstalker never to contact me again and unfortunately I probably won’t be able to take that class again. I don’t fit into the teaching space.

So people reacting to the Yes vote text are stressed out and instead of responding to it like Yes literature in the mail, as their sane reaction to simply throwing it out, the SMS has become a spectre and the objection is that the Yes campaign felt entitled to invade their social space. If this had been the No for marriage equality campaign, it would have been a scandal and no voters would be further demonised. What ever way you choose to vote, you should feel that you have privacy and dignity over your choice. The Yes vote SMS violated that autonomy we expect in an individualistic society and this is why reasonable people are reacting unreasonably. They are worried by the access to their e-space identity in a way that they can’t control and fear nefarious purposes or exploitation. Some of this is about fear, some of it is about saving face, with yourself for having an illogical visceral reaction to an unwanted text message. I get that anxiety when I get phone calls from blocked or unidentifiable numbers.

We live in a world of privacy settings, networking, trigger and content warnings. Our social space has neat labels and functions defined with a purpose or commonality, we create perfect bubbles and cultivate our echo chambers, we get comfortable and share how lonely we are waiting for Cthulhu. Meatspace however and living in society are dissonant and is not congruent with e-spaces. It doesn’t have privacy settings that translate into a unanimous culturally recognised language because we live in the era of multitasking (badly) and read a paper and chat, do 5 things on the phone at once, talk on the phone in the toilet. So I guess we react mentally to that perception of a vague threat to the extended self in the virtual reality of social media and people we haven’t granted access to our self. To friend has become an adverb as well as an adjectives showing how we control and grant access to ourself – friend and it’s opposite. So when people try to reach across the social divide (like the Yes vote encouraging people speak beyond their bubble as the unfortunate text demonstrates a poor attempt at) and/or invade our autonomy, we will react as if attacked because the other, unknown, hasn’t been or become labeled a friendly.

Clara, 24/09/2017

The school girl’s tale: the follies of a youth and a lucky escape.

It might seem I’m a bit late to to the dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale based on Margaret Atwood’s novel but I’ve been avoiding it because it reminded me of a part of my adolescence I’d rather forget. I have an outstanding knowledge of the bible and bible era history, because from ages 17-19 years old, I was part of a Christian sect. I was recruited from the outside right after I was vulnerable when a friend died; I went on a whim via a high school friend in my music class I’ll call Sandy. Sandy was popular, beautiful and the closest thing I’d imagine good devout parents wanted in a daughter, one Christmas in our little cult morality plays even the boys agreed she probably should have been the one to play Jesus. Sandy was a monument to her faith, our faith; and it was almost like being the dumb ugly fat friend again. Everyone wants to be Sandy.

This particular cult or sect, depending on who you ask based on your interpretation of an earthly leader, are some of the kindest and most righteous people you’ll ever meet. I found in them unconditional acceptance for which I owe them my gratitude and that’s probably why I dabbled with various Christian sects over the years, they overwhelmed me with their goodness and unconditional welcome – as long as I was one of them, I believe probably by now I’ve been excommunicated in language most people would understand and this almost is a relief now that I’m 20 years older. But this what makes them the most terrifying forces of human belief, that they are good because they are the chosen ones. Chosen to be God’s police as a Christian friend put it.

So I’ve not watched The Handmaid’s Tale until now because I haven’t been ready to confront that aspect of my past. How willing I was to wear a veil or head covering to church because a woman’s hair is the glory of her husband alone…how only men were able to teach the scriptures and women must be submit to all brothers of the church, I was called a sister upon full immersion baptism. Secretly, I was still a pagan in my heart of hearts so I honestly feel terrible to have deceived these people in that way but they also had no problem in shunning me one day when I wore a sundress to church and was told I wasn’t fit to eat the Lord’s table by a man in his sixties. Something something gazpacho about temptation…today I’d declare it Inappropriate a man that age criticising my dress and body as a vehicle for male temptations as if men aren’t capable of being their own moral and ethical gatekeepers. This way lays rape culture…

And that’s why as I’m watching episode three right now and seeing the women lose their autonomy, I’m feeling a sense of de ja vu. It was fine for me to become an archaeologist by them but I remember the day when another sister of the sect actually ripped me to pieces for daring to believe in their god and evolution (not intelligent design the way of theme parks in the USA) at the same time. This sect prides itself on the fact they read through the New Testament twice a year and once through the Old and adhere to an almost autistic interpretation of the bible. They teach critical thinking and history (if pride wasn’t a sin I’d suggest they are quite pleased by their so called rational and logical approach to decoding the Bible) but believe the world was created probably when it was also probably flat.

I decided I’d quietly keep my views to myself which is how these people operate – they operate via groupthink bound by communal ritual and use fear of ostracism and damnation to keep the doubters & “converts” like me. The fear of persecution was repeatedly drilled into us every week.Yet I was never quite as shiny as Sandy and for that I’ll be grateful. I’d learned the burden of being the perfect Christian girl before I’d joined the sect and watched the life unfold in one of my early high school friends, Ruth. It was bad enough I’d been raised outside the church and couldn’t identify my relatives inside it (so I didn’t marry a cousin I presume) and that’s where I learned what stigma feels like, not just from living with depression but from where I came from. My worldly ideas and wardrobe were too much to overcome and eventually after my first year of university I fled after reading The Handmaid’s Tale and September 11. These type of Christians are seeing the end of the days in this current state of world affairs and they are hopeful. It’s almost like we are getting what we wanted with dystopian trends in pop culture like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

I personally prefer the end of Tomorrowland and recommend any of my readers to read Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station on his analysis of the film. Let’s take the liberty of time travel and leave this all behind and return to my story. It was in that first year of university, in 2001, that I saw Sandy handed over to what amounted to as a rockstar preacher in our world, virtually a child bride who left her university studies and high school love to marry this evangelist; to follow him to Eastern Europe where she as a missionary would encourage people to cross borders for illegal baptisms in countries where Christians were persecuted. I saw that’s ultimately the fate that would befall me or I’d become a pathetic spinster reliant on my fellowship which was both revered as the preferred spiritual state (yet single childless women were still an aberration of womanhood).

Eventually I took a page from their own books and teachings that it was better to remain unmarried and independent. Christianity from the earliest days, were among the first social movements in the what was become the West, to rather radically suggest that women were able to be single, celibate and leaders in the church. I fled from the sect to another city in another state and when I see their temples, I quickly cross the road and put on my headphones in denial.

These are the same type of people against marriage equality in the Australian plebiscite carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on behalf of the Australian government. Marriage equality for them provides the ultimate battleground to be persecuted and oppressed while at the same time allowing them to fight for their beliefs to prove how godly they are. This isn’t about Christianity or human rights (see how hard they are fighting for the oppressed like refugees without an agenda of conversion and proselytising, there’s no free lunch here!) or even being against two people of the same sex being married and granted equality in a secular society.

It is about a holy war, about imposing their world order on society and finding a convenient venue to fight their good fight as the underdogs seeking glory. They win when people like me aren’t willing to confront their own experiences and use them to open dark ecclesiastical halls and throw light on what it is like living in a sect that doesn’t allow you to vote and won’t recognise any earthly government over that of an intangible deity.

This article is not about all Christians or since at no voters, though I do hold in contempt the argument love the sinner, hate the sin, so don’t throw that at me as your reason for voting no in the Australian marriage equality plebiscite.

It’s about my time as part of a cult and how they work – more of the same minefield of persecution and oppression being mixed up into a fight for their religion which is why they find ways to believe they are the victims at the same time while victimising others. This is all in order to fulfill their need to be oppressed like ancient radical Jewish sects by imperial Rome. When my body became a personal place for a war with that older church brother, like how men are battling over women’s right to contraception and abortion in the USA (where they are trying to revoke Roe vs Wade where a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and her right to terminate a pregnancy was established. They pretend it’s post truth I suppose if you can call prophecy and revelation and are preaching ideological battles as evidence based on flimsiest of evidence, their faith. This isn’t about being robbed of fatherhood and unborn babies (where is all that righteous concern for children in poverty and living in war zones?) or if Jesus thinks my dresses are slutty when we dine out. This is again a politics of persecution, us versus them, as The Handmaid’s Tale, illustrated when I read and freed me from becoming a handmaid.

Clara, 2017

Look what you made me do: for something different, understanding the narrative and agency of Taylor Swift through a close reading of her latest song.

Look what you made me write…

In 2016, Vice’s website for women, Broadly, wrote a click bait piece on on Taylor Swift as an Aryan icon worshipped by Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, KKK, Tom Hiddleston…wait forget the last one. In light of the events coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia, the issue of fascism is everywhere and people are talking. So inside my bubble, I got to read ‘Can’t Shake It Off: How Taylor Swift Became a Nazi Idol’ by Mitchell Sunderland. I’m refusing to link to the piece because I refuse to give such a flimsy article the traffic on moral principles alone and have decided while I’m preparing for invasive tests tomorrow and feeling particularly anal attentive, to breakdown how Taylor Swift has reclaimed her own iconography after famously asking to be excluded from the narrative.

Sunderland’s evidence of Nazis having appropriated Taylor’s image as a symbol was the fact back in probably 2013, Emily Pattinson, a teenage girl decided to pin Hitler quotes on images of Swift. This apparently was adopted by various fascist organisations internationally. What prompted me to write this article was that the source for the Aryan worshipping weirdos claims Taylor is a covert Nazi.

In the comments on Facebook where I found this particularly innovative piece of critical thinking, is that because Taylor Swift didn’t deny being a Nazi, her silence must be tacitly approving them. Obviously I was the only one that read where Pattinson was approached by Taylor’s legal team and told despite both Swift and Hitler definitely being people of public interest, these were damaging and for Emily to cease and desist. Then she dropped Look What You Made Me Do, the first single of her 2017 album, Reputation. And instead of excluding herself from the narrative, T-Swift tore the whole damn thing down. Let’s take a closer look on how she’s redefining herself in this new single.

First Swift wiped her social media accounts clean and removed herself from music streaming services last year (though she’s back now I’m suitably informed). Then she won a highly contentious court settlement where she was awarded the princely sum of $1 after suing a former body guard for sexual assault and was hailed as a victory for women in Hollywood setting a precedent for future cases. Then she released the song that proclaims “Here Lies The Reputation of Taylor Swift” with a zombie version of Taylor’s Out of the Woods crawling out of a graveyard. There’s a lot of shade thrown at Taylor’s known nemeses and controversies that’s not worth the salacious gossip other writers no doubt have analysed to death in light of this single. And the crawled out of the cemetery…

What I want to focus on here is two scenes in Look What You Made Me Do in particular. The scene where our songstress volunteers to become the actress of our nightmares in front of a giant T with a sweater emblazoned ‘Rep’ where 2017 Taylor Swift is on a mountain of Taylor-Swifts-Christmases Past and a stinger, at the end of the song, where the various incarnations of Taylor are standing in front of the jet (yet another Taylor had scrawled REPUTATION in red paint on), they are parroting the commentary around the various icons of each Swift career phase. Bickering among themselves, the only time the Taylor Swifts idols were in any sort of harmony is when that when circa 2009 VMAs Swift, holding her Moonman, announces she would “very much like to be excluded from this narrative”, they all tell her to SHUT UP. This Taylor Swift circa 2017 is using a power of free speech that most people forget exists, the power of silence. The one power of free speech people forget they have also have, is the power to SHUT UP.

So the reasoning of behind that Taylor Swift must be the Aryan Mistress Of Nazis because she chose not to dignify the Nazi accusations with any sort of response – which is very typical of the Taylor Swift branding I might add – falls flat. She’s always remained politically neutral even if her personal life has spilled into the gossip columns and the other burdens of being a star seem to be very public, like the inevitable commentary that comes with living in and cultivating a celebrity presence. We’ve seen Swift at times, actually relish and acknowledge it actively as with Bad Blood and the girl squad or famously with Dear John and John Mayer.

However at the end of this clip, an older and wiser Taylor is alone and in by removing herself as the subject of discussion, she’s become an object of agency and then in redefining herself, she’s actually attempting to take control of narrative rather than reacting and this is where saying nothing is her super power. In Australia, we do not have the American 5th amendment right to silence, especially if it is something that could incriminate themselves. Taylor Swift by shutting up is doing just that, responding with a considered reply rather than reacting to the innuendo, rumours and gossip. It’s not a coincidence that this is the Taylor (2009) that zombie Taylor inters back in the cemetery right at the beginning and that 2017 Taylor is the Rep.

Clara Santilli, 2017.

There’s no money in poetry…Supporting local arts and tourism from burlesque to the spoken word…

So it's been awhile readers and I've unfortunately been too ill to blog or adventure much. The last events I attended as the Lonely Archaeologist were all at the Nexus Arts Centre including the Deco Dolls and World Gin Day, Once Upon A Teaser (both curated by the talented Miss Viola Verve) and Club Gotham by the JustAss League in late June (all pictures below are from the various events mentioned).

I intended to do a feature blog on each of these events but illness is a time consuming hobby and I've largely been regulated to questionable viewing habits formed on Netflix while resting & testing goes on and disturbing my therapy animals with my ideas of home entertainment! Part of that of that is the pursuit of spoken word and the pub poetry scene (as both a performer, audience member and writer), it's actually influenced my documentary research project that I'm making as part of my screen and media studies as my archaeology masters elective. This has changed my viewpoint on being artist myself as you'll see below.

Once Upon A Teaser, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

Once Upon A Teaser, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

Gin tasting platter on World Gin Day, Nexus Arts, June 2017.

As much as I enjoyed attending the events as an audience member, my perspective really began to change as I got more and more involved as a novice poet in Adelaide's underground spoken word scene. From my own fledging endeavours since late last year, I appreciate the work that goes into creating a performance let alone curating an entire show. For me, thankfully, it's a reasonably cheap art form to practice and rehearse since I'm a *collector* of notebooks and pens are affordable and my writing group are generous with their time. Plus a huge thanks to the people who organise open mic events like Soul Lounge and Dithyrambia plus Spoken Word SA that have created environments that nurture poets and other wordsmiths as well as featuring local and Australian talent regularly. They are all volunteers with projects, lives and day jobs of their own and you'll find that with many of the amateur acts in SA's cultural scene.

I really realised the cost of time that now goes into then making your performance the best it possibly can be after seeing Charlie Brooks, Alison Bennett and Matcho Cassidy workshop and choreograph their show, URI: To Burn, performed last week at the Jade as part of State Variable, which was free in spite of months of work going into it. So tonight, I was pretty upset to see one of the upcoming lights of the Adelaide burlesque scene explaining on social media that performers were being compensated less than $30.00 per show. That's the average price per ticket of a medium sized Fringe show according to my *research* (shows I went to see last year or tried to but I was really perfecting the art of ill timing literally). We joke in the spoken word scene that there's no money in poetry (apart from the Slams which I'll write about next week), but the other creative performing arts are not cheap pursuits even just as a hobby (I spent a lot of money on music and dance lessons first hand growing up) and if you are paying money to be an audience member in a show that a performer is good enough to be paid for, they've got the right to be compensated fairly like any other employed work.

Often people will ask them for free art or gigs because they'll "get the exposure" and think this is fair payment when they don't realise the hours of practice, years of lessons, time taken away for rehearsals from other things including better paid employment, travel costs to venues, make-up and costumes, equipment such as sound and lights along with someone to operate those sound and lights, refreshments and bar staff if the venue is catered or the cost of up fronting catering with no guarantee they'll make it even let alone profitable and then there's legal & insurance…

Why am I ranting about this when, as Tink, I'm only a poetic novice who hasn't released a book or been a featured poet (yet) and as an archaeology student, I don't perform for a non-academic audience? I write this blog for free and the reason is that, rarely does it contain my original work or ideas, it's usually blogging about someone else's achievements in the arts and tourism products that I've consumed. I do it for free but I know the value of what I see on my lonely adventures, I pay full price for my tickets because I value the arts culture and as an unpaid reviewer, I do it because I love what I see, but know I need to pay for its consumption like I need to pay at restaurants, because it wasn't MY hard work. The wonderful people who agreed to be interviewed here do it because they care about their art. Not for exposure.

We need to encourage local arts production and entertainment tourism in SA because it is good for other local industries such as hospitality, other tourism sectors like heritage, sport and ecotourism and things you wouldn't even necessarily like education. We are actually lucky to have musicians of Slava Grigoryan's calibre involved in teaching guitar students in South Australia! (Learned that at last year's Guitar festival!) If we don't pay our local performers properly for their work and in a timely manner, we lose them to other bigger arts festivals such as Edinburgh or Perth when they gain recognition and fame.

Not long ago, I wrote about how local and medium sized acts were being driven from last year's Fringe Festival, that the smaller official venues were having trouble retaining acts and staging performances through poor ticket sales and smaller-medium sized performers being ousted from free tickets and better publicised productions – not made in SA. They were lost in a sea of larger international marquee shows like notorious touring comedians, because the much smaller shows were less attended and less well advertised and not due to lack of program quality.

Beers About Songs by Ryan Adam Wells (of Sound and Fury fame) was run here 2 years ago and now is getting international acclaim at Fringe festivals all over the Northern Hemisphere. Many international former Fringe acts of that quality aren't coming back because they were running at too much of a loss to make money, not having enough people attend to have a guaranteed audience at every show to make performances worth doing and to offset the financial and artistic costs of being in SA in high Australian tourism season, in short making being their being here less worthwhile. Their loss hurts the local economy as well as South Australia's because Mad March is when we as a destination see our highest income from out of state visitors who come for the combination of high and popular arts, culture, sports and heritage tourism unique to SA. So we need to really encourage and throw in with local cultural industry creators, artists and venues NOW. Not just during the Fringe or Cabaret Festival or the Tour DownUnder.

As a cultural hub, Adelaide has been compared to cities with reputations in the creative industries like Portland in that various arts festivals are on here all year round – currently SALA and Guitars in Bars are running as I write this and it's also National Science Week, I believe – but if we drive out the producers of culture industry content, we are removing a huge source of revenue for the state. We have the potential it has been argued to be Oz's cultural capital all year around in the Guardian – but we can't do it at the expense of not paying smaller acts to develop into recognised medium productions and then into performers of the calibre to have international recognition -that brands SA as cultural and artistic haven- is as the case with the internationally acclaimed, Anya Anastasia (currently getting positive reviews in Edinburgh! You go, lady in red!). Former interviewees Anya Anastasia like Sapphire Snow, and names from 2017 to watch such as Viola Verve and Diana D'Vine (to name a few brilliant local women) curate quality shows all year round in the city (and last year Anya in the Hills) that have nurture new and upcoming talent, show cases local stars as well as bringing in headline quality performers all year around and exposes venues to new audiences.

Many larger independent acts bypass Adelaide on tours because have gained the reputation we don't pay for tickets until the last minute and try to get the best deal, not actually what the performance and performers deserve to be compensated. Adelaide this is not a good look for the state. It was by demand last year, that Post Modern Jukebox and 2Cellos, even came here at all on tour to sold out shows. We won't be able to sustain larger state arts institutions like the ASO and bringing in international quality shows like the David Bowie tribute collaboration that visited Adelaide with them in January this year at the Festival Centre, if we also don't fund local arts and it's creators & producers.

The cream rises to the top as my friend Kami says, but if we remove the smaller ponds for the fish to grow in, middle sized lakes for them to be seen and an ocean of creativity to release them into, we are never going to sustain an arts and creative industry in Adelaide that encourages local talent to stay, grow and mentor in fellow generations of new artists. If we want to create a viable cultural industry and enjoy the thriving performing arts culture of a capital city, we need to put our money where our mouths are. You need milk churning to be able to get to the cream.

Clara Rose Santill, all photos copyright, 2017. Thanks to Nexus Arts, the artists and interviewees past and present that continue to inspire this blogger!

The future of Archaeology’s heritage and antipodean myopia in accessibility for all. 

Indiana Don’t!

Welcome to tonight’s annual accessibility archaeology post from me as the Lonely Archaeologist. I started this blog because I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the way archaeology is practiced in Australia if you are not able bodied and  *normal*; I’ve had significant challenges to overcome in studying my masters but I see my tenacity and persistence as character traits a good archaeologist needs along with the communication skills to explain to a diverse public and community what we are doing and why.

Don’t get mad, write a blog post.

So I started this blog as a way of practicing those skills in heritage appropriate and adjacent areas for a disabled archaeologist like myself because in the current culture of heritage management and industry in Australia, I’m no better than broken goods. I’ve been denied field work opportunities because of my situation.

So I sought out opportunities on my own initiative where I found some smaller opportunities, a demonstration at the SAM and a presentation for National Archaeology Week which is where I first noticed the problem of disability within archaeology. Yet I’m unable to find placement as a volunteer to excavate anywhere or even considered for survey work. The resistance is such that I can’t dive for medical reasons so maritime archaeology  isn’t open to me at Flinders (I even tried to enrol  in a conservation fieldschool as a terrestrial archaeologist last year but was rejected). It was because I wasn’t going to be “able” or physically  strong enough to join in carrying heavy equipment because of my chronic pain.

I can’t even get work as tour guide at a library, local museum or any other state institutions though I’ve applied for many open positions despite doing extra training on my own time and being in the leadership program run by Flinders careers called The Horizon Award. That’s me with the head of the SAM at a Night Lab event in 2016, I actually  I volunteered at the previous one less than half a week after being hit by a tram. That’s how much I love archaeology.

Curious Beasts Night Lab event, 2016.

I spoke up on this little blog about my difficulties in finding acceptance at Flinders by other archaeologists & students and I quoted the only blog post I could find even addressing rates of disability and archaeologists. The Enabled Archaeology Foundation found me, a group of dis/Abled and Enabled who have created a family of archaeologists, allies and students from a wide international community. We have a model of archaeology that aims to be inclusive and accessible for all who want to be involved, in so many different ways, across so many branches of archaeology that is a whole lecture in itself [Edit: given October 2017].

I’ll detail them over the near future if I can get my ten minutes of fame at Flinders, but if you’ve been reading this blog at all, you know I’m a gigantic academic fan of Doctor Who and time travel in general. In fact, last year I almost had a chapter published based on queer attitudes in archaeology and in science fiction in Beyond Indy and Lara. 

That is me on a ghost hunt at the Old Gaol trying to get review experiences of Haunted Horizon’s award winning tour. I started a blog to try and showcase local tourism and arts. It ended up becoming a vechicle that gave me a research interest! So I merged my love of Doctor Who with my new found interest in Enabled archaeology and discovered my disability was actually a dis/Ability according to Doctor Who’s representation of archaeologists.

A conclusion I reached, when I was studying Doctor Who’s vision of archaeology in the future for the EAF conference in Feb 2018, is that dis/Ability doesn’t matter and accomodations for it weren’t questioned in the television program. I was encouraged that most well known archaeologist in New Who, Professor River Song, was a psychopath.

There was also Jack Harkness, a pansexual time agent who was pretty close to Lara Croft’s tally of historical misdemeanours in hisattitude to antiquity and the sale of black market artefacts, but deviated from the Indiana Jones stereotype (of a rugged Howard Carter manly adventuring tomb raiding mythology type) to a queer and deviant figure. Sadly even poor Lara had to be more macho than the men and was prey to toxic masculinity so Jack was a breathe of fresh air.

Here are some famous British examples of archaeology of the speculative future and neither of them are like the models we have in Australia. In Australia, I was told you have to be physically fit to be an archaeologist by the local chapter of ACCAI (when doing research for a talk about “archaeology 101”). I wonder at the you have to “be fit”  comment in particular (part of me is wondering if my plus size had to do with it?!). After giving that NAW talk and parroting that archaeology requires spectacular levels of awesomeness, I realised that what I’d presented was wrong. I decided to try and change what I could in my own sphere of influence.

River Song  fought against her mental illness/injury her entire augmented life span and yet no one asked her if she should really be an archaeologist with her mental health condition.

We can all change.

These two characters and adding the space archaeologist, Berenice Summerfield ( in the Big Finish extended Whovian universe), are holding space (quite literally) for diverse, Enabled archaeologists like me to be included as part of that interpretation of the future. Enabled archaeology and the EAF starting in Britain is a huge part of this shifting consciousness of inclusion and accessibility in archaeology but that’s not the case in Oz. My new mission is about expanding the experiences and diversity in the cultural heritage as a discipline.

Still many of the archaeology establishment in Australia haven’t the foresight to see this how times are changing that accomodations are accepted rather than the exception. I’ll post more on this and how it all relates to a book with the title “Time travelling and the future of the past” by Professor Cornelius Holtorf and how my ideas were received in conversation around the visit to Flinders about these changes happening all over the world. I imagine after looking through Holtorf’s book that lived experience and the futurism of archaeology is going to be a fascinating conversation.

Clara Santill, 2017