Down the rabbit hole: what living with my condition makes it an ability than just a disability. 


I’m studying a masters degree with the aim of researching disability in Australian archaeology and cultural heritage management. Even I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I thought I’d write a follow up to my horror themed post on Split and actually explain why I like the terms dis/Ability and mental health condition. 

My story with mental illness came young with my first depression episode manifesting at fourteen and I started taking medication at sixteen as a suicide survivor. Between fourteen and about twenty-four years old when I was correctly diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder (type 2) and PTSD, I needed a lot of medical and therapeutic interventions so I term that period of my life as illness. There would be other years of crises and some where recovery seemed just in reach and cruelly snatched away. There were years of specialists, speculation and the fluctuation of my condition that really made me decide recovery and wellness and crisis and episode were all convenient words for other people to describe how pathologically I was dealing with my disorders. Then I was labelled chronically disabled rather just sick and felt smaller than just failing uni and mid twenties mile stones, so diminished even further because the ‘dis’ prefix meant my ability was substandard and I’d never reach my full potential, that even that hope of recovery was the fruit tree to my Tantalus. It was limiting. It was very heavy. I felt caged, stuck in the mud. And I was thirsty; I wanted scope. 

Sometime, in the last two or three years since I first published Broken Archaeology , I’ve started to think differently about the way I describe my personal cognitive and intellectual domains and instead of focusing on the limitations, I looked for my strengths and capabilities. I joined an international online discussion group for people like me studying dis/Abled with archaeology and it was here I first found the term *dis/Ability* and its sister term Enabled. I don’t know the history of those words and I don’t think that’s relevant to my story right now but I will discuss them in May for National Archaeology Week. 

What I do remember is, at first dis/Ability annoyed the heck out of the English student in me, but it was the accepted term in my online support group’s culture and I was going to learn to use it, even if I didn’t love it. And then a funny thing happened, I actually got what dis/Ability meant! 


Before I returned to archaeology in 2013, I actually referred to myself as crazy and a manic depressive when I started a counselling course that changed the way I look at medicalised language. I still stand by the crazy, after all yesterday I was at an inflatable fun park with 5 other adults trying to recreate scenes from the Assassins’ Creed (2016) movie and discovering I’m excellent at falling and landing. But I’m no longer describing myself as a manic depressive – the counselling course called us mental health consumers (which I still hate and would you like fries?) and to describe living with X illness or disorder. So I was living with my disorder and on the way to recovery from my illness. 
And then my horrible years of 2014-2015 happened, with failed attempts at peer support from mental health organisations supposed to help me reintegrate into the community, having to seek victim support counselling as a survivor of harassment from random men in my local community, the neighbours and a landlord from hell and having to move twice in six months and failing university after falling into a tram. I lost three significant friendships due to mental illness as I was in crisis and that is the appropriate language for someone suffering a sickness based in the brain needing help. And I gave up on recovery as an ideal of the psychosocial model of mental health rehabilitation lead by consumers. And I stopped thinking of myself as a consumer and survivor. I threw the whole lot out the window with wellness and mindfulness and breathing exercises…

I started to see myself as someone with a condition that I managed. I still take my medication, see my doctors and my psychologist and make sure I eat, sleep and do the exercise my physio recommends to help me rehabilitate after being hit by the tram. That’s all basic self care along with me playing with my therapy cats, listening to eclectic music live and recorded, journaling my thoughts GIGO style, LARPing with my friends in ARC and going to public lectures on the arts and sciences.But I took it one step further and realised the root of my three chronic dis/Abilities is the fact the word divides it into what I can do – focuses on my ability, what  the capabilities I can develop and the unique aspects of my condition that can actually be quiet enjoyable. What do I mean by that?

In 2016, I found myself unable to contemplate returning to some approximation of normal that I’d never had. I added a few new terms to my vocabulary like neurodiversity and coined my own, neuroexpectional to explain the unique aspects of my condition I enjoyed and found advantageous. I took control of those things that appeared to be uniquely mine and made them a strength. I’ve joined my university’s postgraduate leadership program run by the careers department and I’m learning to leverage them in my everyday life in positive ways. 

For me, having bipolar affective disorder as a condition when it is well managed translates as an extended capacity for creative thought, an appreciation and passionate engagement with my world, more intense emotion so I cry at films or experience frisson when hearing beautiful music, the sun is brighter some days and the world, life runs right through you as pure passion. It is a sense of being, enjoying the feeling of being alive. The abilities of my dis/Abilities are coming to fruition in a return to what I can do: going to university this semester to learn to make documentaries in 2017, blogging here again after a hiatus, even just considering some volunteering over the summer and year, the things I achieved last year demonstrated at the SA Museum Night Lab event and speaking about archaeology at National Archaeology Week after being hit by the tram and being more and more involved with the group, Enabled, now as an admin. They gave me direction for my last two years for my research in my master’s degree; this week I’m also doing some research assistant work with my mentor and preparing some CFPs for a conference in New Zealand in June on my other great passion, Doctor Who.

This may sound clincally like hypomania pipe dreams to my arm chair psychologists readers (hi!), but through my lived experience of a hypomania (bipolar high) episode “and doing all the things” versus greatly enjoying a capacity to appreciate the rhythms of life, for me they are very separate things I’ve experienced temporally and in context. One is a medical illness like depression that I urge you to seek appropriate qualified help for immediately because so many people want to chase the high mania and hypomania give, but it’s like a drug induced false euphoria with shallowness and ultimately it’s a fleeting experience that you lose as you crash to Earth. 

The other aspect of a personality shaped by a managed approach to my conditions I have to explain is much more than emphermal, it is realising how much depth I can experience and cultivating certain nuanced aspects of my personality over the years to a place where they are a gift in my life rather than something that diminishes me as a person. Those experiences and character lessons stay with you and evolve your personality – changing you is key differentiating element here unlike (hypo)mania or depression which are just illnesses of the brain, rather than a personal apotheosis. This is a more hopeful post after last one but dis/Ability is a complicated process and I wanted to show the other side of the coin that it is not a life sentence to be abused by society and the health system, there is in fact a silver lining that in with the right treatment and attitude, you can make it what you want it to be. Am I recovered? No. But I never was really normal either and as it says in Alice and Wonderland, let me tell you a secret, all the best people are a little mad.

Clara Santilli

The Methodology of Madness: the real face of mental illness and I don’t look like Carrie. 

To my shame, I saw the *thriller* by M. Night Shyamalan, Split.  I’d like to think that anyone who saw this travesty, would realise that this is a horror movie and using my rusty old film study skills, an origin story for a villain to set up his sequel to Unbreakable. It’s an implausible origin story about Kevin’s evolution from his alternative personality  Barry to the collective multiplicity of The Hoard. The notably exclusively female victims and depiction of mental illness are just  window dressing to a very short story that doesn’t do much apart from showing some truly scary white guy dancing by Hedewig.

So apart from showing McAvoy’s tremendous acting scope as  Kevin/Barry losing control to the Hoard, it’s  a blatantly obvious incorrect depiction of what is known in popular culture as Multiple Personality Disorder (or DID) and a good dose of psychopathy in Kevin’s evil multiplicities, Dennis and Patricia, for measure -which is a junk popular  diagnosis anyway, I recommend James Fallon’s The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (if you’re curious about it). Statistics however say those with a mental health condition are more likely to be the victims of crime that the perpetrators.

The real horror story of mental health conditions probably looks closer to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Most of us are relatively *normal* people trying to function in a world that neither truly accommodates us -so often we are gaslit when we are considered to be harbouring inconvenient “unreasonable” feelings or to be *having an episode and in crisis* based on normal frustration, often at situations a neurologically typical individual would deem unreasonable by doctors,  carers, family , friends. Then if we the neurodiverse end up unwell and urgently need to access help, have to use the hospital mental system, where we cease to exist as people in our own right and become monsters to be contained far from the sight in spite of the party line of treatment in the community being the best practice. Yet despite a glowing public rhetoric about treatment in the community being best as part of the psychosocial model of rehabilitation, in the medical system the mentally ill become persona non grata and are hidden in locked wards.

In my experience, none of the positive media spin by mental health providers and organisations help such as RU Okay Day; and, the “peer” support workers employed through these organisations often do not follow through with reintegration into the community but take a fluffy feel good approach they can use to show their supervisors that they should be employed. Only one peer support worker, a rehab counsellor I knew personally ever referred me to the resources that could help me and I’m incredibly grateful for her realistic approach to how my life was.  In comparison, the two assigned to me over the last 5 years I saw, were never receptive to the things I needed to get by or goals I wanted to achieve in my time with them.  For me, I abandoned the false hope that these organisations would have provided me the resources so that my living situation would change and my lifestyle would improve.

While I’m not fully rehabilitated, I have a new normal now and I’m tackling researching disability in my chosen profession I’m studying at uni, because to be different in my field is a black mark in Australia from my personal experience. As to social inclusion, I have a few good  friends but I had to go to many different places on a leap of faith to find them and join local communities to find a safe place I could exist free of bipolar’ stigma. But it was a long road to get here and create the opportunities that freed me from the system and the stigma of living with a mental health condition.

The  extra challenges a neuroexceptional individual faces, even if we are behaving within normal acceptable behavioural limits, are often mistaken as disordered symptomology – my quirky quick speaking style with wild brown hair, flapping hand gestures and as an Italian descendant with my great big Roman snoz are just features of my personage. In a neurotypical individual, none of those things would even have been psychiatrically or psychologically considered relevant in the first place / unless I disclosed my dis/Ability. I did and it was a mistake.

I was never told I didn’t have to disclose my illness as a right and have been “out” as mentally ill for most of my adult life because after 20 years, there’s no way that genie is gonna fit into the lamp again. As a young adult, I had no idea what stigma was and how I was a victim of it by virtue of my honesty. There were a lot of unhappy years as a result and I wish I’d had been given the agency and choice to decide what I was going to tell people when I was ready. Let me tell you a minor horror story about  being “known” as having a mental illness versus cultural prejudice in modern medicine in Australia and why you might want to not disclose your dis/Ability to anyone other than medical Team You.

Once in 2011, after a major health scare, I was involved in trying to get my maintenance med regimen re-adjusted and desperately needed access to someone who could adjust my prescription psych medication quickly at a safe dose before I ended up dead (it was medication effecting my heart with extreme tachycardia for the morbidly curious). After a three day or so fight to get any help at all from the local emergency mental health system on a Monday that drew through to Friday morning, they called a privately practicing individual, a totally dismissive psychiatrist that laughed at me on a Friday afternoon, wished me good luck finding treatment before next week and offered no solution. At all…my life was disposable to the medical professionals of this town apparently.

The private psychiatry sector in my country town was backed up by at least three months and that seems to be standard around Australia- so what’s a gal to do to remain well and med compliant if her GP is unavailable, no other professional qualified in mental health will give her accessible care to safe medication to maintain her recovery and we are heading into the weekend? It was obvious I didn’t belong in a psych ward based on side effects but because I was denied drugs that gave me dignity and a quality of life as a dis/Abled young woman studying counselling at university, I followed the advice of my text book and went to the hospital quick drop clinic in to get a script and then to the pharmacy. Bingo, right?! Nope. You shall not pass go and possibly end up in Gaol.

After establishing the country town in question didn’t actually have a mental health service I suspect unless you were a teenager, a drug addict or a criminal on a violent drug related charge (maybe I’d received help if I’d went on a McAvoy Beast style rampage as ‘The Hoard’). After being exposed to callous indifference at my attempts to stay well; after I was stunned and left fumbling by some guy calling himself a trained medical professional treating the whole situation as hilarious – rather than my whole life – I still had no answers. I tried a private script from the hospital’s drop in  clinic and found I couldn’t get the medication except for $300 (more than my fortnightly rent!) I probably could have found those criminals mentioned above and probably get my prescription meds cheaper from a dealer than a legitimate chemist.

There I was, desperately trying to secure the primary medication I take -that I needed to keep myself well with but I couldn’t afford privately on a disability payment. As a last ditch resort, I went back to the local hospital in an attempt to get the prescription I needed at a price within my means to keep myself healthy and out of inpatient care. So I went to the ED at the local hospital as the psych ward was admitted through their triage service- by now it was dinner time. I was tired, hungry and just wanted my dinner and a warm bed without another night of vicious sinus tachycardia.

At the Emergency Department, I was angry and frustrated, speaking quickly because of the urgency of my predicament to the triage nurse because I was rather scared at what I would happen without my night medication since I’m a compliant consumer. I know that drug’s value to my wellbeing with a rapid cycling, episodic condition. When I miss a dose it’s nothing short of catastrophic; in the short term I get withdrawal syndrome that feels like the worst flu you have ever had, brutal insomnia which exacerbates my dis/Abilities and without it for more than a few days in the longer term, I get very unwell. I’ve been taking medication for more that 2/3 of my adult life and have colloquially what’s known as “lived experience” that is often recognised by progressive professionals as equally important to listen to a consumer as well as their text book training.

Instead, I was told by the small town triage nurse, who wasn’t listening to a word about me being Italian and talking quickly was absolutely normal for me, that I was manic and confused. That what I was saying wasn’t reasonable about needing my particular medication to stay well was bunk because I was *sick*. She implied had no idea what I was talking about and gaslit me as unwell. A sick thing. Lock it up! She seemed to have no idea the consequences of abruptly coming off that medication either without tapering down the dose either. It’s not pretty as I later found out.

In a hospital situation, I don’t know if there is anyway since my diagnosis is disclosed, that anything I impart to a triage situation that will not end up with anyone and everyone assuming that I am suffering hypomaniac delusions and have no self perspective, awareness of my circumstances and they need to take away my right for bodily autonomy by putting me in a white sterile hospital room cage (all the while not recognising my mind is part of that right to bodily autonomy and my brain didn’t stop just working within hospital walls). The small town nurses hadn’t even performed a MSE before dxing me as psychiatristly unstable-so I quickly walked out of that ED while there voluntarily and decided never to go back.

It’s not been an isolated incident sadly to say  and I’m still leery of hospitals even in a bigger city where you’d expect them to have better resources and education into invisible disability and expect to this day, would perform better. It isn’t the case either since after moving to a larger city with presumably better medicine, I had a case of simple syncope on a hot day after running my sick cat to the vet in under 10 minutes and ended up in a short stay mental health ward based on my dis/Ability since now fainting is a sign of mental illness. I’m on medication known to cause fainting in hot weather for migraines.

To further harass and terrify me, I was given the wrong information about my rights under my stare’s mental health act that I was there involuntarily by the nurses who intimidated me into staying until I had to get a friend with a psychology degree to argue my admission and release with the nurses…but once you disclose your condition, you seem stop existing as an individual with a right to dignity in your care and become an exercise in pathology like cancer to be cut out and exorcised like a tumour in a hospital system. This is why I like consumer driven community health where being person is not a privelge but the very most baseline treatment.

The cultural stereotype of the ranting, fast tongued Italians aren’t there for nothing (I have a mono brow and gesticulate a lot too, so probably best to give me room when I get passionate). But this is a fairly common occurrence for anyone who understands what the day-to-day difficulties of navigating a mental health system that despite the media spin focussing on the psychosocial rehabilitation model of recovery in the community and consumer wellness. We, the users of this poorly system, aren’t actually given the agency and privacy, ascribed enough self awareness by carers and doctors alike and access to resources (especially in an emergency) to navigate the system let alone direct our return to whatever our individual approximation of the new normal is for us living with mental conditions are.

What a good doctor looks like, sadly,  was best portrayed by Betty Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher in Split. Dr Fletcher advocated for her consumers as people first who needed her help and treated each multiple personality as an important part of her therapeutic process, worthy of her respect in her treatment of their illness for example by letting one of Kevin’s  (McAvoy) multiplicity’s Dennis, known  that she would not invoke the primary personality and the need for Dennis’ existence as part of protecting Kevin. She had also arranged for further care for her consumers if something should happen to her and established a research effort into having DID internationally accepted. If we ignore the fact she decided to not contact the authorities when she became suspicious of Barry’s (McAvoy) change in behaviour and alarming emails for emergency sessions which anyone with basic mental health training can see as red flags, we can perhaps ascribe this to the fact director M. Night Shyamalan has a poor history of writing strong plausible female character’s capable of agency so he fridges 3 of the 4 major female characters and the one who survives has been punished by the patriarchy off screen and in flashbacks. This discussion actually will tie in with my next post about the current influx of female lead television & film about strong women and film that caters to a female aesthetic and gaze that happened in 2016. All in all, mental health and what constitutes illness to recovery falls on a highly movable, personal and subjective spectrum.

Clara Santilli

Curious Beasts and Fantastic Creatures at Night Lab 2016

Mr Brian Oldman, director of SAM and myself.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket the South Australian Museum’s ‘Night Lab’ event -featuring current exhibition, Curious Beasts  hosting pieces all the way from the British Museum. This is why, this is how much of the actual exhibit I can show you in this review below because of an agreement between the institutions:

My new friend Susan respecting my fashion choices.
Thou shall not pass…with a camera.
However there was plenty of other very cool activities going on around the SAM for Night Lab that I’ll share. Night Lab is an important event for the SAM because it allows my generation X, Y and even a few Millienals to engage with the museum in a way they haven’t done since they were children and they probably will not again until they either have their own children and/or nieces and nephews.

It’s also an exercise in museum interpretation (the way a venue engages with its patrons and it allows staff to indulge the creative and often in innovative  ways) to exhibit their collections. This event was aimed at young adults with a disposable income they are willing to spend in indulging in local cultural heritage tourism. Which is a great way to showcase South Australia’s unique culinary talents (a major tourist product) and unique biodiversity (a major tourist draw card for the whole state) which is vitally important for sustainable local tourism.

First off, because it’s dinner time and I’m starving, we can start with the exotic food table – which was surrounded by giant taxidermied creatures (a little twisted humour but I think it added to the atmosphere!). There were edible florals, non traditional salad greens (which unlike Western salad leaves were quite bitter, salty and a bit Unami), smoked meat including emu, camel and kangaroo tail and my favourite the gulguk (edible green ants). Hopefully I’ll eventually get around to that *authentic palaeo stirfry* I’ve been promising my friends I’ve been going to make this holidays.

The most popular attraction!
Edible florals.
Salad greens.
Smoked Emu tastes like a softer version of venison and beef.
Gulguk, edible green ant
Animals Anonymous also made an appearance at this year’s Night Lab and below is Garry the Goanna (I grew up with a bunch of these guys around on the Eastern coast of Oz) and the experience of touching him was interesting in that the scales are a sort of rough velvet texture and incredibly soft but leathery at the same time.

I didn’t have enough cider to want to pay the carpet python and then I came face to face with my nemesis from when I lived in NSW, a one year old Eastern Tawny Frogmouth. They aren’t owls but annoyingly sound like electronic mobile phones in the middle of the night and it took me a year to realise this during honours at UNE, Armidale, NSW!

Garry the Goanna

img_1126
Not an owl- 0ne year old Tawny Eastern Frogmouth 
It was great having Animals Anonymous at the event as it raises the importance of the biodiversity collection at the SAM (level 2) in aiding in Australian animal conservation. Again young adults living in even a green city like Adelaide don’t really get to interact with live animals in an atmosphere that allows them to appreciate the efforts of conservation groups in a museum where many of the animals are taxiderimed specimens from biological collections. For those more interested in flora than fauna, a great place to visit on the same day as the SAM is the Museum of Economic Botany just down the road at the Botanical Gardens. Call me Snow White but a place with that many poisonous apples!

There were workshops on taxidermy on the night but as I’m not made of sterner material, we will settle here for the skeleton formerly known as Susan and note the tag leg attached to the horse’s leg with the traditional museum accession label describing the horse’s taxonomy and its every day attribution as a “horse.”

Horse skeleton 
Horse leg with tag.

Overall, this was a great experience as a guest of the museum rather than participating last year and it’s an event I try to make annually. Later this week I intend to publish a best of my Night Lab experiences at the SAM and talk about why the museum is an important institution to me as an individual and as an aspiring archaeologist. The SAM hosts more events than just Night Lab which you can find information on the museum’s website and currently you can have your say in how the SA Museum should be transforming and moving into the twenty-first century at:

http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/explore/your-museum-your-say

The SAM is located on North Terrace in the heart of the Adelaide CBD and close to other tourism venues such as the Art Gallery and Ayers House alongside the State Library of SA (visit the historic Mortlock Wing if you loved Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter!). It is open all week 10am-5pm with a café and gift shop and a great place to find some respite from the summer heat offering various activities and guided tours throughout the day. 
 

Broken Archaeology:  An update for 2016

Dark history tour at Adelaide Arcade selfie with Haunted Horizons guides, Alison and Kag.

So I’ve survived this much of 2016, university is over for the year and I always find myself questioning what I  achieved. This year has been a rut for me academically but not personally…

Sadly my chapter for the ‘Beyond Indy and Lara’ collection was shelved by myself – for the time being because of insurmountable illness. My uni grades also tanked due to a double whammy of illness and injury; but I still have another paper possibly in press and a nice backlog of material to produce for this blog to keep me busy over the holidays and hopefully you entertained, dear readers.

But sometimes as a dis/Abled individual it’s easy to feel broken and useless as well as it’s frustrating in constantly being reminded by your body- a locked knee, swollen hands, fatigue as soon as I’ve just woken up after a full 8 hours-  I have limits. I have had problems in the past confronting the scope of my capabilities but this summer, I’m letting myself rest up so I’m healthy for next year -but that’s life as being a neurodiverse individual with invisible illnesses. Read my review of the film, Me Before You, if you are interested in my views on dis/Ability.

While 2016 has been a year of killing all the best celebrities, and ill health for me, I’m hoping that some of the things that came from this year in my own little piece of the microcosm.  The exciting thing next year (2017) brings me some exciting career and professional development opportunities outside of archaeology. I’ve got involved with AIESEC, these are the brilliant young minds that are going to change the world, I have joined as alumni so hopefully I’ll learn from the best bright young things!

I’ve also joined the Horizons leadership program run by Flinders University Careers to gain new skills (you can use them straight away too!). Please consider using this service no matter what academic level you are if you’re a Flinders student!  I also encourage you wherever you study to take these workshops and classe along with any master classes and other extracurricular activities you are offered (such as AIESEC, Horizons Award or the Golden Key society).

In my personal life, I’m still being true to my M.O  in supporting small local arts tourism in SA. I’ve personally gone back to my literary roots with trying out the open mic and participating in a poetry slam at Biblotecha in Gresham Street. Creatively entitled ‘Just A Girl on a Tram’ because some pommy guy had taken ‘Lamia’ before I was born!

Me performing at Dithyrambia: Asunder at Biblotecha, photo copy right Martin Christmas, 2016.

In a more broadly artistic sense, art with high cultural capital, I got to see Post Modern Jukebox, 2 Cellos and the Australian Ballet Company. These shows have me convinced Adelaide could be the arts and cultural creative industries capital of Australia all year around if our national and state governments put money into investing into it. And makes them acccessible not to just the rich but to smaller and middle sized artists and performers because currently there seems to be a vaccum between the artistic underground and out of state performers with bigger artistic and funding portfolios. The PMJ tour to the Adelaide show was a big ticket item as was 2Cellos performance which I throughly enjoyed.

I’m also fortunate to be able to see both versions of Swan Lake this year and these shows are only in my reach because my family bought me the tickets! It’s actually funny the role reversal of the above mentioned music acts because PMJ was a YouTube curiosity and the 2Cellos supported Elton John. They don’t traditionally fall into what used to be considered high cultural capital C culture or as high art as they were supporting or Fringe acts. Now they are charging for tickets as much as the ABC and cultural heritage tourism events such as the Tango Fire at Her Majesty’s Theatre I saw this year performed by a German dance troupe. As mentioned 2Cellos started off supporting Elton John & appearing on Fox TV show, Glee, and PMJ only performed at Thebarton this year by popular demand in SA for them, so there is a place for popular culture art in the high cultural capital creative industry consumerism where a lot of money is being spent on bringing these “big names” to SA.

However, the larger acts had to start somewhere as demonstrated above…which is why it’s so important to support local ventures like the Dithyrambia monthly poetry nights at the Biblotecha Bar and Book Exchange (organised by Charlie Brooks below) with featured artists and an open mic. It is a place that encourages the trend of using smaller venues as artistic spaces to encourage and develop Adelaide’s local talent to bigger audiences and build their creative industry profile. If we don’t nurture local talent all year around, and only field big branded acts at the Adelaide Fringe and various prestigeous festivals like SALA, we will only have a three month long drinking festival. There should be an interview with Charlie Brooks coming up pretty soon close to the next Dithyrambia event.

But I also want to point out the work of Miss Anya Anastasia and Ms Sapphire Snow of Peaches ‘n’ Gin (both interviewed for this blog) as organisers to be applauded for creating artistic and creative spaces in Adelaide’s art culture in ways that challenge the notion of High Art/Big C culture versus popular and accessible & affordable culture. These ladies are subverting the notion that counter culture such as burlesque and cabaret cannot be high art and wildly popular.

Charlie Brooks at Dithyrambia : Asunder at Biblotecha.

Back to the 2016 PMJ concert in Adelaide, a much bigger event in terms of scope, financially and artistic visibility as international act, it was for me was a lesson that we shouldn’t let dis/Ability stop you attempting what is important to you. So with the right planning with venue organisers at the Thebarton  Theatre, I attended the concert on crutches (due to articular chondral fissuring in my left knee’s cartilage). It turns out that you can totally have guilt free fun in a life full of mysterious pain because being dis/Abled does not mean living a half life (which is a personal lesson I learned). I had been depriving myself of fun or leisure activities & time because I wasn’t well enough to do the mundane and every day tasks of house work or well enough to function at post graduate student level at university. But sometimes you just have to punch a hole in the roof and look up.

PMJ at Thebarton Theatre in 2016.
Ryan Adam Wells of Sound and Fury, Tandanya, 2015-6 Fringe.

With several months of physiotherapy, I’ve made some pretty good recovery though no means will I be rehabilitated enough for field work in 2017. Yet I will be back at my roots of my studies, the arts, doing film production in semester one next year at Flinders University. I’m sure it will yield some probably interesting material as well as the looming Adelaide Fringe though this year where I’ve booked to see Anya Anastasia’s two shows, Rogue Romantic and Torte-e-Morte for next year.

Anya Anastasia at the Henry Austin, 2016, Rogue Romantic preview.

Professionally and personally academically, I’m working on bringing awareness to the Enabled archaeology movement started in the U.K. and European countries. I have found like minded individuals online and it seems likely my future is to be in disability advocacy for archaeologists in Australia (and hopefully others in cultural heritage management andarchaeologically  adjacent sciences) with a literature review in second second semester. I’m hoping to do a presentation on Enabled Archaeology for National Archaeology week in May at Meet the Archaeology Students and if I’m clever and brace maybe AAA conference.

Meet The Archaeology Students,2016 at Flinders in the city.

Recently I attended SAM’s annual Night Lab event and ran into the SAM director himself, Mr Brian Oldman who I will hopefully be interviewing for my Curious Beasts review next week. One thing I do encourage Flinders archaeology students to do is approach the professionals in our field and ask them questions. Use it as a chance to create a post degree and further study network! The team at the SAM are friendly and have always treated my obscure questions and weird tendencies with enthusiasm and taught me something new! And to attend these events that are being aimed at our generation who are perceived as being too old to go to the museum until we have kids or last went when we were young. These gala events allow the museum experts to creatively challenge themselves and display parts of their jobs that often are hidden in the back room like model making and taxidermy (see Tuesday’s “Curious Beasts” exhibit/Night Lab review).

Mr Brian Oldman of SAM & I at Night Lab 2016.
Putting my boots up for a week on medical leave.

Be on the look out for some excellently themed pieces coming such as “How To Socially Acceptable Play Dress Ups As An Adult” and “Things I’ve Done at the Museum.” Plus all the fantastic interviews I have lined up for the summer break (since I took a semester long hiatus while recovering from the tram incident) -with a follow up on my dark history tour with Haunted Horizons’ Alice O’Born and poets Charlie Brooks & HiVision coming soon. I hope to follow up some very hardcore urban exploration photography I’ve been sitting on and there’s a tour at West Tce Cemetery I must go to for research purposes. But until then, I’m putting my feet up and chilling on the first night off I’ve had in a long time.

Ciao, Clara Rose.

Dark places, memories and ghosts stories…

Clara: Is this a story, or did this really happen?

The Doctor: Everything ever told really happened. Stories are where memories go when they’re forgotten.”

-Hell Bent from ‘Doctor Who’, season 9, 2015

My Ghost Huntin Buddies

I love adventuring out into the night and dark places when I’m well enough. So on Saturday 21st August, 2016, I went on a journey I wouldn’t forget. I’m the agnostic/skeptic who’d go on a ghost tour of the Old Adelaide Gaol with Adelaide Haunted Horizons Ghost Tours on a whim as one of my obscure lonely adventures.  They are a tour operation run of genuine dark historians as well as paranormal investigators. I, as a fellow scholar, wasn’t expecting something drastic or exciting to really happen, especially not to me. I’m an archaeology student so if the Indiana Jones movies I’ve been recently forced to watch are correct my problems are: Nazis, snakes, femme fatales and quick sand. Ghost baiting  is now a skill I can add to my CV with my very own spooky experience. This was a place haunted by some not so nice people unlike the majority of ghosts of the Adelaide Arcade (next blog post’s feature tour.) If and what my experience meant, other than I’m highly suggestible, who knows?

Instead, I arrived early to site as is my practice to check out the digs before other tourists came. The gates were slightly forbodding but how often to you get to be alone in an old scary building and not be the victim of a horror movie? I sipped a cola and told the spirits to do their worst to this lonely adventurer. I’m afraid oh no ghost…

Gaol Entry Gates

My Boys (said in my best Missy fashion), experienced guides Craig and Michael, gathered up the other intrepid explorers and told us tonight the football was on…so the Gaol was lit up and it was spectacular! I’ve explained my love of dark history and sites in the past and this is one of the reasons. But before booking a tour, check out the company’s reputation for safety and trustworthiness. Before booking, I checked out Haunted Horizons by word of mouth from uni lecturers, fellows tourists, friends and other operators like urban photographers who work in the same domain and got nothing but positive feedback that this team run a tight professional ship with no gimmicks, scare factors or games to mess with their tourists – they are there to research. The team at Haunted Horizons in particular know the Old Gaol very well, the Haunted Horizons team has a wealth of experience under Alison Oborn as the Head Paranormal Researcher, a tour guide and Information Officer for over a decade. They know the conditions and while they can’t make a ghost appear, you’ll still go on an exciting but safe guided tour. And so off we set!

Craig followed by me, leading the group by moonlight.

It was a great night to be out as we had cloud cover and it kept in the moonlight. As we walked through the Gaol, we really didn’t need torches except in the buildings as in open spaces our natural night vision kicked in. And the football was on, so it was all lit up spectacularly!

Adelaide Gaol Lit Up

Earlier that I’d month been on the dark history tour of the Adelaide Arcade in Rundle Mall with the HH team, Alison and Kag. I left not surprised but definitely entertained devoid of any ghostly experiences and I’m not going to pretend I’m not agnostic on ghosts (not the most useful trait in an archaeology student until you see what happened next). There was a little haunting and I got to access the tea room and check out the original funky gilt paint (this will be in my interview with Alison in the near future!).

So back to the Old Gaol, Craig was telling an anecdote in the arts and crafts room when I felt a burning sensation around my left wrist under my glove. We lifted it up and Lo! and Behold! I’d be manacled by the looks of the marks. They appeared like rope burn, an indent firmly pressed into my skin like I’d been tied in and burned like I’d picked up a curling iron. My abnormal response to shock was useful here and I found it hard to stop giggling and nicknamed myself ghost bait! The others kinda kept a distance after that!

Top of wrist
Bottom of my wrist

After my adventures in the craft room, the rest of the tour was relatively uneventful for me except I got an itchy neck when we went to the hanging tower but no cool ghostly marks this time, just a red rash that looked like I’d been scratching my neck. Less impressive than being manacled.

Gaol bell rang at executions

After we’d moved through the Old Gaol, at the end we end of the tour, we had a lock-up session to ghost hunt where participants get placed in cells in the new building in B and A (where executions had taken place before the tower was built). After my experience as ghostbait, I opted out for being locked in a cell alone with a ghost, a first date should at least involvea little romance, flowers, candles, dinner, before the shaking and unearthly groaning from the underworld.

So myself and the other fraidy cats sat quietly on the stairs while the brace went into lockdown in the cells.  This is the ghost hunting activity or paranormal investigating part of the night and the HH team record the experiences over the time tourists are in the cells to gather any evidence they can of the paranormal activity. I distinctly from the safety of  could hear the creaking of leather boots creaking above. Someone wanted me in the clink that night?! I’ve been bad!

Ghosts!

Congratulations to Adelaide Haunted Horizons for their second year running as Best Tourism Operator at the South Australian Tourism Awards in 2016. You can read owner, Alison Oborn’s experience in working in paranormal investigation and dark history in particular at the Old Gaol entitled Ghosts of the Past. We will be interviewing Alison in the near future and I promise some exciting stuff!
You can also book a ghost hunting or dark history tour of the Old Gaol, the National Railway Museum, Adelaide Arcade, National Trust of South Australia and Port Adelaide with the Haunted Horizons team by at:
http://www.adelaidehauntedhorizons.com.au/

Or by ringing: +61 407 715 866

Or find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AdelaideHauntedHorizons/

All pictures copyrighted and used by permission of Adelaide Haunted Horizons Ghost Tours 2016. Some pictures taken by author Clara Santilli (brunette in blue duffle coat).

Me Before You: a nice story but what it really says about dis/Ability and society.

Warning: If you haven’t seen the movie, this post contains full plot spoilers.

Last night, I re-watched the Thea Sharrock (director) film, Me Before You, and I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it a month ago. It had been described to me as an empowering text on making choices about living with invisible disability, especially as I am someone with a pain disorder (currently being investigated) regularly doing physio therapy, on pain relief and also in recovery for my wellness of longterm mental health disabilities I live with.

The fact is, I also loved it the second time because the cast is so impossibly charming but it caused me real issues now that I’ve digested and thought about it possibly because the narrative about dis/Ability is a troubling one. The leading character, Will, is a chronically wheelchair bound former member of a prestigious young and rich London set living it up and loving living large. He now now finds himself dis/Abled, mobility impaired in a wheelchair and living with his noble parents in the countryside after being hit by a motorcycle in the rain and hating life. His fiancée leaves him for his best friend, Rupert if that wasn’t insult enough.

Gorgeous Emilia Clarke plays the endearingly quirky Lou, hired to be a carer and companion to Will in the last half year of his life by his mother who wants her to be  more “a friend rather than a carer”. Lou has no idea at the beginning of her tenure as his companion, that Will is considering assisted dying in Switzerland in six months time. Yet when she finds out his plan, after getting over the idea she’s on glorified “suicide watch”,  Lou has a conversation with her sister (Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who fame) about making Will’s last six months about the quality of his life, not the quantity. Sadly Lou falls -into what I find offensive – trap of the angel in the house device and plots to take her sister’s idea a step further and change Will’s little left over autonomy by changing his mind and opening up his world again as if Will had no idea how good life could be. This is one of the film’s fundamental flaws that it’s about opening up Lou’s potential at the exponential of ending or completing Will’s life now he is dis/Abled.

There is no true partnership equality here, the power balance is always in Lou’s favour granting her more and more agency (that may be by Will’s intended design as he plans to end his life) but he loses more and more autonomy as Lou is freed from constraints such as her insensitive sporty fiancé, the small town they grew up in and the poverty of rural England. Dis/ability is being used as a trap in a plot device to free a quirky dynamic heroine to fulfil her potential while diminishing Will’s legacy and granting him nothing more than the tragic role of the sacrificial benefactor. I have problems with the fact it’s always about trying to implement what Lou thinks best for Will and that there is no power struggle in the juxtaposition between the protagonists.

Lou sweeps in, ever the heroine, trying to save Will with humorous romance, medically approved misadventure and exotic sexy visits to impossible tropical paradises to make the last six months special. She  also believes she can change his mind about assisted suicide ignoring Will’s stated desire despite being of sound mind and mentally component to make his own palliative care decisions with a fantasy trip.

Lou even deludes herself in thinking that the love of a good woman will save and redeem Will’s misery from the pain of living a life of quadraplegia and excruciating pain. Ultimately she fails to convince him to change the six months he promised his parents after all and still with misgivings, Lou flies to Stizerland to be with Will when he goes at the end of his allotted time where his assisted suicide takes place surrounded by his family in beautiful surroundings. I personally think assisted dying laws don’t stop people from dying but actually create a quality of life for the terminally ill with the least amount of suffering.

What troubles me so much about Me Before You is that it attempts to look at all the perspectives of dis/Ability from all the points of view but Will’s reasons for choosing assisted suicide bothered me given his condition is chronic and he can continue to live even assisted. There’s no dignity in it, but there is no dignity in assistance when you get older either. There have been times I’ve begged my family for permission to commit suicide because I could not bear my chronic dis/Ability, most recently as this year. But unlike Will’s I was not given their blessing and managed to pass through the pain and suffering. The thing is that pain is inevitable in life and suffering is optional which is what makes Me Before You so controversial. I do believe people have a right to choose a good death but how and the political agendas are just too big an issue to fully discuss here but I will say that with chronic illness and injury and help available with reasonable quality of life, I don’t believe in suicide, assisted or otherwise. I’m glad my suffering passed even though the pain is a constant daily struggle for now.

On their last night on holidays in the fim, Will tells Lou he is going through with death with dignity because he can’t bear to see her waste her opportunities in living a full life or regret even a moment with him as a wheel chair bound quadriplegic by holding her back despite her protections of love not standing between them.
For Will, it’s that he cannot assume his new normal as a dis/Abled man because “loved his old life, I want to remember life as me” and then mansplains how he believes to Lou we have a responsibility to live our lives to complete potential and being with him robs of that. He explains that his accident is “my mother’s favourite story” and paints himself as a victim rather than just dis/Abled from the beginning. Yet using this reasoning of victimhood (and leaving the out the  burden of pain described by Nathan  the medical character that explains debilitating side of Will’s condition as an audience stand in), Will is essentially unwilling to acclaimate to his new life in any real way or commit to recovery even though Lou offers him an option to choosing wellness and yet Will continues to describe his life with a dis/Ability as an unbearable condition (despite a lot of the film showing otherwise a few hospital scenes showing Will’s “bad days”).

Coleman’s character as Lou’s sister is astute in noting that quality at the end of life is just as important as length of life; and Josie, Lou’s mother, outright rejects the idea of Will’s right to choose death with dignity entirely equivocating it with participating in murder and Lou’s father convinces her to fly to Switzerland go to see Will off saying no one could have saved him from himself because Will had set his mind on it and was exercising his right to end his life.

What I find extremely disturbing about this film is that the focus of Will’s did/Ability is all about the negative consequences for him and his death is a forgone conclusion at the very beginning of the story. The story of dis/Ability is about Lou’s journey rather than any of Will’s experiences except the negative. It casts him as a victim whose only mechanism of regaining empowerment and agency is through a dignified death assisted suicide. It’s about the changes Will makes for Lou rather than Will and Lou adjusting to a romantic relationship between an able bodied character and the potential they had despite difficulties that could be overcome. That would have made a more interesting and realistic love story to me – what is the price of love? What is she had stayed?

What I find particularly offensive in the film is that Nathan, when mansplaining to Lou again that Will is able bodied in his dreams of extreme sports but wakes up screaming as a mobility impaired character, is that we are supposed to be horrified and it’s such an ablest mentality. Will describes the fact he likes to remember when he was in Paris before the accident and sends Lou there as a parting gesture, but people revisit and relive places all the time as dis/Abled individuals with all the inconvenience and annoyance brings. So perhaps quality of life is an issue bought up by this conversation but it seems particularly weak, because we all like particular memories of pleasant experiences the way they were but memories just become stories in time.

In opposition to Will, I remember my life before being diagnosed with bipolar and searching for the origins of my mystery pain and I don’t treasure the before as much as the present. Will is living in a past he can’t let go of and that bothers me greatly that the first significant mobility impairs dis/Abled character on the cinema (minus Professor Charles Xavier and his mutants), is unable to evolve and become resilient despite being offered the chance at a comfortable recovery even if it wasn’t his ideal world that he couldn’t go back to as he explains in the dinner scene and Nathan mansplains to the audience again that the physio is for maintanance only. This is an ableist film made some author could find a redeeming story about dignity Witt death. I have no problem with choosing quality over quantity of life, I do have a problem when there is no real between offered in a text like this. I may talk about If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman as a better text on dis/Ability abs recovery on Mia’s experiences next week about the third road of recovery.

Which brings me to how this involves living as a dis/Abled and Enabled archaeology student. I belong to a group on Facebook that found me after I posted Broken Archaeologist about how I was creating my own opportunities as a third road to completely hopeless victim or trying to keep up with the other archaeology students when I couldn’t and when the department and I recognised this, we changed the degree to allow me to fulfil my potential. I’m now in a leadership program and hoping in 2017 to be part of an international change organisation (AIESEC) learning the skills I need to improve dis/Ability in Australian archaeology and best practice methodology for Enabled archaeologists in my subjects if approved next year.

Instead of leaving you with Clark’s bumblebee tights and stock scenes of Paris, I’m going to illustrate the third road to recovery by showing you a few pictures of me at Post Modern Jukebox back in September  2016 on my  crutches from articular chondral fissuring in my knee. I still know how to have fun despite pain and mobility impairment but living with mental illness has given me the resilience to deal when things aren’t perfect because my life never is and disability is not a thing one needs to be set free from but embrace to truly live with it. Grab it with both figurative hands and live your life to it’s fullest capabilities rather than becoming like Will in the film and having your limitations define you and own your future as well as your past as regrets, disability doesn’t have to be only sorrow or redemption. You only really have right now to be alive and living, so be strong and try to see it for what you can do, it doesn’t really matter what’s ahead of you since as Gregory House said it best when there is no good and dignified way to die. There’s just dying and dying is boring, so own your present and be brave for your future and try to do it anyway. A very special thanks to Post Morden Jukebox and Thebarton Theate, it was a great night and  PMJ & the theatre crew treated me brilliantly! #pmjadelaide #mebeforeyou

Clara Rosetta Santilli

What is an Aca-fan? More than a Trekker, Probably a Browncoat too.

image.jpegHow I Became an “aca-fan” or my journey to academic fandom at university…

I’ve always been a geek, and it started when I read my first science fiction novel The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey and then got into space opera like the Vorkosigan Saga and Star Trek: Voyager. The Trekkers were the first true aca fans who started the first recorded traditions of fan fiction, building secondary alternate universes around the initial three seasons of classic Trek. The comic convention, such as Comiccon, as we’ve all seen that’s become a sign of prestige with the new generation of geeks  like on The Big Bang Theory. 

I was geek-like back then despite starting an anime club in my first year of university (even though I didn’t know what anime or manga was!). Later that year  I became a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) for 15 years on and off as a Venetian courtesan who specialized in dancing, a brocade & velvet addiction and the rules of traditional Italian hospitality of the renaissance. It took another decade to discover the arts and sciences of cosplay and steampunk (don’t worry I’ll be visiting some costume makers to get a beginners kit together).

At university, I studied a mixture of archaeology, Roman classics and English. I vividly recall the one night in second year where I was left with 15 minutes to go before submission of units, to enrol in a self-directed unit in English. I looked at my dread-locked boyfriend, then back again at my pile of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDS & pile of Penguin Classics from my time as a classics nerd (Ovid’s Metamorphoses was on top). And I said to my boyfriend, ‘I can totally make some crap up about Buffy being a re-imagined version of Ovid’s Metamorphosis underworld stories.’ And then without any serious intentions, I submitted in about the span of ten minutes my spurious proposal of the self reading unit, coincidentally, little to know actually the theme for that year in the self directed project was in fact the underworld tales of Ovid. And I got selected. Oops. Turns out this was actually an instinct I’d develop in finding trends in popular culture texts and has served me well ever since. It wasn’t just luck. Well maybe that first time but since then I’ve had an uncanny ability to pick interesting and relevant texts honed by years of excellent teaching at Newcastle, UNE and Flinders Universities.

As part of third  year English in my Bachelor of Arts, I worked on that Ovid project and the other part of the assessment was to come up with a Honours proposal based on the research I’d conducted for the self directed project.  My project was an in depth article on Buffy as a re-imagining of Ovid’s underworld tales and the hero’s journey as explored through Buffy and Spike’s relationship. I became fascinated with the sympathetic vampires of Joss Whedon & Anne Rice and their obsession with regaining and revering humanity. I discovered that in all the gothic literature and philosophy I’d consumed for the project aspect (the article on Whedon’s re-imagining of Ovid) was that vampires had ceased to be monsters and now were evolved into a different kind of creature, a sympathetic figure in Anne Rice and antiheroes/ heroic in Buffy and it’s spinoff, Angel. So I wrote my fourth year arts degree proposal on this and it was accepted into the Honours programme.

And thus I began my journey to becoming an aca-fan to now, when I am a serious academic, writing a book chapter on Doctor Who’s archaeologists and time agents currently and have a second chapter to finish proposing for Netflix & Marvel’s AKA Jessica Jones. I have a busy few weeks with an osteoarchaeology field school thrown in, so I can’t forget my day job!

What does an aca-fan look like now ten years later? It’s still short for academic fandom and is a synonym for people like me who take their popular culture obsession and turn it into an academic discipline where they create academic discussion and publication of papers discussing the issues that science fiction, young adult texts and fantasy raises. Many have serious positions at universities and there is even a Joss Whedon Studies Association with a journal called Slayage (and Junior Watcher for undergraduate publications). My Ovid and Buffy comparative study of the underworld tales became a two and a half year Honours thesis in English, covering sympathetic vampiric obsession with morality and humanity and the relationships between human and vampires. 

Some authors discourage the expansion of their universes and characters such as Anne Rice who views Lestat and his coven as her intellectual property; others like J.K Rowling encourage reader participation yet essentially control direction of the the fandom such as with Pottermore and others allow readers to build communities like Sherrilyn Kenyon and The Dark Hunter novel readerships who regularly post tattoos based on beloved characters on Facebook and other social media.

Luckily events stopped me before I got to the Twilight Saga PhD. But I am a member of the Whedon Studies Association as mentioned and we are one of the bigger groups out there with annual and bi-annual international conferences, a journal (Slayage) and journal for undergraduates (Watcher Junior). We are a multidisciplinary fandom and I encourage you to start thinking critically about your fandom if being an an aca fan appeals to you.

The thing about being an aca fan is that you need to strike the balance between being able to critique your favourite text and fandom but enjoy the experience of immersing yourself objectively in your material and subjecting it to serious criticism alongside other academic disciplines such as philosophy and psychology. I admit I have studied Stephenie Meyer as a consultant for a project and I swear I read Breaking Dawn to send me to sleep. Not all fandoms are equal but everyone I met has been passionate and engaged with their text in a way I don’t think the literary, television and film establishments envisioned. I particularly enjoy shipping now the era of Spuffy and Bangle has passed. My favourite Alternative Universe pairing is Bucky Barnes and Clara Oswald. 

Since then other groups have evolved opening the door to activities like Pottermore and I am currently in the position of working on papers including a definite 9000 word chapter on modern Doctor Who, today an abstract for a piece about Jessica Jones and later in the year: Love between alien and human relationships in Science Fiction Television. I’m excited about human love, alien romance and shipping the companions in Doctor Who at the end of 2016 along with my Jessica Jones and PTSD victim narrative for 2017. Dipping my toes into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with an abstract on AKA Jessica Jones has me both exhilarated and terrified. 

How did I become become an aca-fan? I immersed myself in my chosen universes and I looked for the opportunities to use the academic skills I acquired along the way with everything from archaeology and history to English and that one counselling unit I took. Last year I learned how to buy and catalogue a Dalek last year as they are manufactured in Australia, and I discovered that most of the people who run the shows we love are aca-fans too and have learned all there is to know about the universes their heroes inhabit (my house is covered in TARDISes). I’m cosplaying from Doctor Who at the Steampunk Pirate Ball in November 2016. But when I’m writing my paper, it’s be like undoing the knitting of Baker’s scarf with a lot of River Song and Jack Harkness. There are definitely worse ways to spend your time! 

Another example; from Buffy fandom research, I’d never have learned about Spuffy, “shipping” and Whouffle and Whouffaldi. From my own studies, I’d have never been given the chance to look at River Song and Jack Harkness beyond their role as the Doctor’s companions and see them characters with personalities in their own rights. This started with two years of memorizing all of BtVS and Angel, reading obscure philosophy at all hours and then reaching out and expanding into fandoms beyond my own such as the Harry Potter conference at Flinders University a decade ago.

On that note, we have the Southern Seekers, the Adelaide chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance that meets monthly at Dymocks Rundle Mall.  These guys take ordinary fandom and turn it into heroism through activism. I’m also going to be doing a special on different styles of gaming, steampunk, cosplay and LARPing as several groups have things planned soon and hopefully I can find a Hodor so I can get out there. The next article over the weekend will be a basic guide to LARPIng and Cosplay for beginners. But you’ll find many many aca-fans in these groups that can put me to shame, as I’ve only adopted Harry Potter since there was no magic in my house as a kid! I’m planning on interviewing some local SA authors next weekend for the blog! 

Clara Rosetta Santilli