Matthew Thurber is the author of 1-800-MICE, INFOMANIACS, and Art Comic. He lives in New York City.Read More
This comic was originally published in TLB #35. Get your copy here.Read More
'By Numbers' is a recurring feature that appears in our print magazine – where we use numbers in a snapshot way to try and reveal the true breadth and depth of an issue. This ‘By Numbers' on the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine to be operated by Adani in the Galilee Basin, Queensland, using the most recent data available at that time, was originally published in September 2017 in Issue 35 of our print magazine.
THE PROPOSED CARMICHAEL COAL MINE TO BE OPERATED BY ADANI IN THE GAILEE BASIN, QUEENSLAND
Number of years for which the Adani mine will be operational: 60
Approximate age of the Great Barrier Reef: 600,000 years
Amount of coal predicted to be extracted from the Adani mine: 60 million tonnes
Percentage of Australian coal reserves that need to remain unburnt if we’re to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius: 93%
State that produces the most coal in Australia: Queensland
Number of operational coal mines in Queensland: 50
Of additional coal mines proposed in Queensland: 21
Of Australian coal mines larger than the proposed Adani mine: 0
Of coal mines in China proposed by the government to be closed: 5,600
Percentage of Queensland state revenue gained from coal royalties in 2016: 3%
Amount of money the Queensland government will not receive due to royalty concessions for the Adani mine: $320 million
Amount Adani is projected to generate for the Australian economy per year: $275 million
Amount the Reef contributes to the Australian economy each year: $7 billion
Amount Adani wants to borrow from the Australian government: $900 million
Percentage of Australians who support investment in the Adani mine: 7%
Number of banks that have refused to finance Adani’s project: 19
Percentage of Australia’s GDP that comes from the mining sector: 6.9%
Percentage of Australia’s GDP that comes from the cultural industries: 4%
Approximate amount the health effects of coal costs Australian taxpayers each year: $2.6 billion
Number of diagnosed cases of ‘black lung’ (coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) disease in Queensland: 19
Number of jobs in Queensland the coal industry currently provides: 20,000
Percentage of the state workforce this equates to: 1%
Number of jobs Adani originally claimed the mine would create: 10,000
Actual number of jobs it is predicted to create: 1,464
Job positions currently advertised by Adani Australia: 26
Estimated number of jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef in 2011–2012: 69,000
Volume of sediment being dredged up for the expansion of the port at Abbot Point and dumped into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: 5 million tonnes
Number of coal ships that passed through the Reef to Abbot Point in 2011: 1,722
Estimated number of ships that will pass through the Reef to Abbot Point, due to expansion from the Adani mine, by 2020: 10,150
World’s total fish species that can be found in the Great Barrier Reef: 10%
Number of metric tonnes of coal that spilled into the ocean when an Adani ship sank in 2011: 60,054
Number of years before Adani took action to clean up this spill: 5
Amount Adani was sued for the spill: $975,000
Gautam Adani and his family’s estimated net worth: $US 6.3 billion
Number of litres of groundwater the Adani mine will use over its lifetime: 9.5 billion
Number of dollars Adani will be charged for the consumption of that water: 0
Compiled by Christine Ebbs, Angela Glindemann and Edwina Sleigh using the most recent data available, July 2017.
The guest speaker was tanned and had wide shoulders that strained at the seams of his navy suit. He reminded me of Brad Pitt’s wax figure in Madame Tussauds museum down near Darling Harbour. Back in Year 8, we had a day collecting donations for the Cancer Council. My best friend Tammy and I snuck into the wax museum instead. Tammy pretended to marry Brad Pitt and I pretended to marry Bruce Willis. A thousand people came to our joint wedding at Crystal Palace in Canley Heights. Under the plastic chandeliers, the DJ played ‘Time After Time’ by Cindy Lauper. Bruce and I intertwined our arms and poured whiskey into each other’s mouths while Tammy made out with Brad. A big security guy with skulls tattooed on his neck ambled over. His nametag read ‘Fetu’.
“You Westies are better off staying in school than drooling over movie stars.” His bread loaf hands steered us out into the daylight. If only Fetu could see me in uni now, attending lectures held by Brad Pitt look-alikes.
“Time is money but life isn’t about money. Just be yourself and know what you’re passionate about.” Fake Brad Pitt’s voice echoed along the smooth curve of the auditorium. Each seat was covered in a thick red fabric that tickled the back of my thighs. He wasn’t saying anything new and yet everyone was applauding.
People got up and surged to the front of the room. One girl pushed her way to the lectern and grabbed the mic. She said her name was Kelly Agathocleous and she wanted to thank Brad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to us. His name was actually Brad.
I left the lecture and wandered to the food court. While I stood in line, I looked up Brad’s multi-million-dollar juice company on my phone. It was called Better Leaves and the head office was in Surry Hills. I tapped on Employment Opportunities and saw that Better Leaves were also offering five internships for undergrads. All unpaid. I ordered a lasagna with extra cheese and sat on damp grass. My thumb was covered in red sauce when a long shadow was cast over me. It was Carina Tan, a regular HD scorer with posture like a prawn. She had a thin face, thin lips and thin black hair drooping all over her pale collarbones. Without saying a word, Carina licked her index finger and dropped a shiny pamphlet. The sheet of paper spiralled down and one of the corners lodged in the melted cheese of my lasagna before it nestled in my lap. Then she walked off. The golden letters on the pamphlet glowed like brand new coins. “PWIP. Put Women In Power,” I murmured.
Our first meeting was in C5T2, one of the accounting tutorial rooms at Macquarie Uni. There was a bowl of browning guacamole on the table. Carina Tan ripped open a bag of Doritos and put it beside the guac before scuttling away. She sat in the corner, hunched over her notepad – expecting an apocalypse by the looks of it. The rest of us three girls hovered near the food. My fingers nervously pecked at the dip, unsure what would happen if I ingested rotting avocado. Another girl, South Asian with vitiligo around the corners of her mouth and thick hair gathered in a plait that lay against her spine, scooped up a handful of chips and took a seat in the front row. The remaining girl had Paris Hilton’s straight nose and Ray-Bans combing back her long blonde hair. She rolled her eyes at the guac and chips and also sat in the front row. I swirled my fifth chip into the dip and took a seat in the second row. Sitting in front rows is never a good idea. It would be too obvious if you tried to sneak out.
Then a plump girl walked in with the strut of a rooster, chest puffed out, footsteps calm and deliberate. Kelly Agathocleous. President of PWIP.
Up close, Agathocleous had an egg-shaped head with a brown top knot. She was wearing a grey coat that had silver buttons and a furry collar. As she spoke, the freckle on her upper lip barely moved. Something something... “Thanks for coming here.” She stared at my forehead the whole time.
Agathocleous reached into her bag and pulled out a book that she said changed her life. On the cover was a middle-aged woman with a sleek brown bob, pearl earrings and a white cardigan smiling with all her teeth showing. Her knuckles were tucked beneath the left side of her chin. The rest of her body was cropped out and her head rested above the title Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. I wanted to wipe the sweat from my upper lip but my fingers were gritty with Dorito crumbs.
Clutching the open book in her ricotta hands, Agathocleous recited a few lines: “Women hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” Then she exhaled and closed her eyes. My heart beat faster. My hands and legs went all numb. Sheryl was going to save me.That night, I repeated those lines to myself while I drove over to Tammy’s house in Fairfield to use her wifi. Kyle was squawking to Jackie O on the radio, telling her about a piece of meat that rested between his balls and arsehole. I hit the mute button and wound down the windows of my dad’s old Corolla. The wind pushed back all my hair and I passed the Lansvale Macca’s which had a 2.8-star rating on Google. I promised myself that I was going to be like Sheryl. Powerful and confident. That meant no more sweating and avoiding social situations. I slammed my foot on the accelerator and roared down the Hume Highway. I was going too fast to notice a pothole and went straight over it. The impact lifted me out of my seat. My head hit the ceiling and the seatbelt cut into my collarbones. I was in shock and wanted to pull down the mirror to check whether I was bleeding but the car behind me honked so I pushed the accelerator harder. The front tire became unstuck and I could smell burnt rubber for the rest of the way.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Shirley Le is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Yagoona. She is a member of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement.
Slowing my bike to read the numbers on the letterboxes, I reached my destination: a large brick house on a quiet, inner-city street, slightly shabbier than its neighbours. As I locked up the bike, my stomach sank. Strewn across the front lawn were sun-mottled toys, synthetic stuffing poking through holes that had been ripped in the threadbare fur. When the door opened, my fears were confirmed. Wet noses prodded excitedly past the legs of my welcomer. My new tutoring student's family were dog owners.
I laughed uncomfortably, trying to seem cool and chilled out while alerting them to one of my most visceral anxieties. As I did, I was acutely attuned to the location and movement of the dogs. I stood abnormally still and my breathing became more conscious, as if this affected stillness might prevent them from noticing me.
I know from experience that fear of dogs (cynophobia) is often taken as a personal insult to an owner’s 'family', apparently as ridiculous to them as the fantasy that the owner themselves might lean over and bite me. The dogs were ushered outside, their low whimpers audible through the windows, injecting moments of palpable awkwardness into my lesson on fractions.
I have not always been afraid of dogs. Indeed, for the first few years of my life I was unusually calm around dogs, having spent many days in the house of a babysitter who bred German Shepherds. Thinking about it now makes me feel claustrophobic, but at the time I loved them, would happily watch Power Rangers as they ran around and rubbed up against me.
In Australia, my phobia is unusual, largely regarded as inexplicable and irritating. In India and Pakistan, where it developed, my fear is more of a norm. There, the relationship with animals was more immediate; as a visitor, it both entranced and perturbed me. Monkeys, meat and domestic animals were cast from their usual categories, all to be found on the streets of major cities.
The first and only time I visited the subcontinent was in the months surrounding my eighth birthday. The trip was part fieldwork for my mother's PhD, part an excuse to visit family.
Given the pale skin inherited from my father, Australians are often surprised to learn of my Pakistani heritage; when I was a child my mother would often be mistaken for my nanny. But in Pakistan, the idea of what a Pakistani looks like is more generous. There are areas with entire populations of pale skinned, blue- or green-eyed Pakistanis. In Pakistan, I chatted away in my broad Australian accent and people asked my mother where she sent me to school, complimenting my excellent English.
Prior to our visit, I had nurtured a yearning for some kind of Enid Blyton–style companionship with a monkey that I was sure I would befriend in India and bring home with me. My mother had told me about the monkeys inhabiting the streets and parks of Delhi and the idea thrilled me. My cute friend would be human enough to communicate and understand my emotions, but animal enough to be entirely devoted to 1) light-hearted mischief and 2) me. Upon arrival in Delhi, I learnt why monkeys are not generally pets. The monkeys on the streets were not the soft, sweet creatures from cartoons but wild—their eyes were dark and shrewd, their teeth sharp, their movements fast and unpredictable, and their bodies possibly coursing with rabies. Through my open window, I watched the monkeys scamper across the grass outside, at once hopeful and terrified they might approach.
Similarly, the distance between animal and animal product was lessened. Because many of the areas we travelled to were without reliable electricity or refrigeration, meat seemed rarely to be found as the neat shapes pressed between cling wrap and styrofoam that I was used to picking up from Woolies. Under these conditions, it was often more practical for my family and the staff of the many hotels we stayed in to simply purchase the animal live.
In her memoir on growing up in Pakistan, Meatless Days (1989), Sara Sulari describes a scene of her sister buying chicken for their dinner.
Nuz stood at the door, ordered her birds, paid for them, and then suddenly remembered her housewifely duty. "Are they fresh?" she squawked, clutching at them, "Can you promise me they're fresh?" The chicken-monger looked at her with some perplexity. "But Begum Sahib," he said gently, "they're alive."
My mother would recount the excerpt to me when I was young to gales of laughter—her arms flapping about as she repeated “Are they fresh? Are they fresh?”, and her eyes widening at “they're alive.”
Reading the book now, nearly two decades after my mother would act it out for me, I find the passage a little darker. Sulari concludes that a fresh chicken is in fact a dead chicken, or rather, a not too dead chicken. The word ‘fresh’ hides in its lively connotations the slaughter that it implies. Travelling in cities where power outages were common, my mother tried to avoid the parts of the markets where these animals were sold when I was with her. Although the story had amused me in Australia, I was deeply unsettled to see these animals in real life—shelves of caged chickens and goats tied to posts—as though they were at once alive and dead.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Adalya Nash Hussein is a writer and editor, named as a 'Big Best Thing' by the Wheeler Centre, and 'Most Likely to be PM' by her Year 12 teachers.
Preparing to interview George Saunders, I kept thinking of The Skin, in which Curzio Malaparte writes that after the Allied liberation of Naples, due to the desperate state of its people and the ‘freedom’ the United States brought with them, you could buy anything in the city – the last virgin in Europe, an American tank, a woman’s youngest child – but that when you bought something you weren’t really buying it, you were buying a slice of someone’s hunger. I can’t think of a better analogy for what the works of Saunders illustrate about the world today.Read More
Translated from Croatian by Jana Perković
that day of the month
I will wake you with a kiss, I know it already. But not yet, definitely not yet. I’ll wait until I hear the street-cleaning truck getting close to our building… so that it’s me who wakes you up instead. On Tuesdays and Sundays it’s that truck, on Wednesdays and Fridays it’s the garbage one, on Saturdays it’s the potato lady, and in summer it’s the heat.
But it’s still winter.
And I woke up because you’re not here, you’re not in bed, you’re not here next to me.
You are sleeping on the couch in the living room because there, supposedly, is where couches belong. Beds in the bedroom, couches in the living room, that’s how it goes, you remind me every so often. You are sleeping on the couch because today is that day of the month, the one when we wake up apart. Because that’s also how we went to sleep, apart… me in the bedroom, you in the living room.
I miss you… that’s my first thought on every that day of the month. I miss you, though I know you are only seven steps away from me, though I know you are actually here.
That day of the month exists for this purpose, so that I miss you in bed, and you miss me on the couch, so that we miss each other together. It’s our little monthly ritual, a ritual of missfulness we have chosen to adopt.
Some time ago, long ago, before we started kissing, when we were still just friends, all the days of the month were days of waking up apart. Because we also went to sleep apart, each in her corner of the city, one in Derenčin Street, the other in Trešnjevka…
And if we are no longer just friends, if now we kiss often and a lot, it’s the fault of your couch, where we spent our first night together. It’s the couch’s fault, just like for others it’s the fault of stars or destiny or wine. That’s what I say. You say that it cannot be the couch’s fault for something as beautiful as you and me, because fault is for errors and harm, and we are neither of those things. It can only be the couch’s achievement, you tell me and add that it’s high time I learn the meaning of certain words. Such as for example couch, such as for example bed.
Because beds are for sleeping, and couches for sitting, you explain, while I wonder how then it’s possible that we slept on the couch our first night together. In my former apartment the bed- and the living-room were one and the same, so there it was possible for the couch to be the bed, you tell me, but otherwise it should be punishable by law, people having couches and calling them beds. And using them as such. Then I say you’re full of shit and I don’t want yet another Babić-Finka-Moguš fight, and you say it’s not a fight but a conversation and my problem is that I don’t use the right words for things. Things such as for example couch, things such as for example bed.
I think about all of this while you are still sleeping on the couch, the one in the living room.
Yes, you have agreed to that, although couches are for sitting, and beds are for sleeping, you have agreed to it because today is that day of the month, the one when we wake up apart.
And I, awake in this bed for sleeping, can hear the street-cleaning truck getting close to our building. I get out of bed, I walk seven steps to the living room, to the couch, to you.
It’s winter and I wake you up with a kiss.
You can’t not write about that, you told me and from then on I no longer understood anything. All around me, all I could see was negation, naysaying, negatives, I thought that perhaps the end of this last sentence should say: after that I no longer understood nothing, and I could no longer remember what it was that I couldn’t not write about, probably about something impossible, which isn’t possible anyway.
And as you were laughing at my suffering, because you know very well that to me double negation is the terra incognita of Croatian language, I was panicking, trying to calculate how the two negatives in your sentence could form something positive, something affirmative, something different and understandable to me. Just like two minuses make a plus, I thought, two nos might yield one yes, in which case your sentence might say, You can write about that.
But then I remembered I had the same thought when I was trying to translate the sentence, No one did nothing, nowhere, never, into something with fewer negatives, and the end result was me returning the play containing that sentence to the second-hand bookshop the same afternoon, because I had spent the afternoon trying to decipher what the author, literally—literarily—meant. I thought I understood the play on the first reading, but when I realised it was teeming with negatives, its unreadability suddenly became unbearable, suddenly it was incomprehensible and I could not not return it to where it had come from, together with the containing book.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Jasna Jasna Žmak is a dramaturg and writer based between Zagreb and Belgrade, dealing with the issues of queer love and even queerer language. She is the author of two performance texts, two short films, one book of prose and several essays.
What You Can Count On
You learn never to count on anything being the same from day to day, that he will fall asleep at a certain hour, or sleep for a certain length of time. Some days he sleeps for several hours at a stretch, other days he sleeps no more than half an hour.
Sometimes he will wake suddenly, crying hard, when you were prepared to go on working for another hour. Now you prepare to stop. But as it takes you a few minutes to end your work for the day, and you cannot go to him immediately, he stops crying and continues quiet. Now, though you have prepared to end work for the day, you prepare to resume working.
an exchange May 2017
[22 May 2017, 19:20, in Anne’s
green-blue kitchen, London]
I am in London again, continuing
(attempting) a new start of sorts.
I’m unsure of what I want from
this chosen isolation. My mum
is supportive: ‘Solitude is a rare
[19:40, the cat Tilly comes
into the kitchen]
[26 May 2017, 10.38, at the dining table, the baby is upstairs in her cot, grizzling between sleep cycles]
I was studying architecture when I got pregnant. My second undergraduate degree. Centrelink said they wouldn’t pay.
I asked for an assignment extension and my lecturer (crimson velvet top, cowboy boots, lots of eyeliner) said, in her thick Spanish accent, "this is very political!"
I started taking up more space in the hallways. Tutors looked at me awkwardly.
At the end of semester, my lecturer summoned me into her glass-box office and proffered a manual breast pump, a baby carrier, and velour leopard print baby onesies. She lifted her top and put the device to her breast, exaggerating a pumping motion. "See, you could do this in a lecture. It’s very political!" She strapped the carrier to her torso and clipped and unclipped it with one hand. "This gives you independence."
[22 May, 20:15, in Anne's kitchen with tea]
I am staying in the guest room
at my godmother Anne’s for three
weeks. She doesn't have many
visitors and I would be the most
permanent resident (this is my
third time in 6 months) to be
accommodated in the room for years.
One consequence of this is the
presence of an ill-considered
blind on the western wall of the
room, directly behind the head
of the bed. When drawn at night
it reveals itself to be too short
to cover the full height of the
window. In winter’s darkness this
was not really a problem but I
discover that the now-early rise
of the sun illuminates the room
(and my forehead) at 5am. After
a few early rises I learn to use
the ample cushions on the bed as
a shield, wedging them between
the ornate bed head and the window
sill. This imperfect solution
seems fitting for my state of
transience, a secret night-time
adjustment in a room that
is not mine.
[21:10, the sun has set and the
kitchen is now dark aside from
the glow of my laptop, I move
upstairs to my bedroom]
[2 May, 12:34, on the 64 tram, the baby is asleep in the pram]
We taped al foil over the windows, pane by pane.
The high circular window was the trickiest. Truncated circle with thick dimpled glass, usually lets in diffuse afternoon light. Now nothing. Patrick climbed the ladder, I passed strips of masking tape up to him.
The seal on the rectangular window is dodgy,
though. We hadn’t thought
of that. Air seeps
through and now rattles the foil, a shimmer sound too irregular to be 'white noise.' We select 'rain' on our baby-sleep app and rip the foil down.
[26 May, 10.44, at the dining table, the baby asleep upstairs]
At sleep school, light filters in around the blinds. Patrick twitches, holds the edges down. The nurse says it doesn’t matter.
[22 May (continued) 22:15, in
bed at Anne’s]
KIT OF PARTS
iPhone close to me all the
time, even in bed, a poor-man’s
replacement for real physical
proximity. I look at my photos,
check the Australian news, trawl
instagram (I read somewhere that
instagram causes the most anxiety
and stress amongst teens, more
than Facebook, temporarily delete
off my phone). I check my steps
in the health app, a reassuring
consistency and a small sign of
headphones I put them
on when I leave Anne’s house.
I play podcasts on repeat, not
really listening but comforted by
a chosen background noise that
(almost) blocks out the tube and
traffic commotion. Simon bought
me new headphones when I was
back in Australia, robust, the same
as his. My new armour.
bed is all spaces; my
workplace, social space, dining room.
[22.30, my iphone distracts me...]
Figure C. Bed is all spaces
[9 May, 14:12, sitting in my mum’s office waiting for the baby to wake from her pram-nap so that I can feed her before catching the tram home]
We prop the baby up.
2 x ‘bouncinette’ One is bigger, covered in pictures of farm animals, with a rainbow arch holding toys over it. (We decommissioned the arch because it is too ugly). This one lives in the bathroom so that we can wee, poo, shower while keeping an eye over the baby. She also sits there when I run her bath each night. Our baby is getting very wriggly. We now buckle her in for safety. The other one is navy with green teddy-bears printed all over. Three grubby stuffed animals dangle from an adjustable metal bar. The stains are second hand. We speculate about their origin—maybe coffee. We picture scalding liquid spilling over the previous bouncer. This one sits by the piano so that the baby can bat at the so targets while Patrick ‘teaches’ her music.
1 x baby carrier Our baby is addicted to being worn. We strap her onto us and she always matches our outfits. Navy goes with everything. She nuzzles into our chests and peeps out at the world until she burrows back in and falls asleep.
[17 May, 9:55, just put the baby to sleep upstairs and am downstairs listening to her sleepy grizzles, wondering whether I need to intervene]
1 x pram The pram was an unreliable prop until a few days ago. With the bassinet attachment, our baby couldn’t see out and she felt excluded from what was passing by. We think. Babies are mysterious. Mostly, we ended up carrying her and pushing the pram, as if we had two babies. People would peer into the pram and look confused when they saw an open packet of chips, a plastic bag of shopping, or my coat instead of a baby. Now, in a more upright position, our baby loves the pram: she stares at strangers on the tram until her eyelids begin to droop and she nods off. ‘I have that effect on people,’ one woman says.
1 x bassinet Our baby is learning how to fall asleep in her bassinet. I guess it must be cold and lonely compared to our warm chests. We sit next to the bassinet and comfort her, straining our backs to lean in.
Our bodies We contort our bodies. Our baby loves to be over our shoulders or facing the floor with our hands under her belly. I draw my legs up to help hold the baby while breastfeeding: she’s getting heavy. In bed, I form a c-shape around her on my side, attached by a single nipple. When we bump into my aunt on the street while carrying our baby in our arms, without the carrier or pram, she says ‘don’t you look casual.’
[10:37, I hear the baby stirring; she’s quiet again]
This piece won the The Lifted Brow and non/fiction Lab Prize for Experimental Non-fiction, and appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.Stephanie Guest studied literature at the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, and has begun a degree in Architecture. Kate Riggs studied architecture at RMIT and is working for Urban Design London. Guest & Riggs met in year 11 at Narrabundah College in Canberra. They will be running a series of baby-friendly events at MPavilion in 2017-18.
He is not a chimp. No, the man on the other side of the glass is distinctly a man. But the chimp gestures to him as it might to a fellow creature: knocking on the pane, pointing to the fastened bolt and demonstrating in three-easy-steps how it might be unfastened and opened, and the chimp thereby freed. The man, however, sees that he is a man and that the chimp is a chimp. And so he laughs at the chimp’s gestures, knocks back on the glass and picks up a phone to film. “He wants us to lift the window up!” he chuckles, crouching to meet the chimp’s sober gaze. “He is trying to escape!” And because the chimp does not see that it is just a chimp, and not a man, it responds in turn, nodding and gesticulating more precisely. Yet after some time, with the window remaining bolted and his interlocutors having departed the enclosure (sojourning, it may be, back for a half-pint or Sunday dinner in the Welsh valleys) the chimp is left alone, still captive, to speculate on why this is the case. It has expected, not unreasonably perhaps, from its fellow primates some degree of empathy or co-operation or engagement—some recognition of his plight. What it has not anticipated, it seems, is voyeurism or ridicule or ultimately, disinterest.
A more seasoned worker at the Wales Mountain Zoo, however, has witnessed many such communicative efforts by chimps—chimps who are not entitled to country lunches or opened bolts, or minimal recognition—to engage with their visitors. And so I phone the worker to ask why this is the case and how he felt watching his chimp’s failed jailbreak. “I have previously watched our animals sign to visitors, asking them to carry out certain behaviours,” he says. What is more, he tells me, the visitors often react and do exactly what they are told. “If a visitor is reproached by a member of staff, the excuse is always ‘but the chimp asked me to do it!’” he notes. Yet this visitor did not do exactly what he was told. And so the chimp remained imprisoned in the Welsh Mountain Zoo, where it would, as the worker explains, continue to receive lessons in sign language as part of the centre’s program of chimpanzee Environmental Enrichment.
Such enrichment, the worker adds, is one of the most important duties that carers can provide to their charges—it is NOT an optional extra. So, too, a carer should aspire to enrich all the senses where possible, with other recommended enrichment activities for captive chimps including aromatherapy, sandpits, Bach, herb gardens and party-poppers. The worker does not make any further mention bolts or their unfastening.
Mitsein, or ‘being-with’, is for Martin Heidegger the fundamental structure of the human condition, whereby a person only takes shape in the world in relation to a universal phantasmal ‘Other’. This character of openness toward being is unique to humans: we emerge into the world ‘always already’ with, for and embedded in a social context that determines the structure of our personhood. For the world is not made up only of objects—tools or useful, meaningful things. It is also full of people, of others, with whom we experience a common world and whose experiences also constitute our individual worlds. Yet these ‘Others’, according to Heidegger, are not constituted by everyone and anyone outside of ourselves—all those against whom the ‘I’ stands out. Rather, it is only those “from whom, for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself—those among whom one is too.” For the caring engagement of being-with is made possible by an array of constitutive existential structures—a thrownness into a world, a projection of possibilities, conventional norms and the first-person ‘mineness’ of lived experience. Each participant in the worlds’ modes of mutual recognition are therefore governed by their unique origins, temporality and everyday interpretations. Intersubjectivity is not for all.
Critics of mitsein have argued, however, that Heidegger misconceives the fundamental character of our social existence by overlooking its grounding in a form of direct interpersonal interaction that is facilitated foremost by material objects, processes and projects—a socially shared equipmental meaning that enables humans to realise the phenomenon of being-with. This equipmentally-mediated discovery of others, some have argued, may be at best a secondary process that reveals other people only to the extent that they are relevant to the practical projects of our material worlds. Nonetheless, for the individual to deny or turn away from being-with (as is the circumstance of contemporary humans) is for Heidegger to forget one’s true self, to deprive oneself of humanity. The fabric of our openedness to the world is one piece and should not be unravelled. Mitsein is thus also the precondition for loneliness.
I am standing outside a gate. On the other side, on the asphalt expanse of a disused port, families and individuals live in 314 shipping containers. Additional containers serve as classrooms and centres for community education and recreational activities: dance lessons, health seminars, women’s knitting circles. There are no trees, but some residents and other people who do not live in containers are building a small vegetable patch, planting sunflowers, peppers, oregano—durable species. It is dusk and a few children are circling the tarmac on too-big and too-small bicycles, while a music concert is starting up on a makeshift stage. The gate is open, but guarded by a man in navy blue and people are coming and going, in and out, with the man’s endorsement. Outside, next to the fence, on gravel and some sleeping bags, a family of five is sitting—a teenage girl, a younger boy, a man, a woman and a toddler. They slept there after arriving in the early hours of this morning and because it is now dusk, they are thinking about where they will sleep again shortly. And because it is threatening rain, they are thinking about whether they will sleep there—outside, on gravel and sleeping bags in the rain—or inside, behind the gate, in a shipping container. But the man in navy blue informs them that they are not entitled to be inside the gate or to a container. The family look much like the people coming in and out (and almost perhaps, with a change of clothing, like the man in navy blue) and since the gate is open and some shipping containers are empty, the teenage girl approaches him to ask again if they can go inside. She does not speak his language, but she is able to communicate that they have come a long way to this place (for this place seems to be a long way from most places) and that they would like to sleep inside, not on gravel and in rain. “You cannot enter,” he repeats. “You do not have permission. You must come back tomorrow.” But the family has nowhere to go and come back from and so they will stay here on gravel and sleeping bags, in the threatening rain.
As the man in navy blue walks away, I go up to him and ask why this is the case and how he feels about it. “It is not allowed,” he says. “This is a shame for them, but there is nothing I can do.” And then the man turns toward a jeep passing through the boom and leans on the window to shake hands and laugh with the driver, slapping the dusty bonnet as he speaks.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Zoe Holeman is an Australian-British journalist, writer and academic, specialising in conflict in the Middle-East. She is (more or less) based in Athens.
She tells you she’s a terrorist after she takes you to the rooftop diner on 114th, but she doesn’t say it that way. “I’m an Unlikely Bedfellow,” she announces, like she’s had an epiphany. That’s what they call themselves. The Unlikely Bedfellows. They think they’re doing something good for the world.
She always savoured the foreplay of a prepared moment. You experienced this once before, when she looked at you across her steaming chicken gyro seven years ago and said, “I think we both know why we’re here,” to which you paused, registering the suggestion, and explained quite purposefully that you were confused. She hasn’t changed. You saw it minutes ago in her stiff posture, the levity in her step, her attention to the sky. She’s neither particularly companionable tonight nor beautiful. She is precisely as you remember.
The night sky is not. It hasn’t been for months. Even from the city, whose lights once shone bright enough to drown the stars, the catastrophe streaks white fire through the subdued urban gloom. It’s a nightly display of shooting stars, but you know this is not a spectacle to admire. You remember 2007, when China launched a kinetic kill vehicle into its own weather satellite to test anti-spacecraft operations. From then on, anytime the International Space Station shifted its orbit to avoid debris, it was usually avoiding junk from 2007 or remnants of old American and Russian anti-satellite tests and accidental collisions. Because debris could spread exponentially as each collision generated more detritus, which in turn generated more, scientists estimated that the rate of debris production had reached a point of no return. Technologies to remove debris were necessary. As the years passed, efforts to limit military activity in space, regulate debris, and develop remediation technologies stalled. It was a “tragedy of the commons.” No change would occur, experts cautioned, until catastrophe struck, by which point it would be too late, as the chain reaction of debris began its chaotic work. Inspired by these warnings and frustrated with “global inequalities made possible by the high ground of outer space,” a clandestine group with deep pockets launched several small kinetic kill vehicles into orbiting satellites, triggering a catastrophic chain reaction of debris. They were the Unlikely Bedfellows.
That was in June. It’s September now and still you cannot forget. On a clear evening, debris burning in the atmosphere resembles shooting stars; each night you are forced to remember. Everyone is.
Hours ago, you watched together. First from the green depths of the town, then from the Metro-North as it coursed the suburban ocean of darkness, and eventually, from the library roof. Where once you looked below into the electric fire of Manhattan lights, you now looked above as the remains of humanity’s greatest technological feats caught fire in the sky. The two of you sat cross-legged before the punctured dark atop the library roof, inhaling the incongruity of Morningside Heights and Harlem and imagining vacuum. Atmospheric burn looked like a white and yellow splatter of paint, skeletal and sparse, the black its canvas. Here and there, you noticed indistinct pricks of red. You shivered beneath the cascade of debris—the Sistine Chapel of the Unlikely Bedfellows, people call it—and watched the final frontier smolder in mockery of an aurora, definitive in its mute rage. You wondered whether you should cry. The city roared, indifferent. The sound was softer than in memory.
She led you to the diner, where she has confessed her sin to you while you read the menu. She’s the one who made this mess in the sky. She’s proud of it. You’re not surprised. It’s like her. But you’re scared also. What if other Bedfellows are here, watching, ready to take you if you pull your mobile from your pocket? As you order your food, you play with the edge of your phone. You’re thinking you’ll have to call 9-1-1, one way or another.
You poise in your seat, both terrified and aroused by the prospect of a duel. One last chance to settle the odds.
A piece of you resists. It wants no part in this. Give me a reason to make that call, it says.
You’re not moved. It’s been seven years. Why should you care what happens to her once you make the call? She’s a memory. Nothing more.
She leans over the table and picks a chip from your plate. “Can I have one?” she asks as it crunches between her molars. Oh God, is she hitting on you? You want to think she is. She teeters side to side; the booth’s red leather squeals. “That’s good,” she says, chewing, and again she reaches across. You run your thumb along the surface of your phone. “I’ll have another.” She eyes your thumb. “Pass the sriracha, please,” she says, although it’s closer to her than your chips.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Haris A. Durrani is the author of Technologies of the Self. His work appears in McSweeney's, Lightspeed, Catapult, The New Inquiry, Poet's Country and more. He tweets at @hdernity.
Fear, wanting and the politics of neoliberal anxiety
We can’t live plain lives because we are afraid.
We mostly can’t live plainer lives because of all the fear.
We mostly can’t relate to our lives plainly because fear hobbles this ability or repertoire.
When I’m afraid, I replace curiosity with either/or thinking.
When I’m afraid (and don’t know I am afraid) my repertoire is puny.
I could be curious about being afraid but this would involve noticing that fact, then a gear change.
It would mean abstaining (just long enough) from what or how I usually do.
(Fear is very busy. One can end up paralysed with busyness.)
Abstaining might involve making something—that is, swapping expectation for praxis.
How is it that abstaining and making aren’t opposites?
How could a plain life be not-the-opposite of a rich life?
These days, it’s easy to get the impression that people are really very anxious. Who? you ask. Well, people you hear about. People who tell you they are. Friends. Lovers. Acquaintances. Colleagues. The Youth. The term is around and people are applying it to themselves, or having it applied to them, willy-nilly. People are talking about anxiety plenty, getting diagnosed by certified professionals as “anxious.” It’s concerning; it’s distressing. Debilitating, often. It can dismantle a life, they say. It can erode your well-being and capacity for connection. You can become a real pain in the arse. Stuff like that.
Clearly, the term is an umbrella term. There must be lots of species of anxiety. It means different things all the time. We could get far more precise about what we mean by the term, host a little tournament of semantics, but who’s got time for that. Anxiety, in any case, goes to the heart of one’s experience of time. And the term, we can affirm, gets thrown around as a new staple in the parlance of our times.
This essay didn’t set out to be about anxiety. I wanted to contemplate something else, something I’m venturing to call a Plain Life. What I discovered, however, as I began to write, was that it was hard to avoid addressing this other thing. And it seems the two might be connected. Not in opposition—as one might assume—but more in a subtractive way: that’s to say, they have that particular relation of no relation. A Plain Life might be that of which we can become capable (of recognising) when the conditions for anxiety are not operating so fiercely, or when we manage—even for a tiny interval—to abstain from colluding with these conditions.
And so, in order to explore with you this idea of plainness, I find myself having to wrestle with the beastlier notion of anxiety—a thankless undertaking, and a potentially hurtful one. In writing some of things here below, I risk (ever so slightly, not so slightly) making you, the reader—an anxious person? diagnosed, closeted, unsure?—feel blamed and judged. This might happen, and it would be neither my wish nor intention.
On the other hand, my intention is to ask slightly more probing questions about something that appears to be eating our collective faces off, or to be eating collectivity per se. I want to ask not so much about discrete instances of anxiety and whether the term is merited or not, but rather what the conditions might be in which a certain ilk of anxiety becomes more likely; in which it can gather momentum and flourish.
It seems to be flourishing right now.
I could be, however, that I’m listening too earnestly to these declarations and self-diagnoses. Perhaps labelling oneself as “suffering from anxiety” might be more a kind of style—like heroin chic—rather than something to worry about. It might just be one way a person likes to approach being a person. Going at life. Front on. With some edge. Nothing soggy. The anxious do not truck with soggy. That’s the impression I’ve gleaned over time.
Sans sog? Maybe there’s a clue right there. Not so much middle ground.
I suspect it’s both—an epidemic for many and a contemporary stance for some. And probably both at once.
In this essay, I may make some obnoxious arguments. Perhaps you’ll find them obnoxious, perhaps I flatter myself prematurely. I’m going to talk two broad notions in two parts, and link them up. The first involves expectations about life (getting, having, feeling) that we can tend to absorb unfiltered from our milieus. The latter are also now almost inevitably global and neoliberal, and this will become important. Alongside that I’m going to explore a subtheme, namely: desire. Splendid, super-duper, never-the-problem, desire.
The second aspect I’ll explore is fear (see propositions above), and in particular what unfelt fear does to one’s thinking. In my own experience it tends to narrow my imaginative range, and then exaggerate the content of that range in unsettling ways. I think it’s this—hyperbolic, polarised thinking—that constitutes a crucial element in the set of conditions in which anxiety can take root so operatically. Unfelt fear, then, really hinders the possibility of a Plain Life.
In this way, anxiety, and the conditions under which it flourishes, concerns us all, is therefore political. It is something we might consider collectively. Together. Although we may suffer the squalls of so-called mental health alone and in our own particular ways, as Deleuze and Guattari taught us, it is neither personal nor individual. We get sick in ways also specific to contexts and moments. If can be constructive to think about this as shared—to link it up with our times and its mores, with our capacities and limitations.
Your suffering might be particular, but it is also generalised, and I reckon it’s worth having a good shot at working out why that might be and if there is anything—anything at all—that we can do about it. Thinking about it together might be the first step to undermining one pillar that it relies on in order to operate.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Antonia Pont lives in Melbourne and works at Deakin University as Senior Lecturer in Writing and Literature. A long-term practioner, she also runs a yoga school in Melbourne's CBD, where she and others collectively research non-violence, intentionality and the mechanism of change.
Crabcakes—James Alan McPherson (Touchstone, 1998)
Ban en Banlieue—Bhanu Kapil (Nightboat Books, 2015)
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life—Yiyun Li (Hamish Hamilton, 2017)
“Often I think that writing is a futile effort; so is reading; so is living.”
Stones underfoot; they’re slope-faced, many thousands of them, ancient as the moon. They crunch as she hobbles over them from the water’s edge towards the castle. She should have worn her runners. Up ahead, Kronborg—Elsinore, for today—is as vast and regal as any castle. The scene is so familiar, though how should it be? It’s her first time in Denmark.
The performance begins under the great white banner of the sky outside; scene by scene the actors work their way through the halls and chambers of the castle. At each point in the play, she joins the line of spectators, gathered at the rim of a red rope circling the actors. Every year a new season of the same play. Must be a great gig for an actor, she thinks. One season, a Danish friend told her, Jude Law played the role of Hamlet. It was like the biggest thing to happen in Denmark. No Jude Law this time. Only actors with dark eye make-up smeared, who look, as all the Danes seem to, vaguely familiar to her. White people of a certain variety; the planes of their faces echo hers and her brothers’, invasions a millennia old alive in the angles of their noses, the curls of their chins and licks of ears.
‘Viking’, she learns on Wikipedia, isn’t an ethnic group. It’s just another word for marauding. Echoes of memories arbitrarily, violently implanted. Errant genes. Though ‘Viking Queen’ does have a ring more charming than ‘Pillaging Monarch’.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god—the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! (Hamlet ii.ii)
Oh, Hamlet. Hamlet and the pillaging monarchs. The forms upon which the human, humanity, is based—“quintessence of dust” (ii.ii).
She exits the castle early. Gets on a train back to the flat grey city. Enough Shakespeare for one day. Though she is in Copenhagen for a summer school on world literature—and Hamlet is the work of world literature, the work with multiple sources and endless articulations, adaptations—she hates the play: the wronged prince, the dead crazy girl, in this instance the pompous black-cloaked production values. And these days, all castles look like Trump Tower to her.
I write compulsively. No. That ‘I’ I just used, that is a former I. My current I doesn’t write. She doesn’t even take coherent notes anymore. She doesn’t believe in writer’s block, so it can’t be that. Writing is only training. (“Everything,” writes James Alan McPherson, “is training.”) It’s not about the sentences, sentences are still possible. See? It’s the self that’s supposed to be there to urge them into existence that has taken flight.
When in the past I wrote, there was a point from which ‘I’ could pivot. A time and a place and a self, located at the centre of those dimensions. Fiction, nonfiction, work emails—it doesn’t matter. An axis, something like: a voice composed on a screen, which could always be tracked back to a body, my body. I usually write ‘from life’, whatever that means, so the connection between these two things is, for the imagination of a reader, easily comprehensible. Same parents same schooling same crooked teeth. Same bullshit. Where are you? When did the dimensions of your space and time stop moving you?
We can trace it to three events:
1. Bhanu Kapil’s antimemoir workshop. And her books The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, read before the workshop, and Ban en Banlieue, read afterwards.
2. Yiyun Li’s Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life. Then James Alan McPherson’s Crabcakes. In one destabilising breath.
3. Uprooting my life again. Suitcase living; what’s-your-wifi-login? living; using-a-sheet-as-a-towel living. The purpose of the uproot was to learn everything and to be in love with someone good—two most precarious states. The ‘learning’—being directed, bearing witness, reading hard, and undoing myself to find new threads—put the concreteness, the muscularity of my ‘self’ under direct attack. And the ‘loving’, that took care of the rest.
Can’t write memoir now. How bout antimemoir?
“Point of view offers two possibilities: partial and complete. What remains silent is the third and anonymous possibility—blindness, the end of writing.” (On Longing, Susan Stewart)
The upturn of losing the plot: the proliferation of a million futures opening up and collapsing like a row of spring blossoms. Longing made as soon as it is lost.
Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life is an extraordinary collection of literary-autobiographical essays. Li wrote these meditations on time, language, and living through her ‘context’ (which is, for her, within books), between and after two bouts of suicidal depression. Li distrusts the lyric ‘I’ more than any writer I have encountered, and not for dull reasons like the presumed universality of the author. She writes:
A word I hate to use in English is I. It is a melodramatic word. In Chinese, a language less grammatically strict, one can construct a sentence with an implied subject pronoun and skip the embarrassing I, or else replace it with we. Living is not an original business.
The collection abounds with astringencies like this, particularly where the author requires herself to think about and through the autobiographical mode:
Why write autobiographically? There must be a belief in some kind of freedom.
The moment that I enters my narrative my confidence crumbles.
To capture a moment—of life, of history—is less a reason to write than to return to confront the melodrama, to understand how illusions beget illusions, memories eulogize memories.
To be exposed means that a stranger could learn something about me through reading my words and against my wish.
All people lie, in their writing as much as in their lives.
This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Ellena Savage is a writer and reader. Her essays, poems, lectures and stories have been published and performed widely. Most reccently: Chart Collective, The Lifted Brow, Literary Hub, Cordite and Scum.
Translated by Pierre Joris
The cup is full
And here are the ingredients:
At the bottom a bit of despair
that after-taste of bitterness
by the true connoisseurs
One third blood
cheaper than tap water
One third tears
having been wept
by the gentlest eyes
Two fingers of vintage
at a constant ferocity
A peel of hot pepper
lighting up the mouth
and a cloud
of black anger
All of it
& to drink
in the face of disaster
LIKE AN OX
Like an ox
refusing to wear blinders
I pull the plough of hope
The earth to be ploughed
has become truly hard
The shears don’t resist
I need two or three
to cut a single furrow
Like an ox
I pull the plough of hope
with all my energy
I no longer ask myself the questions
since when and why
because I cannot
cannot leave dormant
the field fate gave me
a long time ago
to plant my armful of dreams
Like an ox
I pull the plough of hope
I have whitened under the harness
My shoulders, my back, my knees are in pain
in even more pain is
But I cannot stop
have no right to holidays
even less to retirement
we have to pull without raising the head
or losing ourselves in reflections
until we fall
not to get up again
Like an ox
I pull the plough of hope
It hasn’t escaped me
that the age we live in is dark
that the planet’s equilibrium
is about to break down
and that madmen
than those the history books speak of
are here and there
taking the reins of power
wearing the armbands of life-guards
move among us
Like an ox
I pull the plough of hope
and I still refuse
to wear blinders
I do see that the fertile seed
I hope to see sewn after my labor
is becoming rare
when it hasn’t been tampered with
and monopolized by the merchants
of false hopes
like any ox that respects itself
I am single-minded
and I continue to dig
I feel a presence
at my side
and on my spine
the caress of a helping hand
I hear an inhabited bountiful voice
murmur to me: Courage, brother
one more little effort
We have to finish the task!
And no matter how much of an ox I am
it moves me to tears
And so I pull
and will continue to pull
the big night
invades my consciousness.
These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Abdellatif Laâbi is an acclaimed Moroccan poet, novelist and playwright. Among other awards, he was the recipient of the Prix Goncourt de la Poésie in 2009.
The more frequently you listen to it, the more deeply a mixtape will ingrain the logic of its sequencing, until it comes to seem that the order of songs could not have transpired in any other way. I think of this as cassette time: a chain of events that each tape creates, internal and unique to itself.
This tape, the one that these notes accompany, had to begin with Fia Fell’s laser beam synthesisers and progress through Lady Lash’s sanguine flow to Milk Teddy’s genteel pop and thence to Waterfall Person’s welter, past truth-n-dare’s fluorescent declarations and the wooziness of School Damage to the glistening Kimchi Princi and The Hacketts, boogieing. If it didn’t happen this way then it would be another tape, not better or worse but different. A mixtape, like an essay, starts and ends somewhere that could have been another somewhere but you have to make a decision and once you do, every other latent possibility falls away. It’s maddening, really. Tape making is one of the most masochistic pastimes. Like writing. And just as addictive.
I like to believe that I’m not nostalgic for cassette tape—it is, after all, the worst-sounding and least reliable of analogue formats—but the rubbery, slip-on cover of my smartphone is a facsimile of a cassette. And the facsimile has fooled people: people old enough, like me, to recall the heyday of cassette but not young enough, as I am, to know a tape’s dimensions like a kind of muscle memory. I guess I do miss those exasperating days spent compiling mixes, though I don’t miss the time chewed up by chewed-up tape, unspooling it from the cartridge with the aid of a pencil, trying to right the damage, then winding it back in again. The worst was when it snapped, and all one’s patience went to waste.
A mixtape makes a ribbon of argument between one artist and the next. Here is a way to hear each with, and often against, the others. “We are complicit at all times,” sings Pikelet, on this tape. Pikelet’s placement next to Lady Lash, a Kokatha musician (“I am me, right here / I’m supposed to be,” she raps), is a juxtaposition that might prompt one to think about the fraught relationship between Indigenous and colonial settler people in Australia, if the latter is indeed the “we” of Pikelet’s lyric, which I suspect it is. There are ways and means of being bound up with this country’s multiple countries, but they are not the same.
All the artists on this mixtape are based in Australia, but you wouldn't necessarily guess that upon hearing them. I think it’s fair to say that the musical eclecticism represented here is a consequence of the kinds of listening—and the forms of musicianship—that the internet has made possible. What—if any—is the musical connection between the unorthodox pop of Pikelet and the polished beats of Lady Lash? Or between Lalić’s languorous, Auto-Tuned ballad ‘Sleeprunning’, on Side A, and Gussy’s bouncing ‘Morning’, which opens Side B? Perhaps it’s enough that they’re all here together, existing on cassette time. That itself is the connection.
Pre-internet, just about the only tapes on which you would have heard pop followed by hip-hop followed by rock followed by R & B were the end-of-year chart compilations that filled the racks at stores like Kmart. These tapes were marketed as cheap Christmas gifts for kids. (Proud owners of Hits 4 U ’92, stand up with me.) In many ways, the internet has returned us to the omnivorous, cross-genre listening that used to be the preserve of pre-adolescent children—or very open-minded adults—before subcultural loyalties bent them into more rigid patterns.
But the internet has not delivered us back to the innocence (one could also call it naivety) with which we listen to music before we know that genre exists. On the contrary. We are all knowing now. A song like Pillow Pro’s ‘Sex Appeal’—a DIY slow jam—is effective because it erodes the distance between techniques of mainstream and underground music-making, but you are still aware that the distance was once there. School Damage’s ‘Silent Zone’—which so closely recalls the spartan synthesiser sound of Young Marble Giants circa 1980, yet deals with “shopping sprees and online dating”—could not have been, until recently, anything other than a jarring anachronism. Now it’s a smooth one. There are no kinks between eras anymore, and the historical associations play out easily.
You might not even listen to this tape as a tape, but only as a digital download. And that’s fine. Have I told you already that tape is unreliable? That stuff is a bastard. It will only let you down. If not the tape itself, which will warp, then the Walkman, which will break, or the batteries for the Walkman, which will run flat ten minutes after you insert them, leaving you to face a whole bus trip with nothing for company but other people’s conversation. Best avoid that heartache.
The cassette tape as an object, though, free of the bother of having to play it—how beguiling it is! I like the way that a tape inside its case will rattle slightly, a little percussive instrument. It fits into the hand. And so often it bears the trace of another’s touch: their writing, their artwork. Before the internet, young people used to waste their time perfecting their drawings of band logos, the better to impress their friends and potential love interests by copying said logos onto the card insert or sticky labels of a tape. Among my most precious objects are those tapes made and given to me by friends who have since passed away. I know that they touched the thing, and by the tape I get as close to them now as I am able.
This tape is a little different, not so personal, though still directed at you. (And at you, and you, too.) Take some time to get to know it. Give an ear to the drifting marine world of Tim Coster and another ear to the Tetris warp of TT SKTLS, and then bare your arms to Lisa Lerkenfeldt’s wintry haze before singing along to Beloved Elk. Don’t forget Jade Imagine; if you do they will never invite you to their lunch table again.
A parting tip: two small pieces of sticky tape placed across each punched-out tab will allow you to record over this cassette, should you wish to. Which you won’t.
These liner notes were commissioned to accompany The Lifted Brow Mixtape, a curated one-off cassette tape available to subscribers, featuring 17 Australian-based acts.
You can subscribe to The Lifted Brow here.
The launch of Issue 35 will feature performances from three of our mixtape artists: Pillow Pro, Pikelet and Lalić. Come join us on Friday the 15th September, 6.30pm at The Curtin Hotel.
Translated from the Chinese by Liang Yujing
For the last time, eyes closed, I breathe and stop breathing. I practise disappearing.
It’s blue, too blue to be true, like a circle of light-blue plastic boards.
Plastic sea. Plastic vows.
I’m finally walking barefoot in the world constructed by my ideas,
where eternal love, a survival rule, happens every day.
Dolphins are flying. The humans outside still crawling.
Coconut trees stick out their fat butts, revealing gravidity lines.
I accidentally fall in love with the unwieldy flowers
dropping on the sands, the dazed little lizards crossing the road, the geckos spying at the centre of the ceiling, the red ants on the open-air toilet. In the tropics filled with wild emotions, thunder sounds like a belch.
I realise I have to create a man who loves me, who timidly hands over a white towel beside a bathtub of seawater, to prove my presence.
Accidentally again, I make him too old, even the wind can’t move
those tender, tear-shedding age spots.
I say, Dress up, there’s a grand stage in the sea – go there
and put on the sardine’s skin and the musk-crab’s pincers.
In so doing you can pierce the illusion I created and return to reality.
I will take back all this, folding up days and nights, and pour the sea into a goblet.
All blue in the glass. A world of blue. Too real to be true.
Plastic sea. Plastic vows.
These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Dai Weina is a Chinese poet, short story writer and playwright based in Beijing. She is the editor-in-chief of Guangnian (Light Year).
Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
A Family Album
He stopped me at the banquet and said, "I'd rather be hanged with Omar al-Mukhtar than share the stage with these spies who speak in our name."
He stopped me and asked about the name of my neighborhood grocer when I was a child. Then he pulled a small album from his coat pocket and showed me pictures of nervous children, and told me they were mine.
He said I was supposed to come back years ago, and that my wife (he called her his daughter) had bravely raised the children in my absence.
(He also said that he was the neighborhood grocer, and that one of my nervous children tends the store every afternoon while he’s taking his nap.)
I was too embarrassed to ask him the names of my children. I was also too embarrassed to ask him the name of their mother. I acted like I’d just left the house that morning.
He sighed and gazed into the distance, like an actor in a soap opera, and told me not to tell anyone about what had transpired between us, or that he was the one who had put on this banquet—he preferred to play the role of the neighborhood grocer.
"I'd rather be hanged with Omar al-Mukhtar than stay here," he said, his eyes full of tears this time. Then he rushed out the door and left me alone at the banquet.
Alone, I flipped through his album, and looked at the faces of my children.
And I return to that town,
to that house,
to that room:
the bones of the dead are beneath me.
They know me,
though I do not know them.
Books and papers
I know them,
though they do not know me.
This dirt: the remains of those
who’ve been naturalized by death.
because one must return,
because the dead must rise again.
These poems appear in The Lifted Brow #35. Get your copy here.
Najwan Darwish is a renowned Palestinian poet whose work has been translated into fifteen languages. Nothing More to Lose is his first collection in English.
The latest issue of our quarterly attack journal, The Lifted Brow, has come back from the printers and is looking mighty good. Lucky for you, it's on shelves and in stores across Australia today!
As well as the winning piece for the 2017 Prize for Experimental Non-fiction, this issue contains an incredible mix of essays, fiction, poetry, comics and visual art from around Australia and all across the globe. Issue 35 of The Lifted Brow features:
- mixtape cassette liner notes by Anwen Crawford (and for subscribers only, instructions on how to claim your free mixtape cassette or download code);
- non-fiction from Ellena Savage, Jana Perković, Hayley Singer, Dion Kagan, Mark Dean, Adalya Nash Hussein, Sarah Sentilles, Zoe Holman, Antonia Pont, Shirley Le, and Joanna Walsh;
- short fiction by Haris A. Durrani, and also a piece of Croatian fiction by Jasna Jasna Žmak translated by Jana Perković;
- poetry by Abdellatif Laâbi (translated by Pierre Joris), Najwan Darwish (translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid), and Dai Weina (translated by Liang Yujing);
- a conversation between George Saunders and Paul Dalla Rosa;
- comics and artwork from Shay Colley, Meg O’Shea, Rosie Whelan, Ben Juers, Emma Davidson, Gina Wynbrandt, Joanna Frank, Bryce Pemberton, Bailey Sharp, Amaya Lang, Lasse Wandschneider, Matthew Thurber, Dianna Settles, Jason Herr, José-Luis Olivares, Mish Meijers, Power Paola, and Fionn McCabe;
- and, as always, Benjamin Law and his mum Jenny's sex and relationships advice column ‘Law School’.
We’re absolutely pumped about how good this issue is. You can pick up a copy from our network of retailers in Australia and around the world, or buy a copy online if you live somewhere other than Australia. Of course, you can have Issue 35 delivered straight to your door; subscribe to The Lifted Brow and we will post you four issues of the magazine. You’ll receive them even before our stockists do, plus you’ll save 35% off the cover price! Subscribers will also have access to TLB's first-ever cassette mixtape, created for this issue, with music from some of Australia’s most interesting and exciting independent acts.
Also, come celebrate the launch of Issue 35 on Friday the 15th September at The Curtin Hotel, featuring performances from three of our mixtape artists: Pillow Pro, Pikelet and Lalić - it's not to be missed.
Folks, it’s that time again. Issue 35 of The Lifted Brow has been delivered unto us and we are totally rapt. Want to know why? Just gaze upon this luscious cover artwork, whipped up by the inimitable Haein Kim. It’s the bubble-gum-pink fantasy you didn’t know you needed in your life. This issue contains an incredible mix of essays, fiction, poetry, comics and visual art from around Australia and all across the globe.Read More
Friends! We at TLB have been cooking up something extra special: it’s small, it’s rectangular, it’s full of music. It’s an iPod! We’ve invented the iPod again! No, it’s not an iPod. It’s a: mixtape cassette. We’ve gone and made the definitive TLB mixtape cassette – and now it’s time to share it with you. If you’re a subscriber, that is.
Yep, that’s right: this mixtape is available only to subscribers to our magazine. You can be a print subscriber or a digital subscriber – as long as you subscribe to the magazine then you can request a cassette or a download code. We’re including instructions on how to claim your mixtape inside the forthcoming print copies of Issue 35, and we’ll send instructions to digital subscribers soon.
This one-off cassette tape features original tracks from 17 of our favourite contemporary Australian acts. 17 original works from musical artists who are engaging, challenging and exciting us in 2017. And as well as being a rubine-red treat, each cassette is decked out with Marc Pearson artwork, on the cassette itself as well as the cover art. Priceless! Unable to be priced!
So, do subscribe now to make sure you secure your copy of this mixtape.
For those of you who are already subscribed, ready your Walkmans, and keep an eye out for your copy of Issue 35.
Below are the artists who have made this mixtape the audaciously different audio experience that it is.
Melbourne ambient, experimental and dance music artist Fia Fiell, aka Carolyn Schofield, combines her practical and theoretical chops as a pianist and composer with a modern and perceptive ear for stretching out the orbit of millennial electronic music constructs. Her live shows involve multiple synthesizers played and processed in real time to create hauntingly ethereal, unsettling and other-worldly soundscapes, a sound which formed the basis of her first release, "A Hair, A Heap" on Nice Music last year. As an emerging composer, Schofield has been commissioned for multiple projects including the Arts Centre’s 5x5x5 program.
After already having a few beloved projects in experimental and heavy music playing drums and singing, Evelyn Morris formed Pikelet in 2007 and has since released four full-length bizarre pop albums, all of which have received great critical acclaim. Their songwriting skills are regularly reviewed as boundary pushing and exploratory. Evelyn has also amassed an eclectic and prolific back-catalogue of live and recorded collaborations with artists such as Laura Jean, Ariel Pink, Nicholas Albrook, and The Boredoms. Pikelet will be releasing their fifth album on LISTEN Records later this year.
A proud woman from Kokatha country on the West Coast of South Australia, Crystal has been singing all her life. As a vocalist she combines refreshing Jazz melodies over soulful Hip Hop beats & as an MC she is a brilliant storyteller, naturally capturing the essence of every topic she rhymes about. Her many talents have seen her win awards in Victoria, where she now resides. These accolades include a Deadly Award nomination, an Age Music Victoria Genre Award nomination, and winning the prestigious Victorian Indigenous Performer Awards for Most Promising Act of 2013.
Lalić is the evolving solo project of Mladen Lalić Milinković. from noise experimention, to formally releasing four albums ranging from folk to electro to shoegaze, since 2014. The project is represented live in various different line ups and formats. Her next album, Pretend Ranger, is a 12-track sub-driven, autotuned, lush cry beat exploration into sonic pop.
jade imagine is a four-piece band based out of Melbourne, led by singer-songwriter Jade McInally (previously a member of Teeth & Tongue, and currently plays with Jess Ribeiro). Along with bandmates Tim Harvey (Emma Louise, Real Feelings), Liam 'Snowy' Halliwell (The Ocean Party, Ciggie Witch) and Jen 'Sholaki' Sholakis (East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Jen Cloher) jade imagine make music that is subtle and candid, personal and understated, peppered with dry one-liners that stop a listener in their tracks.
jade imagine’s debut EP, What The Fuck Was I Thinking, is out now via Milk Records.
Milk Teddy is a five-piece from Melbourne, Australia comprising Alexis Hall (keyboard), Jonathan Mendelovits (drums), Thomas Mendelovits (vocal, guitar), Bronwyn Potts (guitar) and Rachel Stanyon (bass). Formed in 2007, Milk Teddy lit spot fires across the Australian indie landscape in 2012 with their debut LP Zingers and are now preparing the release of their fashionably late follow-up, Time Catches up with Milk Teddy (due August 2017). Milk Teddy's songs push beyond the slippage of irony and sincerity to find a space where camp, ruminative, astute and sincere fly together.
Tim Coster, from Auckland now living in Melbourne, performs textural tape and keyboard music. He makes recordings and performs using a modular synthesizer, cassettes, and other electronics to create melodic and layered sound environments. Recent releases include Research and Motion, the Hovercraft cassette released by Where To Now? (UK), an Absent Outfit cassette on Canti Magnetici, and albums for Australian labels Room 40 and Alberts Basement. In 2014 he was an artist in residence at EMS in Stockholm, and WORM in Rotterdam.
Pillow Pro are an emerging synth pop duo bringing lounge visions and sensual RnB vibes into the club. Based in Melbourne, Christobel Elliott and Sophie Millis create a dynamic fusion of thick bass lines, ethereal harmonies and rap vocals that make audiences dance their way into a world of satin and luxury. Pillow Pro’s impeccable production value re-invents the alt-pop scene. https://pillowpro.bandcamp.com/
“Mornings” is the latest single from Sydney’s Gussy. Written by Gussy and co-produced alongside Australia’s leader in grime, Strict Face (NLV Records), “Mornings” is a fast paced cut of left-field pop punctuated by a bouncing synth line and an instantaneous vocal hook. It comes as the follow-up to last year's single "Looking At Myself" which included a remix from Air Max 97 and saw them perform with the likes of Kllo and Oscar Key Sung. Drawing from their training as a ballet dancer and filmmaker, Gussy’s audio-visual work examines the agony of broken intimacy, and constant self-reflection.
Welcome to truth-n-dare > > > the new project of emotion punk musician June Jones and devcore producer Geryon. United to bring you heart-healing deconstructed electro-pop that is 90% (maybe even 95%) sure to make your mind dance.
Lisa Lerkenfeldt is an artist, musician and DJ based in Melbourne, Australia. As a solo producer and one half of noise duo Perfume she is active in and around Australia's underground. Working with tapes, electronics, voice, percussion and field recordings her ambient, minimal noise sits between the club and the gallery. Her recent release Glass Braid (Vienna Press, May 2017), considers beauty and cruelty through the treatment of field recordings taken at a decommissioned psychiatric hospital. Working at the intersection of experimental music and performance, Lisa's atmospheric electronics consider poetry, gesture and noise.
Chapter is excited to release the self-titled debut album by Geelong/Melbourne shambolic pop foursome School Damage. Originally formed as a bedroom pop project for Carolyn Hawkins (Chook Race, Pronto) and Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, Hierophants, Frowning Clouds), they were soon joined by Jeff Raty (Richie 1250 & the Brides Of Christ) on drums and Dani Damage on bass. School Damage have released cassettes and 7”s on Moontown and Detonic Records. They played King Gizzard’s Gizzfest in 2016 and have shared stages with the likes of The Bats, Twerps, NUN and The Cannanes. School Damage by School Damage is the catchiest, most charming debut album you’ll hear in 2017.
Gina Karlikoff, aka Kimchi Princi, is a rapper and spoken-word artist from Sydney. She is renowned for lyrics that reach into the core of millennials’ fascination with luxury and online self-discovery, and her work often analyses cross-cultural upbringings. After a highly successful Asia tour this year, Gina is now completing her debut mixtape which will launch late 2017.
Melbourne alt-rock duo Beloved Elk are excited to announce the release of their debut album DISTRACTIONS, out 20 February via LISTEN Records. The debut release for Amy Wright and Tina Nguyen is a culmination of four years of carefully constructing their sound – resulting in 11 tracks that showcase the band at their most intimate and powerful. Songs alternate from expansive arrangements to stark minimalism, the contrast allowing for periods of reflection to soak in the lyrics that are heart aching in their honesty. DISTRACTIONS is made for these moments of vulnerability, for those days when you can’t help but just look up at the ceiling searching for hope.
Proudly hailing from Melbourne’s west, The Hackkets are a band made up of members with and without disability, brought together more than ten years ago as part of FCAC’s ArtLife program and still going strong! The band originally focused on covers, immersing themselves in the kind of universal classic hits Rock and Roll that wins over even the most hardened in-car sing-along scrooge, but since 2011 they have channelled their love of such classics into their own reinvented AM-radio fan-fiction. Singers Stuart Flenley (guitar/vox), Peter Tollhurst (guitar/vox) and Victoria Cini (keys/vox), bring three distinctly different approaches to the songs they co-write in the band. Rounding out the band are Dan Parsons, Zac Rush on guitars, Robin Waters, long-time member and veteran of the live music circuit Joe Vella, and drummer Andrew Pagenella.
Issue 35 of The Lifted Brow will be in stores around Australia on September 4th – and arriving even earlier in subscriber mailboxes.