The pseudonym: A (partial) Obituary

Many moons ago, when Magpie Shon and I were but wee uni students, we were sitting in the dingy kitchenette of our hall of residence and had a wonderful idea.

The idea was to create a blog. This blog would be a beautiful mess of a forum, a playground for the sarcastic and the witty, a meadow in which the creative and ridiculous would frolic. It would reflect our individual interests and flex a mutual need to stare at a screen mulling over synonyms while feverishly consuming tea.

As we penned titles, topic areas and taglines – Guide to Everything? That’s a lot of responsibility – we stumbled on one minor detail.

I was happy to have my name displayed on the interwebs, common as it is. Lucy is the 208th most popular girls name out of 4276 names – thanks Wikipedia! – and by all accounts unexciting. Shon, on the other hand, was not.

Historically, literary women have often opted for the use of a pseudonym to protect their identities. Charlotte Bronte famously pubished Jane Eyre under the gender neutral Currer Bell; her sister Emily published the wildly beautiful Wuthering Heights under Ellis Bell. Nelle Harper Lee, the author of the infamous To Kill a Mockingbird, opted for the more androgynous Harper Lee. But Shon’s desire for a pseudonym was not for fear of gender barriers or the perils of being a creative women entombed in patriarchy, her reasons were more modern.

The internet – wonderful as it is in so many ways – remains a large and anarchistic pot of wild cards, a place of epic good and even worse evil, to the point where it really is quite mind blowing. Privacy? Pshhh. What privacy.

And so it was that we spent the remainder of the evening brainstorming pseudonyms.

Peachy had a simple birth. When I was younger, I used to use the adjective ‘peachy’ a lot, much to the annoyance of, well, everyone:

“How are you today?

I’m peachy thanks, how are you?

No.

What?

Just no. “

Etc.

This word had somehow become my internet tag for several things, why not WordPress too?

Magpie, on the other hand, had a much more hilarious birth…a story you can read about here.

For now, join me in raising our tea cups and toasting to the (partial) death of the GTN pseudonym*, and the birth of a new blogging era.

Fare thee well Peachy and Magpie, hello Lucy and Shon.

x

*we’ve dropped down to first names, we hardcore.

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Televised incestuous rape? OVER MY DEAD BODY: Sexual violence in HBO’s Game of Thrones

GTN, my darling. I have missed you.

As uttered to Magpie on numerous occasions –  in cars, cafes, Skype dates and tea slurpings – GTN is the child we put up for adoption. To use an appropriate analogy, it is the infant the White Walkers carted off to ice-henge.

But we are back. We have returned. WITH TWO POSTS IN ONE DAY. TRY NOT TO HAVE A STROKE.

As a mirror to Magpie’s post on Tess of the D’urbervilles, a nineteenth century novel that addresses the social repercussions of sexual violence, I thought this piece of mine was appropriate. Enjoy.

*Spoilers for the most recent series of HBO’s Game of Thrones in this article. Ye be warned*

Jaime

For a show that exposes within its 56 minute segments a medieval concoction of incest, prostitution, murder, torture, beheadings, zombies, slavery, and sacrifice, people sure do love it, and people sure do get worked over a bit of rape.

And I sure find it very hard to write “bit” in jest. Because there is nothing at all light about sexual violence, and for it to be displayed in one of the most popular and widely pirated television series’ of all time has done more than ruffle a few ravens. The episode in question, “Breaker of Chains” aired recently as part of the newest season of HBO’s medieval drama currently showing on Foxtel in Australia, and received a good deal of backlash for its depiction of a previously deplorable – and now fan favourited – character, Jaime Lannister, raping his twin sister in very close proximity to their dead son. Yes, this show is that insane.

Up until now it has garnered nothing but praise. Recently being renewed for a fifth and sixth season, GoT has received widespread critical acclaim and popular support, boasting one of the largest casts and budgets in television. Set in the fictional medieval land of Westeros, it chronicles the violent dynastic struggles of seven noble families as they fight for control of the Iron Throne, all the while shadowed by looming supernatural supernatural threats in the icy north and fiery east.

Game of Thrones has become well known for its merciless displays of violence, sexual intrigue, and the innumerable dark facets of human nature, evoking a realism and moral ambiguity that sets it apart from fantasy stereotypes. In short, there seems to be no line in this gritty series. But recently, viewers recently stood up and marked one, ripping their ‘Jaime Lannister’ banners through gold-flecked tears.

Let’s just recap for a second on how far this show has gone in the past. In season one, we witnessed incest, the attempted murder of a child, nudity, and beheading. In season two, sadism, the sacrifice of infants. In season three, castration, torture, mass slaughter and the sowing of a wolf’s head on to a human body. And yet for some reason, none of these portrayals have triggered a peep of outrage when compared to the uproar that followed one recent scene.

There is a surprisingly simple reason for this. In our society, we are fortunate enough that beheadings, incest, torture, and slavery are virtually unheard of. They strike a chord with very few viewers, providing only bloody colour for a world of entirely foreign substance,a world that doesn’t even exist. They blend in to the fantasy. They become, in this context, forgivable.

Rape does not. And that is because it remains for us – more so than ever due to its exposure – a social concern that has ongoing implications. Sexual violence is as prevalent now as it has ever been, and the psychological scars it inflicts on victims run deep and everlasting. That is why the blasé handling of rape on the show has sparked so much uproar, and with good reason. Personally this widespread reaction, unique thus far to the series, has triggered in me very conflicting concerns.

The first is is that Game of Thrones now has an extremely far-reaching influence, and that this arguably affords it a degree of responsibility. It is unable to continue to stretch the line when it is a cultural phenomenon that can at any point be seen to be championing or over-exposing issues that are of huge social sensitivity. It cannot be careless with its portrayal of crimes that are still abhorrently prevalent in our society.

My second contrasting concern, is that viewers are being selective about the deplorable facets of the human condition they condemn. As mentioned repeatedly, Game of Thrones far from holds back in depicting shocking events. Let’s come away from Westeros for a second. As a politics student, I have  Thomas Hobbes’ famous “life is nasty, brutish, and short” tattooed on my eyelids. Humans do evil things. The reality of ‘medieval’ times was that these things often went un-policed, and Game of Thrones is famed for addressing this with ruthless accuracy.

It is perhaps irrational to expect that in a fictional universe where incest, murder, torture etc is a daily reality, sexual crimes are not. “I know rape happens, but they shouldn’t show it.” But can you really expect a show famed for its realism to suddenly omit its portrayal of one aspect of human evil? This would arguably cripple the power of its storytelling.

I will never defend sexual violence. It cannot be excused. But I do believe that fantasy is fantasy, and that storytelling should cause discomfort. Art exists to turn a mirror on us all, exposing human darkness.

Regardless, viewers have drawn a line. In reality, when a show’s influence pushes ever expanding edges, walls must be raised to keep out sensitive subject matter – the ‘White Walkers’ of our world. Though shiny and rogue in the early days of a far smaller viewership, with fame comes accountability.

And for a cultural phenomenon with such tremendous influence, viewers clearly demand it.

 

 

Peachy and Magpie: Life heroes.

Sunday, 1:30pm. Facebook conversation between Peachy and Magpie.

Peachy: Sometimes, I kind of wish I had fur. Is that weird?

Magpie: Nah, I’ve been there.

Peachy: It would be SO CUDDLY.

Magpie: So soft, and so nice. It would multiply the niceness of cuddling up in a blanket by a factor of like, a million.

Peachy: EXACTLY. You wouldn’t even need a blanket. You would be a blanket, and you could bury your face in YOURSELF, and exist as the purest form of cuddles. You wouldn’t even need a bed.

Magpie: The potential for comfort here is infinite. Every surface would be comfortable. You could curl up and nap, anywhere, anytime, because you would be a living cushion.

Peachy: Pavement? Not anymore: potential nap place. Desk? Pfft. Nap place.

Magpie: Naps, everywhere.

Peachy: I wish I was furry. Evolution can be so cruel.

Magpie: We’ll just have to content ourselves with the fact that clearly, our souls are furry.

Peachy: Yeah, cold and black and twisted and cuddly and furry.

Magpie: We’re complicated human beings.

Can you believe that neither of us is a philosophy major? I sure can.

Touching the Sky(whale)

Where has the year gone, amiright? Almost five months ago, co-blogger Shon wrote this article about The Skywhale, a monstrous multi-mammaried beast in the form of a hot air balloon. As the article explained, the balloon was designed by Patricia Piccinini and commissioned by the ACT government to celebrate Canberra’s 100th Birthday.

Without this becoming a rehash of Shon’s article, which I will link you to once again because it was awesome, behold the beast:

art-skywhale-620x349

“I have zero desire to kill you in your sleep”

Long story short, late last week, Shon and I MET THE SKYWHALE. IN REAL LIFE.

It was dark, because we were attending Floriade’s Nightfest (a spring festival in Canberra). But Skywhale made an appearance, and we were most irrationally excited. Here are a few eerie dark pics that we managed to snap. Image Image Image Image

While art criticism is more Shon’s area of expertise, I’m gonna throw my two cents in and declare that the Skywhale is damn awesome. It is gloriously conflicting, teetering on the borders of hideous and majestic.  Disgusting and adorable. It’s like a horror movie you can’t look away from. Polarising and brilliant, the Skywhale has become somewhat of a celebrity around these parts.

Lucy: It’s like my dreams and my nightmares are colliding.

So all in all, I think the Skywhale has been a pretty good mascot for the centenary, k(r)illing (haha) any stereotype that paints Canberra as a boring city. A waste of money? Absolutely. Irrelevant to Canberra and its history (though not necessarily its history of terrible public art)? Oh yes. Yet having gazed at her boob-like appendages with our own somewhat widened eyes, we can attest that this enormous, flying monstrosity is anything but dull. Lucy x

Magpie Season.

It’s that time of year again, folks. The time when grown-ass men and women cower on street corners at the mercy of a monochromatic avian terror. It’s magpie season, bitches. In honor of this fact I have decided to share with you my origin story, because the two things are related, believe it or not. Australian magpies are a special kind of crazy. If you come within two kilometres of a nest, you are a threat, and threats get dive bombed, scratched and slashed. They don’t pause to politely ask your intent. Oh no. They swoop first and ask questions later, by which time they have your scalp as a hostage, and you can’t answer their questions because your mouth is full of your own blood. Magpie season directly correlates with a spike in the number of stitches administered in Emergency Departments, as well as a surge in toupee sales. But I digress. Continue reading

My Favourite Place…

In the four wonderful months since Guide to Nothing burst from the womb of intellectual friendship*, I don’t think i’ve done a nice informal blog. I had originally planned this one for a calm Friday night, but alas life has been busy, work has been constant, and my poor prose has been somewhat neglected.

So today, as I sat feeling like a cat-in-a-bath with the amount of things I had to do that I didn’t want to do, I thought “no. I will procrastinate with some good old fashioned blogging.” And I thought “let’s pretend i’m somewhere else, somewhere far away from responsibility and a mammoth stack of inevitable tasks.”

“When is the best time to write a blog post?
When you have a million other things you really ought to be doing.” – GTN

A lot of people have a favourite place. Whether it’s a corner of a cafe or your very own bed, a beach in the Bahamas or a house from your childhood. In general I think there’s a difference between liking somewhere, appreciating its beauty and its significance, and feeling a sort of raw ownership of a place that is ‘yours’. Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting thing to think about because as a migrant, I often feel a conflict between favourite places. Recently I visited the village I grew up in. A lot of places are beautiful. A lot make you feel safe and happy. But there is a raw affinity I feel with two corners of this very big world.

Photographs are the property of guidetonothing.wordpress.com and were taken by my very talented sister.

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The first is a river that my sister and I used to play in as kids. The stone of the bridge is covered in lichen and moss, and the hills surrounding are an old rich green. It has a close familiarity. It’s as beautiful in the winter as it is in summer. It reminds me of being young and entirely bare to the sensations of living, the vivid contrast of summer warmth and the gasping relief of sharp, icy water.

The second is an anonymous stream in the elbow of two hills. It’s sheltered by alder trees and if you follow it all the way up, it leads to a small waterfall and then a derelict hut. This place is something out of a fantasy book, but has a modesty that could only belong to its very real surrounds. We once followed it for hours and stumbled upon a farmer with a gun, the very last time we went that far! Nevertheless, it’s one of those places of nostalgia where you feel an exhale of the soul.

I would love it if people would share with me their own favourite places. As i’ve said, it can as modest as your own bed on a rainy night. We share this beautiful world, but some places just feel like your own.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” -Terry Pratchett

Peachy x

*womb of mutual weirdness etc

A thrilling peek into the lives of Peachy and Magpie, blog extraordinaires.

Text message conversation between Peachy and Magpie, at around the midday mark.

Peachy: I just went back into a lecture theatre to look for my glasses. They were on my face. Any plans for today?

Magpie: Nice. I was going to go to the gym with JimBob,* but I’m really not feeling it.

Peachy: You sure? I thought I saw a flying pig earlier.

Magpie: Pics, or it didn’t happen. My only plan for the day right now is to get me some breakfast. You?

Peachy: I’m going into town later, if you want some fresh air. Going to Centrelink though, so it might be boring.

Magpie: Ew, Centrelink. I dunno, I’ve got four hours of lectures to watch… I’m in.

Magpie

x

*Not her real name