Anna Denejkina

The promise and peril of DIY electrical brain stimulation

Written for The Kernel (The Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine)
Published in Mysteries of the Brain Issue, April 10th, 2016

tDCS Kernel 2016

tDCS Kernel copy

The last 15 years have seen a resurgence of interest among medical researchers in transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. It’s a mild form of brain stimulation that uses a direct, constant, low current delivered to the brain via electrodes—typically placed at both sides of the forehead to stimulate the prefrontal cortex. Some studies suggest this stimulation can help alleviate depression, offering a potential alternative for patients who want to avoid medication and the more severe electroconvulsive therapy.

Studies have also suggested the treatment could enhance cognition, which inevitably led to a do-it-yourself tDCS community forming online. So while research into the medical uses for tDCS has crept slowly forward, alongside it runs a parallel track of lay experimenters using themselves as guinea pigs. And a market has evolved for homebrew tDCS kits, too; many promise the kinds of cognitive improvements that science can’t yet prove. The growing number of experimenters—and businesses willing to cater to them—has some scientists and researchers concerned.

“I highly discourage the do-it-yourself tDCS,” says Veronica Galvez. She’s a visiting psychiatrist and clinical research officer with the Black Dog Institute—a Sydney, Australia-based research and treatment clinic. The institute specializes in mood disorders, including depression and anxiety; it’s currently conducting a tDCS trial. Galvez points out that such trials require a long screening process designed to keep participants safe; they’re conducted by teams of psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and experienced post-doctoral researchers. “It’s not only that you need specific training; it’s that you need to know your medical and psychiatric conditions,” she says. Technique is important and must be standardized; you’re running electrical current into the brain, after all. “The people commercializing these devices,” she says, “are not taking these issues into account.”

Read Full Article Here.

Illustration by J. Longo

Down on the Body Farm: Australia’s First Taphonomic Research Facility

Written for Popular Science (Australia)
Published in the November 2015 issue.

Yarramundi is 70 kilometres from Sydney’s city center; it feels like a whole new world as the skyscrapers shrink and disappear in the rear-view mirror, and suburbia’s manicured lawns and rows of homes morph into wide, open paddocks, green fields, and farm houses.

It’s eight am on a cold Saturday morning; in big, red letters, a sign reads Cover Your Load, as I drive past a waste management plant.

Turning right onto Springwood Road, the Blue Mountains of New South Wales stand at the horizon, splitting the sky and the green fields below them. And as you cross the little bridge hovering over the Nepean River, the flat fields soon begin to melt into the trees and bush interrupted only by the sparse darting of country homes and their long, dusty driveways.

As an off-road trail begins mirroring Springwood Road, riding parallel to its rough asphalt, an idle convention centre starts creeping in on the left, hugging a bend in the road, the same right bend that peripheries the site of Australia’s first taphonomic research facility, colloquially known as a Body Farm.

Read full article for Popular Science below:

Anna Denejkina AFTER Body Farm PopSci Australia 11.15-page-001 Anna Denejkina AFTER Body Farm PopSci Australia 11.15-page-002 Anna Denejkina AFTER Body Farm PopSci Australia 11.15-page-003

Photographs courtesy of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State.

Viral artist Jesse Willesee wants to legalize marijuana—and become the next Andy Warhol

Written for The Kernel (The Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine)
Published in The Fame Issue, October 18th, 2015

JW Kernel

Sitting on a vintage couch in his manager’s apartment in inner-city Sydney, Australia, Jesse Willesee is awkward and patently shy, a stark contrast to his carefully cultivated online persona. As he chops, rolls, and smokes, I’m hoping to avoid a contact high as the rosy-eyed pro-marijuana activist, viral artist, and all-around renegade eases into discussing how he uses online culture and social media to not only challenge the definition of art but to confront your inner prude—and his.

Willesee, a 28-year-old American-Australian, is best recognized for his arrest at Sydney’s Town Hall, in a marijuana legalization protest turned performance-art piece. Following a photo essay of him smoking weed outside five Australian police stations and the Parliament of New South Wales, he arrived at Sydney’s city center on April 20: 420, the counterculture holiday celebrating cannabis.

Plagued by heavy wind and incessant rain, the day was gray, wet, and cold: exactly what Willesee didn’t want. But as a small crowd built up on the steps of Town Hall, and 4:19pm clicked over to 4:20pm, Willesee swung onto the pillars, lit a joint, took a hit, and was promptly arrested. …

Read Full Article Here.

Illustration by J. Longo

 

The Body is Obsolete: Interview with Stelarc

Written for The Kernel (The Daily Dot’s Sunday magazine)
Published in issue, Offline and Obsolete, July 26th, 2015

KernelDenejkina

Since the ’70s, transhumanist artist Stelarc has used himself as an experimental canvas for exploring his ideas about the body’s obsolescence and its potential for technological alteration. The Perth, Australia-based artist has investigated, amplified, and internally examined his body to view how far it can be pushed with the use of technology, and how much further we can take its operation and its capabilities.

He’s created the spiderlike Exoskeleton, a six-legged, pneumatically powered walking machine with himself at the center; his Third Hand was a mechanical, humanlike prosthesis attached to his right arm and controlled by electrical signals from his muscles. For Stomach Sculpture, he swallowed a crablike robot, then used an endoscopic camera to record the results. And he permanently altered his body with Ear on Arm, a work in progress that’s exactly what it sounds like: a cell-cultivated ear built atop a non-biodegradable scaffold inserted beneath the skin of his arm. He hopes eventually to Internet-enable the ear, so that when it’s within any Wi-Fi hot spot, you’ll be able to listen to what Stelarc’s third ear is hearing.

For Stelarc, the obsolete human body is not one that becomes disembodied. Instead, it is this particular body—the one you’re sitting in, with its specific form and its limited functions—that has become inadequate in a technological terrain of fast, precise, and powerful machinery. Via Skype from his office as the Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art (SODA), Curtin University, Perth, he shared his thoughts on art and the body, the increasing speed of technological change, and whether experimenting with his body reminds him of his mortality. …

Read Full Article Here.

Illustration by Max Fleishman

Transhumanist Hacking

Written for Vertigo

Published in Issue 5, May, 2015

1998, Julian Dibbell publishes the now classic essay, ‘A Rape in Cyberspace’, dealing with text-based rape in the mid-nineties. But unlike this world of LambdaMOO (a genus of Multi-User-Dimensions), and unlike the text-based assault of Mr. Bungle (a character swathed in “cum-stained harlequin garb” (Dibbell, 1998)) and his voodoo doll, forcing a slew of acts debauched, decadent and depraved on other residents of the digital-code world of LambdaMoo, contemporary developments in technology, specifically those of haptic, or kinesthetic technology, and smart adult toys enjoying wireless, WiFi functionality, raise the prospect of virtual rape now morphing into one of a physical sensation, and of physical damage…

Full Article:

AD 2015 Transhumanist Hacking

AD 2015 Transhumanist Hacking p2

@VertigoMagazine @AnnaDenejkina

I hung out with the Church of Scientology

In April I dragged a friend to spend time with me in the Church of Scientology; he is still unhappy.

P.S. All names have been changed into bad fake names.

 

 

Two hours after convincing him that it was a good idea, we were standing at the front doors of the Church of Scientology.

The west end of Castlereagh Street was its usual, weekend desert. Sparse walkers clip-clopped, to and fro.

The building was silent, still. The white stone was broken with panels and panels of windows and glass, and a large, white Scientology cross sat high above the entrance pass.

I rounded my hands at the edges of my eyes to look inside.

Cleaning products stood neatly arranged; a broom, left in a corner; the terrazzo stairway, the columns and the silver railing; and shiny surfaces, all white, white; white.

I moved from door to door, peeking inside, finding nothing.

It looks rich, I thought.

I pulled the heavy door, to and fro.

I moved to the second, heavier door. It didn’t budge.

I pulled the first door, again.

I saw a face, and began to speak.

“Are you open?” I questioned through the glass with hand motions and exaggerated diction.

A young man pushed and opened the entrance, smiling, awkward. He did not seem to expect us, but he was expecting someone.

We needed to go to George Street, he explained, as a taller man slithered past me and into the building through the faintly open door. He didn’t show his face, which seemed to be an effort.

“The grand opening is next Saturday.”

“That’s great!” I replied; my performance had begun.

The little man moved back into the church, and we were left outside, unwelcomed, pre-Clear intruders.

“Perfect, let’s not do this,” said Nicholas, a bearded man of five foot seven.

“Did you have to look like a poor person today, of all days?”

Corduroy pants, two sizes too big. A dark, military green bomber jacket sat larger than the oversized pants. An old, black beanie sat on his head. His beard almost hid the whole of his neck, crimped, dark, thick.

“We look crazy!”

I didn’t know what a scientologist looked like, but I was sure they would know that we had an agenda.

The walk back to Haymarket was long and cool. Nicholas kept speaking of how unwanted the total situation was, and how he began to feel nervous.

As was I.

“I am a weak-willed man, I shouldn’t be doing this,” he said.

Two nights prior, my father spoke of the same sentiment. However in his mind I would become a Scientologist, and then a super-Scientologist by attaining Clear.

I took Nicholas’ comments in jest, but two hours later I began to see how easily swayed he was.

As soon as we could see the UTS Tower, the ugliest building in Sydney, I began to call the stretch of George Street, Broadway.

And there it was, sitting on Broadway, that little enclave, bar the endless Free Personality Test fliers; and a little table, with a little man, with a little purple machine, measuring the stress of strangers through a lie detector test.

The Scientology Information Centre was finally to my right, as was Nicholas, whose face spoke volumes.

“I hate you.”

The main entrance was beside its smaller, street-front office. And inside was unimposing, actually underwhelming. My expectations of golden drapes and embellishments, crosses, shelves of magical figurines and a devastatingly large oil painting of L. Ron Hubbard were dimmed, quickly.

I straightened my back, blasted a smile as big as Nicholas’ jacket and began my bit.

The woman at the front desk looked very young, no more than 22. I pretended not to notice the small puppy rested longways on her thighs.

“Hi, how are you?” she asked.

“We’re great! Thank you.”

A man appeared, standing to the right of her desk. Black hair, short, smiling, awkward.

Through an American accent he told me about the church and its volunteers.

“It feels like there is a great community spirit,” I said, judging myself but being impressed with my performance.

I began to tell my audience a story of a friend, a friend who once took a tour at the Church of Scientology, and suggested that I do, too. I didn’t feel bad, this was the truth; albeit I did omit his reaction post experience.

“I’ve been into the Scientology church a few times to watch the introductory video, because it is so hilarious. A-plus, highly recommended.”

Question after question littered our banter. The young woman worked with the church for around one year, as a volunteer – an arrangement seemingly made with all workers of the church: volunteer, receive free courses of Scientology.

I leant at the front desk; next to my right hand sat a small stack of fliers, advertising the grand opening of the refurbished church on Castlereagh. Not noticing the date I would never make, I was determined to go.

Getting an invitation was surprisingly easy, and free, but the ticket and ticket stub required my name, and as paranoia seeped into me, I made a decision to give my real one.

Moments later Nicholas and I were sat at a desk. Two folders were placed in front of us, a cup of pencils made available for answering; and “if you have any questions, please ask anyone for help.”

The feeling of hospitality and acceptance worried me.

We were ready to test our personalities through the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA) test; a test, administered freely and for free by the Church of Scientology, and one that name drops Oxford for credibility, despite having no relation to the university.

The test was 200 questions long, reading like a psychological evaluation.

 

Question one: “Do you make thoughtless remarks or accusations which later you regret?”

 

Yes.

 

Question three: “Do you browse through railway timetables, directories or dictionaries just for pleasure?”

 

No.

 

Question 55: “When hearing a lecturer, do you sometimes experience the idea that the speaker is referring entirely to you?”

 

Yes.

 

Question 200: “Do you consider you have many warm friends?”

 

Yes.

 

Turning to me, Nicholas whispered: “I am answering these randomly.” But thinking too much, he fell into honesty almost immediately.

The room smelled sweet, but I couldn’t pin the scent. Our whispers were lame attempts as we attracted more and more attention.

One after another people came up to our seats to welcome us, ask how we were and if we were well looked after.

Yes, yes; yes to all! Smiles plastered.

People continued to appear from doors, darting in and out, coming from the church on Castlereagh, and leaving to the church of Castlereagh.

Children, too, were there.

“There may be microphones,” Nicholas mumbled, eyes wide open.

Our whispers were littered with jokes that turned into whispers of paranoid truths.

An old laptop sat under our table, and I began to browse through the mass collection of Hubbard’s teachings and writings. It stood in front of me, on a mantelpiece, the mass collection. Unreasonably prolific, all sat shiny and countless, the DVDs and books available for sale to better myself.

What felt longer than one hour went by as we carefully coloured in little circles to signify our answers with our lead pencils. Some questions seemed decisively confusing, and my yeses began to mean no. And I didn’t read the instructions correctly. And my pencil broke. And my sheet was covered in streaks of eraser and lead.

As Nicholas finished his test, an older man popped up to collect the answer-sheet, now marked with a fake name, but a fake first name only: Joey Jackson.

The older man smiled and hovered over my right shoulder as I felt pressured to hurriedly shade in the last three circles of my last three answers.

Despite my real name inked into the ticket stub for the grand opening on Saturday, May 3rd, I became flustered and chose my partner’s last name for the examination: Anna Hart.

We will go to the front to run the reports, the older man explained, motioning for us to follow him past the puppy, which was now on the floor; past the front desk, and the young woman of no more than 22; and through the exit, outside, and into the entrance to our right, walking under a roller door.

Please, take a seat.

We took a seat.

Five minutes passed – nothing.

Ten minutes passed – nothing, still.

Some minutes later we were welcomed by the older man to take another seat in front of his desk and across from him and our profiles.

He wore two Scientology pins, one on the collar of his sports jacket, and one on the collar of his shirt.

Before we sat down the older man introduced himself, and as Nicholas shook his hand, he also forgot the new name with which he had christened himself only minutes earlier:

“Great to meet you, I’m Nicholas!”

I swallowed a laugh, feeling my face drop behind a wonderful grin.

A loud “fuck” resonated inside my head as the older man looked stunned, pointing to a report reading Joey Jackson.

Nicholas backpedalled.

“Nicholas is my middle name, but I like to go by that.”

I was sure he knew that we were lying, and began to feel terrible for it. My guilt was triggered by the older man’s face; he was giving us his real time, and real name, after all.

Somehow, the jig was not up and we began discussing our results.

The profiles were negative, so very negative, and very similar in the drops and the highs.

Nicholas was noted as depressed, active and critical. Attention Urgent, it read.

I was noted as depressed, irresponsible and critical. ATTENTION URGENT, it read.

Casually, the older man gave an anecdote of up-and-down profiles concurring with school and university shooters; my profile matched these profiles, casually.

Nicholas was the first test subject, and as his personality was analysed, his face lifted from confidence to worry. The will began to disappear, and the mind began to buy the criticism, to buy the offer, to buy the dogma, to buy the help offered by scientology.

The concept of bettering oneself is reasonable; the conversation was reasonable; the welcome and hospitality were all reasonable; but for a stranger to tell a stranger that multiple mental issues are present, and that problems are present, and that you are a problem who needs urgent attention, is dangerous.

Like a psychiatrist, a therapist, psychologist or a rehab facility using a process like the traumatic experience of the Trauma Egg, Scientology begins with its want to uncover suppressed traumas of childhood; and then it wants to break you down; and then it wants to build you up, rebuilding you in its image.

But, instead of a professional examining your mind, Scientology does this through Dianetics.

To save our souls, we were offered:

One Personal Values of Integrity seminar: $55.00;

One book on Dianetics: $30.00;

One DVD on Dianetics: $30.00;

A saving of $20 if we purchase the book and the DVD in one transaction.

 

***

 

“I have to say.”

“Don’t say it! I’m thinking the same thing,” Nicholas answered.

“I have to say… It all seemed reasonable.”

The walk to my apartment was a contemplation of the last few hours. I contemplated how easy it was to be sucked into the church; Nicholas contemplated how the church could help him.

“How do you feel?”

“I fucking hate you.”

His answer was also reasonable.

Smoking a cigarette on my balcony I began to learn that I could not remove a strange feeling which seemed to envelop me, and days would pass before a subtle guilt moved on and on.

Nicholas was lying across my old, brown leather couch, still, stuck in his mind.

“This is what a sect does: they tell you that you have a problem, they break you down and make you believe that they can fix you.”

 

***

 

A 1971 report “Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology” by Sir John Foster, K.B.E., Q.C., MP outlines that the OCA has previously been investigated. This included investigation by a Working Party of the British Psychological Society, made up of a clinical psychologist, a consultant in psychological selection, and a university lecturer in psychology.

All three took the test; all three answered the questions randomly and in a pre-determined fashion; and all “three methods produced remarkably similar profiles, in which the scores on the first three scales [stable/unstable; happy/depressed; composed/nervous] were in an extreme position in the range marked “unacceptable” … All profile results then rose into the “normal” or “desirable” range over the next 2-4 scales [certainty/uncertainty; active/inactive; aggressive/inhibited; responsible (causative)/irresponsible] and showed a return to “unacceptable” over the remaining scales [correct estimation/critical; appreciative/lack of accord; comm. level/withdrawn].”

Nicholas and I produced remarkably similar profiles to the Working Party of the British Psychological Society, some four decades on.

I saw a Cuddly Atheist: The Paradoxically inclined Physicist

Written for @ The Festival

Originally published in 2014

When I got on the morning train to Circular Quay I was already running late, and the two-minute wait and the two-stop ride were annoyingly long.

In the tin can I met a little old lady who waddled into my carriage.

“I only have one stop, dear,” she said, noticing me make more room for her to sit down.

I didn’t ask her name, but we spoke. She was on her way to a walk with a group of friends. The final destination was a birthday picnic.

Her tiny frame was weighed down by a greatly sized backpack that would weigh me down. And before we made it to our last stop she sang me a song, told me that every day is a positive, and that I may meet someone special at the festival.

Walking off the train she wished me a good day and, slowly shuffling, moved on and on to find her friends.

I would have preferred to spend my next two hours with her, rather than standing in line on a pier: she could sing me songs while we ate sandwiches and cake.

Having never made a sober walk to Walsh Bay I followed a map and three rounds of asking for directions: a cackle of older women ready for a day on the town; a man selling coffee; a festival volunteer.

My destination was a two-fold line-up to get into the event.

I overheard an attendee speaking to a woman two bodies in front: This is a whole-day event; we can only let in the number that comes out.

She proposed listening to the live airing with headphones; I proposed she was a wizard.

But I did ask myself why I didn’t stay in my apartment and listen to the live airing with headphones.

Conversations with Richard Fidler began as the line shuffled to its first bend, at which point the oldest attendees in the waiting queue started sneaking into the venue through curtained walls. After sneaky glances at their friends they literally tiptoed into the show, and a small, old wave began to follow.

Hilarious, I thought, as more and more entered the space.

Finding an empty spot in the back, wooden corner with my fellow rule-breakers, I couldn’t believe the unanimous age of the crowd: not young. Silver hair littered the room as I spotted the only child in my vicinity and a man looking like the younger version of Geoffrey Rush in profile.

 

***

 

As president of the British Humanist Association (BHA) since 2013 — a UK “charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity,” — Jim Al-Khalili calls himself a cuddly Atheist, and “someone who doesn’t feel the need to tell you that what you believe in is stupid.”

Born in 1962, Baghdad, Iraq, Jim Al-Khalili is a British scientist, broadcaster, author, humanist and professor of Physics at the University of Surrey. He pronounces that free will is an illusion, that the universe does not, in fact, have a purpose and that “quantum physics is beautiful.”

Today, he is part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, discussing his latest book,  Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science, published in 2012.

Al-Khalili began with the first paradox of the hour: “The Riddle of the Missing Dollar,” the root of which was laid in three friends paying for one room with $30, split evenly, but with their clerk forgetting that he should have charged them $25 only, for the night.

The clerk wants to return the $5, but as it cannot be split evenly he decides to keep $2, and allocate $1 to each friend in the group.

The issue we are left with: “each of the three friends will have contributed $9 toward the room. That makes $27 that the hotel has made, and the receptionist has a further $2, which makes $29. What has happened to the last dollar out of the original $30?”

Chuckles washed over the audience, the answer would come at the end of the show, but bothered me over the better part of the hour.

Numerous explanations of paradoxes came in following: Schrödinger’s Cat; Achilles and the Tortoise; why is the night sky dark; the Grandfather Paradox of the time travelling murderer – which “science hasn’t quite resolved yet,” and which resulted in a few chuckles from the crowd.

“Our universe is not the only reality,” he explained, speaking of parallel universes and our infinite futures and pasts. “Therefore, changing the past means you would slip into a different reality;” that is our answer.

Coming near the end of the hour Richard Fidler began a conversation directly about Jim Al-Khalili and his life, giving glimpses into his profile.

Two weeks after Saddam Hussein’s entry into office in 1979, Al-Khalili’s family left the country in the hot summer of early-July.

“My dad knew we had to get out then, or we wouldn’t get out at all.”

Despite this playing one part of his heritage, and despite his happy childhood, Al-Khalili has not returned to his birthplace since that long-lost summer.

To this date, he does not feel a strong desire to return. But, perhaps one day, would like to revisit old childhood haunts.

“Baghdad of the 60s and 70s – I had a very happy childhood.

“We lived under a dictatorship, let’s not beat about the bush, but this was pre-Saddam… [and] under a benign dictatorship you just learnt to keep your head down, you learnt not to criticize the government.

“But otherwise, for me, as a kid growing up, English was the language indoors – we had BBC World Service on all the time; at home we spoke English; [when I] stepped outside, I spoke Arabic.”

This conversation held me like no other of the day.

 

***

 

A swift turn back to the dialogue of the paradox, Fidler and Al-Khalili discussed one of a super-computer, and its prediction of the future.

“Modern physics would tell us, that – quantum mechanics aside, (‘cause that’s constrained down to the world of atoms and I’m talking about the everyday world) – … we live in a deterministic universe. The future is fixed, but we can never predict it; we can never anticipate what would happen,” he said.

Closing the show Fidler requested the answer to the initial paradox of “The Riddle of the Missing Dollar,” an answer succinctly put in Jim Al-Khalili’s book, Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science, and one which he expected to receive a groan for from the audience:

“You see, the puzzle only sounds paradoxical because of the misleading way it is stated. The error in the reasoning is that I added the $27 dollars to the $2 taken by the receptionist… The receptionist’s $2 should be subtracted from the $27 paid by the friends, leaving $25, which is the amount in the till.”

Sun Ra Neophyte

“Vodka on the rocks, please.”

“Vodka on the rocks,” he said to the barkeep.

Hart wore his usual get-up: black winkle-pickers, warn and rugged. Black denim jeans, stained with the scratching of asphalt, following numerous falls from a skateboard as he zoomed through city traffic. A black button-down shirt and a black hat, which was now as old as the barfly sitting at the corner of the bar, looking longingly into his beer. Hart’s outfit was always accented with three things: a gold ring, shaped into a head of a lion and holding a large diamond between its scowl, (this was a ring he would never hock, “a gift from my Father,” he would say), his swindling smile, and I’m-up-to-no-good eyes which would send women into a frenzy of flirtation and panty-dropping.

We took our drinks outside the old Devonshire Street bar, now crawling with yuppies and hipsters, and us.

I’ve always romanticized the idea of drinking vodka over rocks with the stealth of a rich man, wearing a three-thousand-dollar-suit and a signet ring stamped with his family crest. Unfortunately the sipping jerked my body, but years of practice meant that I could hide the physical convulsions and keep the piercing gag-reflex on the inside.

As I took my third sip and blinked with one eye to hide the pain, I became involved in obligatory introductions and a mind-numbing conversation. These conversations are now too familiar and too scripted after years of summaries and pleasantries with people you hope to never see again, and, if you do, by some chance run into them while buying coffee, simply pretend to have a different name and make them feel that they are crazy as you take your demented high-road out.

As I stood people watching I noticed that a friend-of-a-friend, Kate, was waving at me with a flailing arm, helter-skelter eyes and a grin from-ear-to-ear.

“I was asked on a date tonight”, she exclaimed, “but I don’t like the guy, he is a bit creepy.”

“But you would get a free dinner, and can always get a head ache at the end of the night,” I said.

Our back-and-forth banter resulted in her stumbling home for a nap before her date, after which she would mysteriously develop a head ache, a stomach pain from the food she ate, begin to feel tired and start her ride on the crimson wave, all at once.

Three cigarettes later we were riding in a mini-van taxi. I remember feeling nauseated from facing the back of the van on the swift five-minute trip.

As we pulled up to the venue I was pushed and shoved by an oblivious crowd stuck in their highly excited conversations of the forthcoming entertainment. As I looked at my surroundings, it felt like time stopped and restarted in slow motion: everyone around me hosted an exaggerated smile while slowly turning their heads over their shoulders to look at the crowd who was in turn looking at them with their own I-am-devastatingly-excited grins.

I would normally associate the State Theatre with a calm commotion of ticket gathering, media pass arguments and bar line-ups. But this evening the crowd was moving along as if pushed into a cattle hold, waiting; then stumbling over each other, so slowly as if halted by unseen walls after each step.

“Is this the line for screwed up tickets?” a man yelled in my direction.

I pretended not to hear him, as I stepped and stopped, and slithered through conversations and crazy-eyes. They were everywhere, with grinning, slimy teeth. My aversion to crowds made me realize that I had forgotten to leave my apartment in far too long, preferring to sit under a blanket spying into the windows of the building across the airway.

“Two Coopers,” said Hart.

“No Coopers.”

“Two Heinekens.”

“Two Heinekens,” echoed the bartender: an elderly lady with a blonde bob now dotted with ashy roots and strands of hair.

Drinking our premium-priced cheap beers we walked further into the overwhelming setting of the theatre, which turns time to a bygone era, until you notice a t-shirt and flip-slops, styled with a well-groomed beard and a pair of round reading glasses, which promptly takes you back to 2014, Sydney.

After finding our seats and being told to turn off my flash when taking photographs, I noticed that the conversations around me signified that everyone suddenly became an expert on the history of the theatre, and its architecture.

“It’s the largest chandelier in the Southern Hemisphere,” came a voice from my left, shooting to the woman on my right who nodded in mesmerized agreement.  The Koh-I-Nor cut crystal chandelier in question is noted as the second largest in this world, and at four tonnes can cause utter carnage on this crowd. I felt safe, however, as I sat in the safe stalls, away from the chandelier’s glare.

Finally the lights turned low, and I prepared myself for the progressive, avant-garde jazz of the Sun Ra Arkestra. An ensemble that tends to be described first with a pause, then an elongated “well” and a finally a crooked smile with a simultaneous raise of the eyes, while searching for the right words.

Lead by Marshall Allen, raging on his saxophone at the age of 89, the 12-unit big band sauntered on to the stage drenched in style before an audience of the mid-aged, the young and the old. The latter finding the groove from the get-go.

Since the 50s the Arkestra has shared their experimental jazz of mythology and interplanetary music, and it was easy to spot those in the crowd who shared a deeper connection to this music than the rest, as they moved and they clapped with a palpable love.

The stage went red as I turned to look at the seats behind me. No one smiled as I spun in their direction and awkwardly pretended to look above them. “I’m not the only Sun Ra-neophyte,” I thought, as I twisted back into my chair before swiftly turning around again to see if I could catch a trance caught in a grin. But nothing, still.

I looked to the woman on my left, her eyebrows danced like little caterpillars under the bright red lights of the theatre. The stage was littered with sequins, capes, light, and embroidered hats; all glimmering under red light bulbs, crawling beams and smoke.

As I followed the music I noticed a redhead in the row in front and to my right. She was convulsing in her chair with a wide-open smile. I wished that I understood the music as she did, and then I pondered her sobriety – she could be high, after all.

“Definitely need to be on drugs for this,” Hart yelled into my ear.

The bobbing heads of white-haired punters highlighted the crowd; I found this oddly mesmerizing before I began to dread the end of the show: I didn’t want to force myself to say something pseudo-intelligent about the music to my clique for the night, or get stuck dissecting the performance to prove an understanding of jazz.

As the lights went up, Hart and I took the emergency exit and walked through the alleyway to the main street, finally leaving the crowd behind. As we stood outside I noticed the marquee had already changed. The show is over, and no one cared.

Moving Won’t Make the Crazy Go Away

A wise woman once said, “make-up won’t make the ugly go away”. That wise woman is also known as my step-sister, Celinsky, who leaned over my shoulder as I was trying to patch-up my face from a night of sitting-around-a-camp-fire and singing Kumbaya.

As it turns out, moving won’t make the crazy go away either. And in my case, the coming-of-age “I am getting out!” wasn’t aimed at moving to the city of my city. Instead, I decided to move to the other side of the world to really stick it to the man and put an ocean between everything that I loved and hated; sometimes simultaneously.

“Precisely” 16040.4 kilometres (according to some sources) later, I ended up in Aarhus. I was obviously too excited by the prospect of eating Danishes in Denmark, that I forgot to look at the size of this fair city. The Danes – or whoever does the marketing up in here! – like to describe Aarhus as “the largest small city in the world”. However I think this may be an allegory.

I gave up the company of my loves and my friends, to seemingly stay the same in another world. Thankfully, I still keep the company of my old friends, like Hamsun, Carr, Bronte and Nietzsche.

A great man once said, “don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art”. I’m sure Andy said this whilst mass-producing his art and discussing free-thinking with his free-thinkers, but digression aside, that was and is the only point: to create.

A change in geography won’t fix dissociation, but twenty days later it did wake me up. Now, as crazy as always, I am finally inspired to write.

PRIMAL ROCK REBELLION Interview with Mikee Goodman (AHM)

Written for Australian Hysteria Magazine

Originally published in Issue 9, 2012

Six years in the making, it was kept under a self-imposed embargo throughout. SikTh and Iron Maiden are monikers that seldom appear collectively, but 2011 was the first year to bring the news of collaboration between Mikee Goodman and Adrian Smith, and the first year to finally sate the appetites of fanatics that have missed Goodman’s eccentric voice since SikTh’s totally and completely demoralizing hiatus…

Full article:

(The best song ever.)

 

%d bloggers like this: