Canberra: The view overlooking Capital Hill from Mt Ainslie is hazy. Parliament House is barely visible, sitting under a blanket of thick smoke.


Born and bred Canberran, Matti Collins, assures that the strange smell in the air is a result of bushfire – not the ACT Government’s recent legalisation of personal cannabis use and cultivation.


“It’s been decriminalised since I can remember,” he says. “As long as it was outdoors we were always fine, to a certain amount.”


  Collins considering Canberra’s new cannabis laws.


The alignment of the city might give the impression of monitoring a political experiment. Described as a laboratory of democracy, Canberra has indeed built a reputation for implementing policies that prove controversial when considered by other jurisdictions.


Originally, the 1992 cannabis decriminalisation scheme was on the condition that individuals kept 25 grams or less and grew no more than five plants. New laws increase the possession limit to 50 grams and set maximum plant numbers at a potential of four per household – but now it’s legal.


At first glance, an outsider might expect cause for cannabis enthusiasts to celebrate, but this is not necessarily the case.


“Honestly, my plans haven’t changed,” Collins says, laughing.


“I don’t think they’ve given it much forethought.”


Labor backbencher Michael Pettersson says his bill is drafted on as much pre-existing framework as possible, including possession thresholds and prohibitions on artificial lighting and hydroponics. The limits on cultivation methods stem from police recommendations.


Pettersson suggests revising whether the reasoning behind this advice is reliable at a later date.


“First and foremost, we want to make sure that we land legalisation,” he asserts.


  The ACT has attracted criticism over attempts to legalise cannabis.


Turning away from the smog-shrouded view of his city, Collins shakes his head in disappointment. Judging from his experience growing under decriminalisation, he sees the bill as ineffective, despite the fact that – unlike Commonwealth law – it recognises fresh-cut cannabis for being much heavier than when it’s been dried for consumption.


Somebody looking to harvest the allowance of 50 grams would have to cut about 150 grams of fresh cannabis from their plant. An increased possession threshold for “wet” produce is designed to allow for this process.


Collins feels these terms are unrealistic.


“You’re getting more than 150 grams off one plant,” he says.


Also, in terms of buying, selling and gifting cannabis seeds or products, legal uses and practices in the ACT still depend on illegal acts.


But unless police pay a visit after harvest, Collins maintains he’s “not really that worried”.


  Freshly harvested cannabis will likely exceed ACT possession limits.


Working within these set legal possession limits is “just one aspect of the problem”, says Andrew Kavasilas, Secretary of the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party. “If we’re going to start breaking these new laws, are people going to start going to jail?


“Is it, ultimately, the perpetuation of prohibition 2.0?” he asks. “What happens if my plants do grow too much?”


Senior Associate at Aulich Criminal Law, Charlene Harris, says that even the death of a plant could create problems by dropping leaves that exceed legal thresholds, “and effectively become an offence through no fault of the person growing it”.


These issues and conflicts with Commonwealth trafficking laws are destined for trial in court.


“It’s a grinding standstill,” says Harris. “It’s just completely unclear, what’s going to happen, at the moment.”


The visibility in Fyshwick is not much better. Brett Walker from South Pacific Hydroponics says his customers are talking to him about the situation on a daily basis, and are often unaware of what changes have actually taken place.


  Walker says indoor gardens could help regulate cannabis production.


“Basically, they’re allowing you to go and grow a couple of plants outside,” Walker says. “But you don’t get any chance through winter.”


As Pettersson suggests, police advice informing the ban on “artificial” cultivation is soon due for revision. The first amendments that saw the initial passing of the bill included recommendations from ACT Minister for Mental Health, Shane Rattenbury, to remove references that distinguish between gardening techniques. These sought to recognise that the Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 should be focussed on the substance and quantity of cannabis, not the method of its cultivation.


The Standing Committee rejected these recommendations.


Police advise “artificial cultivation allows for the growth of stronger cannabis”, Pettersson says.


“As far as the potency goes, that depends on the genetics of the plant,” Walker argues. “You can grow that same plant indoors, or outdoors; in soil or hydroponics.”


When international marijuana culture first reached Australia, horticultural variety was, pretty much, potluck. People had no idea what they were smoking. When indoor cultivation gained popularity, people became selective with their crops – promoting growth of squat plants from central Asia that produced high levels of marijuana’s primary psychoactive, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), and were suited to restrictive indoor spaces.


In those early days, cannabis seemed to be getting stronger because of selective breeding – not the gardening methods that the Australian Commonwealth currently classify as “artificial”.


“It’s not like hydroponic nutrients supercharge the plant’s effects,” Walker says.  


ACT Policing also claim hydroponic cannabis growth allows higher yields. Indoors, this is fundamentally relative to the size of a growing space and the amount of electricity consumed within it – boiling down, basically, to how much lighting is used.


More often than not, when given the proper care, outdoor plants produce significantly larger quantities of cannabis than their indoor clones.


  Organic soil and compost make outdoor plants extremely productive.


The ACT has set no limit on how large the plants can be. They can be grown simply on the condition they are inaccessible by children and out of public view. If they are alive and growing, the police have no right to make arrests, issue fines or confiscate the produce – in theory.


Walker says this might be okay, “as long as someone doesn’t come and rip it off”.


As conversation in the hydroponics shop drifts around the different products available to organic outdoor growers, a customer silently interrupts, presenting a photograph on his phone. It shows a bruised gash, twisting aggressively down the bald patch on someone’s skull.


It’s the archnemesis of any cannabis gardener: Theft.


“There’re people that are going to be jealous,” Collins says. “You’re growing really nice plants in your backyard and they don’t have nice plants.


“There will always be people who don’t want to do the work and get it for free.”


Risk of exposure to unwanted eyes or potential thieves can be eliminated by the security of an indoor garden – with year-round harvests possible. This could allow passage for users to almost entirely remove themselves from black markets. ACT Policing’s advice, to the contrary, warns this may encourage people to fill rooms full of cannabis, stimulating criminal trade.


“Restricted to one 1000-watt light, you’re not going to get a whole garage full,” Walker says.


“You’re going to get two square metres.”


Limiting the amount of cannabis produced is simply a matter of establishing a maximum amount of wattage, per household, that is dedicated to a growing space. He says gardeners would be far less at risk of exceeding set possession limits than with outdoor crops, “because you can’t grow five tonnes of stuff with a couple of lights”.


Founder and Medical Director of Cannadoc, Dr David Feng, says his biggest concern with people growing cannabis for personal use is that “they won’t be able to know exactly what concentrations of therapeutic cannabinoids are in their plants”.


  Feng in his consultation office at Cannadoc, Melbourne.


Most varieties of cannabis used recreationally contain high concentrations of THC and low levels of CBD (cannabidiol). Feng says this creates risks, “as CBD has a modulating role in reducing adverse reactions”.


“Also, with home grown cannabis plants there is a risk of contamination with bacteria, fungi, chemicals and heavy metals, which can be harmful to your health,” he adds. “Therefore, I feel a pharmaceutical grade medicinal cannabis product is far superior.”


It’s a matter of quality over advocacy.


“Don’t get me wrong,” Pettersson admits. “There will be people who will self-medicate with the legislation we’ve introduced. I’ve spoken to very excited Canberra residents that plan to medicate legally. For the most part, they’re probably already medicating illegally.


“If you want to talk about marijuana as a serious form of medication, then I think it’s very important that we allow people to know what they’re putting in their body. People self-medicating with unregulated cannabis is not a particularly sophisticated form of medicine.”


Sophisticated or not, the reality now experienced in North America is just that. Recreational cannabis legalisation landed in Canada on October 17, 2018 – to mixed receptions. For better or worse, Canadians are now able to self-medicate using marijuana. Prescriptions are optional.


HEMP Party Secretary Kavasilas says this situation “is circumventing medical cannabis”.


In 2014, a study on barriers to medicinal access reported only about 7 per cent of doctors in Canada helped their patients obtain medical cannabis.


“But you’d still have to go to a dispensary to get it, not a chemist,” Kavasilas says. “No pot was ever prescribed out of a chemist in Canada – and it’s still not.”


Briana Vaags, from City Cannabis Co. in Comox, British Colombia, admits to often feeling like the manager of a pharmacy, yet sternly reminds that she’s “not a doctor”.


  Vaags legally sells cannabis to “everyone, really”, on Vancouver Island.


“It’s important to note that I’m coming from a recreational perspective,” she says. “That being said, we do get a lot of people that come through the door that are looking to treat this, that or the other, and we need to have a conversation with them about what their options are.


“They’re coming to us for help.”


Vaags serves many customers who are looking for THC and CBD oils to treat conditions such as insomnia, sciatica, arthritis and cancer. But the most common issue presented is chronic pain, especially from patients who want to try cannabis oils instead of addictive opiates.


“I’m not going to fault a doctor for saying they won’t talk to you, or me, or someone, about cannabis – because they weren’t educated on cannabis as medicine,” she says. “They don’t want to talk about it because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”


Vaags claims her customers want to try medical cannabis as an option in taking control of their own health and wellness – yet they are complaining that doctors won’t discuss options.


“Like I said, we’re very careful,” she says. “But we’ll have that conversation with them.”


One year after legalisation, results from Canada’s latest National Cannabis Survey show 43 percent of the most enthusiastic users – those aging from 25 to 44 years – still obtain their products from “grey” markets.


“The grey market is what we called the legal market, before it was legal,” Vaags says. “It was right on the cusp of legalisation.”


While the ACT Government’s move is far from a green light to retail cannabis markets, a lot can be learned from the past year of Canadian legalisation. Insight into issues such as supply and demand, or medical stalemates are examples.


Pettersson recommends keeping debates about medicinal and recreational use separate on the premise that “conflating the two does a disservice to both”.


The situation in Canada, however, demands these two discussions take place in the same forum. Legalising recreational cannabis without significant emphasis on researching its medical benefits is proving to destabilise the legitimacy of such research.


Similarly, the marriage of dominant liquor franchises to the cannabis industry promotes branding that does very little in ways of discouraging negative stigma.


  Canadians can now have marijuana delivered to their door, but not alcohol.


In comparison, Australia boasts initially vague, difficult and expensive processes to access medicinal cannabis. Since 1992, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has authorised more than 28,000 applications for unapproved cannabis products for patients not defined as “seriously ill”.


But these numbers fail to reflect demand.


Australians continuing to rely on unregulated products is one of several specific reference points for the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee’s report on current patient barriers to medicinal cannabis access.


While hesitant to join the recreational debate, Dr Feng sees legalisation in the ACT as a positive step forward with potential to destroy myths that give marijuana a bad name.


“It’s about as addictive as caffeine,” he says. “People don’t develop an immunity to it.


“The educational hurdles for doctors being aware of it – and the social stigmas around it – are probably the biggest barriers at the moment.”


The Senate Committee’s report is due by March 26.


Ingredients are in place and logic is brewing – Australia’s medical system may soon hope to taste outcomes. However, in comparison, the ACT’s cannabis “revolution” might be nothing more to Canberrans than a pinch of salt.


Pettersson admits users will generally source (now legal) goods “the way they always have”.




“For most people, growing plants is a lot of effort,” he says. “So, they will buy cannabis.”


If Australia followed Canadian footsteps, a potential cannabis market of over $5 billion could be subjected to similar distributions between legal and grey markets.


Kavasilas estimates Australian users consume “about a tonne per day”.


These projections are drawn using information from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which showed, in 2016, that 35 per cent of Australians over the age of 14 have used cannabis in their lifetime, with over 10 per cent in the last 12 months.


The ACT may not have set an ideal benchmark for legalising Australian cannabis, yet it certainly has made a clear statement – that pursuing recreational users or people with substance abuse problems is a waste of time.


As the summer smoke clears, Canberra’s new laws will settle for what they’re worth.


While Walker doesn’t expect to see new customers rushing in to buy all his fertiliser any time soon, he admits he sees the situation as “an advancement, because there’s at least some sort of talk and action being taken”.


However, Collins – a daily smoker – who claims a “healthy love for the marijuana”, believes his local government have initiated nothing more than a publicity stunt.


Asked if there’s any possibility of eliminating the black market from his life, growing under legal limits, he replies:


“Not a bloody chance in Hell.”



All images © Kal Omari

Share this:


The announcement of Australia’s first “smart city” includes a potentially Orwellian surveillance platform known as Switching on Darwin




A sly smile spread across my face when I learned the year of Michel Foucault’s death. I love entertaining coincidences, and there’s obviously not much space on the bookshelf between Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Foucault 1995) and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (1949). Big brother sits comfortably, probably asleep, in Jeremy Bentham’s (2011) late eighteenth-century panopticon tower, with the mere concept of surveillance assuring ‘the automatic functioning of power’ (1995, p.201).


Today, however, hotly debated technologies present more specialised concerns than Orwell’s text and we see Foucault’s concept of automation shifting, from within the subject, into the tower itself. Andrejevic (2019) suggests this is far from a displacement of traditional surveillance and represents a new development in automation, made possible by comprehensive data collection (p.7).


Dataveillance has emerged as a new entity (Clarke 1988), and deterrence has been updated through an increasing amount of activity predictability and automated retribution.





Despite concerns over the legitimacy of such metaphors, society has a long way to go before it reaches the totalitarian nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-four. Yet, we must accept that if the Chernobyl disaster couldn’t scare humanity away from nuclear research – a social credit system banning millions of Chinese people from public transport (Xu, Xiao 2018) won’t halt trends in modern surveillance.


In the hope that information wars are less horrific than those of violence, humanity is now challenged to influence positive change. Putting aside the implications of Edward Snowden’s case (Andrejevic 2019, Bennett 2015, van Dijck 2017) and the arrest of Julian Assange last month, it would appear that many people today can freely discuss the ethics of evolving societies, unlike Orwell’s characters.


The topic of surveillance is like Pandora’s box. Joining such a forum demands a balanced perspective between realms of privacy and modes of innovation. “Smart” technologies are products for our convenience that generate incredibly large amounts of what Roger Magoulascoined “Big Data” in 2005. Unlike the devices from which it’s collected, this data isn’t for the benefit of individuals who generate it. Much is used strategically by marketers, governments and hackers who pre-emptively capture Big Data for its potential value in the future (Curtis 2017, para.4).



Introducing facial recognition

Facial recognition technology (FRT) presents an obvious problem in that it’s still quite unreliable – the American Civil Liberties Union conducted a recent test of Amazon’s law enforcement program called Rekognition, which ‘falsely matched 28 members of Congress to criminal mugshots’ (Prall 2018, para.9). Two weeks ago, supervisors voted 8 to 1 – banning FRT in San Francisco (Conger 2019, para.18). New laws require that city departments establish usage policies and obtain board approval to continue using, or purchase any new surveillance technology (Har 2019, para.2).


The legislation was written by Brian Hofer, who is spearheading a recent wave of anti-surveillance policies across California. When asked about balancing perspective on the issue, Hofer stated that for the first time, he was aggressively drawing the line in face of “a dramatic shift” (Conger 2019, para.15). He identifies the abuse of state power as the biggest problem facing trends in surveillance and sees the most potential harm occurring through data mining and technology such as FRT (para.7).




Darwin’s new evolution

It was recently announced that all three levels of government have funded the development of Australia’s first “smart city”, including a $10M surveillance platform called Switching on Darwin (City of Darwin 2019). Council’s Innovation, Growth and Development Services manager, Josh Sattler said the system gathers data from poles fitted with Wi-Fi, speakers and CCTV cameras (Zwar 2019, para.3). This feeds software that includes FRT (Caruana 2019, para.3). The council intends to use data from pedestrian movements and mobile phones to analyse where and when people access certain websites or mobile apps in the city – sharing this information with businesses for marketing purposes (Zwar 2019, para.7).


Another feature of the platform is the ability to create “virtual fences” that detect unusual behaviour, known criminals or someone banned from entering a specific area (Caruana 2019, para.2). The software will know when a virtual fence has been breached and automatically alert authorities to investigate specific cameras and areas (Zwar 2019, para.4). The CCTV component was activated on ANZAC day, and the entire artificial intelligence platform will be operational by the end of this financial year.


Lecturer in law, Dr Jenny Ng advises that if Darwinians want high-security Wi-Fi networks, they will have to use personal systems that employ personalised features (Zwar 2019, para.7) such as a virtual private network (VPN). She also speculates the project has no intentions for a social credit system as we’ve seen in China and “thinks” it’s going to stay that way.


Thanks for the reassurance, Jenny.


Switching on Darwin deserves close critical attention in the interest of civil privacy rights because it’s hardly challenged by the likes of Brian Hofer. Considering current debates over Californian policy, alongside the less regulated practices gathering momentum in Australia, touches on the sense of balance required when navigating surveillance debates. We can expand on this by pitching ideologies as different colours on the spectrum.




Diagnosed with Labrynthitis

It’s by no means easy to summarise the intricacies of surveillance, and it’s argued that such a task fails to expose the myriad of subtle harms and social norms associated with informational and institutional relations (Bennett 2015, p.370). Van Dijck (2017) reminds us that ‘an interpretative frame always prefigures data analysis’ (p.201); one hand demands balance between pragmatics and gimmicks when adopting “smart” convenience, while the other hand forces us to question the interests of technology companies and their advocates.


In another sense, perspectives are always a matter of time, place and identity: if George Orwell were born in the Twenty-First Century and was yet to write what would be known as Two-thousand and Eighty-four, we can probably imagine it ending with Winston Smith, shuffling around Silicone Valley, muttering “I love Big Data”.


If we are to successfully navigate the unchartered future of surveillance, it’s imperative to keep open minds, balanced approaches and a touch of vigilance.


Because if “they” are going to watch our every move,


then we’d better start watching theirs.





All images by Kal Omari:

Cagle, Rodriguez, McLuhan created @ Canva

Facial Recognition 2.0 (CC BY 2.0)

Foucault, Orwell and the Panophalopod (CC BY 2.0)

Tiger Eyes (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Image credits for video (with links):


Share this:


References (including video):

Andrejevic, M 2019, ‘Automating surveillance’, Surveillance and society, vol.17, no.1/2, pp.7-13, retrieved 8 May 2019, DOI: 10.24908/ss.v17i1/2.12930


Bennett, CJ 2015, ‘Trends in voter surveillance in western societies: Privacy intrusions and democratic implications’, Surveillance and society, vol.13, no.3/4, pp.370-84, retrieved 8 May 2019, DOI: 10.24908/ss.v13i3/4.5373


Bentham, J 2011, The panopticon writings, Bozovic, M (ed.), Verso, London


Caruana, A 2019, ‘China’s people monitoring software being deployed in Darwin’, Lifehacker, 30 April, retrieved 8 May 2019, […]


City of Darwin 2019, ‘Switching on Darwin’, City of Darwin, retrieved 13 May 2019, […]


Clarke, R 1988, ‘Information technology and dataveillance’, Communications of the ACM, vol.31, no.5, retrieved 29 November 2019, DOI: 10.1145/42411.42413


Conger, K 2019, ‘The man behind San Francisco’s facial recognition ban is working on more. Way more.’, The New York Times, 15 May, retrieved 15 May 2019, […]


Curtis 2017, ‘Monitoring, privacy and surveillance… within the smart home’, Modernity, Modern Human, 26 June, retrieved 18 May 2019, […]


Foucault, M 1995, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 2nd edn, Vintage Books, New York, retrieved 9 April 2019, […]


Har, J 2019, ‘San Francisco bans police use of face recognition technology’, ABC News, 14 May, retrieved 14 May 2019, […]


Introducing Sidewalk Toronto 2017, YouTube, Sidewalk Toronto, 17 October, retrieved 9 April 2019, […]


Loffreda, D 2019, ‘Tomorrow’s cities: evolving from “smart” to adaptive’, Ciena, 16 April, retrieved 13 May 2019, […]


McLuhan, M 1964, Understanding media: The extensions of man, McGraw-Hill Education, New York


McLuhan, M 1997, Essential McLuhan, McLuhan, E, Zingrone, F (eds.), Routledge, London


Mcdonald, L 2019, ‘Father of California man, 27, stabbed to death in Mexico while on vacation helps discover a breakthrough in the case after noticing transactions on his ATM card a month after the murder’, Daily Mail, 5 May, retrieved 8 May 2019, […]


Orwell, G 1949, Nineteen Eighty-four, Secker & Warburg, London


Prall, D 2018, ‘The digital dragnet: How facial recognition technology, if left unchecked, could fundamentally change what it means to be an American’, American city and county, vol.133, no.8, retrieved 8 May 2019, […]


Sidewalk Labs 2019, Sidewalk Labs is reimagining cities to improve quality of life, Sidewalk Labs, retrieved 9 April 2019,


Sidewalk Toronto 2019, Welcome to Sidewalk Toronto, Sidewalk Toronto, retrieved 9 April 2019,


van Dijck, J 2017, ‘Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: Big data between scientific paradigm and ideology’, Surveillance and society, vol.12, no.2, pp.197-208, retrieved 8 May 2019, DOI: 10.24908/ss.v12i2.4776


Vincent, D 2018, ‘Watchdog forum has its eyes on Sidewalk Labs Quayside development’, The Star, 26 October, retrieved 13 May 2019, […]


Xu, VK, Xiao, B 2018, ‘China’s social credit system seeks to assign citizens scores, engineer social behaviour’, ABC News, 2 April, retrieved 8 May 2019, […]


Zwar, W 2019, ‘Darwin to build future on smart technology based on cities in China and Taiwan’, NT News,  9 April, retrieved 8 May 2019, […]


The Balconies, Gariwerd


Recently, I went on a camping trip to Gariwerd, which is the traditional name of a National Park in south-west Victoria. It’s home to ninety percent of the state’s known ancient rock art, and clearly matches Graham Black’s (2012) criteria to summarise the museum and its purpose. Looking at the fading paintings conjured fear. How, without the ability to stop time, can we preserve their authenticity and mystique? Is uploading a photo to “Instaspam” enough? My investigations turned into the first episode of a podcast: Tentacles of Thought.







I’ve summarised the message of the episode as “optimistic indifference”, because, history has thrown far greater threats at First Nations heritage than the world of digital media ever could. Using Mukurtu CMS as an example demonstrates strong optimism in embracing new technologies, yet I cannot ignore that ongoing digital divides make this bittersweet for First Nations peoples.



A cultural heritage institution viewed from the ruins of the institution it destroyed @ Zócalo, México City



I scripted, rewrote and modified the rewritten material in a studio. Taking advantage of a quiet night and acoustic damping, I used a Focusrite, Audacity, a Shure SM58 and an extremely critical ear for my own voice. Finally, I mastered the podcast using DJ software, Traktor Pro, to treat the vocals and music like songs in a setlist. I could easily add effects like reverb and delay, EQ the seperate elements, and get their relative volume levels just right in real-time.


After extensive reading, I found it difficult to consolidate my thoughts in a six-minute podcast. With so many inspirational examples of digital First Nations heritage, I would have enjoyed more time to explore them, or further unpack the issues I’ve encountered. The research I chose to include was selected to support and contextualise my claims of optimism and indifference, alongside the closely related issue of digital divides.


The music included in the podcast is a release that highlights the complicated nature of copyright. The artist, Nickynutz, doesn’t usually release free tunes. This track is what DJs call a “bootleg” – a usually anonymous solution to the grey areas of plagiarism. Here, the original song is an unreleased version of Youthman in the Ghetto by Prince Allah, and Nickynutz has remixed it (fittingly) for free.



Prince Allah – Youthman in the Ghetto by Nickynutz (CC BY 3.0)





The Yidaki (digeridoo) was recorded using the equipment listed above and the addition of a Shure SM57. This was done in a solid stone/concrete room to take advantage of natural reverberation. I have played these amazing instruments from an early age.


The first challenge I faced was in my research. I found it difficult to look beyond the fact that “post” colonial ideas of cultural heritage dominated the literature I found. However, the biggest challenge was adapting the tone of my academic writing to the conversational arena of podcasting. My first script, basically, projected aggressive desires to study de-colonisation, and my second was more of a focused essay.


Enlightenment came realising that nobody wants to hear me say this next particular sentence, which is better when left to be read, right?






Photos by Kal Omari


Share this:


References (including podcast):

Black, G 2012, Transforming museums in the twenty-first century, Routledge, London, retrieved 9 April 2019,…


Brown, D 2007, ‘Te Ahua Hiko: Digital Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Objects, People, and Environments’, in Cameron, F, Kenderdine, S (eds), Theorizing digital cultural heritage: a critical discourse, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp.77-91


Byrne, A 2008, ‘Digitising and handling Indigenous cultural resources in libraries, archives and museums’, paper in session Making the intangible tangible, at Communities and memories: a global perspective: Memory of the World Conference, National Library of Australia, Canberra, retrieved 9 April 2019, […] .pdf


Francis, KD, Liew, CL 2009, ‘Digitised Indigenous knowledge in cultural heritage organisations in Australia and New Zealand: An examination of policy and protocols’, Proceedings of the ASIST annual meeting, vol.46, no.1, pp.1-21, retrieved 9 April 2019, DOI: 10.1002/meet.2009.145046025


Hoffman, BT 2006, Art and cultural heritage : law, policy, and practice, Cambridge University Press, New York


Mukurtu CMS, Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation, Washington State University, website, retrieved 9 April 2019,


Nakata, M, Byrne, A, & Nakata, V 2005, ‘Libraries, Indigenous Australians and a Developing Protocols Strategy for the Library and Information Sector’, Australian Academic & Research Libraries, vol.36, no.2, pp.195-210


Nakata, M, Nakata, V, Gardiner, G, McKeough, J, Byrne, A, Gibson, J 2008, ‘Indigenous digital collections: An early look at the organisation and culture interface’, Australian Academic and Research Libraries, vol.39, no.4, pp.223-236


Russell, L 2005, ‘Indigenous Knowledge and Archives: Accessing Hidden History and Understandings’, Australian Academic & Research Libraries, vol.36, no.2, pp.169-180


Senier, S 2014, ‘Digitizing Indigenous History: Trends and challenges’, Journal of Victorian Culture, vol.19, no.3, pp.396-402, retrieved 9 April 2019, DOI:10.1080/13555502.2014.947188


Sullivan, R 2002, Indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. A digital library context, DLib Magazine, vol.8, no.5, retrieved 13 April 2019, […] .pdf


        #Me by Kal Omari          


I experienced liberation from my first identity crisis in 2014, uploading photos shortly before the new year. Initially unappealing to me, Facebook served as a means to communicate on behalf of the band. Enlightenment came realising that two years of backpacking holiday snaps had absolutely nothing to do with the music industry.


Web 1.0 vs 2.0 by Kal Omari at Canva

I’d caught myself in the act.


Despite an industrial profile, my Facebook presence became more that of an individual than a promoter. Blindly, I’d allowed professional elements to evolve into relative qualities of now primarily social exchanges. A traditional sensibility towards the media I’d developed over the years had re-organised itself, without permission, in what DiNucci (1999) described as shifting from Web 1.0, to 2.0.


I revealed my true given name on Facebook, accompanied by a pseudonym serving to appease my sense of humour. Music correspondence shifted to a “page” managed through multiple accounts, and a photo of a rock bearing the silhouette of my head replaced the band’s logo as a profile picture.



I had accepted Web 2.0.


My previous rejection of social media’s significance was replaced by the observation that our ‘lives are increasingly lived and expressed virtually, and […] are both private and public, not to mention intensely ‘real’’ (Gabriel 2014, p.108). As such, virtual experiences can be clearly seen contributing to a traditional sense of narrative identity, adding both directly and indirectly to our individual stories over time.


It was observed long before talk of Web 2.0 that when enacting identity, the individual ‘requests […] observers to take seriously the impression […] fostered before them’ (Goffman 1959, p.17). This notion of performativity (Butler 1993, 1999) is central to contextualising identity online. It begs us to question if “self” remained intact during our shift to Web 2.0. Were our performances over half a century ago any more, or less convincing than what we see today? Have things such as the rise of “selfie” culture fostered an insular, introspective quality previously unheard-of in our day-to-day histories?


What do you think?


Facebook video post by Mathieu Tozer (used with permission)



I am error by Kal Omari (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It helps to envision this shift through the work of Hayles (1999) as a movement towards reflexivity using the cyborg metaphor. Reiterating the question of how information lost its body, she demonstrates a Cartesian duality in the aspirations of humanity.


Likewise, despite having acknowledged agency to my online presence, I still represented myself using the photo of a shadow. Symbolically projecting the concept of duality and disembodied information, in actual practice, I was an avid consumer of Facebook’s mediation when catering many of my organic problems. I’d become a cyborg. Hayles sees this as moving towards a final stage: virtuality.


Skip to the present and things haven’t changed; they’ve grown. My accounts have expanded beyond Facebook to include several other platforms of social mediation. Profile pictures might change once in a while, yet if someone were to consecutively click through the accounts, they would find something like this:


The symbols you see on the profiles are my name written in Hebrew script. Kal is not an Israeli title, but a common word that roughly translates to “OK” or “No worries”. It is a visually dynamic technique in branding my online identity across these multiple platforms. Within such imperative, it’s noted that ‘performing one’s sense of personality is critical to the conveyance of the brand’ (Smith, Watson 2014, p.79). For this reason, I began to experience my second identity crisis.






Choosing a pseudonym was partly to distance myself from the branding of an earlier publication. However, this meant I was truly missing something. The shift to Web 2.0 had me embracing new inspirations and ways to explore our environment, yet the only substantial writing I’d done was in a small diary. One of my most marketable talents had been stubbornly withheld by the “me” I became when online, and my conscience was finally getting the upper hand.


Using the aforementioned notion of performativity (Butler 1993, 1999), Gabriel (2014) illustrates that social and other types of digital media are creating new benchmarks for self-actualisation and visible display, or new means to performatively constitute meaning. None of these had been explored using my writing.


It was time to blog.



Facebook post by Kal Omari



Liberation from this new online identity crisis came in the form of the site you are now visiting. I realised over New Year’s Eve, launching it while staying at a lagoon with a fitting history of Caribbean piracy. In Web 2.0, any writer has a blog – it’s simply what’s done. Advocates for Media Studies 2.0, of course, have blogs. David Gauntlett (2019) and William Merrin (2010) are examples.


Merrin (2009) suggests that, similar to open-source software, Media Studies 2.0 should transcend institutionalised confines to make itself publicly transparent, as demonstrated by the aforementioned blogs. This seems to be an effective model that encourages improvement through critical feedback. My question is, does such an approach facilitate evolutionary processes non-exclusive to academic disciplines?





I think the answer is yes, at least when “connected”.


Share this:



Butler, J 1993, Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of ‘Sex’, Routledge, London


Butler, J 1999, Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity, 10th anniversary edn, Routledge, New York


DiNucci, D 1999, ‘Fragmented future’, Print Magazine, April, p.32, pp.221-2, retrieved 24 March 2019,


Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, no.151, pp.104-112, retrieved 24 March 2019,


Gauntlett, D 2019, David Gauntlett, weblog, retrieved 22 March 2019,


Goffman, E 1959, The presentation of self in everyday life, Doubleday, New York


Hayles, N Katherine 1999, How we became posthuman, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, retrieved 18 March 2019,


Merrin, W 2009, ‘Media Studies 2.0: upgrading and open-sourcing the discipline’, Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture, vol.1, no.1, pp.17-34, retrieved 22 March 2019, DOI:10.1386/iscc.1.1.17_1


Merrin, W 2010, Media Studies 2.0, weblog, retrieved 22 March 2019,


Smith, S, Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually me: A toolbox about online self-representation’, in Poletti, A, Rak, J (eds.), Identity Technologies: Constructing the self online, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison pp.70-95, retrieved 24 March 2019,



Featured video:

Many thanks go to Mathieu Tozer for granting permission to use his selfie timelapse. You’re the only person I’ve ever taken seriously when announcing they’ve quit Facebook.






2018: a splintered cricket bat smacking the face for six, outside the bounds of Bellerive Oval, across the Tasman sea and New Zealand, plonking in the South Pacific perhaps somewhere near Easter Island. Who knows. The only solution – floating in hope of good tides, better weather and full sails. The mark and handball of posthumous responsibility came with tears, organically fertilized personal growth and the acquisition of a magical vessel. The final photograph of the late David Reavis was taken immediately after he finished dab-painting the frame of a bicycle bought to aide his walking-stick stride. Inspired to follow suit, I was diverted onto other ventures in unconscious preparation for inheritance, and the day following his untimely death I was on a bus with a new set of wicked wheels at my disposal. Ten milligrams of Valium and eight hours later I disembarked at 1:30am with wide eyes and a powerful thirst. Checking-in at Bacalar’s Hostal Yaxche, the question regarding the possibility of open watering holes was met with a strange look and slow shake of the head. Deciding to wing-it taking to the bitumen sea, I surprised four staff having knock-off drinks with a very poor attempt at Spanish, requesting cerveza. They kicked me out at 3:00 with a gift of premixed bourbon and I hit the mattress like a squashed avocado.



Bacalar is simply deliciosa. After almost five weeks of unsatisfied urges for spice, I was blasted into another dimension by the hottest chili paste I’ve ever had. Usually, sitting alone at unfamiliar tacos al pastor stands can be slightly nerve-racking in itself as one ponders the stack of meat on the shawarma spit, yet on this occasion I was distracted by the colectivo de salsa that appeared upon my order. One drop of the suspiciously dark batch warned me that I was in for an interesting ride. Three tacos later and I was ordering more refrescos. Panic had set-in like the first stages of what I imagine an aneurysm might be like. Just as I’d resigned in horror to the thought I’d overdosed myself, my entire body went into a state of numbness and I was reduced to worshipping the staff, forming a small pool on the sidewalk as sweat ejaculated from my forehead with every prayer. For those adrenaline junkies out there with weak taste buds – I have no sympathy – just neck the fuck-up. Eating good chili is like smoking salvia divinorum without the uncomfortable social “psyde” effects. It massages every bodily molecule into vibrational harmony, forming an addiction that can be witnessed particularly in the culture of Thailand.



Sitting on the banks of a colourfully amorphous lake known locally as the “seven blues lagoon”, Bacalar is steeped in Mayan history, Spanish conquest and Caribbean piracy. From the beginning of the 17th century the town was under constant attack, in particular by one buccaneer of Cuban origin, Diego el Mulatto under the command of Dutchman Cornelio “Pegleg” Jol. By the mid-1600s, another – known as Abraham – sacked Bacalar and took all the women as prisoners, with the locals quick to retaliate and rescue them. This must have pissed-off the captain, because in 1652 he returned and completely decimated the town, leaving it in a state from which its inhabitants never fully recovered. Eventually in 1733 on the orders of Don Antonio de Figueroa y Silva, the construction of Fort San Felipe secured some defensive capabilities until 1847, by which time the entire Yucatán peninsular had become displaced by the expanse of the cane sugar industry. The execution of indigenous leader Manuel Antonio Ay triggered a Mayan uprising under the command of Cecilio Chi, starting “The War of the Castes”. During this period Bacalar was overtaken by the insurgents and not reclaimed by México until 1902.




Fortunately for long-winded letter-jockeys such as myself, Bacalar is home to Casa Internacional del Escritorunfortunately discovered only after leaving the town, which is a true hub for artists and trippers alike. After a few days slothing-around and chopping vegetables with a shitty knife, the call of agua sagrada was unavoidable and – amidst the difficulty of nada español – I joined a boat tour, illuminating the area’s divide between local and touristic logic. The verdict: sometimes I hate being “just another traveller”.



The boat visited local cenotes [notably Cenote la Bruja­ – “of the Witch”] before heading to El Canal De Los Piratas. The old channel attracts an unfortunate number of visitors who wade in the shallows, some rubbing sulphur-slime on their bodies in Mayan tradition. The slight smell of shit permeates the nostrils as one embraces the natural alternative to massaging egos in a beauty salon. This lesson led to flapping-about with a young hippie trio from the States who were equally romanced by tales of pirates, and we scaled the fence at the Witch’s cenote to spend a good few hours there jumping out of trees and talking shit with crazy Méxicano tourists. The next day was blessed by the reappearance of some Winnipegs who learned that Mescaline, San Pedro and Peyote are similar things as we sailed around on catamarans in an attempt to drink all the rum before the Yanks caught-up. Failing that [U.S.A. had a faster yacht], we revisited the smelly channel for sunset and enjoyed the place to ourselves – the main tourist boats having dispatched beforehand. At this point I momentarily forgot the fate of the only surfing Beach Boy – Dennis Wilson – and repeatedly tried breaking my neck with dives from a deserted galleon bar. Unfortunately for some, these attempts were unsuccessful, begging another white-mud exfoliation to wash-away the fool.



Over two weeks spent on the seven shades, it dawned on better sense to curb drinking towards reading, writing and the birth of this website. Fortunately, the deadline was flexible and gave room for discovering that ingesting a certain amount of mezcal allows for slow mushroom-like hallucinations without the sudden 3:00am urge to vomit on those sleeping in the bunks below [dosage is integral]. So, having mastered the art of waking-up wasted, it was only logical at 8:00am to commandeer the coffee urn for several average brews before jumping on a colectivo to Quintana Roo’s capital for the removal of a cracked wisdom tooth. The dentist and nurse were husband and wife, and had a definite aura of unity as they spent over an hour lovingly wrenching the culprit chomper back-and-forth from my skull – extracting it with professional precision that reminds me of Bangkok. No personal gain stands from this, but the clinic deserves a plug on their $1000-peso bill. Click the link – the suave bloke on the right is mi amigo responsible for the extraction 😀




Women. A beautiful, somewhat omnipotent force driving many men insane. I suppose it is “Valentine’s Day”. In Bacalar I met a particularly lovely 18-year-old German who speaks English with a cute British accent. We decided to spend the day together and upon learning she was a vegan I offered to cook her dinner, as I’d already prepared a sauce that was suitable to her diet. Thinking myself romantic, I took-off and fetched a bottle of Casillero del Diablo before scooting back to the kitchen. Méxicanos are not typically fond of such drops, and the alcohol percentage versus price tags in comparison to other liquors reflect this clearly – you’ll be paying similarly in Australia. Méxican wine is not that great – Vino Chileno y Argentino are much more enjoyable – it’s a simple matter of climate. One can savour a good bottle of the latter in isolation, without too much guilt from the tastebuds or a projected image of desperation. Feeling a strike of red blood [forgetting this young woman’s autobus de salida was just around the corner], I took a bit longer than expected to prepare the meal. Upon popping the cork inward [true Méxicano style] and pouring the first glasses, our conversation flowed naturally to the strange and wonderful fact that her boyfriend’s name was the same as her own. In one slight step towards the stovetop, unfortunate memories of Mérida came rushing back to mind and I fought the urge to make sharp fun of the situation. It was nonetheless an enjoyable meal; she barely took a breath as I watched my creation disappear between hefty sips of a glass that soon sat empty on the table. Other guests attempted to quell grins; with magical quality she produced her backpack and we said goodbyes. I hadn’t even finished my serve.


Dreams. Fantastic beasts of things they are. First time travelling to Thailand was met with a big slap in the face from a cold turkey. After around two weeks of dentists using my mouth as a borehole, THC blood-concentration was reduced to the point where several years of unrealised psychoanalysis came thundering into my skull like a solid slug. Keeping a diary eventually led to particularly lucid dreamscapes, which is another story for another time. It’s worth mentioning however that the “crossing-over” from imagination to reality was like a shimmering curtain slowly pulled from my vision as I realised I was witnessing the sunrise through the window. My eyes must have been open while I was still in the phantasy. I began to think that if one were to stop the pot, dreams would quickly return – yet I have since learned this is not exactly the case. Many towns in México are dubbed “pueblo magico” as a kind of tourism stamp, yet Bacalar is indeed a magical part of the world, and its influence saw the return of my dreams – loooong after the absence of THC. Returning to the “royal road” was hazy at first, and struck at a distaste towards dreams from my youth. The first was simply dental somatics, and removing the tooth was like pulling a plug to the unconscious. Things began to flow. A few days off the booze led to epic benders that wound-up in jams on the lake and dissing bands for playing too much reggae. Then the recommendation of an “all-inclusive” hostel at a nearby town…



A word of warning: if you’re ever struck by the inclination to drag a pimped-out bicicleta across México, it’s a good idea to check with the bus driver before buying a ticket. Escaping Mérida saw the sting of a random $100-peso fee for the wheels, as the pass had been pre-purchased. Leaving Bacalar was less expensive and more stressful, as I abused two consecutive drivers for refusing my entry, which attracted a local crack-head who thought my tantrums were funny and wanted to make friends. Two days later however, upon the realisation the abscess on my arse was back with a vengeance, I decided to try again and was whisked-away to what can only be described as the “Byron Bay” of central America – Tulum. The Lucky Traveller Hostal is a pretty slick concept. All you can eat from three massive, quality buffet meals per day; all you can swill from a bar with flowing alcohol; free bike rental; savvy staff; a reserved beach spot with volleyball, shade and more free piss all within a relative stoned throw from the Parque Nacional [for a price you couldn’t replicate between a cheap bed and the supermarket]. If you’re keen to party on the cheap, this place is for you. Three days of drinking like a fish and shameless gluttony led to a distinctly lucid dream:



All my teeth were falling-out and I was trying to put them back-in. The physiology of the situation was so ridiculous that I realised I was asleep – yet this knowledge as such was not enough; I couldn’t control the unconscious; I failed to make them stay in my gums.


Upon waking, my ability to sit-down was lost as the butt-nipple became angry. Resigning to a local doctor, we discussed the corruption of private health sectors that prey upon worried gringos with ridiculous medical bills and the potential of foul play [as referred to “in a nutsack”]. Staphylococcus lancing and a shitload of antibiotics induced a three-day dry spell and a soiree of dreams. Exhausted and drugged to the eyeballs – drifting in and out of consciousness – it became difficult to distinguish between worlds. The final straw came to me in the form of a calm nightmare.


I’m sitting on a clifftop at a modern-day lighthouse. The keeper of the bulb is my friend: a fellow with a grey beard and stern look on his face. He tells me he used to man the post with his wife, who some years ago was swept away by a freak swell of the sea. His explanation is gesticulated, and as he does so, another such abomination rises unnaturally like a conscious blanket of water. Scrambling-away just in time as it lashes the bluff, we retreat to the rear of the building – white and stout. A moment passes and I look-around to see several ominous children walking suspiciously around the corner. They begin to throw rocks at my friend and I retaliate with rage shouting “he’s too frail, leave him alone”. The children laugh and begin to run. I give chase. I follow them into the jungle where a very large, dilapidated three-storey house eventually appears. The children scatter – they think the situation is funny. I venture fearlessly into the house and am confronted in hallways by abominations that instantly remind of scenes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I am unafraid, yet moving with haste. There are too many of them. The house is very dirty and its deformed inhabitants all have unsettling grins on their faces. They do not appear malicious, yet threaten to somehow make me one of their kin. My sense of disgust is strong and I decide that I want to leave – after seeing all the horrors. Quickly exploring every passage and room – the kitchen is filthy – venturing upstairs I notice a slight change in decorum: dirty, lavish, gothic. Eventually spotting a ladder to the attic and [realising I’m dreaming] I decide to jump from the window which I remember seeing up there from the outside. Pushing open the hatch, my eyes fall upon the wooden lining of the inner roof and everything freezes. I can still move but my vision is stuck on the wooden panel. Flailing uselessly, I begin to panic. A few moments of this visual suspension and I realise I am not staring at the wood of the attic, but that of my bunk cubicle in the dormitory. I am awake.


The dream was too vivid to forget, so instead of writing it down I decided to sit and finish the book I’d been reading: Die Traumdeutung by Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey. The final chapter was a bit frustrating amidst digressions in psychological rhetoric, yet the final words of “Appendix A” were pretty funny, given the old bugger’s reputation as a misogynist. I decided to start drinking again. Latin America boasts a lack of rock’n’roll – especially punk – and within a few days I was on the roof until 4:00am yelling aggressive lyrics while the local dogs barked themselves to sleep. I was the last mutt standing. The next day I checked back into to the all-inclusive for another three nights, culminating in another bender that saw me tripping-balls again, crawling through the jungle @ 6:00am to watch sunrise from the Tulum ruins, which are beautifully nestled on the beach and usually crawling with tourists after officially opening at 8:00am. I got busted by security before this, while praying as the big ball of gas struck its first beams through the clouds, and a strange thing occurred – I still don’t know what to make of it. The guard was on a two-way radio, looking rather solemn, and through an obvious language barrier he seemed to understand my pathetic Spanish: “No touristico – mi worship del Sol”. Being marched-up from the beach I noticed three raccoon-like creatures scampering under the stairs and pointed in glee – coati. The little critters waited, and after sniffing my bare feet for a moment they began scratching feverishly until security shooed them away. It seemed as though they were trained, and I wondered if under more reproachable circumstances they would have been left to draw blood. Once we made it to the ticket booth – dreading the call of policia – some wide-eyed hippie tourists inquired as to the nature of the dawn, to which I smirked foolishly as the guard bellowed “trespasser”. He demanded $250-peso, and emptying my pockets with just over $100, the other staff rolled their eyes and told me to piss-off.



Fetching my bicycle and zig-zagging back to the hostel, my brain was too warped to realise the pain in my foot was a simple bruised ankle, and I spent the first few hours of the day blabbing shit at the bar, wolfing food and coffee like a savage while researching coati-borne infections – complaining to everybody that I’d probably contracted rabies. Sometime during my afternoon nap, I awoke to a mighty headache and projectile vomited both breakfast and lunch in one fell swoop, spending the evening in morbid pain as we watched what Americans call “The Super Bowl”.


What a bloody joke. Despite learning that Philadelphia’s victory was something to celebrate over New England’s general domination, I was far less than impressed by the ridiculous nature of this debacle referred to as “sport”. How NFL became so popular is quite beyond my comprehension, and as a fan of “Aussie Rules” it pains me to know these knuckle-heads in excess menstrual padding get red carpet access to universities and big salaries. Admittedly the culture in Australia is [to a degree] reminiscent of such idiocy, yet I have to argue that at least we play a genuine game with formidable skill and stamina requirements. The stern, rehearsed looks on the Super Bowl coaches’ faces are a stark juxtaposition to that scene of Kevin Sheedy waving his bomber jacket around his head, and were presented with enough transparency for one to recognise a lack of solidarity. The “plays” and “tactics” seem but mere formalities as these overblown jogger-naughts scramble around helplessly in hope of a touchdown. Quarterback my abscess – give me AFL!



The realisation I was sick of Tulum came while reading the first two chapters of C.J. Jung’s autobiography: Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken, and – skipping recommendations of Mahahual – tracks were made instead for Palenque to some of the most archaeologically significant ruins in Central America. The Templo de las Inscripciones is largely responsible for finally deciphering Maya script, which until the 1970’s had largely eluded scientists’ understanding various intricacies of the civilisation. Having been told approximately 5000 visitors per day are unleashed during peak season, being there in the low was quite peaceful as it only attracts around 500. The site itself is quite serene, nestled in thick jungle overlooking the plains towards Tabasco. Yet, boredom set-in again on admittance that drinking habits were blocking unconscious reality from my perception, which is undoubtedly an avenue by which we should all be self-obliged to travel. Awoken one night by the demonic screams of howler monkeys, I gently reminded myself that sleeping can be used as an effective tool. True to Freudian logic, the dreams rushing to my head were generally related to sexual desires, or repressed wish-fulfilments. I began thinking about women again.



Despite attempting to convince myself otherwise, and protests afforded to me by multiple people – for two years in particular I have struggled with the overwhelming evidence that women prefer arseholes over “nice guys”. The same goes in reverse, too. Some cunt holds his dick in a box at a bar while his girlfriend studies for an exam. Likewise, a woman parades around on Tinder only because she knows the man who loves her doesn’t have a smartphone. It all seems skewed. People in relationships cry blue murder and adultery, while their unconscious pulls them into a pit of tasteless orgies. It makes no sense. Watching someone roll-around a party proposing oral sex to everybody they meet will usually end in some kind of sticky affair, while someone genuinely seeking affection will fall hopelessly to sleep; alone. While two-faced peace-merchants flow like turds in a river, those akin to the water realise that humanity is a disgraceful excuse for the future. To cling to the instinct of reproduction is like dishing-out bread at communion – tasteless, dry, mouldy. The wine is shit – cheap, nasty blood. Feeding on each other like rapists we fall blissfully into a sea of unawareness as the sharks run amok with what investments are left from this overpopulated, societal mess. Oh, sorry, wrong meeting… this is a travel blog, right?


No-way. There must be weight to these cries of positivity in an amoral world, but it’s most likely that of a billion greeting cards flung flippantly on days such as this: Valentine’s. What a crock of shit. Another ugly spawn-child of Catholicism celebrated by commercialism and Christianity. If only we could recreate the myth surrounding this ridiculous occasion and behead it once more… but that won’t sell to the masses now, will it?


Oh Mother, save us from ourselves, or we’ll continue killing you while shouting “unity”. But to the defence of the earth, our world can be incomprehensibly beautiful. It is merely humanity that fails to rest the attention.


Glancing over the seven blue shades; listening to the cries of the howlers; seeing a group of wild macaws; listening to the music of great-tailed grackles. Just joy is all there’s left to cling to, as our people accidentally drop their dumbphones to another cracked screen on newsfeed, as they fall into a slumber without dreams.


While in Palenque I met a group of friends travelling together from Switzerland and gladly played the role of black sheep in the dormitory we shared on the edge of the national park – about five kilometres from the actual town. The people running the accommodation were well aware of this monopoly, selling $27-peso packs of cigarettes for a grossly inflated $60, and half decent food for an average $100. Not bearing the logic of this equation, I resorted to drying-out a Cuban cigar that’d been left in the rain by the Swiss and discovered I’m quite fond of the fatties. I imagine a real “man” nails them in one sitting, but when you actually inhale the smoke deep in your lungs, you have to rest the things periodically before a nicotine overdose grabs you by the balls – they’ll last an entire day. So anyway, feeling a bit cornered on the return bicycle ride to local prices, the decision was made to move to another town, in which I’ve luckily gravitated to this peaceful family garden for reading, writing and smoking.



San Cristobal de la Casas, the jewel of México. Learning I was meant to travel here was met with a sense of mild fear. Upon reading reports on the internet, I knew there were chances of en route hijackings and roadblocks which give this beautiful country part of its conflicted reputation. Regardless, I managed to secure my bicycle – again free of charge – celebrating in the knowledge I would finally get a taste of life outside the hostel trail. Half-way through the overnight journey I was awoken by customs officials demanding to see my passport and Méxican visa. ‘Well that’s the problem with diazepam – so many things I don’t remember’. Medicinally induced calm helped keep my body language in check, and pretty soon I was serenely muttering “Muchas gracias, amigos”. Eventually making my exit from the bus, a funny little sign on the wall of a hotel reminded that general accommodation prices are considerably cheaper here than on the typical tourist trail. In course of ironic luck, I’d even secured a local couch on which to crash.



My first day here was like being in Mérida all-over-again, yet the architecture, setting and resonant soil have an authentic quality that’s missing from the flatlands of Yucatán. There’s a reason everybody told me I would love this place, and it’s not their assumption relating to the constant flow of back-packing space oddities who come on holiday here. The first local I spoke to looked me directly in the eye and agreed that “you can feel the energy”. Like Bacalar, “San Cris” is most definitely Pueblo Magico. I naturally flocked to the local market – José Castillo Tielemans – and was confronted by colours, delights and smells that outshone the chaos and splendour of Mérida’s Lucas de Galvez. Something of the latter had me transfixed with Christmas chaos, yet simply cannot compare to the feeling of warmth generated by this considerably colder part of México; the cultural heart of Chiapas.



Next stop – Guatemala.







It’s unfortunate, but the tides of information that drift about our fingertips have rendered most of us in a united state of suspended animation. The dream of building a life for oneself has sadly awoken to nothing more than the pain of a limp coccyx; the arthritic sacrum founding a column composed of expensive, termite-infested lumbar nailed to an invisible wall. The promise of a thoracic stretch, reaching high onto a cancerous cervical platform for skulduggery has excited the sheep within us to a state of collective quadriplegia. Humanity bears witness to the inversion of its own evolution, taken-aback into a reverse step. Faith has once again become prolific, with only the individual to blame for promoting such bent, intra-personal religions.



The mark of genocidal lines across the face of one side of the bill begs to be folded into the image of an uninvited colonist penetrating a pearly necklace. The crowd’s stare is destroyed and a majority left confused, in a cesspool of post-orgasmic hope as a national holiday becomes defunct. It seems fitting to mark the occasion with another day of such invasion – yet we know too well that there are no longer any vulnerable civilisations on any physical landmass that could be declared as “terra-nullius”. The only place on which such atrocities can now be performed is the psychical landmass of the mind – or minds – identifying “self” as something sacred. The attempted extermination of the planet’s oldest surviving culture can only be viewed as a shameful, blood-soaked archetype that we have the duty to recreate in a non-violent way. It’s unfortunate to admit, but where the British perverted the truth of Dreamtime soil – today’s would-be “explorers” are faced with nothing but the reality of what could be referred to as tele-nullius. Uninhabited headspace.



Humanity has developed into an embarrassing state of affairs. Those who admit it are often found making beautifully profound efforts to contradict the flock by celebrating ideas of harmony and peace – and we should usually thank them for it. Yet to the contrary it’s no surprise that our disturbing critical mass has bred the disgruntled; people bored; hearing echoed romantic sermons of privileged blindness. Unconsciously lulled into the illusion that milk is supposed to taste this way, a strong sense of revolt may fill the mouth when suckling on the sour udders of the western world. We really shouldn’t be drinking such secretions at all. Modern society is plainly designed as a way to encourage the pulling of one’s own wool over the eyes.



Thoughts like this have permeated my mind for too long. The reality of being stuck; surrounded by people either too happy to chew each other’s fat or too broken-hearted to face reality made me feel ill. Still does. Despite facing the challenge to embrace the pursuit of knowledge, I found myself wallowing in a personally collected barrel of my own and other people’s shit. In small communities, it can be very difficult to remain open-hearted without repressing a loathing of the self. Even though we’re inherently judgemental creatures, many members of our species try amicably to transcend instinct towards a sense of “understanding” and “acceptance”. Passivity if you will. Once initially detected, the underlying smell of manure rich and rare tends to permanently permeate the nostrils. Upon corpse examination in the morgue, its excusable to rub menthol cream under the nose to avoid nausea, but like a rocksteady diener I’ve packed my coffin while leaving the Vicks in the bathroom cabinet: the place celebrated by people when they “still call Australia home”.



Like a coal to the stocking, I made the preliminary exodus across Bass Strait for the turn of 2017. Self-condemned to Van Diemen’s Land for the term of my unsavoury strife, I spent the eve of the new year bewildered on the Spirit of Tasmania. Dancing-around with a bloke wearing some kind of Sikh turban, while the crew of the ship played ridiculous music in ridiculous costumes. Crawling from the boat and around the east coast of the state, I spent January and February confirming suspicions that the Australian Government had truly become insincere; an amalgamation of insolence and intolerance in its consideration of the more marginalised citizens of the country.




Astro Labe



As the origin of the global Greens political party, Tasmania is a pretty good place for massaging such suspicions. The population is small, and doesn’t like crapping on each-other’s doorsteps unless there’s a good reason to justify it. As emblemised by Labe’s chance delivery to a former Australian prime minister; Taswegians don’t like it when the government shits on the general populace either. Head-butts aside, the lush allure of the state may also happen to serve as a knee-jerk aversion from social problems that eventually follow the escapee – reminding of their insistence. Whatever the case may be, the island offers a particularly beautiful sunrise from the peak of Mt. Wellington and a general plethora of natural wonders.



Embracing some initial feelings of displacement accumulated over a few years, the island served as a germination period for some bigger planter pots, or frying pans. Trump was sworn-in – the world cried tears of horror and amusement as they realised his fringe complimented the natural course of the Fibonacci spiral. When asked “why on earth” I wanted to go to the U.S.A., I remembered that some people are just as unaware of their racist gravities as they are of the fascinating geometrics of our solar system. In November 2012, a few thousand Australians virginally witnessed acute affect in the path of totality during a full solar eclipse, birthing a new generation of “chasers” into the travel industry maternity ward. Thus, a synchronised movement of would be rainbow lorikeet serpents flocked en masse to Trumpland.



Escaping the Tasmanian “penal colonies” and arriving in California at the start of June – exactly eleven weeks before the eclipse – I found myself promptly flung over the bonnet [hood] of an LAPD car for rolling some bloke a cigarette. La la land – what a bloody shithole. Travels to San Franpsycho, Vegas and Colorado aside, the end of July bought solid joy in a massive tin of Milo and jar of Vegemite – just in time for an adventure through the epic wilderness of Yosemite National Park and the eastern Sierras. The taste of West-Coast roads was sweet – a little salty at times – and perfectly nourishing. Stories within stories within stories. Fortunately there isn’t time for that. Smokey the bear extinguishes [some] fires.



These rambling adventures all foreshadowed the eclipse, which was the first to hit the contiguous States since February 1979. A few moments speculation on generation gaps shows that not many people realised the opportunity they were missing when they put their glasses-on in the likes of Sydney [2012], or Sacramento [2017] to witness a polarised anti-climax. I suppose not everyone can see it, right? Moving-on, it’s worth mentioning that not all full solar eclipses seem to have the same affect, or effects. The geometry of the phenomena is diversely acute. My first eclipse experience brought quite mundane personal significance. Tingling of the face; uncontrollable sobbing; the sight of white blue tentacular coronal streamers, slowly waving to-and-fro on the hypnotic frequency of solar wind – covering distances that drastically multiply the size of Earth. Many others experienced similar reactions, witnessing something that science still has distinct limitations in explaining.



Feeling as much sceptical as I do mystic, the eclipse experience in Oregon was a relief. My loop of passion and cosmic expectation became fathomable; the sense of magic less acute. Like an addict, my calloused universal scarring was getting stronger. The Oregon Eclipse Festival itself was unfortunately a fair shitstorm of an event. The organisation seemed more tailored to lining the pockets of the promoters than looking-after their patrons [who’d bought 100% of the tickets]. It was no surprise to witness an embedded celebration of monopoly at the event – having heard stories of disregarded dignity through a reputation generated by the previous Symbiosis Gathering. The memorable blueprint of the 2012 Eclipse Festival served as nothing more than the foundation on which to cash-in on the Yanks. Shameless capitalists: smoking DMT to access the “next dimension” of their bank balances… oh sorry… wrong forum. It’s not a music industry – it’s a music community, right. Hierarchy and stratification doesn’t apply to hoop twirlers and psychedelic enthusiasts… does it? Fucken hippies.


Anyway, enough of that slander. It was what it is.


Following the festival. Nabbed big discounts on overpriced tickets from a bold, town-crying scalper to see the punks of hip hop go back-to-back with an old skool critter of lore. Die Antwoord and Iggy Pop killed-it. Real wild cherry-popping, rich bitch-slapped goodness. A road trip through Washington state; volcanic scars and grunge rock history; Mt. Hood – the Timberline Lodge [Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel] and celebrating the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks in Snoqualmie alongside the unexpected release of season #3 The Return. David Lynch needs to be lynched for that black sheep ending – what a prick. Thankfully Mark Frost’s accompanying literature quelled enough frustrations in the offer of satisfying answers to questions such as “How’s Annie”. But that’s another story altogether.



A reminder: don’t travel the north-west coast of the United States on Labor Day long weekend. Every would-be American Netflix pirate prepares for the event watching The Goonies – with their kids gagged, tied to chairs; in hope of reliving youths on a holiday to Cannon Beach, Oregon. There was no worthwhile chance in making it to the water – such hordes of tourists are too unsettling. Instead, opting for a slingshot south – catching the return of Pennywise the clown and perfecting the art of free camping – the long and winding road eventually led to the hugging off ancient trees in a daze of majestic Sequoias. A truly humbling experience that stands tall alongside the beauty of Australia’s Swamp Gum/Mountain Ash giants. A few clicks down the timespan ended in the near self-amputation of two toes [120ah AGM batteries are quite heavy]. Disinfecting blown-out digits with Bombay Gin at the Yuba River. Prepatellar bursitis. Dominoes of health [atop the usual arthritic symptoms] and a general feeling of uselessness undermined by a local rural remembrance of nature’s terror, no less on the 11th of September.


The north-west American continent burns. It burns hard. There simply isn’t enough time to warn such a sparsely dense scattering of communities in hope of evacuation. Scarring of the land and people is something I thought familiar from growing-up with Australian bushfires, yet tales of Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday simply cannot paint the global picture at hand. Cocaine-fuelled property defence. Looting arsonist-cunts. Driving through the charred remains of Santa Rosa to see a mate’s grandparents returning from a respite shelter to a fucken close-call. Instant rental spikes. Insurance nightmares. Conspiracy theory sensationalists trying to blame the government. Looking woefully down a dark tunnel – the only light at the end of which promises more wildfire. Smouldering piles of ashen mess. It’s an A-grade conundrum.



Somewhere amidst this chaos, a hectic trip through Death Valley and Nevada led to a pretty epic view of the Grand Canyon and more “damn fine coffees” as the end of a 6-month Visa term approached with haste. The last month staying in the U.S. became a bit of a drag as my local friends buckled into work-mode; preparing for winter. Making a choice between Canadian frostbitten nipples and first-time tacos in México was not difficult to make. Booking tickets and organising to store most of my luggage with a friend turned into the Thanksgiving invitation after which I’d been secretly salivating for quite some time. The [convoluted] celebration was abundant, delicious and educational – setting a new familial friendship in stone. It’s hard not to love a big feast, so biggups to the Owens, who embraced my dear Auntie’s recipe for ANZAC bickies – almost instantly transforming them into ice-cream sandwiches. Blissfully unhealthy cultural marriage!



Reflecting on nearly six months in the States, it was time to formulate some postal goodies for scattered family and friends around the globe. Mind awash with experiences of love, support, bastardised electoral practice and political disharmony; the thoughts on my fingers were brimming ecstatic with newfound delights. Generally speaking, north-west Americans are very enthusiastic and accommodating people who celebrate a rich sense of humour and a love for the natural world. This is of course until you find them behind the wheel of a medium to large automobile, at which point they become some of the most dangerously vile and aggressive creatures on the planet. Raised with a 5-mile [8-kilometer] per-hour leeway on speed limits; it is the practice of millions to barrel-down highways and freeways with white knuckles on Tom Cruise-control; snake-weaving through traffic like maniacs…   …only to join crowds of idling engines in the only carpark that allows a slow inch-towards the “double-double” sized drive-thru of California’s favourite fast food. The name “In-n-out” suggests a distinct culture of reverse psychology in the States, as people are never going to be in and out of the place. Instead, one experiences heightened states of meditative awareness throughout the 30-40 minutes it takes for the chance to place an order and eventually arrive at the serving window. The menu displays a total of five items, yet orders can be made for a myriad of other options that have to be learned via word-of-appetite.



In similar fashion, a Republican anti-LGBT congressman from Columbus, Ohio had just resigned his [assumed] position after being found having sexual relations with another man in his parliamentary orifice. Wesley Goodman – in the true spirit of Thanksgiving – reminded us that a turkey is not a turkey. A national holiday obviously marking/masking the disintegration of relations between indigenous and colonial peoples is something quite familiar to my own sense of nationalism. Nonetheless, a loose consensus on this favoured American tradition is to focus on sharing both a harvest and the “idea” of a positive future. Perhaps in the case of Republicans, like Goodman it would be a shared loathing of the self… Yet in the spirit of the pilgrim’s first feast, it’s customary to hold onto your carved pumpkins loooong after their mouths go mouldy and the lights are out.



Regardless, there are still shadowed avenues of optimism in the U.S.A. Legalisation of cannabis – medicinally and recreationally – sheds light on the totalitarian approach led by the Australian government, whose policy is about as worth celebrating as so-called “Australia Day”. Simply ridiculous. While – in some circles – Thanksgiving clings to a brief moment of unified history, there’s not much honoured in Australia on the 26th of January other than lies, ignorance and binge-drinking. The colonial successors of James Cook had no feast, no thanks and no respect. No cigar, mate – change the fucken date.



Exactly one week following the giving of thanks, I found myself in the middle of México City staring through the ruins of Templo Mayor; in disgusted reverence at the monstrously beautiful octophallus known as Catedral Metropolitana. The largest cathedral in the Americas instilled the most acute sense of pure evil my heart has known thus far in life. Almost managing to walk through the entire complex wearing a fake Akubra, only the final stroll around the altar attracted security’s orders to pay my respects and remove it from the head. Following that [attempting to scale an obviously off-limits spiral staircase into one of the towers] I was ejected from the venue as a foolish grinning tourist. I learned that the conquistadors ruined what used to be an architectural wonder akin to the cities and temples of Angkor in Cambodia. Like the Khmer, the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan on a mastered understanding of the water table. While Angkor still floats proudly on its soggy slab, the “rebuilding” of Tenochtitlan into México City was from a style that – obvious to the eye – is now sinking slowly into foundational chaos. Not to mention the effects of the recent earthquake of September 19th, 2017.



Whereas spending time in the western United States was a fantastic journey, the creative juice was running low in my veins amidst so many diverting roads and impulses. Upon arrival in México, I accepted that changing some patterns were paramount if I was to successfully formulate a thesis while travelling abroad. Immediately the chronology became clear, and I decided to wait until arriving in Mérida, capital of Yucatán before diving back into the books. In consideration of earthly guidance, I hoped the peninsular would provide unconscious influence, being some of the most prolific home soil of the ancient Maya. Intentions to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal were hastily diverted into lock-down at Mérida’s Hostal Catedral, a fantastic, central, affordable hostel with a massive inclusive breakfast, comprehensive kitchen and professional staff. Upon introducing myself to other guests, I was fast-accosted by a strange little 67-year-old Alaskan-born man who’d spent his first odd decade growing-up in the town of my birth before moving back to the U.S.A. Our rooftop conversations were starkly founding to the truest of friendships one could ever hope for in life, yet I quickly developed the sense that in return for his sharing advice and wisdom, I had little more to offer than booze, food and stories.



I got pretty comfortable in Mérida. Self-sacrificial back-flipping led to the rush of Christmas, and I complimented reading sessions with adventures into the moreish chaos of the central market. Sourcing the tastes of Italy – one can eat only so many tacos – I discovered the highest quality pasta sheets and freshest ingredients I’ve ever come across in my cooking experience. Lasagne isn’t very common in México until you pay through the teeth at restaurants… even then, you might be vastly disappointed. The two I produced [to briefly pat my own back] were fucking ridiculous. It was difficult not to drink the béchamel sauce before finalising the layers of various goodies. My strange, older friend was sitting on the roof smoking a joint when I served him a slice of the second batch, and eventually he wobbled into the kitchen to tell me it was the greatest thing he’d ever eaten in his life [self-confessing to the occasional use of the remark when cooks surpass general expectations].



By this point our brains had been smashed into submission by weeks of repeated Christmas carols in the city centre [Zocalo], with a looming new year bringing hope of some respite.


I feel it’s necessary to mention that after hitherto refusing all the locals who saw my hair as a beacon for selling drugs, I happened to procure a freebie just before the eve of 2018 in return for sharing my cooking with local guests. I then met a lovely girl travelling on her “trimmers break” and we quickly agreed to split a rental car and chase parties for the new year. After dinner, we went for drinks with a few others, necking tequilas in a kind of white fever. By the early hours of the next morning [feeling unusually confident] I became engrossed in self-righteous ranting of epic arsehole proportions. I knew I was in the wrong but wanted to draw blood anyway. Absolutely vile stuff. Needless to say, the car rental was called-off and I was once again left to my own devices regarding prospects for celebrating the occasion.


Without scalding myself too heavily, I put tail between legs and had another good chat with my funny new amigo, deciding to count-in 2018 together on a taste of Hoffman’s fruit. We shared drinks and celebrated the amazing mandala of existence as stars fell-down around us like rain. It was his first trip in about thirty years. Everything happens for a reason, right? Anyway, considering the gift of nasty powder was yet to be finished, I again stepped into some bad boots and started verbally abusing cute European girls for their insistence on wearing hotpants in what was obvious to the eye as a relatively conservative community. Mi amigo – unblemished by techno snuff – gave me the faux pas, but I disregarded his opinion until my poisonous spitting developed into revelations that it was time to leave the party before someone called the cops.


High-tailing it back to a hotel I’d booked with a beautiful, troubled, somewhat impressionable Latina I’d kissed after the countdown, I fell into a messy slumber as the world began to fall under the spell of a dangerously super full moon. This culminated late on the 1st with the spewing of more intricately distasteful implications at this woman; an attempt at producing goodwill in embarrassingly spiteful fashion that once again embodied the guilty smell of my own coca-colon. By the morning of January 2nd, I was once again reduced to the form of embarrassed fool. She wouldn’t have a bar, and basically told me to fuck-off without allowing my contribution for the hotel or room service… free accommodation and breakfast, right? Not exactly.


Rinsed and wretched, I checked-into a cheap hostel and crumbled into post-dramatic stress – totally spent – sleeping about fifteen hours. The new day convinced sentiments that [while my behaviour was again out of line], spending too much time with a woman who’d admittedly dived a little too far into local magic was probably a bad idea for my future. Her little bag of black Voodoo granules contained human bones. Nonetheless, I felt surprisingly chipper upon waking; my heart set on leaving Mérida for the chill town of Bacalar, Quintana Roo. Yet, upon dropping the kids at the pool, I noticed some grim graffiti on the toilet door and before I could book the essentials, a message from my new best mate appeared, requesting assistance in the emergency ward. I got the address and sent him a picture of Putin stroking the chin of a miniature Trump before jumping in the taxi to Clinica de Mérida.



Upon arrival, I was immediately reduced to tears. My friend was on a respirator with tubes sticking-out his arms, a bowl of vomit in his lap and an almost empty urine bag dangling at the end of his catheter. The previous day – the “super” moon of the 2nd – he’d suffered his first minor heart attack at the hostel where we’d met. The hospital needed a friend present for 24 hours to fulfil their system of protocol, and I agreed [with a conflicted sense of honour] to fill these shoes. My friend’s admission to emergency cost him $200,000 Mexican Peso [about $10,000 USD] and the doctors said he needed transfer to intensive care. It was pretty fucken hectic. After a few hours, his lungs became stressed as his ribcage began filling with fluid and he started going into toxic shock. The situation was critical. I then made contact with his next of kin and easily convinced him to book the next flight to Mérida. The wheels of hope were in motion, with the hospital securing another $72,000 Peso for intensive-care admission, maxing out his credit card.


To cut a long story short, I went to the limits of capability to get him into ICU, after which my presence was forbidden outside visiting hours. Ejected from the ward, I couldn’t find a decent corner of the hospital to sleep and retreated to the hostel knowing I wasn’t allowed to visit until 11am the next day. A few beers later, I was asleep – completely exhausted. When I got to the hospital the next morning I was promptly told he’d passed-away within the hour.


I really can’t be bothered going into the finer details here, much less expect others to be bothered reading them. It seems fitting to save it for a letter of clinical disgust regarding the attitudes and financial motivations I encountered while talking to doctors during my first stages of grief. Bloody sharks, feeding from the malleability of human emotion. I will never know what truly happened in that intensive “care” ward, let’s just say there’s obvious suspicion – no attempted kidney dialysis – but I suppose I’m not a doctor. Once collected, I dragged myself to the U.S. Consulate’s imposing security checks and spoke with a lovely representative who assured me I was doing the right thing. Continuing to the airport to meet the next of kin, we introduced ourselves and fought tears in each other’s arms. That night – once my assistance was no longer required – I returned to the hostel and added to the graffiti on the back of the toilet door. The verse on the left was written in disgust a few years ago when I was overwhelmed by the bullshit spewing from my [then] housemate’s mouth. The verse on the right is the flipped coin – re-written through the experience of briefly meeting one of the best friends I’ve ever had – and losing him just as quickly.



The rest is history that needs no discussion here. All that’s left to say is I’m truly grateful to have met such a funny and insightful man in unexpected circumstances. For all the good-will he provided over 67 years, I was fortunate enough to bathe in it during the final days of his humane life. Two good spirits, in good company, sharing questionable manners and tact. When he told me, ‘a writer should be read and not heard’ – I decided to listen to him. Thank you, David Edmund Reavis.