Tuesday, 12 September 2017

In which I watch too many vintage films

(So admittedly I haven't watched a vintage film in a while, but it was an obsession of mine during the uni holidays and I can't wait to get into them again.)




I find vintage films fascinating. They're a glimpse into the past that seem more... intimate? than books. (I'm definitely not bashing books, because I'm pretty sure if you cut me open crumpled pages and ink stains would fall out.) I don't know why, but when I watch a vintage film, especially the older ones, I feel like I fall into another world, another time. And, in a way, I guess I do.

Let's talk about The Astronomer's Dream (1898). It's a French, silent, black-and-white film that follows an astronomer's dream (plot twist, I know). The film is only three minutes long, but each time I watch it's like I've slipped from this world into another, where dreams and nightmares and the waking world are one in the same. The plot throws logic over the balcony and watches it shatter on the tiles far below, and I found myself jumping with it just to see what would happen. It's weird and wacky and wonderful.

Maybe I'm being dramatic. (I probably am, to be honest. (Maybe (definitely) I stayed up too late to write this and none of this makes any sense.)) But maybe by taking away the distractions of sound, CGI, colour, decent characters even, we can catch a glimpse into a time when humans longed to tell stories and scratchy frame-by-frame films were just another way to do it. These films remind us of our surreal, foggy daydreams and of the monsters in our heads, they point to a deeper, simpler version of the universe where logic doesn't exist in a way we can understand it. 

Or, maybe it's just a black-and-white film.

Some of my favourites:

The Astronomer's Dream (1898)  
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Frankenstien (1901)  
Gojira (Godzilla) (1954)
The Haunted House (1908) 
Rebecca (1940)

What's your favourite black-and-white film? 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Australian university (I tried to think of something witty to put in brackets here (but (obviously) failed))

I've been neck-deep in uni stuff for the past few months (hence why I've been the absolute worst blogger ever, I swear I'm not ignoring you all but I just need another five hours in my day (said every uni student ever)) and thought it'd be interesting to see how Australian university compares to other universities. I've never been to a university in another country, so if you've been please let me know in the comments how it compares. (Also, obviously my university is just one uni out of many in the country and they're all going to be different.)

Many thanks to my sister, who (grudgingly) agreed to this photoshoot.

Allons-y! 

(And let's do a list, because I like lists.)

1. I have two semesters between March and October. 
This is different from mostly everyone else due to our seasons. You can imagine how confused I am with all the back-to-school stuff that's going on right now when I'm smack in the middle of my last semester. 

2. I typically take four subjects per semester. 
Last semester I took three, which was a bit unusual. The full workload is usually four. (This semester I'm taking Applied Calculus, Fundamentals of Energy and Electricity, Project Investigation and Materials for Engineers.) 

3. Mostly everything is online. 
I can access all my materials online, schedules, assessments, dates, homework, lecture slides, lectures, tutorials... the list goes on and on. Pretty much everything minus the textbooks and exams (and even then sometimes we have our textbooks online and the occasional online quiz) can be accessed via the Internet. That means if I miss a lecture, I can watch it at home once the lecturer has uploaded it. 

4. I only have one lecturer on-campus. 
We have a kinda of giant Skype thing going on, so I watch the lecturers from other campuses give the lecture through a TV in the lecture theatre. We have tutorials where tutors help us work through questions, but for the most part our lecturers aren't there. 

5. We call our lecturers by their first names. 
I think it's because the university wants us to feel on the same level as the lecturers and important - which we're not - so we don't call them 'professor' or anything. I was a tad bit disappointed about that, to be honest, because I wanted to be like Harry Potter and call everyone 'professor'. (But I'll survive.)

How is university run in your country? 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Hazy (a poem)

Today is hazy.



Bushfire clogged skies
Blood-red sun
Blackened dreams
Ocean and sky melt together
(the artist smudged the pastels too much)

The dome of sky encases me
Distances fade into smog
It's acidic and burnt and somehow beautiful
Just like growing up

I have chipped nail polish
And manage to get lipstick on my forehead
I make giant paper hats and wear my hair in pigtails 
Because I think I've forgotten how to be a kid 
Lost between tax returns and picking up sour milk 

They gave us an umbrella made of tar
And once we taught ourselves how to open it
We realized it wasn't much use against the smoke

No one told me being a grown-up 
Was hugs from the friends I call family
The men who stare at me 
(head down walk faster) 
Being afraid of chocolate
And wet dog noses at 6am 

We are hazy minds
Hazy people
Hazy lives
(or maybe that's just me)

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Feminism, femininity, fighting stereotypes (and not caring what others think)

Alright, so I've been wanting to write this post up for a while, mostly because it's been weighing pretty heavily on my mind as I go through several different life transitions. (And I realise this is a tad bit political and my last few posts have been going that way as well, especially with the immigration series, but I promise this isn't the future of this blog.) Between  high school, university, part-time work and professional work, I've been wearing quite a few different hats lately. During this time, I've found it really difficult to balance my feminist views and femininity, while fighting the stereotypes that comes with spending the vast majority of my waking life in male-dominated activities. 




Before we get too far, let's define feminism. Feminism is just another word for equality. It isn't man-hating. It isn't bra-burning. It's the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities, that girls should be able to go to school, men can be stay-at-home dads, that women can work or not work, that the phrases "man up" or "fight like a girl" shouldn't exist anymore. I spend quite a lot of time studying engineering and practicing jiu jitsu, both male-dominated activities. I often have to use my feminist ideals to get through the occasional class, like when I'm sitting in a lab at uni and 95% of the people there are men. (Needless to say, I felt a little out of place.) Maybe I'm one of the few women there, but that doesn't mean I deserve to be there any less, or that I'm any less competent than everyone else is. 

I've found that as I go through my day, people put me in a box and leave me there. You're a female studying engineering? Oh, you must be less competent than the males in your class. You do martial arts? Oh, you must be a tomboy. You work in a pharmacy? Oh, you must be a pharmacy student. (Or even worse, you're just a check-out chick.) I've found that I constantly surprise people when I tell them that no, those boxes, those stereotypes, are wrong. That's not me. (I've gotten so many shocked looks when I say I do martial arts, it's hilarious.)

I've had to fight to be respected at school, the gym, the pharmacy (by customers, not my coworkers). A lot of that drive has come from my feminist beliefs, that I deserve to be there just as much as anyone, that I don't do male-dominated activities to get a boyfriend but because I'm there because I love it. (Yes, I have gotten that one before.) 

I think this feminism, this fight, has really impacted my femininity. A lot of the time, people don't respect women who dress up because girly-girls can't do math and like to go shopping and marry rich. A woman who wears lipstick can't go to engineering school and be respected, right? For years now, I've been downplaying my femininity to try and be respected. I didn't wear makeup, didn't dress up, didn't watch romance movies. (I still don't watch romance movies, though, so that's just me.) I forced myself to be tough, to be one of the guys. (This was probably influenced by my high school as well, which tried really hard to make us young ladies. (Excuse me? Young ladies? I'll be as tomboy-y as I like, thank you very much.))

Then, I began going the opposite direction once I hit uni, started working "professionally", and spent more time doing martial arts. People expected me to be a tomboy because I was in male-dominated spaces, so I pushed back. Bright red lipstick? Check. Pink nails? Check. Nice clothes? Check. I dared anyone to comment that I didn't belong with each shade brighter of lipstick I wore to class and wore my femininity around my neck like armour.


To be honest, though, it was exhausting. How could anyone keep up with defying gender expectations imposed by society? Through this whole thing of fighting the boxes society keeps trapping me in, I've begun to realise that my femininity is nothing to be ashamed of. Traditional femininity isn't a weakness, it's a strength. I'm going to have to fight to be respected regardless of whether or not I wear bright pink lipstick or dye my hair purple, so if I enjoy it then why don't I just go ahead? People are going to judge me no matter what I do. Being kind, caring and empathetic are also traditionally feminine traits, and since when are those qualities something to hide away? 

I'm done with fighting gender roles for the sake of fighting gender roles. I'm done with caring about what other people think of me. I'm going to wear lipstick because I like wearing lipstick and because I love feeling pretty. I'm going to pull my gi on and have bruises and look disgusting because I love fighting. I'm going to walk out the house without a drop of makeup on because I wasn't put here on this earth to look pretty. I'm going to keep writing and solving math problems and writing science reports and taking pictures and helping people find the best medicine for them and watching educational YouTube videos and playing with little kids and watching action movies because I love it. 

People aren't "masculine" or "feminine", people are people and people are wonderful balls of beauty and kindness and science and poetry and evil and forgetfulness and love. I don't need to go out of my way to show I'm feminine or masculine just because of the activities I take part in and how other people see me. Screw that. From here on out, I'm just going to be little old me. 

Do you find yourself fighting societal stereotypes? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt out of place because of your gender? Has your feminist (or non-feminist) views ever impacted your femininity/masculinity? 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Why the Doctor is such a powerful character

Doctor Who is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. Yeah, the special effects are kinda lame most of the time and the quality of writing isn't always 100%, and maybe the physics aren't always entirely accurate and it's always a bit strange. After all, it's a British show about an alien called the Doctor, who takes human companions on adventure through space and time in a blue box, having adventures and solving mysteries. 

Where was I going with this again? 

Oh yeah. I remember now. Powerful character. 

Source

We live in a day and age where war is a constant. If there isn't a war looming on our borders, there's a war in a far-off land that we're sending troops to. War topples buildings, orphans children, destroys futures. This is the world we live in, and we are going to live in it, at least for the foreseeable future. 

This is why I love the Doctor. 

The Doctor has two main choices of weapons: his sonic screwdriver and his intelligence. He uses his sonic screwdriver to fix crazy sci-fi looking thingys, to hold open doors that are threatening to shut, to analyse, to stop submarines from exploding and all that cool stuff. I love that. Heroes in our stories have swords that glow when enemies are near, lightsabers, weapons of mass destruction, wands capable of inflicting torture and death with a single spell. And here we have a character who uses a sonic screwdriver to achieve his goals. It has no pointed ends like a regular screwdriver, so it cannot be used as a traditional weapon. 

He uses his intelligence (along with his sonic screwdriver) to get out of tricky situations. One of my favourite quotes is, "You want weapons? We're in a library. Books are the best weapon in the world. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have. Arm yourself!" How awesome is that? He's using his education to fix problems, to protect the innocent and fix injustices. I love this because it's so close to Malala Yousafzai's philosophy of creating peace through educating children. 

Finally, the Doctor has incredible ideals. He pushes for creativity, wonder, adventure. He's the embodiment of lawful good, where he'll save your life and obey the law at the same time. The Doctor wants to save everyone, every time, and it breaks his heart when he can't. Because how can you save everyone and keep the laws of space and time, and not give up bits of yourself at the same time? He deeply believes that everyone has value, that everyone is important which is a value we don't always have in today's society when people are defined by their BMIs, GPAs, finances. You aren't defined by numbers. Human beings have so much value that can't be measured, which is something that the Doctor shows again and again. Sure, he fails sometimes to live up to his ideals. That's what makes him such a great character. That's what makes him human (despite him being an alien but whatever). 

When we look in a funhouse mirror, we see the Doctor's distorted face staring back at us. He's the best of humanity, fighting for injustice with education, creativity, tools and recognising the intrinsic value of every human being. This is what we should strive for as humanity, as individuals. The Doctor is a powerful character in a world crying for someone to look to, and that's a pretty beautiful thing.  

(Please note, I wrote this post before 13 was announced. (I am so totally on board with that.))

What do you think of the 13th Doctor? Are there any other characters who are powerful like the Doctor? 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Immigration (part 3): In becoming Australian residents

Check out parts one and two if you haven't already!

My family and I are extremely blessed to be Australian residents. In case you don't know, there are a few different "levels", if you will, of being a resident of Australia. A lot of people come to Australia on a working holiday visa, where you can stay for a certain amount of time and work and travel. You can't work for more than 6 months for a single employer. We came on a 457 visa, where we could stay and work for a much longer time, basically living here. (The Australian government isn't giving out any more 457 visas anymore to protect Australian jobs.) 


I suppose it was a little... iffy, being on a 457. Our staying in the country entirely depended on Dad keeping his job, because work was sponsoring us and if we didn't have a sponsor we couldn't stay. It's not like Dad was bad at his job, in fact he was great at it, but his work depended on the mining industry which has since declined in our area. A mine closing three hours from where he worked could have been the end of our Australian adventure, but thankfully God had other plans.

After being on a 457 visa for three years, we could apply for residency. Being an Australian resident is awesome. As I see it, it's way harder for the government to deport us if we're residents. Our 457 had an expiry date, residency doesn't. We also got access to stuff like Medicare and could move wherever we wanted (with our 457 we had to stay in rural Queensland). 

The process of becoming a resident was a bit tricky. I'm quite thankful my parents were willing to do the hard work of sifting through the paperwork and paying the seemingly never-ending bills. After the paperwork (which I'll admit to helping only about 2% with, it was awesome on my part) we had to have our medicals. 

I personally am not a huge fan of having medicals done. I know I'm healthy, surely that would mean everyone else knows I'm healthy? Right? Right?!? But whatever, I suppose. I was willing to do quite a bit to get residency. 

We had to take a weekend and drive to a bigger town because they don't do the tests in our little town. (I was rather annoyed because I had a math exam coming up, so I brought my textbook and studied before bed. (Neeeerd!)) 

We went to a medical centre and waited for ages before seeing the doctor. He was super nice, and I quite liked him. We had to do urine tests, then the doctor had us all stand in a circle in his office and do different exercises, like squatting or twisting our hips different ways. He checked our lungs, and Mom, Dad and I had to have blood tests to test for Hep B. I was not a fan of the blood test. I tend to be a fainter (that's a story for another time) but THAT TIME I DIDN'T FAINT I'M SO PROUD OF MYSELF. 

After that, it was a simple task of waiting for the medicals to be approved and for the paperwork to come through. It was such a relief to have residency and to not have to worry about being deported, because even though it wasn't likely it was always in the back of my mind. I suppose residency gave me the freedom to stop worrying about Dad losing his job one day and us packing up our lives and leaving the next. 

The next step is getting our citizenship. Mom, Dad and I have already taken the citizenship exam (they gave us 45 minutes to do 20 questions, and I finished it in 4. Probably not the hardest exam in the world) (my younger sister had to do an interview, and my brother was too young to do anything) and now we just have to wait for the paperwork to come through. When we get citizenship, I can get a loan from the government for university, and I'll also be able to vote and get an Australian passport. Dudes, I cannot wait to get a second passport. I'll get dual citizenship, so I'll finally get a spy and have more than one passport. 

Becoming residents, and eventually citizens, will be pretty epic. I am and always will be thankful for this opportunity that has been granted to me through so many different people, from my family and parents, to my friends who've supported us through this transition and to the Australian and Canadian governments who've allowed us to change countries and continue with our education and lives. Not everyone has been given this chance, and I'm so blessed to be one of the lucky few. 

Well, that wraps up the immigration series for now. Do you have any questions for me? Leave them in the comments and I'll try to answer them in future posts. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

So I realize I just did a movie review not too long ago, but honestly I can't help myself. By now, you should know I'm a massive Spider-Man fan and I couldn't let the opportunity to post about the new movie pass by. 

My life has been infinitely better ever since Sony and Marvel made a deal to bring Spider-Man back into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man is my favourite superhero, and to see him swing around with Iron Man and joke about Captain America while saving the world and being generally awesome has been a dream come true, hence why I couldn't wait to see the new movie. 

Source

Spider-Man Homecoming was amazing. It wasn't the deepest movie, in the sense of an emotional rollercoaster that some movies take me on, but that tends to be a trend with Marvel movies. Despite that, I adored it. (My sister was constantly shoving me to get me to stop laughing because apparently I was the loudest person in the cinema. (I have no regrets.)) 

Spider-Man himself was everything I've hoped for. He was funny and out of place and didn't fit in, he didn't know what he was doing, he was just figuring it out as he went along. He made mistakes and made quips while he fought, he was disappointed in himself and still tried to do the right thing at the end of the day. I also loved that keeping his secret identity wasn't a huge deal like it was in the other movies. Sure, it was an aspect but it wasn't a repetitive plot point. 

The villain was one of my favourites in the MCU. He was just a dude, doing the wrong things for the right reasons. He wasn't the scariest villain, but I still liked him which isn't something I can say for most Marvel villains. 

One thing that I was so, so, SO pleased about was that no one (*cough* love interest *cough*) got kidnapped. That seemed to be a recurring theme in the other Spider-Man movies, a recurring theme I didn't appreciate. Actually, this wasn't like the other Spider-Man movies. It was a different take on Peter Parker, one I really enjoyed. (I found Tobey Maguire to be whiny and self-absorbed while Andrew Garfield was snarky (I liked the snark as well tbh (I'm not a fan of Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man if you haven't picked up on that))). There were subtle references to other characters in the Spider-Man universe, amazing diversity and one really great scene involving The Blitzkrieg Bop and Spider-Man running to stuff constantly. 

I really, really loved this movie, and am thankful he's finally returned home to the MCU. 

Have you seen Spider-Man Homecoming? Are you sick of the superhero movies yet?