To Infinity and Beyond

Humans are arrogant creatures. We have drawn a food chain, and pencilled ourselves in at the top. We have claimed ownership over a planet that has seen billions of species – 99.9% of which are now extinct. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 155 million years before experiencing a mass extinction event – such an event that we almost surely have in our future. We know it’s going to happen, in the same way that we know we’re going to die – solid in theory, but not quite congruent with reality. Everything that has a beginning must also have an end.

It could be like 28 Days Later, and a pandemic turns us all into flesh-eating fleshbags. Or it could be like Children of Men, and everyone starts shooting blanks from their baby-making guns. Or maybe like Melancholia, in which Earth plays chicken with another planet and loses. But perhaps it’s not going to be as Hollywoodesque.

The sun is around 4.5 billion years old. It still possesses a 5 billion year supply of hydrogen (the chemical reaction changing hydrogen to helium is what powers the sun). Once the sun has converted all its hydrogen into helium, the sun will enter the next phase of its evolution: the red giant phase. As a red giant, the sun will expand and its new diameter will extend somewhere between Venus and Mars (i.e. right about here). And just like that the world won’t exist anymore. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be here for it.

In 2007, Stephen Hawking said: “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space.”

Twenty years ago, scientists were arguing the existence of planets outside our solar system, but our achievements to date include: walking on the moon, landing our creations on Mercury, Venus and Mars and a satellite that is right now at the edge of our solar system. We have the ability to detect other Earth-like planets within our vicinity, and we know that we can modify a planet’s atmosphere and temperature in order to make it habitable for humans. Technology is constantly advancing – you only need to look at an original iPhone to see just how quickly. So what’s to stop us from packing up, relocating and colonising another planet?

NASA’s annual budget is $17.7 billion – which isn’t a lot, considering the full cost of a spacesuit alone is $11 million. In fact, NASA accounts for less than one percent of the US’s federal budget.

The initial cost of a project as large as planetary terraforming would be gargantuan – not to mention the political issues that would arise: who would own the new planet? Who would be in power? Would there still be different countries or would we be one big global community?

Then, of course, there is the argument that, given that there are people on Earth who are living in famine, we should spend our time and money at home fixing issues that are currently a threat instead of focusing on problems that are potentially billions of years away. My problem with that is similar to my issue with opponents of climate change: it may not happen now, but it will happen at some stage, and we are hardly prepared.

In 2005, NASA administrator Michael Griffin said: “…the goal isn’t just scientific exploration… it’s also about the range of human habitat out from Earth into the solar system as we go forward in time… In the long run a single-planet species will not survive… If we humans want to survive for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we must ultimately

populate other planets. Now, today the technology is such that this is barely conceivable. We’re in the infancy of it… I’m talking about that one day, I don’t know when that day is, but there will be more human beings who live off Earth than on it.”

Regardless of whether we move to Gleise 667Cc or not, humans are social creatures. We will always need one another to survive. The way I see it, we can either work together on this, and make space colonisation a possibility, or we can agree to disagree on everything ever and die together. Either way, we’re all in this together and that means something.

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This article will be in Issue 11 of Mayhem Magazine.

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Why not same-sex adoption?

In Australia alone, there are 32,000 children in state care, many of whom will never go back to their families. Instead of being adopted into families that want them, the government has made adoption as hard as it can out of a fear of creating another “stolen generation”. These kids are taken from abusive homes and are put into foster care, where they go from house to house, never truly finding a place to call home. There are fewer than 400 children adopted in Australia each year, the bulk of which come from overseas. Yet this is in the “best interests” of the children, because apparently, it is better for a child to have no parents than to have gay parents.

“Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck”. When Donald Horne published these words in 1964, he didn’t mean it as a compliment. He meant that we have never earned our democracy; we have come into prosperity purely because of our geographical location. We have always done well by being conservative, but the times they are a-changing, and we must change with them.

Homosexuals are not depraved individuals – being gay is not a mental disorder. They are functioning members of society; they have jobs, pay taxes and go to school. They are just people, like you and I.

Simply having a child doesn’t automatically make you a parent – you need to be responsible, caring, loving and trustworthy. None of these things are exclusive to heterosexuals. There is no good reason to deny same-sex couples the same parenting rights as everyone else. To do so would be a display of homophobia – suggesting that gay people somehow make inferior parents.

Jessey Levey, an American Republican activist, has two mothers and says, “I am a well-adjusted heterosexual whose upbringing proves that love, not gender, makes a family… My family has strong family values. I was raised in a loving, caring household that let me be a free thinker… I’m tired of hearing that my family isn’t legitimate.”

There have been studies on the outcomes of children raised in same-sex families – the vast consensus of which shows that those children do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way. In fact, in some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over “traditional” family structures – they did better in discipline, self-esteem, and had less psychosocial difficulties at home and school. They are able to show more empathy for social diversity and are less confined by gender stereotypes. Yet same-sex adoption isn’t legal in most nations around the world.

Same-sex adoption is currently legal in only 14 countries. In Australia, it is only legal in New South Wales, ACT and Western Australia. It is illegal in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Northern Territory and South Australia. Maybe it’s just me – but there is something wrong with this picture.

Gay taxpaying, law abiding citizens should have every right to have a family in the same way that heterosexuals enjoy this right. There is nothing stopping gay couples from having children of their own via surrogacy, artificial insemination and IVF – but there are children that need homes. Children that otherwise would grow up in foster care – which is a notoriously shitty situation to be in. If the “best interests” of children were really what mattered, the government would recognise that adoption is a far greater outcome than foster care regardless of the sexual orientation of the parents.

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This article will appear in Issue 11 of Mayhem Magazine

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Reefer Madness

The following is an article I wrote for Mayhem Magazine, Issue 9. Published June 2012.

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What do Seth Rogen, James Franco, Michael Phelps, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Anniston, Richard Branson and Charlize Theron have in common? They’re all potheads, and there’s a one in three chance that you are too. While cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world, it is in Australia that the highest rates of usage are recorded. With usage that high, it is surprising that there are still so many misconceptions about the health effects of cannabis. But how did these misconceptions even come about? And how do we correct years of misinformation? In my experience, the beginning is usually a good place to start.

The use of marijuana has a long history, so I’ll keep this relatively short. Cannabis was predominantly used for medicinal purposes (anything ranging from malaria to the relief of pain during child birth), and was really only present in India, China, the Middle East, South East Asia, South Africa and South America. It wasn’t until the 1900s that the Western world took a serious interest in marijuana. From 1840 to 1900, there were over 100 papers published on its therapeutic uses. By the 1890s, medicinal marijuana use was declining due to the invention of the hypodermic syringe. This invention meant that it was now possible to inject drugs (such as opiates) resulting in much faster pain relief.

In 1925, the Geneva Convention on Opium and Other Drugs called on all signatories to restrict the use of cannabis (as well as other drugs) to medical and scientific purposes. But since no one was really using it (medicinally or otherwise), it became associated with substances such as heroin and cocaine. This association led to its flat out prohibition in 1928 and the release of a film titled Reefer Madness (originally financed by a church group with the title Tell Your Children), which was a highly sensationalist propaganda film warning of the dangers of marijuana.

Cannabis remained fairly unknown and unused until the 1960s – when it became the foundation of a new lifestyle centred on artistic expression, free love and hippies. This was the first time youth in Western society had openly experimented with mind-altering substances. The media history of drug use since then has been a series of moral panics beginning with marijuana in the 1960s, moving to heroin in the 1970s, to cocaine in the 1980s and ecstasy in the 1990s. But despite these moral panics, and a certain Government’s “War on Drugs”, marijuana has remained the most popular illicit drug since the 60s.

As a result of trying to prohibit a plant that frankly, should be legal – a number of myths have become popularised and widely accepted as fact. The most annoying and blatantly false of these are:

Myth: Cannabis has no medicinal value.

Fact: Cannabis has been proven to prevent the spread of breast cancer, reduce the intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma patients, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, reduce spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients and prevent brain cancer. It is also used to alleviate nausea in chemotherapy patients, and increase appetite in patients finding it difficult to eat.

Myth: Cannabis is harmful to your health.

Fact: No one has ever or could ever die from a cannabis overdose (whereas alcohol is linked to over 75,000 deaths per year in the US). In 1995, based on 30 years of research, the British Medical Journal concluded that “the smoking of cannabis, even long term, is not harmful to the health”.

Myth: Cannabis causes crime and aggression.

Fact: Cannabis has a quieting or tranquilising effect, rather than creating aggression. In fact, the most harmful thing a stoner is likely to do to you is eat all of your food. All of it.

Myth: Cannabis is a gateway drug.

Fact: Around 34% of Australians have used cannabis, whereas only 3% have used harder drugs – if this myth were true, there would be a much higher number of hard drug users.

Myth: Cannabis causes schizophrenia.

Fact: The Report of the Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs from Canada in 2002 stated that, “no mental pathology directly related to the overuse of cannabis has been reported, which distinguishes it from substances such as MDNA, cocaine or alcohol (heavy and repeated use of which can give rise to characteristic psychotic syndromes). Cannabis does not seem to precipitate the onset of pre-existing mental dysfunctions (schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, etc).”

In simpler terms: these myths are busted. In the face of all of this, cannabis is still illegal, and there are harsh penalties for those who partake. Even owning a bong could land you 2 years in jail, let alone possessing any actual cannabis (20 years for 500 grams). In the US, it is estimated that around 9 billion dollars worth of tax-payer money goes toward punishing cannabis related crime.

In light of the overwhelming evidence that cannabis is not as dangerous as we have been led to believe, is it not even slightly preposterous to consider that the punishments associated with it are too much? In the words of Jimmy Carter, America’s 39th President: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”

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Reclaim the Night: A Feminist Orgy of Ignorance

I’ve always thought about myself as having the potential to be an activist. Mainly because I care about things: gay rights, atheism, humanitarianism, environmental issues, mental illness…

So when I was invited to attend “Reclaim the Night”, an all-women march to support freedom from sexual violence, I said “why not?”

I was expecting some intelligent discussion, witty chants, signs, etc. What I got, however, was the worst kind of feminism.

It started nice enough, women coming together to send the message that rape is not okay, sexual abuse is not okay, domestic abuse is not okay. But from there it quickly deteriorated.

A woman stood on a platform and shouted about how scantily clad models were being exploited by men; that actresses in pornographic films were being exploited by men. That women who dress with all their bits showing, should not so much as be glanced at by men. It didn’t occur to her that maybe those women like their jobs, that maybe they even get paid, or that maybe, they just like being naked in front of people.

She then went on to say that men should not call women sluts (a fair call), but that women should call themselves sluts to own the word. Apparently, calling ourselves sluts is supposed to make men respect us more. What the actual fuck?

Then there was singing. They sang a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Midnight Special”. But here’s the clever thing… they changed the words “Midnight Special” to “Reclaim the Night”… What the actual fuck?

They chanted “2, 4, 6, 8, say no to date rape” and “no means no, yes means yes”. They wore shirts with grammatical errors (“isay who isay when…”).

Then they marched. “Women only!” they clarified. Men were not allowed. Absolutely not. NO MEN EVER. Men had to stand on the sidelines, meekly agreeing with everything they said. (sarcasm) Because that’s totally fair. I mean, it’d be different if they were trying to oppress men whilst empowering women. Right? (/sarcasm)

I marched alongside them, but I remained tight-lipped. What about men who are sexually abused? What about the men who are exploited? What about the women who like cock? What about the women who want men to check them out when they’ve gone through all the effort of trying to look hot? What about the people that like having sex?

The fact that the only opinions aired were those of feminist, man-hating, angry women made this march completely counter-productive. Bystanders sarcastically cheered them. The sarcasm was lost on the feminists, however – as, I suspect, is everything else…

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Bertram, Beggars and Bullshit

Being one of the writers for Mayhem is often fun. Here’s my latest article (due in the next issue, not sure when it’s out), so if it sounds weird, just imagine you’re reading a copy of Mayhem Magazine.

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Over the past few months, Mayhem Magazine has been surveying the average characteristics of our readers. Based on our results, we believe that the average reader exhibits the following traits: you have a great need for other people to like and admire you, you have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage, some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic, and security is one of your major goals in life.

Okay, so maybe all of that was a lie. But you kind of believed it, didn’t you?

You shouldn’t feel too bad for being so gullible, though. These are, after all, characteristics that nearly every human believe that they have. Every human is, at least to a certain extent, psychologically the same. It’s a part of who we are as a species.

Enter Bertram R. Forer. Three guesses as to his occupation. That’s right, he was a psychologist and he liked to mind-fuck you. In 1948, Forer gave a personality test to his students (which you also received on reading this article). He then gave them the results, which he claimed was a unique and in-depth assessment of their personality. He told them to mark his assessment out of 5 for accuracy. The average rating was 4.26.

But here’s what he didn’t tell them: everyone’s results said exactly the same thing. They had all been duped. Forer cashed in on the idea, and the thing that happens when you believe really vague things is now called “The Forer Effect”.

Enter Astrology. Part of the research that I didn’t actually do told me that most of you not only know your star sign, but have also read your daily horoscopes. More than once. Maybe even regularly.

Horoscopes are supposed to be able to tell you detailed details about your future based on the date of your birth. That’s not a dictionary definition, by the way. The actual definition is so bloody vague that any half-witted child could argue its legitimacy based on the same vain, self-serving delusions that religion is.

But if you’re still wondering what the connection between Mr Forer and Astrology is… The Sun and Pluto will align to give you a big kick in the head.

After receiving said kick in the head (be patient, it may take years to arrive), you should have figured out that Bertram Forer wasn’t the only guy who milked his discovery for all its worth.

At its very centre, astrology is bullshit. But under that shitty centre, is a solid pylon of psychological mind-manipulation that con men and women, like Fortune Tellers and Horoscope Writers, absolutely love inflicting upon you.

So how can you, too, become as conniving as any caravan-residing Mystic? It’s simple, really. All you have to do is tell your “subject” very vague things that could relate to anyone you know. But here’s where it gets tricky: they’re more likely to believe you if you say that your “reading” only applies to them. You also have to only list positive things about them, and appeal to their vanity. The most important thing of all, however, is to look the part – even if it means donning a cape and carrying a sceptre everywhere you go and speaking in riddles while ending every second sentence in “according to the prophecy”.

With this knowledge in mind, spare a thought for the helplessly thoughtless, the tragically clueless, and the desperately deluded. You now know that comfort is no more a friend than a veil from the truth. You are better because of this, trust me.

So now you know how to cash in on gullibility. Go forth my enlightened ones, and use your powers of manipulation for good, and not for evil (unless it seems like it would be a fun thing to do). And never forget, there’s a sucker born every minute.

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Reviewing Dylan Moran’s “Yeah, Yeah.”

If you managed to get one of the seats of the booked out Dylan Moran show, ‘Yeah, Yeah’, you may have mistaken the cynical man on stage for his Black Books character, Bernard Black – and perhaps that is why I feel somewhat disappointed in his lacklustre performance. Moran went on stage every bit the haphazard, drunken, and grumpy comic you would expect; he was still that funny Irish man and we still loved him – but his performance was very much below the standard we are used to.

 For those that know and love Dylan Moran, he is an archetypal cynic. Never seen without a drink in hand and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Dylan tends to veer toward the more observationally-grumpy type of comedy. It has served him well. As one of his fans, I can say with authority that his pessimism is the main thing we love about him. Many of us would give a lot more than $69.90 to see him in person.

So when his ‘Yeah, Yeah’ tour was announced earlier this year, tickets sold out at most venues well before opening night. I was fortunate enough to get seats close to the front. He walked on stage taking big, confident strides, smiling his characteristic smile. Without saying a word, he communicated “here I am!” and us, the crowd, communicated, “DFDKSAMAZINGITSDYLANMORAN!” And with that, the show began. The atmosphere in the room was electric, pulsating with excited anticipation.

He greeted us in his trademark way, “Hello, hello, how is everybody?” He then began speaking about the London Riots and Science and Religion and Natural Disasters – none of which are particularly humorous topics, but Dylan had us laughing for the entire duration of the show. Seeing Dylan Moran in the flesh; Dylan Moran, the man behind British sitcom Black Books, was surreal. He wasn’t as tall as I thought he’d be and he looked like he had aged ten years since his stand-up DVD ‘Like, Totally…’ was recorded five years ago. My seasoned-medical-show-watching-eyes detected that his hands were shaking uncontrollably, and he was sweating profusely. He appeared, if it’s possible, even more dishevelled than ever before.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice his growing age. Dylan himself cracked jokes about his kids not showing him enough attention, the wobbly bits on his body, and the increasing amounts of small dinner parties his wife throws now that they’ve gotten older. He came across as a man undergoing a stressful mid-life crisis. He’s getting old and he’s not happy about it. Usually, that would make for some great jokes. But his unhappiness seeped into the large gaps in his show like a red wine stain on white carpet. After an hour and a half of listening to him begin joke after joke, I realised that the punch line wasn’t going to come. He was just saying words and hoping they made sense. So why were we laughing? Maybe we just didn’t want him to feel bad.

The show was missing something. I didn’t realise what it was missing until the end, when Dylan jokingly confessed that he’d forgotten to give us the chips with our steaks – metaphorically, of course. On the surface, it was a joke. We all laughed like it was a joke. But that in itself is perhaps the biggest joke of all – because he really did forget vital parts of his act. It left this fan and those around her feeling cheated.

Would I go and see the same show again if I had the chance? Absolutely. Because although he forgot most of his jokes and wandered around on stage feeling sorry for himself – his sense of humour is still utterly brilliant (and he’s still better than Jeff Dunham).

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A rant on people: ignorance and the intellecutal.

I have to confess something. It’s something I have been trying to come to terms with for a very long time, and only now am I beginning to embrace it.

I, Cathy J. Ross, am a judgmental bitch. That being said, let’s continue to the point…

I would like to say that I have always surrounded myself with people who have a positive impact on my life. However, as much as I would like for that to be true – it isn’t. Especially not as a nineteen year old girl living in a particularly redneck area of Australia.

Townsville is the kind of area where there is only one “gay bar“, and it is frequented by drive-by egg-throwing, and shouted insults from car windows. Where the term “fucking faggots” is not the label on a pornographic video, but instead is thrown like bricks at those who have done nothing to deserve it.

The sad fact of life that I am currently trying to process is that people are ignorant, even if they are trying to being intelligent. Homophobes are dressed up as med-students and lawyers and members of parliament. Intellectuals disregard definitions for the sake of a better argument. Writers can’t spell. Artists don’t know politics. Religion is taken seriously.

Is there something wrong with my society, or is there something wrong with me?

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Wulf.

Just in case that first post turned you off. Here’s the prologue to a novel I will one day procrastinate over and never finish.

 

Wulf.

 The children were playing down by the stream. Their spot was in the shade of a large evergreen tree; the branches reaching all the way across the water. Two of the boys were wrestling each other on the bank when one fell into the water.

He fell on his back, laughing hysterically, screeching to the sky. His laughter silenced and his eyes grew wide, but they would never be wide enough to take in all that he could see.

The children on the shore were still laughing. They hadn’t seen anything yet.

In the tree above the water was a young woman who was now barely recognisable. She had been strapped to the tree with barbed wire around her wrists, ankles, neck and waist.

 

It was evident that she had still been alive when she was put there. Her struggle caused the barbed wire to lacerate her skin so much so that she was nearly cut in two.

Her head hung limply, glaring down at the child in the water. Black hair draped like a curtain, framing her face. All the teeth had been ripped from her mouth, and congealed blood stained her chin.

However, it was only her staring eyes that the boy noticed. He’d come to remember the other details in later years, when all he did was dream bad dreams, but for now, those screaming grey eyes locked onto his for aeons.

Slowly, the laughter faded from the other children, and they looked around to see what had happened to the little boy. At first they were confused, but one little girl’s scream sent them all running, leaving the boy in the water hypnotised.

By the time the adults arrived, the boy in the water was gone. There were no visible footprints on either side of the stream, so the township assumed he’d been taken by the current. But had they cared to investigate more thoroughly, they might have noticed that the young woman’s staring eyes were no longer grey, but brown.

The same brown that the little boys had been.

At the End of August

This is my first post here, and as such I think it should contain something personal. The following is a short piece of prose I wrote a lifetime ago, I’m a different person now, but sometimes I wish I wasn’t.

It was night time, and she was wearing sunglasses. The moon was dim, the stars were bright and the grass shimmered beneath our feet. The ocean played softly as background noise as I gazed at her. She wore pants of the brightest red and they showed off her legs, a black top revealed small, yet delightful cleavage.

 Her lips were full and rose in colour; I wanted to kiss them deeply and passionately. Yet I daren’t. She was beautiful in her own deformed way. But she wasn’t mine. I didn’t have a right.

 This encounter was a goodbye, she had said. Au revoir, auf wiedersehen, la revedere. She had laughed sardonically on the telephone, Adios.

 I arrived to see her bathing in the moonlight, barefoot and wearing sunglasses. She didn’t look up as I sat down next to her. I looked at her and saw the white buds of headphones in her ears and plucked one out. She turned her head in my direction, but I couldn’t be sure if she was looking at me.

 Listen, I began to say. But she shook her head ever so slightly and sat up.

 I know this girl, she said softly. And she sings sad songs. She turned to face me and whispered, and she knows this boy. And he sings along.

 A piece of hair fell down onto her face, so I brushed it off with my finger tips. Her hands moved up to hold mine for a second. She then lifted the sunglasses from her face and I could see shimmering streaks running down her cheeks.

 Getting to her feet, she pulled off her pants and her top and she began to jog toward the ocean. It wasn’t until she was at the cliff edge that I began to comprehend her intention. I called her name quietly before she disappeared from my sight.

 I looked down again at my hands and the blood on them. Because it was night time and she was wearing sunglasses so I wouldn’t see her cry.

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