Meredith Lewis
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It’s official: Mr Brain needs a holiday

Welcome to my end of year blog. I have spent the last week holidaying on the Gold Coast – many thanks to the rellos who provided the free accommodation (without which I could not have afforded to go away at all). I haven’t had a proper holiday for years. Granted, I visit my parents often and enjoy doing that. But, following a stroke several years ago, my Mum needs a lot of support. My father is her carer so, by extension, he needs it too (if Mum and Dad get enough support then they motor along very nicely!). This means that my visits to my parents, as much as I am happy to undertake them, have an element of effort or obligation to them. Stooging around on the beach for the last week, taking dips in the pool, spa and sauna, and spending too much money on food I didn’t cook, living in an apartment that I won’t have to clean and just generally being in an area that is quite, quite different to my home town of Melbourne – this has all been so nice,and has made me realise just how much of a holiday I really did need.

It has, in some ways, been a tough year. For most of the year I was manager of a neighbourhood house. This was an intense experience. The neighbourhood house did a lot for the community it was situated in, and was staffed by some really excellent people. The life stories of some of the valiant souls who turned to the neighbourhood house for support and learning were pretty amazing.  I learnt a hell of a lot about the community sector, the adult community education sector, working with local government, and, in particular, governance in community based organisations. In October this year I decided to leave the neighbourhood house for reasons that were compelling, but which I do not wish to go into here in detail. Suffice to say that there were challenges looming that I felt that I didn’t have the resources to deal with. Don’t get me wrong – I dohave some great resources and skills in my armoury, but the particular challenges facing the house, internally and externally, were of a nature that I could do nothing about. The decision to leave was an absolute harrowing one, and I felt dreadful about not being able to help the house more. But I felt absolutely compelled to go.

I quickly picked up more work – I am now employed part time as a project worker for the Darebin Overseas Students Association (DOSA) capacity building project. This entails my working with a community of overseas students who either live or study in the City of Darebin. DOSA aims to support these students, and, in order to survive, has to organise itself from a community movement or loose network of people into a more formally organised group. My initial challenge was, and still is, to make contact with representatives of this community and to gauge their needs and ideals. Then the name of the game will be to assist the leaders of this community to investigate just what sort of a group they will be and how they can plan to achieve their aims. So far, the project is proving to be enjoyable and busy (not a complaint!). The students I am working with and talking to are lovely; and smart as whips. There are far more questions than answers for DOSA right now, but that’s OK. I’m quite interested to see where we end up!

An additional benefit to working on this project is that it is close to where I live. I can walk from my flat in Thornbury to my desk in Preston in 40 minutes at the maximum! I have enjoyed living in the City of Darebin for the past few years; it is nice to be rediscovering the area as a local worker now. I am based at the Darebin Information, Volunteer and Resource Service (DIVRS) which is auspicing DOSA this year. DIVRS is a well-run and calm work environment and the other staff and volunteers are pleasant people. I currently work 18 hours a week spread over 3 days, and my contract runs out at the end of next September. I decided to just work with DOSA until the end of 2011 so that I could properly get my head around what was required in that project. I must admit also to enjoying (and needing!) the long rejuvenating 4 day weekends. During next year I will have to be looking out for extra work in order to be able to boost my small income, and also to help me make the transition into another job when the DOSA contract is up next spring.  ( www.divrs.org.au/dosa )

Next week will be spent at my parents’ place in rural southern New South Wales, near Albury and Rutherglen and the New South Wales and Victorian border. My sister and, hopefully, her son will be joining us for the Christmas-New Year’s holiday period. The block in the small country town where my parents live is a blackspot – there is no internet or mobile phone coverage. So after today I will be off the air until the New Year. I brought my laptop with me to Queensland (where I am writing this now with the sound of the surf thundering away in the background) anticipating that I would be wanting to write blogs. But, apart from making a few notes on the use of martial arts in The One,I have done very little writing. My brain wouldn’t settle to it. I have realised that it’s tired, and that it, too, needs a couple of weeks break. So the fact that I won’t be able to post heaps of blogs is a moot point anyway.

But I will definitely be back into the blogging next year. During the last few years, which have not been easy, the blogging’s power to distract me from any petty tensions or problems has been a true sanity saver. Because I pretty much focus on writing about kung fu movies and their use of choreography, physical performance and aesthetics geared towards accommodating the kinetic, the blogs have been a fun and non-demanding place where my creative instincts and the experience and insights gained during my past career in the arts industry can live. The blogging has been highly and compellingly enjoyable, even while it’s intellectually hard work. ( www.dangerousmeredith.wordpress.com)

My main blogging project has been to write a blog on every single one of Jet Li’s films. I admire this artist – as an ex hoofer I can’t go past his elegant movement dynamic and subtle mastery of technique. This was something I coveted as a young dancer. But I also chose his films because, being so well known even in the west, I knew that his films would be readily buyable or rentable. He also worked alongside some great other physical performers in his Hong Kong films – people who are maybe less well known than him but still really great performers in their own right – as well as some brilliant choreographers, and these are definitely worthy of investigation. I was also intrigued (and horrified) as to how his career went off the boil creatively when he started making films in the west. His has been an interesting, if unfortunate, career trajectory. What happened there? What went wrong?

I started writing these blogs in 2008 (I think) anticipating it would take me a few months. I had no idea that it would take me a few years! It has taken me a lot of writing to untangle what I thought about some of the films. When I started I anticipated that I would write a lot about the choreography in the films, a little about the performance dynamics and narrative techniques (much maligned in kung fu films by many westerners), and also focus on tracing the development of Li as a performer. This last I have not written about as much as I thought I would – as much as I love watching Li it has not been the compelling blogging theme I thought it would be. But I have definitely written about the other themes, particularly about the choreography. I am in the home straight of this project, and have about 10 or so films to write about. I am starting to look at the films Li made in the west, alongside a few great Asian films, and in doing so I realise that I am more and more thinking about how the west encounters, views, evaluates and uses something exotic. When the Li filmography project is over I am not sure what I will move onto as a blogging theme, but I have a feeling that it will be to do with the storytelling techniques in martial arts movies as this is a theme that has surfaced again and again during the blogs I have written so far. If you give over large chunks of screen time to choreographed movement, what effect does this have on narrative structure, performance dynamics and mise en scene?

So… who knows what 2012 will bring? Working with DOSA and blogging on the weekends for sure. But, for the first time in a long time, there is time and brain space left over after I have finished doing these things and I can see that I will soon have completely regained the energy reserves I will need to take advantage of that extra time and brain space. Nature hates a vacuum. I am curious as to how the empty spaces in my life will fill up in 2012.

Merry Christmas and happy new year to you all. To my offline friends – I will have more time and energy for you next year and I look forward to seeing more of you. To my online friends, I will continue ‘seeing’ you in 2012. I do not aggressively promote my blog and so never expect many people to read it. To those hardy few who doslug their way through my purple prose – Thank You! To know that you’re interested fills me with delight and I always value your comments. A big Thank You also to those on the Heroic Sisterhood page who encourage me (especially Achillesgirl and Athena) – I love hanging out on this page and always look forward to seeing what our gloriously diverse group of Heroic Sisters will post. So happy holidays, people, and I will see you on the other side!

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I am quite addicted to martial arts movies, which is odd when you consider that I hate violence. But when I declaim my love for these films my offline friends s

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