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Buffle grass outside my hometown in central QLD
Hello readers! I tried to go easy on the doom and gloom in this mail-out in favour of things that are interesting. I kind of succeeded, I think? As always, you can save anything in her to read later in Pocket, and email me at sophie@sophiebenjamin.com.

LONGER

#Vanlife - the Bohemian social media movement by Rachael Monroe in The New Yorker
Reading time: 15 minutes
6 years ago, my dear friend Simone and her then-boyfriend left Australia to travel around the US and Canada in a van. It seemed bohemian and free-wheeling, but it definitely presented challenges. Now it's become a whole thing, and it's interesting that a choice that seemed to put one outside traditional society has become just another marketing move. So it goes. This piece is an unflinching look at the reality of one couple making a living off sponsored Instagram posts as they travel around. 

"There is an undeniable aesthetic and demographic conformity in the vanlife world. Nearly all of the most popular accounts belong to young, attractive, white, heterosexual couples. “There’s the pretty van girl and the woodsy van guy,” Smith said. “That’s what people want to see.” At times, the vanlife community seems full of millennials living out a leftover baby-boomer fantasy: the Volkswagens, the neo-hippie fashions, the retro gender dynamics."

The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who identifies them as black by Ijeoma Oluo in The Stranger
Reading time: 20 minutes
A black journalist and academic interviews Rachel Dolezal. It gets ugly, despite the author's wry humour about the whole thing. 

"For a white woman who had grown up with only a few magazines of stylized images of blackness to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to turn herself into a black history professor without a history degree, to place herself at the forefront of local black society that she had adopted less than a decade earlier, all while seeming to claim to do it better and more authentically than any black person who would dare challenge her—well, it's the ultimate "you can be anything" success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny. No wonder America couldn't get enough of the Dolezal story."

Euthanasia and palliative sedation are distinct concepts – intent matters by Xavier Symons in The Conversation
Reading time: 5 minutes
I'm a strong supporter of euthanasia, and have wondered if palliative sedation is really just another word for it -- whether doctors are just dancing around semantics. Here, a doctor lays out what he believes is the difference, and why it matters. 

"In palliative sedation, doctors administer pain relief with the primary intent of relieving pain. In the case of active euthanasia, doctors administer barbiturates with the primary intent of ending the patient’s life. It is generally said doctors should have, as their primary intent, the relief of suffering and not some goal that, while perhaps acceptable, is not within the purview of the role of doctor – such as ending a person’s life."

For many performers, holiday cruises are the new RSL by Andrew P Street in the Sydney Morning Herald
Reading time: 7 minutes

"I have a question that I ask everyone who does this job," he explains as we negotiate the complex security system to get on board. "I always ask people what happened in their life in the year before they decided to go on the ships, and the answer is almost always, 'Nothing. Oh, except I got divorced, or a close friend died, or my mum lost her battle with cancer,' or some other really disruptive emotional event that tore their life apart." 

The newspaper: journalism's fair-weather friend by Jonathan Green in Overland
Reading time: 5 minutes
The most clear-eyed and measured piece I have read by a journalist about the Fairfax job cuts and subsequent strike action. 

"Fairfax is doing, and will do, what makes some sort of solid sense for its business. It’s an uncomfortable truth for many journalists now doing hard yards on strike and their supporters rattling the can, but journalism won’t save Fairfax in its cups, just as journalism never propelled Fairfax in its heyday. That moment – that half century of slowly professionalising and self-inflating journalism feather bedded by a million used-car transactions – is over.

We need to find a way forward, and central to that will be establishing a sense in the public mind of the worth of that public-interest journalism, and, further, convincing a highly dubious public that this journalism is central to the health of their democracy."

Bisexual Adventist and former pastor Alicia Johnston contemplates ministry after coming out by Audrey Faye in Autostraddle
Reading time: 5 minutes
Alicia Johnston felt compelled to come out as bisexual after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, even though she knew it meant she would have to give up being a pastor in the Adventist church. There are a few interesting things in this interview - particularly how she thought the bible was very firm about homosexuality and same-sex marriage being wrong, but then realised that was not the case. 

“I thought, if I’m going to blow up my life I’m at least going to use that as an opportunity to give hope to people and help them see that they’re not alone, and hopefully also let it be a wake up call to people in the church that this is a big deal and they have to stop ignoring us,”

WHAT I'VE BEEN DOING

  • I've been taking photos on film again for the first time in a couple of years. I really like how it forces me to slow down and think about the image I am composing, and the best way to get the look that I want. Some of the results have been stunning. 

I'm playing in a new band called Error Margins, and we just put out our first EP. I play guitar on all songs,  sing lead vocals on two songs, share vocals with my bandmate Tom on two songs and do backing vocals on the rest. It sounds a bit like Sonic Youth mixed with The Nation Blue, and you can listen to it on Bandcamp, Spotify or the streaming service of your choice. Gatwick House is my favourite song, and if you care deeply enough, Tom and I wrote little things about our lyrics on Facebook and Instagram
Copyright © 2017 Sophie Benjamin, All rights reserved.


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