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Hi there, and welcome back to the Monthly Missive. You can save anything in here to read later in Pocket, and email me at 
I'd like to take a minute to cast an eye back over the past few years. Humour me.
This month's Missive marks four years since I started doing this email newsletter. 2014 was a bit of a lost year for me. I'd just moved into my own flat after 8 years of having housemates and did so thinking that it finally made me a "real adult". What it did make me was poor, isolated and lonely. I'd moved to Melbourne 18 months earlier and while I did know a few people here, I certainly had room to make a few new friends. The extra rent and utility bills from living alone meant I had no money to spend on my hobbies, which in turn meant I had no money to spend on a social life. I thought that I'd demonstrated that I could move to the big smoke and be self-sufficient, but what I'd actually done was isolate and financially cripple myself in order to meet some weird arbitrary standard of competence. Add a very weird situation in my romantic life to this and the result was me feeling more isolated than I was living in regional Queensland doing shift work. Since I had no money to make zines or pay for film or record music, I started up this newsletter to share all the good stuff I found on the internet (which was where I was spending a lot of my time) and in a way, to connect with people. A lot has changed since 2014 - for starters, there are way more newsletters like mine. But here I am, and here you all are. Thank you for your time and attention. I appreciate it. 


I've shared a few pieces on the opioid crisis in this newsletter, but this one by Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine looks more at the spiritual and cultural causes of the crisis as opposed to the "big pharma pushed it on us" one. Or, in his own words:  

Most of the ways we come to terms with this wave of mass death — by casting the pharmaceutical companies as the villains, or doctors as enablers, or blaming the Obama or Trump administrations or our policies of drug prohibition or our own collapse in morality and self-control or the economic stress the country is enduring — miss a deeper American story. It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it. It is a story of how the most ancient painkiller known to humanity has emerged to numb the agonies of the world’s most highly evolved liberal democracy. Just as LSD helps explain the 1960s, cocaine the 1980s, and crack the 1990s, so opium defines this new era. I say era, because this trend will, in all probability, last a very long time. The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness. America, having pioneered the modern way of life, is now in the midst of trying to escape it.

Speaking of the American modern way of life, I'd forgotten about the stoush between Bratz Dolls and Barbie Dolls in the early 00s. What a mighty tale of intellectual property theft and changing times. With changing times comes changing technology, and Melvin Kranzberg's six laws of technology are still relevant today. My personal favourite is "technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral". Anil Dash recently did a very sneaky update (or piece of plagiarism, since he didn't cite Kranzberg) of those rules, with some good additions. 

I have had a shocker of a time with private health insurers over the past year, and honestly, the more I find out about them, the more angry I become. Bupa's recent policy announcement pushes the company from "a bunch of jerks" to "a conglomerate of evil", and I really liked this doctor's explanation of exactly why it is so bad. In other medical news, we still have no good explanation of what causes Alzheimers, much less what could prevent it. There's a group of researchers who reckon inflammation could be to blame, and we might have been looking at the wrong thing all along. Scientists in the US are already beginning to examine the relationship between autoimmune disease/inflammation and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. Speaking of which, I really liked this piece from Jack Heath (who is the CEO of SANE Australia) about how, while stigma in the workplace regarding depression and anxiety is much less pervasive than it was, stigma in the workplace against people who have bipolar and schizophrenia is still very real and very damaging. I can personally attest to this. 

And it wouldn't be a Missive if I didn't cover my favourite subjects: music and country Australia. This profile of "hay runner" Brendan Farrell is thought-provoking, this one on how to be a responsible music fan in the age of streaming is instructive, and I loved this last one about shutting the hell up about talent when it comes to getting kids involved in singing and music. 



Back in January, I was lucky enough to be allowed to teach a workshop on effects pedals at Girls Rock! Melbourne, which is a week-long camp for girls, trans and non binary people aged 10-17 to come together and learn how to write songs and play in a rock band. It was a hit, and honestly, it was so much fun. It was such heart-filling and rewarding experience to see these kids and teens hooking up pedals to their guitars and amps and then stomping on them to accentuate different parts of their songs. I wrote up my teaching notes and put them on Medium, so if you've ever wanted a primer on what effects pedals are and what they do, head on over and have a read. 
Copyright © 2018 Sophie Benjamin, All rights reserved.

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