“Do, or do not. There is no try.” Yoda’s raspy voice is unmistakable as it blares from my iPhone 5, kindly alerting me of a new message in my inbox. I chose this particular ringtone because the catchphrase always manages to elicit a cheeky grin out of me regardless of an email’s contents. It also echoes the desperate cries of Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” and perhaps answers his question inadvertently. Act, or do not act; no point in trying unless you give it your all. With Yoda’s wise words in mind, I replied almost immediately to the Get Published invitation so that I can ‘do’ and not just try.
Being an author has been a lifelong dream of mine ever since the day I discovered the magic and wonder of words. To be immortalised in print and be read by others, not just in this lifetime but by generations to follow, would surpass winning gold at the Olympics in my books. This is because my sport is of a different kind; it requires exercising the muscles of the mind to produce text, or more precisely, literature. Orwell, Huxley and Coleridge were my schoolboy idols, the champions who coached me in the skilful art of writing. Now that the opportunity to publish has presented itself for the first time in my life, I am running as fast as I can to the finish line, hoping against hope, that I may stand proudly on the podium and collect a medal. As my quivering pen leaked my overflowing thoughts on to the page, line after line, paragraph after paragraph, I sensed that victory was on the horizon, to be punctuated at long last with a final full stop. But just when I thought I had crossed the line and could throw my hands up in the air to rejoice, I realised that writing was not a sprint but a marathon. I still had a lot of running left to do.
To run successfully on the literary racetrack requires a new strategy on my part. I could no longer rely on the romantic maestros and modernist mentors of my youth. I now required a training regime that was both flexible and systematic, and can overcome the many hurdles I was bound to encounter while “travel(ing) in the thinking that writing produces” (St Pierre 1997, 408). So after careful consideration I have decided to tell my story rhizomatically and reconstruct my memories in a “spiral moving outwards from unjoined thoughts” (De Carterer 2008, 236). By using excerpts or fragmentary ‘field notes’ from my LiveJournal – aptly named Homoskedasticity (2004-2010) – I hope to introduce ‘the self’ as the subject of my inquiry (Atkinson 2001, 307), making the researcher himself the ‘unit of analysis’ (Mezirow 1978 cited in Taylor 2008) in an autoethnographic context (Ellis and Bochner, 2000).
I first heard the word ‘homoskedasticity’ during a first-year Econometrics class. The lecturer was quite animated in his exposition of the concept and how it differed from heteroskedasticity. To this day I still remember the thrill in his voice as he described how much he loved inserting the homo/heteroskedastic dichotomy at dinner party conversations or other social gatherings. It was only natural that I became enamoured with these two words, if only to flaunt them in front of friends. Soon I was to learn that homoskedasticity occurs when a sequence of random variables plotted on a graph have the same or constant finite variance. It is also an important assumption in statistical modelling for it simplifies many mathematical computations and consequently provides more accurate descriptions of the world it tries to model, given the available data. So the concept of homoskedasticity immediately appealed to me, not just because of its ‘homo’ prefix, but because of its favourable quantitative attributes. In comparison, its ‘hetero’ counterpart is said to seriously violate ideal modelling conditions and thus was considered inferior.
In the midst of my econometric enlightenment came the advent of the ‘web log’ or ‘blog’ for short. My online blogging activities were captured via LiveJournal (http://malchick78.livejournal.com/profile) for the period of six years and survives to this day, although my last entry was dated 2010-10-09 15:32. Interestingly, this final post was entitled ‘More Than Words Can Say (Part I)’. Looking at my bio on the website now after all these years, I can’t help but chuckle at its absurdity:
I am time varying, seasonally oscillating and dynamically changing random variable, characterised by generalised autoregressive conditional heteroskedasticity and stochastic volatility.
The polysyllabic word, homoskedasticity, therefore became my living and breathing embodiment in the digital world where anyone can be an author. The body of work that I produced, although not beautifully crafted masterpieces, are nevertheless valuable resources for research. I didn’t know it at the time but what I was writing, in hindsight, was data. Data to be collected, analyzed and reproduced in the hope of making sense of it all and to find meaning, not only for myself but for others. As an embodied being in the digital age and culture we live in, what a historical and anthropological minefield I have rediscovered in the moment-to-moment, concrete details of life through my LiveJournal entries!
One moment that best defines my homoskedastic self is my first Mardi Gras parade when I marched with my local ACON ‘Fun and Esteem’ support group in 1998. As a young and unworldly twenty-year old from the south-western suburbs of Sydney, I composed the following poem the morning after the parade.
The moment, the feeling, the uncontrollable
Clear emotions and yet nothing certain
Waiting for the inevitable surrender
The excitement, the indescribable
The masses have come to show their support
And still the undeniable suspicion
Lurks like a dark shadow
Silhouettes remain, hostility awaits
Here alone with all these people
Sharing one distinct similarity
But somehow overwhelmingly different
A nexus already broken
Yearning for accepting or
Challenging the ambivalence of gender?
I hold the banner with strength and courage
Qualities I never knew I had
And despite the fear shooting through my body
I begin to overcome all constraints
Physical, spiritual, individual
Our bodies slowly merge into one
But relying on each other’s differences
To hold the body together
The moment, the feeling, the uncontrollable
Mixed emotions by everything definite
Love and acceptance prevail, gender irrelevant
The body together alone