If I Were a Carpenter

Posted in 1 with tags , , on March 3, 2013 by josieemery

It’s interesting that when I started this blog I subtitled it ‘A writer’s life, work and ever-evolving identity.’ Interesting because I no longer see my identity through the lens of ‘writer’. Interesting because even though I was prepared to shift my identity from ‘male’ to ‘female’ I needed to hang on to something of my past as an anchor. Sure, I never abandoned my football team despite changing cities. I needed that identity as ‘A Crows Fan’ more than I needed the identity of ‘male’. Even though I have no desire to visit the city where my football team resides.

But ‘writer’, that was different. Somehow whatever I went through, whatever I shed or adopted or grew into or was challenged by could be dealt with by understanding that, as a ‘writer’, I was an observer with a mission: to experience, observe and report upon my condition.

But my attempts to use those observations as the basis for ‘writing’ met with resounding disinterest. And a writer is surely someone who writes to an audience – not to the void. In despair at the disinterest I gave up writing. Alone on a mountain I was forced to face myself without a defining lens.

All through my changing life there was something else I’d never let go. Something physical: my father’s, grandfather’s and my own woodworking tools. I’d carried them from Adelaide to Sydney to Maldon. And the skill, ability and knowledge to work with them and transform timber into furniture.

As the ‘writer’ identity crumbled like Ozymandias’s statue I found myself in need of furniture. I had no money. But I could scrounge old timber and I had the tools – which had been in storage for a year and not used the previous 3 years. Which had come from Sydney to Maldon in a van with my books and clothes.

I started up my grindstone and cut new edges on the blades.

I made a table. I made a bench. I made a cabinet.

And a new ‘identity’ rushed up through my working hands as I slid my grandfather’s Jack plane over the old wood, or my dad’s No 6 jointing plane, or used my own biscuit jointer. I felt a surge of reconnecting with the neglected masculine line of my life. I was a Jointer, a Carpenter, a Cabinet Maker. I was a Maker of things. Someone who brought new identity to pieces of old and abandoned timber.

Somewhere in the Tao Te Ching it says that the carpenter who understands the Way works all day and his tools never grow blunt. The wood is one with him – just as the Gnostic Gospel of St Thomas recalls Jesus saying that he is as much in the wood as in the hands that work the wood.

So it is with me. carpenter 3carpenter 2carpenter 1

The Olympics? Just another reality TV show.

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by josieemery


The television version of the Olympiads is no longer the broadcast of a sporting festival but a form of reality television. Once this is grasped then the behaviour of media and audiences is explicable. The tears, the dummy-spits, the outbursts, petulance, rage. These are the fodder of reality television. And, of course, the indignant responses of infuriated audiences is simply part of the loop.

For the Games to work as reality television requires cameras to have immediate access to private moments of the athletes (and sometimes their parents in the stands). At the moment when an athlete is at their most exhausted and vulnerable, that’s where the real ‘gold’ is found.

My first intimation of the way sporting television was moving was in 1985 when I covered the inaugural Adelaide F1 Grand Prix. Drivers were raced from the seats of their cars into the media tent to be debriefed the moment they’d completed their circuit. I watched Aynton Senna stumble into the glare of the camera lights immediately after having set the fastest lap. Wherever his eyes were, it was not in that room.

”What were you thinking on that blistering lap?” someone asked.

Those distance-focused eyes roamed the room and then he said, “By the time I see something, it is behind me. I don’t have time to think.”

“What did you do on that lap that made it different to previous laps?”

“I drove balls out,” he said.

That’s when the cameras grab the athletes. Before they can think and while the testosterone and the adrenaline are still in the red zone.

Twenty years later I had my own chance of being reality television fodder. A very persuasive documentary producer had talked me into letting him document my gender transition. At first I was eager to co-operate. But then I began to see the damage the process was doing to the delicate balance of emotions and needs within myself and my immediate family.

“That documentary tail is wagging your dog,” a wise friend advised me.

The crunch came when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our relationship had become very fraught before that news. To the producer it was the golden moment. “If we can get a camera into the hospice with you and your mother as she is dying, we’ll have a network sale!” he enthusiastically advised me.

I refused. He pressured me…strongly. This would clinch the deal. Maybe I could take a mini-camera in with me? Or just grab some stills of her dying face? I refused. The deal fell over. Eventually I summoned up the courage to confront him and advise I was no longer part of his project. He threatened legal action.

He was, by his lights, right. The documentary would have sold. He was now out of pocket.

The effect of documentary film-makers on their subjects (or of any intruder into a human process – say, an anthropologist living with a tribe) is itself well-documented. But now the reality cameras are affecting the performance of athletes at many sporting events.

When the ref. blows her whistle, when the umpire raises his finger, the challenged sports-person looks immediately to the big screen over the grandstand to watch the replay of their actions. Media-management is now an essential part of elite sports training. But time and again the rush of blood, the “brain explosion” short-circuits that learned behaviour and then the cameras swoop like the vultures they are.

And we, the audience, respond – whether with glee or outrage being irrelevant. We respond. That is all that is required of us.

For the logical extension of this mind-set, a viewing of Dee McLachlan’s new movie, 10terrorists, is mandatory. (A movie in which I do have a financial interest.)


Posted in 1 with tags , , , , on July 24, 2012 by josieemery

“Now therefore you are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being slaves, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God…”

King James Bible, Joshua, Ch 9 verse 21.

“Before enlightenment: hew wood, draw water.
After enlightenment: hew wood, draw water.”

Zen Koan

Isn’t that interesting? One culture sees the hewing of wood and the drawing of water as a punishment. Another sees it as a path to liberation.

On the Internet there are very few hewers of wood and drawers of water. Most are drawers of electricity from the grid. It’s been my privilege the last year to move back towards that more primal state. A privilege evoked by my loss of status, income and privilege.

To save myself I had fled to a tiny hamlet in the bush. I arrived in mid-winter. I and the wood fire became a symbiotic couple: we needed each other to stay alive. I did not need to draw water from the well, but I did need to hew wood to heat it. And to cook and keep myself warm.

I was on call 24/7 to answer the fire’s needs. As needy as an infant it was. And as hungry.

As I tended it so my stress and anxiety, my guilt and shame, fell away. My mind was cleansed, and my soul too. I reflected upon many things and let myself explore strange waters.

One such backwater was the apocryphal Gospel of St. Thomas,

Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”

He could have added, “Draw a bucket of water and I am there.”

I split many a piece of wood and slowly I began to understand those words. I learnt them too as I dug the garden and prepared the soil for spring. I began to see the Holy in the simplest actions. I saw God in the split wood and the turned soil.

I thought of something that Thomas had recorded, which I had earlier discovered: at first to my cost and later towards my liberation.

Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you will kill you.”

I had brought forth that which was within me – which I had denied for far too long. I brought it forth and it liberated me.

Liberated me to where I could at last be one with hewing wood, drawing water, watching clouds and walking on the mountain. Where I could speak the poet, W.B. Yeats’, lines with truth and conviction.

My fiftieth year had come and gone,

I sat, a solitary man,

In a crowded London shop,

An open book and empty cup

On the marble table-top.

While on the shop and street I gazed

My body of a sudden blazed;

And twenty minutes more or less

It seemed, so great my happiness,

That I was blessed and could bless.

I will shape wood with these tools my father bequeathed me.


Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2011 by josieemery

We tweet in 140 characters – including spaces and punctuation.

Such focus. Such discipline for the

unruly mind.

Tweets written on Mount Tarrangower, north central Victoria.

On the outskirts of the town of Maldon. October-November, 2011

Pink galahs grazing gravely in the grass.

Little grey rabbits dart amongst them, ears back,

flashing their white bums.

What fun!

So strong the wind.

I lean into it, roaring amongst the trees.

The wind and I shouting together.


White billowed cloud. The dragons call their mother home.


Rock says to flesh:

I stay when life has gone.

I become clay and you

will become me.


A hard track. A flinty mountain gully shack.

Room, mattress, hearth.

Empty white chair.

To sit in hope of gold or …?

The clear line of the mountain absorbed by night.

Birds fall silent.

Thoughts grow solid, until a plover screams.


Red clay drips from unearthed trees.

Chainsaws & birds feed. Torn clouds.

The storm passes.


I will become mountain. I will be breeze on its slopes.

I will rouse wallabies. I am long grass, blue flowers.

I am flint and the ore.

Garbage bins rolling down track?

No. Thunder on the mountain.

Now rain & mist. Rosellas & rabbits feed quietly.

The only sound is my mind.


Light fades on my mountain to B minor chord on my guitar.

The mountain is not mine. The chord is but moving air,

the guitar a gift.

And me?


Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on October 20, 2011 by josieemery

I finally saw ‘Red Dog’ at the Theatre Royal in Castlemaine with a group of women: dog lovers all. I confess that my money was on Red Cat in the fight scenes. I stay away from cute dog movies, partly because – being a farm girl – I see dogs as farm workers not as human emotion absorption devices. Farm workers don’t sleep on/in your bed (well, maybe if you’re in a story by William Faulkner or one of those other Southern U.S. writers). OK, and DH Lawrence. Farm workers stay outside and you don’t fuss over them: except for shearers, who you have to mollycoddle if you want them to turn up on time.

So, I was sitting there with my arms crossed and frowning right from the start. But, damnit, the movie worked! I wasn’t quietly sobbing like some of my cohort, but I did get a little lump in the throat. The story wasn’t making a lot of sense. A bloke turns up in an old Bedford truck at an outback pub in the opening sequence. He’s been rocking along to 70s music on his truck radio to help us establish a time reference. The only radio station in the outback I recall in The Day was ABC Regional, and each transmitter had a footprint of about 20 miles. They didn’t play rock. At night you could pull in shortwave and listen to Willis Conover’s jazz programs even out at The Granites. But you had to chase the signal around the dial. I was doing a diamond drill core pickup run at that time. Daytime we listened to static or sang to ourselves.

But, it’s a movie, and you have to take some liberties to help the audience along.

He turns up at the pub just as Red Dog is about to be put down. Various characters come out and tell him the Red Dog story in flashback. What I immediately liked and resonated with was that these blokes were from all over: Poles, Italians, Balts, &c. The real Aussie outback workforce. I recalled the Single Men’s Quarters at Peko Mines where I worked, out from Tennant Creek. Someone had neatly stenciled ‘Australian Embassy’ on one of the toilet blocks. I remember an ex English merchant seaman discovering that his German mate had served on the ‘Scharnhorst’ and sunk the Englishman’s defenseless ship in the North Atlantic.

These stories have yet to be properly told. I recommend Raimond Gaitia’s, ‘Romulus, My Father’ as a starter.

Essentially, it’s an Ensemble Movie: a form Australian directors from Bruce Beresford to Dee McLachlan have handled very well. It’s not a form the US market particularly likes. They need a hero and a ‘ character arc’ and so forth. Assuming that ‘John’ ,The American who arrives on a motorcycle at the start of Act Two, is the hero we then have him out of the picture at the end of that act. The real character arc, of course, is Red Dog’s.

So, the truck driver is listening to (and watching) these various stories from some years earlier, being acted out. And then, in Act Three, he’s become the lead! ‘Nancy’ (Rachael Taylor cast and told to act like Nicole) doesn’t exactly fall into his arms, but she is repainting her new cottage and she does take the Red Dog pup in her arms. (Dog Lovers all understand this.) We had seen her dancing with him and one of my cohort pointed out she was wearing a smock which could imply that she was pregnant: she felt there was a romantic vibe happening. I missed the moment (if it exists) where truck driver steps into the movie – as Woody Allen steps in and out of Zelig. I was just happy that Red Cat and Red Dog became mates.

The Wedding Guest does NOT rescue the Ancient Mariner from drowning at the end of that poem. Mehitabel the cat does NOT marry Archie the narrator cockroach in Don Marquis’s poem sequence.

The movie works despite the logic of the script being somewhat convoluted. Why? Because the logic of a movie script is an emotional logic, not a story logic. The story is there as a carrier wave to transmit those emotional charges. The logical story has to be just believable enough not to take us out of our spell of wanting it to unfurl and serve us those delicious emotional charges. The trap for writers is to avoid ‘telling it like it was’ in this sort of movie. No. You tell it like the audience wants to believe it was and hopes that it will be. You tell it so that the audience feels the story in their belly, not dissects it in their brain. Don’t serve them up ‘Wake In Fright’ revisited. Don’t option Barbara Baynton’s works.

So, Good On Ya, Red Dog. You’ve brought audiences back to Aussie movies. And I will hang around and wait for Red Dog: the musical. It could well out-sell, ‘Cats’!


Posted in 1, Movies in development with tags , , , , , , , on September 17, 2011 by josieemery

       Women are about to change the world

A call to arms.

one line synopsis

Women bringing the world to balance and healing through their own inner power.

one paragraph synopsis

Once the Feminine and the Masculine in harmony ruled a beautiful world, but women were overthrown, and the world descended into brutal chaos. Now we are returning to re-establish the balance of the Feminine and call back our partners to evolve with us in harmony and heal this sick and torn world.

A proposal for an emotionally-charged documentary film and healing journey

                                                                                  written by

                                                                        JOSEPHINE EMERY

How can we live in our authentic femininity and masculinity?

How can these two essential energies live in balance, harmony and equality?

We come from a history of negation of the Divine Feminine and the oppression of women: from sexual abuse to financial oppression. These oppressions remain for so many women, across cultures. How can an individual woman robustly engage with these issues, and through these understandings, live powerfully in every aspect of her life, for herself and others? How can she create for herself a life, and a world, where she can live in partnership  – as the Divine Masculine appears out of the shadow of the domineering masculine? And as the re-emergent Androgyne third gender returns to embrace both Masculine and Feminine?

Climate change, hunger, poverty, war and terror, dispossessed peoples, oppression, mark the ending of the world’s old paradigm of masculine dominance.

Now – in traditional cultures, western cultures, third world cultures – a driving force for change is women. Women coming forward not with anger and violence, but with love, patience, understanding and an absolute refusal to bow to the pressures of the old male dominance patterns.

These are women who often live and speak from a sense of personal spiritual power, a power grounded in feminine knowledge.

Women’s spirituality – rooted in the lived experience of being a woman – is the force that drives the new generations of women to create a world that makes sense to them: where nurturance, not dominance is the focus.

In this film we interview leading spokeswomen – writers, counselors, public figures – for the New Paradigm. We hear from women whose lives have opened up into new possibilities as they shed the old story of oppression and embrace the new.

We interview men who are stepping forward into their sense of the Divine Masculine. We speak with leading transgendered spokespeople who are already living the re-emergent Androgyne in various ways.

Using the stories and myths of Atlantis and other Feminine-principled cultures – and the archaeological findings of Marija Gimbutas and others – we tell a powerfully emotional story of how our world was once a world of nurturance, balance and respect. A world torn apart – Eden destroyed – and the descent into warfare, division, the subjugation of women and now the imminent destruction of the biosphere. Our story takes us on a healing journey that begins with the wrenching apart of the feminine and masculine, and the crippling of the all-embracing third gender, but then reunites these elemental principles once more and shows us the way we can heal ourselves, our relationships, and our planet.


Why is this film important?

The aim of The Divine Feminine is to transform the world through the power of women.

The Divine Feminine focuses the individual energies of millions of women into a laser beam of transformation and change.

All around the world women have had enough. We’ve had 10,000 years of male dominance and what have we got to show for it? War, pestilence, violence, climate change, a degraded planet, starvation, disempowerment…the list goes on and on. We’ve had enough. We’re standing up to the bullies and taking back our birthright as the nurturers; as the ones who always clean up the mess they make. We’re here to heal ourselves, our children, our loved ones, and the planet…and we invite the men who care to join us. We’re making our stand in the name of our own feminine principle: the Divine Feminine. Join us.

Key messages.

Women can save – and are saving – the planet by their spirit and actions.

The subjugation and disempowerment of women is not a natural force, but the inevitable outcome of the loss of balance between male and female. This imbalance has led to the serious situation we and our planet now face.

The situation can be remedied – and is being remedied – by the re-empowerment of women within their own right.

Feminine spirituality is as valid as masculine spirituality. It is Goddess-centred and its myths and rituals are based around women’s perception of their bodies and their processes. This feminine spirituality is deeply embedded in our primal memories – embodied in such as the myth of Atlantis. These stories are now resurfacing and being acted out through feminine-spirit-based healing and ritual


                                 JOSEPHINE EMERY:  A PERSONAL STATEMENT

I am making this movie as the culmination of my life’s journey – and my lives’ journeys.

This life of mine has been an extraordinary one. I set myself an enormous obstacle to overcome when I chose to return. I set this lifetime as the one where I fully grasped the Goddess and Priestess power that I had relinquished a long, long, long time ago.

To live that power to its full I had to be born male and – as a mature adult – become female. I had to learn what it was like to walk the earth as a man and then as a woman in order to fully know the dreadful division that has split human energy asunder over the millenia. I had to step knowingly back into my original life energy as the Androgyne, the Berdache: the one who sees because they know both male and female.

Stepping into the full force of my energy flow has also steeped me in many of the lives I had previously lived…and am still living: for time is not linear but an infinite and ever-opening rose of unknowable dimensions.

I chose my path in this lifetime as a writer and story-maker so that I would be able to open to others the wonders, the challenges and the transformative power of a life that holds Masculine and Feminine in balance. There have been times when I let the balance slip – now one way, now the other. There were far too many years when I refused the Call to step into my power…and I suffered for that refusal.

To write this movie I left the city and once again embraced country living. Here I live in the eternal moment and in that moment the presence of the Divine is all around me.

I feel my supernatural helpers with me: the spiritual forces of Light that first revealed themselves to me as a small child on an isolated outback farm. In their presence I reconnect with the earth. I arrived in late winter and began nursing the garden into the beauty of spring. My years of city living were over. I was returning home, at the end of all my explorings and – as TS Eliot – said, “…knowing the place for the first time…”

This documentary is part of that story.  The story of the awakening of Goddess Energy.

Today, just before I began writing, an echidna waddled in through the vegetable beds I had prepared. She calmly ignored me and sniffed out the ants she likes to eat. She rustled into the flower beds and came out next to my feet and there acted as if I did not exist.  Or perhaps, knowing that I did exist but only as another entity of nature like herself and like the ants and grubs she sought. She dug down amongst the roots. I watched her little spade claws heave the dirt out past her rippled, glossy, spined body.

I returned to the computer knowing that, once again, the Goddess had blessed me – as she has done at other times in my life. Most notably when she sent a snake to slide past my bare feet as I sat meditating on sand-dunes by a winter’s beach, wrestling in my mind with the need to call on Her for a sign. She spoke through the snake. She spoke through the echidna.

Now she speaks through me to you through this movie.


Posted in 1, Creating New Worlds, Movies in development with tags , , , on June 13, 2011 by josieemery


In 2007 I’d not heard of Dee McLachlan or Andrea Buck or their movie, THE JAMMED. But I live next door to an independent cinema. I write movies myself. I keep my eyes open. I went in, sat down, the curtains opened…and I was spellbound. This was the best directed Australian movie I had seen in decades. Not a shot was wrong. It was a thriller and the tension was palpable. The script was tough, tender and knowing. This was pure, genuine movie storytelling. I went back for a second viewing and then took movie-industry friends the third time.

Shot on a tiny budget, THE JAMMED went on to be both a commercial and critical success. It looked like this team was on its way. Yet they found it impossible to raise finance for the next picture. They were about to go under. Dee and Andy’s own lives have been well publicised. Here they were, bucking all sorts of social stigma to raise their family, to cope with huge personal change in their lives, and to go on making superb motion pictures.

And, just at that time, I had come into some money through my dear, deceased mother’s estate. I needed to make some investment decisions.

I looked at their scripts. I knew that for an Australian movie to return its investment locally it would need to come in under $1M. I checked my network for who might have seed money to keep them going. I could only find one person: me! I looked back at their scripts. There was one – really only a treatment – about two young men, one Australian-born and one Arabic-born, caught up in the world of media-exploitation of the fear of terrorism and its evil siblings: racism and cultural paranoia.  This story took those issues head-on. And the budget promised – via digital capture – to be below a million dollars.

So I put my money into it. It was the first money in fact, and it kept their heads above water and got some vital early footage shot. The script kept shifting its focus. It became a comedy. The title changed a number of times. But the essential theme of a media-saturated world that turns every eventuality, every trauma and crisis, into mass entertainment stayed the same. Eventually the script became: WHO WANTS TO BE A TERRORIST.

In making my investment decision I was certainly aware of the bottom line, of the likelihood (or otherwise) of ROI. But my concept of Return On Investment has never been in purely financial terms. I do think in terms of social capital, and emotional and spiritual capital as well. Ideas that were afloat in the 1920s but are very unfashionable in the brave new world of the 21st Century. It’s a world with a well-suited atheism as its creed. There is no God, there is only The Market.

And I do think in terms of risk. Without it there is no growth, no change. There is only stasis. We can go on making the same Australian movie over and over again. Or we can risk change and growth.

I also think that for all of us involved in, engaged with, the Australian movie and media business, and endlessly arguing how to get better product onto the screen, there is one simple, argument-silencing action you can take. Put your own money where your mouth is! Invest in your local movies. And that is so much easier now with online, crowd-funding. Participation is just a click away. And it doesn’t require much of your cash at all. It’s a gesture which can become a film-financing revolution!

Here is the link.  Who Wants To Be a Terrorist.