The Crush of Failure

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Failure is felt deeply. It binds the roots of the soul, tying our spirit in knots. It tricks the threads of who we thought we were, and what we thought we would become, into poisoned fantasies of a path now lined with rotten apples.

The drops of failure fall heavy, crushing into the earth before us, bursting and sinking underneath our feet. It hurts.

Failure is defined as a ‘lack of success’ – but, what does that mean? People love to speculate – especially with the advent of social media – on how well someone is doing, and love to pry and act like they know that something or someone is doomed to ‘fail’. But, they don’t know. And just because something didn’t work out how you wanted it to, doesn’t mean that it didn’t help you figure out your lane and your real goals.

Failure is not a reflection of your skills or abilities – it’s something that happens. And it teaches you something. In this case, it taught me that people who end up doing these work for the dole programs are not ‘bludgers rorting the system’ as the media would have you believe – they are human beings who are down on their luck. They might have the skills to apply to a job, they just haven’t been hired yet. But the way WE treat people as a society – as if they are tainted by failure, is really disgusting because this is the thing that kills people’s mindsets when they are trying. When they just need that one break & everything will be okay. They will be back to being treated like a normal human.

It’s impossible to look from the outside at someone’s venture into something and make the assumption that they are failing – because okay, maybe their business is no longer profitable – but you can BET they’re learning, and that learning is so important.

Our society tends to demonize and laugh at ‘failure’, but paradoxically always tell people ‘you learn from your mistakes’.

The Cutest Hair Clips for Ulimate 90’s Nostalgia

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90’s cool-girl chic has been making a comeback this season. Every fashion blogger you see is sporting bedazzled barrettes, clean-cut lobs and plain white round neck T-shirts. The style is closer to Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel from friends, than other 90’s queens like Courtney Love and Madonna.

If you want to look like you rolled out of bed, with a mind made up to march up to the editor of the print (shudders) fashion magazine you worked at pre GF, and ask for a 10c per word raise for your editorial pieces, this is your time to shine.

The look du jour goes something like, bejeweled or otherwise chunky barrettes worn on one side with a soft wave, a white T-shirt layered over a crisp black shift dress, or paired with the ever-present checkered (or gingham, or tartan) blazer, and black skirt.

If you’ve got the blazer, the skirt and the T-shirt, I’ve rounded up some of my favourite over-sized barrettes for your purchasing pleasure.

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  1. ‘Girls’ clip: https://rstyle.me/+3g_XQpslqO-HjV2_pOpLKQ
  2. Jennifer Behr Crystal Bobby Pin set: https://rstyle.me/+LOoK4WZKkm2YwvzwB7b_rw
  3. ASOS pearl design hair clips: https://rstyle.me/+-1hSD9trykfljcEii4eA4A
  4. ASOS desing pack of 4 mixed metal hair clips: https://rstyle.me/+Rk_Yvo2k45B-A2tdmHDzjQ

What is ‘Owning’ Your Sexuality?

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Shop hair clips (similar): https://rstyle.me/~aPgnA

When you fit the bill of ‘sexually liberated’ you can cop a lot of flack. From well-intended jokes, to downright horrific instances of slut-shaming. It’s a double-edged sword – freedom does not mean freedom from judgement, it means the confidence to continue operating, business-as-usual, despite that judgement.

As a result, we hear people say, ‘own it’, ‘just own it’ – in reference to so many things that don’t fit the bill of social norms. Although, you’d think by now we would have come far enough that nudity and sex would be less scandalous, but the outrage following every celebrity nude photo or sex tape ‘scandal’ suggests otherwise.

The idea of ‘owning it’ is sound, when you own something no one can use it as a source of discomfort. No one can use it to belittle you. To ‘own’ an aspect of your personality begets pride, shamelessness.

Sex-positive feminism gave us the pill, and the free-love movement of the 1960’s. We developed our rights to education, careers and a guilt-free expression of the people we wanted to become. 

Still, the layers of a sex-negative society – particularly when it comes to the female experience, and the sexualisation of female nudity, and culturally normative behaviour designed to keep society intact. Sex is still shameful, the female form in all it’s iterations is still policed (even thin, pretty white girls will be told they have something ‘wrong’ with them – is it even possible to be considered beautiful these days?).

My interpretation is that to own one’s sexuality, is to create one that is relevant to the person themselves, their mental and physical health, their emotions, their experiences and their personal boundaries and morals. It is not something that can be inherited – particularly via the unconscious collective of a society that was not built to help people, but to control them. Even modern science suggests that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ version of sexuality.

Yet when it comes to the female experience, we’re born into cultures worldwide where any creation of a sexuality befitting our unique life, personality, values and beliefs, is squashed or shamed before we even become sexually active, or curious.

How can we ‘own’ something when our collective social upbringing leans toward the suggestion that we don’t own any part of our sexual experience? These cultures promote the objectification of women, except for when women create their own sense of objectification appropriate within their bounds of consent. As soon as we realise and maintain our boundaries, we’re often told that we’re defunct, freakish, ‘sluts’, or  disgusting.

Developing the level of confidence, and sense of self to eschew the internalisation of shame surrounding your comfort-ability with sex takes time, self-education and a self-assured internal monologue. Rest assured, you’re doing the right thing – and you are learning to ‘own’ it, and paving the way for others too,  the more you accept your own unique sexual experiences and complexities.

 

Shop Hair Clips:

 

Sex Isn’t Natural?

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On my typical morning walk, with cows on either side of me,  I trudged through muddy farmland the day after a summer storm. As I walked, I listened to a Belgian woman inform a couple that, ‘sex isn’t natural’.

The woman was Esther Perel, and it was through her podcast ‘Where Should we Begin’ that the message was relayed. It was different, for sure. In the sex positive community we often hear, ‘sex is natural!’ as a sub-heading under why it’s okay to have sex and talk candidly about it.

Perel’s meaning was logical  – people aren’t naturally inclined to monogamy, or to even have sex for extended periods of time. This is the premise of her book – Mating in Captivity – which discusses the work necessary when it comes to keeping desire alive in long-term relationships.

The promise of modern monogamy, romance, marriage and the Victorian-era morals that surround these societal institutions, tie our beliefs, ego, and emotions up with how our partners behave toward us and vice versa. Perel pushes intimacy to the side – suggesting that for long-term couples, their closeness can become the enemy of sex,. After all, desire  thrives on chase, and mystery.

“Autonomous will is essential to desire; desire means to own the wanting. People can be massively attracted, but have no desire. Desire is a motivation.” Perel tells Goop.  Explaining how the subconscious beliefs we associate with the institution of marriage and long-term monogamy become detrimental to sexual relationships.

When we look at the role of female-presenting people within society we can see an extension of this – look at the backlash Kim Kardashian faced upon releasing semi-naked photos after her first pregnancy. We see women in their ‘roles’ – and we can internalise this, and project our beliefs about the role of the ‘wife’, ‘mother’, the ‘good’ girlfriend or life partner (not to mention the maiden, mother and crone) and become somewhat sexually devoid. Why? Because we aren’t used to seeing wives and mothers in sexual roles. If we begin to shape our own identity fully as these things – we might find ourselves facing a couples deathbed. 

As females are naturally painted as caregivers, it can be difficult to compartmentalise and differentiate the ‘self’ – desirous, and wanting – to the duties and roles taking up space within the relationship.

Sex isn’t something we’re naturally ‘good’ at or amazing at. In that first Podcast episode of Perel’s, as she guides the same couple through their infidelity issues, she explains this. The idea that we’re all naturally not only good at sex, and that if you’re with the ‘right’ person you should always know what they’re thinking – not to mention the idea that sex must die when you give birth, or get old, is a complete myth perpetuated by lazy Hollywood scriptwriters.

In fact, in her podcast, Perel discusses how our society thinking this has created many, many problems for people and relationships.

Sex, relationships and love are work – and they’re also a choice you make daily. They are things you need to practice and work on and learn about if you want to be good at them. 

What’s the Point of Being ‘Pretty’?

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The world of ‘body positive’ advertising is big business. Conversely, so is the world of preying on people’s insecurities by way of click bait, and shitty newspaper headlines. ‘How to lose weight’ is one of the top google searches, not to mention, ‘how to lose weight fast’.

Each time there’s a new ‘quick’ fad diet, or beauty trend, search volume goes up and bloggers, Instagram models, newspapers and businesses jump on ways to profit on this effect by selling it to people of varied price ranges. If you can’t afford Kylie Jenner’s lip fillers, don’t worry! Too Faced have their ‘lip injection’ lip plumping gloss – it stings and tastes like pepper, but it might help your lip line swell an unnoticeable amount for just $45. If you can’t afford Kim’s PT – don’t worry! This unqualified girl on IG will give you her ‘fire’ tips in a $200 course, she hasn’t properly calculated the macros in the food plan, but it’s ~fine. You’ll just end up being thinner!

I’ve certainly played my role in this, having created videos about how to shave your bikini line without getting ingrown hairs and rashes – but the deeper I dive into this online world – the worse I feel about what tends to do well re: clicks and interaction,  and why.

A while ago, I considered creating a video on weight-loss, and one on the keto diet as I tried it out (it didn’t work for me, also I hate cheese – sue me). However, the more I found these weight-loss videos, (or  worse – ‘tongue posture’ and ‘how to remove your hip dips’ style videos) appearing in my recommended section on Youtube, the more frustrated I became with the appeal of these videos.

I have professionally retouched photos of myself from the handful of modelling shoots I have done in the past. Whenever I post these photos on my Instagram, they garner more ‘likes’ and attention than day-to-day selfies, or my more experimental bits I post. You might think that this would be a self-esteem boost – ‘oh look how pretty I can be, sometimes’ – it’s not. It’s awful. Each time it occurs I end up feeling terrible about myself. I know the amount of retouching these photos went through, and this reinforces the idea that my acne-scarred, make-up free face is not good enough. It reinforces the fact that I’m also not talented enough in Photoshop & photography, makeup, or styling to create shoots at this caliber myself. It also makes me wonder what the photographer cut out, and why. Was it really that hideous? Is a little bit of hair on my forearms truly awful? Is acne-scarring something I should keep a shameful secret? Is the cellulite above my knees something that will cause the world to fall apart?

So, while these ‘how to lose weight’ (or if we’re really being honest ‘how to look better according to patriarchal & capitalist definitions of ideal beauty’) style of videos will always garner clicks and trend, and likely help a channel or blog surface – I don’t want to make them.

I want to make things that are valuable to me. The things that make me happy are critical thinking, research, writing, art, reading, exploring nature and anything and everything colourful. Worrying about my ‘hip dips’, ‘thigh gaps’,  or typical white girl lips and not-a-Kim-Kardashian jawline doesn’t fucking matter. And the more time I spend thinking about it will only serve to make me more depressed.

Also, what really confuses me is how many women perpetuate these beauty standards by leaving rude or hateful comments to others about their appearance online & then defend their commentary as ‘helpful tips’ – thanks Mildred, but you’re only working to promote the already problematic patriarchal standards of beauty present in this world. How can you not see that act as harming yourself, and every other person who reads this, and then internalises it? The other day I saw a comment talking about how Margot Robbie ‘suffers’ from eye-bags, making her less attractive in the viewers eyes. They’re eye-bags mate, they aren’t the fucking trade war in the south China sea playing out above her cheek bones. It’s fine.

Another interesting consideration is how much of this can come from within our own circle – from our mothers, sisters, friends, aunts, etc raising us to rid ourselves of body hair, or encouraging us to eat less, or telling us our skin is awful – again – it just reinforces two things: That looks mean more than they do, and that that appearance has to follow a set of rules in order to be viewed as valuable.

Your body is not operating on this planet purely to fit into a contrived set of standards, stylised by decades upon decades of warped images, created by way of advertising, cartoonish designs, and vaguely pedophilic notions of ‘beauty’, designed to capture your insecurities and outline what you ‘don’t’ have. Marketing has a way of taking advantage of the naturally defeatist, scarcity-oriented mentality we can suffer from in a capitalist society.

To round up – don’t let social media get you down, and follow people who make you happy and inspire you to experiment and create without worrying about how you look doing it. Beauty is definitely a commodity in this world, but it’s also ultimately pointless when it comes to creating an internal sense of happiness. 

 

 

 

 

Am I a Slut?

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Online I am known as the girl who went viral because of a video titled ‘What’s in my Stripper Bag?’ I made the video in a flat twenty minutes, without thinking about the consequences. The consequences were many.

 

Derogatory comments flooded my social media, from people who decided that, based on my former job I was someone who should be on the receiving ends of hundred upon hundreds of comments based on all sorts of assumptions about my sex life, assumed level of intelligence, and perceived value in society. There were also many rape threats, death threats, and even some hate mail sent to me on other social platforms.

 

It was interesting. For some time it made me feel irritated that people still felt that it was okay to discuss female sexuality, and or those who work in the adult industry in this manner, on a public forum, using their real names. Some even leaving their own job descriptions in an effort to feel more ‘virtuous’ than me.

 

It was also interesting because my whole life, among my family and friendship groups, I had been known as the ‘studious, serious, girl’ – and yet here were hundreds of strangers telling me that, ‘it’s about time you focus on something other than your looks’,  to ‘get a life’ and here’s one hilarious kicker, ‘stop promoting sex trafficking.’

 

Buuutttt…I got over it. Because you can’t shame a woman who simply is not ashamed, of herself, her choices, and her body.

 

Also – I’ve started to realise that if something as harmless as a makeup tutorial had gone viral I would have STILL  gotten the same hateful comments, because everyday I see fashion and beauty bloggers receiving this same level of hate despite never having talked about anything more offensive than their lipstick collection online.

 

To hear the rest of this story, click the video below:

 

 

Why are we so damn ashamed of STI’s?

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I’ve been ‘sexually active’ for nearly a decade. In that time I’ve been fortunate enough to have never contracted an STI. However, I have many friends who have – from HPV strains, to chlamydia and gonorrhea. Almost every time a friend comes to me to tell me that they have caught something from a partner the conversation inevitably turns to shame.

For many women, knowledge that a disease they have caught is linked to sexual activity leads to an inexorable feeling of humiliation or self-consciousness – a possible belief that this contraction is linked to their worth as a person, partner and woman who previously felt that she had a ‘clean’ bill of sexual health.

Each time a friend confides these feelings to me I tell her the same thing, ‘would you be ashamed of catching the flu? Of tonsillitis? No!’

 

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At the same time, I can’t understand their feeling of shame as I’ve never contracted one. My motive as a friend is to ensure that they feel the same way about an STI as they would any other illness, and try to ensure they stop equating what they’ve caught with their sense of self-worth.

STI’s – in particular HPV, Herpes, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea are incredibly common – but they are still considered a taboo subject within society, and when entering into a relationship with a new partner. In a study of women living in Manchester, UK an estimated 40% of women between the ages of 20-24 were found to be carrying HPV. Unsurprisingly if, like me, you have ever comforted a friend through an STI scare, many of these women reported feelings of shame upon finding out that HPV was a sexually transmitted disease.

“Knowledge that HPV is sexually transmitted was associated with higher levels
of stigma and shame, but not anxiety. Women who knew that HPV is sexually transmitted but not that it is highly prevalent had the highest scores for stigma and shame.”

The same study suggested that ‘normalising’ HPV and informing the participants of the study in regard to how common HPV contractions are helped reduce feelings of shame and stigma within these women.

“The lower stigma and shame scores in the women who were aware of the high prevalence of HPV suggest that this information might have a ‘‘normalising’’ effect.”

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The study also noted that this effect was similar to those noted in experimental research which has suggested that participants felt that infections they perceived as ‘common’ were “less serious than those perceived to be rare”.

STI’s sometimes fall victim to schoolyard myths and urban legends – not to mention widespread mainstream media scare tactics designed to ‘stop’ teenagers having sex, in misguided attempts to prevent teenage pregnancy.

Personally I am of the opinion that STI screens should be introduced in schools. In Australia roughly 50% of people will have had sex by the age of 16 or 17,      It’s not unheard of to discuss sex in schools, with topics like consent, pregnancy, and STI’s covered –  high school is also the place we receive our HPV vaccines. However, the national curriculum falls short when it comes to discussing the ties between feelings of shame and lack of self-worth that can be linked to the sexual experiences, sexuality, and sexual orientation of individuals. An ‘unlearning’ where sex-based urban mythologies are concerned is a necessary introduction to help teenagers and young adults navigate not only a safe, but an emotionally intelligent and well-rounded sexual experience as they feel ready for it.

Shame and sexual health seem to go hand in hand, as yet another leftover from our days of Victorian moralising, and claims that our sexuality and sense of self-respect or societal value are interlinked. Where schools and mainstream media outlets aren’t stepping up, yourself and your peers can: To reduce feelings of shame surrounding STI’s within yourself and others, arm yourself with knowledge. Learn to self-educate with reputable sources, and to unlearn the myths of the past. 

How I Get My Articles Published Online

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Long before strip clubs and social media, I worked as a hustler of a different kind. At seventeen I was fresh out of high school and looking to make my mark on the writing world. I began by submitting articles to online publications that paid nothing. I wrote pieces on music, (hip-hop – and found out who Kendrick Lamar was) and got free tickets to DJ gigs and festivals to cover them, and sometimes even take photos of them for their websites.

A few months later I got my first paid gig and things started to look up. I supported myself on and off throughout my first years of university with freelance work.

The gig economy is a fickle one, but a necessary evil in today’s world of  casual contracts. Freelance can be a wonderful lesson in business and marketing, so I thought I’d put together a few points on how I got my freelance work back in the day.

  • Get your first few bylines – usually this means writing some free articles, but don’t do too much free work, it ruins it for everyone else.  However it does help to have one or two writing references on your resume. 
  • Start pitching articles to publications – I pitch around 5x articles to an editor in each round, knowing some will get rejected. You need a catchy title and a few sentences explaining your angle. Pitches should be short, to the point, and friendly. Don’t write in cliches, & know the style of the website you are pitching, so that you nail the kind of content they’re looking for. A health and fitness website isn’t interesting in financial articles and vice versa.
  • Most magazine or website articles sit at about 500-750 words and editors do NOT like when you go over this. This comes from print-magazines where the word-count had to be decided by what could fit in the physical layout. It’s a good rule to stick to, and it helps you keep your writing as succinct as possible.
  • Create a writing resume with examples of your work – Alternatively you could create a media kit, particularly if you create content that isn’t just writing. 
  • Having a blog is a good thing to include on your writing resume if it’s professional and well-written (read: Not like mine. Mine is the antithesis of employment opportunities, this is why I don’t use my real name online).
  • Send out short emails to media companies, blogs, and other companies you are interested in writing for,  include said resume and links to previous articles. Having a linktree or blog with a list of your articles all in one place is very handy. 
  • You can also find copywriting jobs online – often these are very bland. Writing about vacuum cleaners is mind-numbing, but they are more likely to hire you than Marie Claire. Also they pay quite well. My second highest paying freelance job was for a veterinary website. So boring. I read SO many Ceaser Milan blog posts for research. But it paid the bills and gave me lots of experience in a different style of writing. It was also consistent work. 
  • Some companies will pay a set rate, some will pay you according to your rates. I used to charge roughly 0.40c per word each article. I wouldn’t accept less than $100 per article as a new writer with a few bylines. Eventually you can negotiate your rates to be higher. I think the most I ever charged was $600 for a single article, with unedited photos for an event at a winery. It was great, I got to take a drunk ride on a horse and cart and eat ($$) cheese. 
  • Then, refer back to my videos on freelancer taxes. It’s titled as stripper taxes, but it’s all about freelance. They are both sole trader businesses. 

It takes consistent effort to keep up writing as a viable side hustle or main income.  Keep going, because you will get a lot of rejections – you will also get a lot of valuable feedback on your writing (not to mention actual constructive criticism that helps you grow as a writer).

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The Myth of the Seven Day Rule: What the Pope had to do with the Contraceptive Pill

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Earlier this week I read this article, which revealed that the withdrawal bleed at the end of the pill cycle may be completely unnecessary. The reason the withdrawal bleed was created was due to a gynecologist at the time trying to get the Pope to be more open to contraceptives.

“He [John Rock] thought he’d get the Pope on board with oral contraceptives if it could mimic a woman’s natural cycle, still making her bleed once a month. The Pope, being the Pope, did not approve and the man renounced Catholicism, but that’s another story.”

Upon reading this I rolled my eyes, thought ‘sounds about right’, took a screen-shot of the article and shared it to my Instagram story. The idea of doctors ignoring women’s health due to religious or political affiliations (not to mention personal bias!) is an idea I’ve come to terms with since my first experiences with the contraceptive pill. I’ve written about how horrific the pill made me feel before, and why I choose not to take it.

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Since turning eighteen, moving out of home and taking care of my own health I’ve been shuffled around to various GP’s, physio’s, and other doctors in an effort to manage the chronic pain I experience (which becomes debilitating as soon as my period hits every month). Each doctor has no idea why I’m in pain, even as I list each symptom, along with my family history, and ask for ultrasounds on my ovaries because I am sure the pain has something to do with my reproductive system. In her article for The Independent, Kate Leaver begs the question myself and so many of my peers are constantly asking:

“How can we possibly know so little about women’s bodies, with a medical research industry as sophisticated as ours?”

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The Health Gap: 

There’s a long history, and a lot of statistics that can back up claims of women being treated differently than men by GP’s, and in emergency room settings. From claims of pain being dismissed, to being less likely to receive opioid painkillers in response.

“Research on disparities between how women and men are treated in medical settings is growing — and it is concerning for any woman seeking care.”

The decisions doctors make about our bodies, and how they will be cared for are not immune to personal bias. These personal biases can be linked to sexual politics, and the unfair misogynistic bias inherent in laws informed by religion, or past status quo. There is also evidence to suggest that bias is also present when it comes to treating patients of different ethnicities.

I remember grabbing the morning-after pill one day in my early twenties from a random chemist in Melbourne’s CBD, the chemist who filled my script described it as an ‘abortion pill’ and used terms like, ‘this will flush “it” (it being a potential fetus – which definitely would NOT be present in the 24 hour post-coital period) right down the tubes’. These ill-informed words were coming from a healthcare professional who was supposed to be giving me advice! Advice on how to take medicine! I was shocked. He also seemed to think that any spotting that might occur after taking the pill was evidence of an abortion taking place (it’s not).

The protests surrounding the historic referendum last year in Ireland proved that there are still people in this word who don’t believe in women having the right to information about their bodies. Or maybe they don’t believe this, but they are still horrifically ill-informed about how the female reproductive system works, or maybe how women’s minds work, or what we are capable of achieving in life, and how modern healthcare affords us the necessary tools to succeed in this world. 

While these groups likely don’t represent the beliefs of your local GP, these ideas are leftovers from a period in which women’s health was heavily dismissed. These inherent biases need to be stripped from healthcare provider education, in order to bring up to date the healthcare and information we are giving women and the general public. 

 

 

Holiday Healthy Eating Guide

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Christmas is next week, and menu’s are being planned, shopped for, and executed with the precision of a top-secret military operation. This time of year is often the happiest, and coziest. However, it can also be a trap when it comes to healthy habits and eating well. The abundance of thematic chocolate, candy and other assorted goods can mean that our best intentions fly out the window, and even the strongest of vegan cross-fitters are met with the temptation of holiday hampers.

I’ve always been pretty good at maintaining a decent diet over the holidays. Perhaps it’s because I live in a hot climate. Some of the more traditional offerings can feel out of place when it’s twenty-five degrees, and you plan on heading to the beach later.

I thought, in the spirit of the holidays, I would share some of the healthier options for desserts on my Christmas menu this year.

  1. Mango Lime Coconut Ice Cream Slice: Say that three times fast! When you live in a warmer climate, ice-cream for Christmas is a must. Rachel’s Raw Food recipe has the perfect combination of coconut and mango, with a twist of lime is absolutely heavenly. And the fact that it’s a raw food recipe makes it that much better! Click through and try it out for yourself here.
  2. Chickpea brownies: I’ve been making these far too much through November and into January. They are delicious, grain-free, and also free of added sugar. Just a small amount of organic honey, and some dates sweeten up the raw cacao and chickpea mixture. It’s an incredible, protein-filled dessert. I would highly recommend putting this recipe (I’ve substituted coconut sugar with honey with no issues) through your food processor this Christmas.
  3. Raw vegan “cheesecake”: The genius behind This Rawsome Vegan life published this recipe for a Lavender and Lemon cheesecake Lavender and Lemon cheesecake a while back and I’ve been dying to test it out. It’s vegan, raw and made entirely from whole foods and looks heavenly!

 

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Xo,

 

Cali