Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Indigenous Australia on TV

Continuing from my previous post, this is one reason why I really appreciate SBS producing and broadcasting RAN (Remonte Area Nurse) which is set on an Island in the Torres Strait. It offers very interesting insights into Islander life, albeit through the eyes of a white Australian woman.

Also worth looking out for will be the Going Bush documentary series - also on SBS - with two rather famous Aboriginal women, Cathy Freeman and Deborah Mailman, travelling through the bush in outback Australia. It starts this Wednesday night. I can't wait.

Because I was away camping last week, consider this my – late – Invasion Day post to mark the 26 of January.

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Great Aboriginal Dissenters

The editor of the National Indigenous Times has published his list of his top ten Great Dissenters in the past couple of decades of Aboriginal affairs and politics.

I would say yes, yes, yes to nearly all on his list, but I think that Patrick Dodson deserves his own listing up there on my list. I am really impressed to see a woman elder, Marjorie Woodrow, in the number 1 spot, and tend to agree on the basis of what he wrote.

Something I keep wondering at is, again, the absence of any Torres Strait Islanders from the list. Admitedly, the editor specifically identifies the list as his top ten dissenters in Aboriginal politics. But why? Is it because the NIT is Aboriginal centric, and isn't imbued enough with Torres Strait Islander struggle and culture to appreciate their place in history?

Surely this is not for a lack of TI leaders in the past few decades. Why isn't Eddie Mabo in that list?

This only confirms my sense that the Torres Strait Islands and its struggles is still hidden from many of us non-Indigenous in Australia – even if we support the struggles for land rights and self-determination of our Indigenous neighbours.

Does this suggest that it may be similar for mainland, or certainly central and southern/southeastern Aboriginal people?

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

The ones that didn't get away

In response to my condemnation of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean in my post on things maritime, David sent me an email with this photo.

Check out the sign with cute picture of a whale: it advertises whale meat. The caption that came with photo read: "Whale-meat lunches are popular in Tateyama. The nearby town of Wadamachi is known as a whaling port."

He included links to two news reports about conflicting polls about the Japanase public's attitudes towards the whaling and the resumption of commercial whaling. One is from
2000 (most polled have no opinion, with 14% against whaling, 11% for), the other from 2002 (most are pro-whaling).

Both polls – yes, out of date – were used to support the arguments of either side of the whaling debate. I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes (who said it?):
There's lies, damn lies, and statistics.
Polls, stats, and surveys are too easily twisted to fit the arguments of those using or commissioning them. Spin. It is kinda like the stories fishermen tell each other: "You should have seen the size of the one that got away."

Unfortunately for the whales, unless 'public opinion' across the globe turns to concerted action against whaling, there won't be too many that get away.

Like the ones sold from the food cart in the photo above.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I caught a wild book

A week ago, I caught a book released into the wild! Walking out of the Retreat Hotel in Sydney Rd, Brunswick, after dinner with my family, I spotted a book lying forlone on a talbe just inside the front door. It had a sticky note on its cover that announced that it was a 'travelling book'.

It said: 'Pick me up, read, and release me!'
I didn't have to be asked twice.

As I inspected the book outside the pub, I found that it is a collection of short stories that kinda acts as an extended novel with each chapter written by a different author. It had an adhesive label that announced it had been registered with Bookingcrossing.com by someone in Sydney, as recently as December last year.

I was quite excited. I had heard, and read, about books released into the wild. A movement begun some years ago, it works on the principle that if you like a book so much, especially one of those life-changing ones, you would like to share it with other people. Books released into the wild takes it a step further – you leave the book it public places where it can, and hopefully will, be picked up and read by a complete stranger. And then they should be inspired to do the same.

Bookcrossing.com (it's free) allows people to register books, record where and when they've released and picked them up, and what they thought of them. It adds a whole layer to the released books thing, as it allows previous readers and releasers to follow the book's journey through many hands!

You don't have to wait to find one. You can join and start releasing books yourself.

The website's blurb says:
The "3 Rs" of BookCrossing...
  1. Read a good book (you already know how to do that)
  2. Register it here (along with your journal comments), get a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number), and label the book
  3. Release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, "forget" it in a coffee shop, etc.), and get notified by email each time someone comes here and records journal entries for that book. And if you make Release Notes on the book, others can Go Hunting for it and try to find it!
Sounds easy, right? Well it is. It's also a fascinating exercise in fate, karma, or whatever you want to call the chain of events that can occur between two or more lives and one piece of literature. Oh, and we should mention, it's absolutely free and absolutely private, too.
What book did I pick up? Like a Charm, edited by Karin Slaughter. It's in the mystery-crime genre. I enjoyed short stories last year, so I plan to take this book camping with me to Wilsons Promontory next week. Hope it's good.

I plan to follow the book's progress after I release it on my return, and will blog on it if something crops up.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

My favourite photos of 2005

Yes, it is a bit late in the month, and yes, others have done this, (thanks to penmachine.com for the idea) but here are some of my favourite photos on my flickr site for 2005:

You can check them out on my flickr site here.

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Personal Space

Riding on the free City Circle tram today, I was struck once again by the unquenchable ability of little boys to fidget.

It wasn’t my son – he was ensconced in a window seat across the aisle, staring out the window as the city and its new ersatz ‘harbourside district’, Docklands, rolled by him.

It was two little boys out with their grandmother – obviously a rare outing on a tram in Melbourne. Their unfamiliarity with trams, and the requisite etiquette of sitting as still as possible and not encroaching on your neighbour’s space – so you don’t annoy them, was quite apparent. So too was their grandmother’s discomfort at their fidgeting, standing on their seats, twisting and turning and almost tumbling to the floor.

“Little boys, they have no sense of personal space,” their grandmother said apologetically to me, as the boy beside me brushed against me with his foot – yet again.

I smiled. “Don’t worry, I have a little boy too,” I said, pointing across to him. “I know what it’s like.”

But I had forgotten. My son is an old hand at riding Melbourne’s trams and trains, having travelled on them since he was a baby. We only got a car two years ago, and so got around overwhelmingly by public transport, bicycle and on foot until then. As a non-driver myself, I tram, train, bike or walk when on my own steam, and so does my son if he’s with me.

In fact, he’s a tram and train fanatic, and loves long rides on them and wants to know their ins and outs in the smallest detail. Growing up on Melbourne’s trams and trains meant that my son has learned to be comfortable on public transport, doesn’t tend to get over-excited when he’s on it, and settles quietly enough at his preferred window seat to stare at the world going by. And usually with a minimum amount of fidgeting and hardly encroaching on his neighbour’s personal space.

Of course, I’m probably quite biased. And have a rather rosy view of my son’s public transport history. Some fellow passengers may take a dim view at my son’s behaviour on a tram or train, particularly his tendency to tuck his feet under him as he kneels – on the seat – to see out the window.

Thinking hard enough to when he was much younger, I can remember feeling the discomfort similar to that of the grandmother I met today as my son clambered excitedly on the seats, and brushed past fellow passengers as he moved around. Or fidgeted, jabbered and jigged excitedly when something interesting caught his eye. ‘Put your feet down!’ ‘Mind where you’re going,’ and ‘Sit still!’ would have punctuated our rides together when he was younger.

I think this memory is what allowed me to be gracious in the face of the grandmother’s embarrassment, and my annoyance at the boys’ behaviour. It would have done no one any good if I had huffed and puffed, stared and glared, or been condescending over the boys’ behaviour – as I had previously seen other passengers do over children’s behaviour. I didn’t want to spoil this afternoon’s tram ride for any of us.

These little boys were excited, tram neophytes, and young. Little kids fidget. It’s a fact of life. I’ve also been told that boys fidget a lot more – and for longer through their childhood – than girls. It is one reason suggested why boys find it hard to sit still for long in the classroom when they are young, and so why girls tend to adapt to school learning better and sooner.

Knowing this also helped me keep my humour over the course of this afternoon’s tram ride. After all, it wasn’t long. That, and the sense that one day, these kids would learn to ride trams and trains like old pros, and know how to ensure their rides will be comfortable for all involved.

I just wish we – adults – could all remember this simple thing: don’t glare at little kids who are excited and can’t keep still on trams.

And remember to tuck your elbows in and stick to your own side of the tram/train seat!

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

And this too (School holiday blues)

ACMI is also showing Howl's moving castle as a kid's flicks.

Are Hayao Miyazaki's animations too full-on for a five-year-old? I hope not. My son enjoys Miyazaki's Kiki's Flying Delivery Service, so, hopefully...

It is rated PG.

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Free classic kids' animations

If you, like me, are looking for something to do with your child these school holidays, check this out: ACMI is presenting free animated kids' classics on Mondays in January.

I'm looking forward to seeing Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie... and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, of course.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Marine matters

With a number of maritime events grabbing our attention lately, the sea has been on my mind quite a lot of late. Or rather, the things that live in it. Or die in it.

I took my son and his cousin to Melbourne Museum’s new Marine Life exhibition last Saturday, where we saw a number of things from the Museum’s collection – tiny preserved plankton and crustaceans in Petri dishes, dried sea horses and sea dragons, and a giant squid preserved in a glass case. Or was it a coffin? It was impressive, especially the effort made to have live fish in aquariums included in the exhibits – something this museum is good at doing, and my son certainly appreciated them.

What stuck in my head most was marine death rather than marine life: the sculpted models of deep-sea scavengers feasting on a carcass. Sea-hags and see lice inhabit the bottom of the oceans waiting for some giant animal like a shark, dolphin or whale to die and fall to the ocean floor, where they feed on the remains. Dead whale seemed to be the most significant of such feeding events – leading biologists to coin the term ‘whale fall’ to describe the event. The scavengers were ghastly creatures to look at, but I guess bottom dwellers are just that…

But the ‘natural’ (or rather ecological?) death of whales, and what is meant to happen to their carcasses, is certainly not on the agenda of another so-called scientific endeavour – the Japanese whaling fleet’s annual whale hunt in the Southern ocean is nothing but one of the worse acts of butchery and brutality against animals in our times. And it is certainly NOT science, let alone done scientifically.

Despite all the protestations that the whale hunt is for scientific purposes, and that the killing is done with little or no pain or trauma to the animals, the testimony – and photographs – from Greenpeace activists at the scene of the hunt tells us otherwise. The harpoons cause tremendous damage and pain, and often don’t kill the whale the first time it is harpooned. Death can be lingering. All this brutality is so that a few people in Japan can eat whale meat.

Here in Australia, Greenpeace has once again captured our imaginations with their current campaign against the Japanese whaling fleet, aided by their website and campaign blog. From the captain of Greenpeace’s ship Arctic Sunrise to the activist crew members, they report their encounters with the fleet as they try to physically obstruct the hunt, and recount the horror of what they see when the whalers manage to kill minke whales.

I hope that with these few key-strokes online, I can add my support and voice to those who are acting more directly at sea, and help the campaign to stop whaling!.

When a 21-year-old woman was mauled by sharks at Amity Point, on Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island, about two hours from Brisbane, I was also shocked. Being attacked by sharks is one of those horrors that signify the dangers of Australia’s wildlife – along with box jellyfish, venomous snakes, lethal spiders and crocodiles – but it usually doesn’t preoccupy those of us who only contemplate the seas and what they hold during summer. Idyllic beaches and gentle surf is what I want, not deadly creatures that attack from seemingly nowhere!

Apparently, the poor young woman was attacked by at least three bull sharks while swimming in chest deep waters at a popular family holiday beach on Saturday afternoon. (About the same time I was at the Museum's exhibit!) After she was mauled, she was pulled out of the waters and airlifted to hospital. She died anyway.

What really shocked me about this event – other than the poor woman's violent death – is that she was attacked in waters off a beach that I had camped at with my family! My partner, my then one-year-old son and I had camped there about four years ago – with a borrowed tent and equipment – a quiet little family getaway amidst our summer holiday with my parents in Brisbane.

Amity Point’s beach is sheltered from the rough surf found on the other side of the island, and the surf is perfect for lacklustre swimmers like me who are unused to Australia’s ocean surf. It was a wonderful holiday when our son was still young, we were prepared to rough-it and make our way around the island by bus and on foot, and the swimming was great! And I have been wanting to go back and camp there again! Until now.

As the news homed in on the story, I discovered – to my discomfort – that the area is quite a draw card for sharks, and subsequently has had shark protection for many years now. Which may be failing now. The woman was swimming in the afternoon, and had no warning. I don't believe there had been any specific shark sightings or warnings prior to the attack. Locals certainly believe the area to be shark infested.

Some would say it was random. Others say it is nature out of balance. Others again say this is just what sharks do.

All I know is, I won’t be going back to Amity Point till they beef up the anti-shark protection – preferably with a shark net.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Did someone say hot?

It is official: 2005 was the hottest year on record (ABC News) in Australia. I'm not surprised, considering Melbourne got to 42.9 degrees Celsius on New Year's Eve (which is hot for December).

I expected to watch the government and fossil fuel industries try to squirm and spin themselves out of this one. Will they sign the Kyoto Protocol? Not likely. But I am surprised at Federal Minister Ian Cambell's response to this news: he has 'declared' the debate over global warming over, and accepts it is a reality! I'd be intrigued to see where he (and the government) takes this.

We got ourselves Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers for Christmas. I have only dipped into the book so far (got lots of things to occupy us during the silly season), but he makes the case on CO2 and global warming quite extensively and cogently, I can't believe there are still naysayers. If you need to be convinced, or need to keep informed so that you can fend of that 4WD bore at a party sounding off about greenies, read it!

More importantly, Flannery makes some convincing arguments that what we need to do and can do to tackle global warming are effective and achievable – and can be done sooner rather than later.

What can you do? Flannery's list of 11 things that each person can do to help reduce the impact of CO2 emissions on global warming is on the book's accompanying website here.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Not just the Queen's, but from my English too

Cool. The boffins have released the 2006 List of Words and Phrases Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.

I agree. I haven't read the full list of words and phrases banned, but I would add the Australian politician's favourite brain-goo phrase: "At the end of the day".

What, at sunset?

Thanks to Emma at articulate for the (not breaking) news.

Update: Here is the 2006 list (it isn't long...) from Lake Superior State University. (edited 4/01/2006).

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Hot start to the New Year

Three days into the New Year, we've had bushfires, soaring temperatures, and draconian police responses to young Aboriginal people getting pissed-off at over-policing. Not an auspicious start to 2006.

Thankfully, there has been no major seismic tragedy and Greenpeace has declared some success in their battle against the whalers in the Southern ocean!

Don't eat whale, don't lock-up young people in jail, and don't light fires on hot days in Australia. How often do we need to be reminded of these simple but profound lessons to make this new year a good one?

Happy New Year, all!

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