Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'm a Judith Lucy fan

I haven't written much about television for a while. That's not because I haven't been watching TV. It's just that nothing much has been very interesting. This week though there are a few things mentioning.

Angry Boys
This week saw the final episode of Angry Boys. I was crossing my fingers and toes that the legends would not arrive in Dunt for Nathan's going away party. But they did. For me, this broke the tone of the series. I sat through (and enjoyed) 11 episodes of fairly unrelenting dark satire examining the causes and effects of the damaged contemporary culture of masculinity. I was willing the final episode not to fall for the "happy" ending. But it did. I was willing Lilley to finish the final scene with the ordinary party in the back yard at the Sims' farm with no special guests, just Gran and the family farewelling Nathan. But he didn't. I was a little bit disappointed.

Judith Lucy
I'm a Judith Lucy fan. There, I've said it and now you all know. I loved her memoir The Lucy Family Alphabet and will make a point of watching anything she does on television. I quite enjoyed the trip she made into Catholicism and saw great potential in the questioning of spirituality and religion. It reminded me of our Year 7 religious education classes where the poor lady who volunteered to come and teach RE in a STATE SCHOOL (emphasis intentional) didn't get to read us Bible stories because we were too busy asking her how she could prove that God exists.

Friday Night Lights
I've been hearing lots about this program for a while but have never bothered trying to catch it. Quality drama. Yes. American football. Not actually that interested. If I'm home I'll watch it. If not, I won't set the dvd recorder. Also, I spent some of the first episode reading the summaries of each series on Wikipedia so I don't really need to watch anymore at all.

Last Sunday saw the two paintball episode follow ups. They weren't nearly as good as the first paintball episodes. But if you want to watch a smart, American comedy this is the one I recommend. It's better than just about anything else on free to air even when it goes to repeats.

Oh and I have been watching Torchwood. The jury is still out......

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spell "altruism".....

I have three lessons of two hours per week with my students. For the first 6-8 weeks in the interest of expanding and improving vocabulary (given that it is a course on language and writing) I give a spelling test. Usually I attempt to connect the words to the issues and ideas we are discussing and writing about in class. This means that we follow the direction of the course from writing about the self to writing about the community in all shapes and sizes. This year one of my spelling words has been "altruistic". Each term I have been dismayed at the number of students in the class who have never heard of that word before, let alone what it might mean. "Use it in sentence, Wendy!". So I do. There are often still some blank that follows my explanation of what it means. (note: explanation is also one of our early spelling words). Discussions of altruism, volunteering, social capital and its generation quickly follow and most students can connect to these concepts in some way which is slightly more heartening. I think this term, my dismay at the lack of knowledge of the notion of altruism has been coloured by listening to the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist scholars talk about compassion and happiness, the interconnectedness of all human beings and other such things at the recent Happiness and its Causes conference. We must recognise what it is that makes us human, as well as the fact that as humans we all have these qualities (good and bad) in common. A smile, said the Dalai Lama, is perhaps the most simple and easily visible act of compassion towards another person. In class we talked about the sense of community living in a largish regional town compared to living in a capital city. This is not to say that cities cannot have high social capital, but sometimes it might be more difficult to detect. On a train recently in Brisbane I was reminded of this when I found myself naturally looking to make eye contact with other travellers only to be met with a sea of iPods and newspapers. I asked my students how they respond when their checkout person at the supermarket asks "How are you today?". Do they just say "Good" and get on with their business, or do they respond in kind? I know the checkout operators are told to ask their customers that, but what if we as consumers turn this into a social transaction, not just a business one? Is that an act of compassion? Will it start to build social capital? I think so. On Friday evening I was reminded of the power of community while at the local launch of the Price of Life which I have posted about recently. Nicky Bonney talked about the tremendous community support she and her family had received from the Bundaberg region during their difficult times. Simple things like neighbours cooking loaves of bread, bringing over meals, donating small amounts of money - all of these acts are the things that bind communities together and need to be cultivated. They don't just happen by themselves. All these thoughts come together when faced with the news of the terrible news in Norway, of famine in Africa, of the death of Amy Winehouse. How is it as a community, a global community that we have let the world come to this? There are no easy answers or quick fixes I know. Perhaps though it starts with us as individuals, taking responsibility for our own behaviour and gestures of humanity towards others. Not only do we need to be able to spell "altruism"; we need to continue to practice it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

I have a dream

Tomorrow in class we look at writing for different audiences as a start to the students thinking about the purpose of their writing, their choice of words, the need to communicate clearly etc. The examples we use are part of this speech, which still gives me goosebumps, together with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I also give them some Barack Obama and this year, just to change the tone completely, this:

(you'll have to copy and paste the link as embedding is disabled)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life is precious

I can't remember the last time I read an entire book in one sitting but it happened yesterday. "Which book which book Wendy?" I hear you all cry in eager anticipation of a reply. (Or not...up to you really whether you talk aloud to blog posts).

The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan, Nicole Bonney and Kellie Brennan.

This is the true story of Nigel Brennan's kidnapping in Somalia together with a Canadian journalist, Amanda Lindhout and the efforts Nigel's family went to get him out of Somalia alive. It's a page turner. I couldn't put it down. And even though I knew the basics of the story from the news, from following the daily updates in our local paper here in Bundaberg, from watching the story on Australian Story, and from talking with Nicky when she arrived on the doorstep of uni at the beginning of the year, nothing prepared me for the full story as written in the book. It's an emotional journey - one of disbelief, anger, sorrow, pain, funny moments in the midst of darkness, patience and impatience, love, hate, tenacity, perseverance, determination and inspiration. It is told clearly and simply by each of the three authors. Their different perspectives intertwine beautifully to depict the strength a family can muster in the face of an unexpected disaster. It reinforces my respect for Senator Bob Brown, increases my respect for Dick Smith, confirms my suspicions about the wheels of government and international diplomacy, and reminds me of just what human beings are capable of - both good and bad. It's well worth reading because we all need reminding of what's important in life and how fortunate many of us are. I feel lucky I was able to remember by reading this astonishing story, rather than having to go through the events in person. In the end, I went to bed thinking about how precious life, every life, is.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I need more days like this

It's Friday. I hope it will be the first of many this term when I can work at home. I persisted through the revisions of a paper all day. I did allow myself a morning coffee and banana and coconut bread this morning downtown. But then I came home and got stuck in and forced myself to sit at the computer even though the writing was slow and tedious. When I had nothing to write I sat and thought. I watched the sun pass over the house and shine in my big back windows in the early afternoon. The cat kept me company by snoozing on the lounge. By 4pm I had made some progress and lost all ability to concentrate so I stopped. The evening was made bright with the arrival of some strawberries. I just polished some off with some yoghurt and thought how lucky I am to have strawberries straight from the farm.

I need more days like this.

Monday, July 4, 2011

we've only just begun

This afternoon at 4:30 was the first singing gathering at CQU Bundaberg. I had been immensely inspired by the power of music while at the Happiness conference a few weeks ago and finally decided it was time for me to get off my behind and do something with an idea I had been storing up for years. That's right - singing and music for fun, for joy, for all round goodness and well-being. So with a groovy name in hand - MusiCQUe on Mondays (thank you to @CirculatingLib for her inspiration) I emailed the campus staff, announced it a staff meeting and chose some music. I got 8 people turn up this afternoon with about 4 others who couldn't make it today. For a very small regional campus I was pretty happy with that turnout. It's a beginning. Strangely, I hadn't really thought about the enormity of starting a singing group entirely from scratch. It's no simple task but I decided to just go with my gut and choose some fairly simple songs and see what happened. It was great. Everyone sang in tune and we even managed to sing some partner songs which for a first try is excellent. Sometimes I forget that not everyone can hold harmony lines. We sang Wade in the Water/Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child, then Top of the World, Supertrouper, and what proved to be a popular choice with Maxwell's Silver Hammer. I have some Carole King on order and will most likely spend my spare time trawling the internets for other bits and pieces. The best part of the I was leaving hearing one of the songsters singing to herself in her office.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

the latter

This is my first Sunday with no commitments of any kind for many many moons. It's either been trips away, concerts, assignments, marking or rehearsals for what seems like forever. Not that I'm complaining. All those things are good (well except perhaps for the marking) but it's lovely to wake up with absolutely nothing to do.

Last weekend was the trip to Brisbane to finally see Harvest Rain's Jesus Christ Superstar. The Jinxster and I flew down and met up with our theatrical star friend Jason before and after the show. The lovely Rhonda also joined us taking the spare ticket we found ourselves with. Although we didn't get to see the original Judas because he had broken his ankle during the previous Wednesdays performance ON STAGE, this was still the most energetic show I had seen in forever. In fact I will go so far to say that it might be the best musical Andrew Lloyd-Webber ever wrote before he got all faux-operatic and obsessed with cats.

Last Sunday was made memorable because I got to meet twitter friend @kirsty_l in person. That's right! People on the internet are real. And delightful, witty and intelligent. And sometimes, if you're very very lucky they have yummy pavlova which they share with you over a cup of tea. The previous week I had the good fortune to meet @Shallow_Thought and @JohnGunders. It was a cool breezy Friday afternoon at Southbank and we talked about all sorts of things to do with humanities, social media, PhDs and otherwise over a cup of coffee. Again, this was a wonderful treat!

Sunday night dear Grant and Kate took me out to dinner. I had the most beautiful lamb I have ever eaten. Also, a starter of cauliflower and truffle oil soup which was tasty as well as dessert of sticky date pudding. These are a few of my favourite things. I did get a strange look from my brother when I told him I had met some people from The Internet. This was closely followed by a short lecture from me to him on the value of Twitter with the instruction that he shouldn't dismiss something before he tries it. Then we chatted about the Dalai Lama, social justice, community work and other wonderful things. Finally on Monday the Jinxster and I made our way to Anne M's at Clayfield where she fed us home made pizza scrolls before we jumped back on the plane to Bundaberg.

Holidays are now over as the teaching term starts tomorrow. This means I could either choose to work all day on bits and pieces OR I could just muck around reading and listening to music in between doing mundane tasks like the washing. I think I choo-choo-choose the latter.