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Jo Chandler’s recognition with a George Munster Prize for Journalism

Great writers, academics, social commentators, cultural investigators and all round amazing humans need to be recognised.  They often are, but more often in their field of expertise.  We may come across their work from time to time, accidentally and often without much thought to the author.  Sometimes we notice how immaculate the writing we are reading is, that we look for the author and research their other works, sometimes we thoroughly appreciate the work, and leave it at that.

Last night Jo Chandler was awarded the George Munster prize for journalism.  Not only does she represent a courageous woman who is willing to investigate first hand some of the inhumane affairs happening in our neighbourhood (Papua New Guinea), she represents the spirit of a waning industry that is being overrun by tabloid crass and 24/7 news frenzy updates.  Her in-depth research proves the power of long-form journalism and why it so necessary for our generation to read increasingly rare investigative journalism like this, so we can grow up to know the world we live in, a world beyond the Kardashian’s lounge-room.  Just 3.7 km of water separates us from our neighbours in Papua New Guinea, a place of natural wonders and native traditions, a place full of gender discrimination that would put hollywood sensationalism to shame.  We should know about these things, because they are happening.  Thanks to reporters like Jo Chandler, we do.

Here is a link to her articles, and to an independent publication that sadly is no longer. http://www.theglobalmail.org/reporters/jo-chandler/98/

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Photo source: the Global mail by Vlad Sokhin 

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Films worth watching ~ Blue is the warmest colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2)

ImageBlue is the warmest colour~ Director Abdellatif Kechich (La Vie d’Ad`ele – Chapitres 1&2 (The life of Adele Chapters 1&2) - Starring  L`ea Seydoux and Ad`ele Exarchopoulos

When I watched this film at my local cinema, I had no idea of the controversy embroiled between the director and the main actresses regarding his techniques and apparent grueling schedule.  Undoubtedly this is an exquisite piece of cinema, regardless of any external and potentially sullying facts.

Abdellatif had already begun writing a screenplay focussed on his acute interest in school teachers.  Discovering Julie Maroh’s graphic novel charting the lesbian love affair between an artist and a school teacher, Abdellatif tapped his screenplay into this new source of blood and out came 2013‘s Cannes Festival darling, winning the coveted Palme d’Or.

Proceeding the films release Maroh criticized the graphic sex scenes between the two leading characters Emma and Adele, which the film was so lauded for.  According to an English translation taken from her personal blog the explicit sex scenes were “a brutal and surgical display, exuberant and cold, of so-called lesbian sex, which turned into porn”.  The key element that was missing; ‘Lesbians’…

I disagree with hers and a few critics comments who deemed these scenes as merely voyeurism directed by Abdellatif for the male gaze:  A saucy lesbian love affair embellished unaturally for the screen.  Given the graphic nature of the performances and the subject matter someone is always going to take issue.  I felt the two actresses conveyed passion, longing and pure pleasure in an honest yet confronting way.  How the Director may have elicited these evocative performances is irrelevant of their effect.

The exploration of Adele’s lesbian awakening contrasted with Emma’s experience was an intriguing angle.  The backdrop of Emma’s emergence into the French art-world while Adele worked her way through her first year as a School teacher creates a poignant reality where the dynamics between the two almost, but never quite line up.

The movie is slow paced and the duration is 3 hours and 15 minutes.  It feels long.  However I was submerged so deep in Adele’s discovery, her naive appreciation of reality, her sorrowful losses and hard learned lessons that I loved its entirety.  A masterpiece as it stands, cutting it to fit within bathroom parameters would only lessen its powerful impact.

I have little insight into why the bitter words between the Director and the two main actresses,  and although his methods maybe questionable there is no doubting he does achieve something extraordinary….  “Abdell loves to take his time. He doesn’t like fabrication. He doesn’t want to see you act — he wants to take your soul.”~ Exarchopoulos.  

http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/timeline-blue-is-the-warmest-color-controversy.html – A summation of what he said she said following the films debut.  

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Films worth watching ~ The Bicycle Thief

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The Bicycle Thief ~ 1949 ~ Directed by Vittorio De Sica

Two years after this film was released it received an Academy Honorary Award, two years after this it was considered the ‘greatest film of all time’ by Sight and Sound.  The plot is simple.  Set in Post World War II  Rome Antonio Ricci is a poor father struggling to pay for his family, finally he secures a job that could set his family up more than comfortably.  The catch – he needs a bicycle to accomplish the work.  In a grand gesture his wife pawns their bedsheets which subsidizes the payment for the Bicycle.  However only a day into Antonio’s dream job does his bicycle get stolen by a thief.  So begins the tale of Antonio and his young son desperately searching for their stolen dream.

The emotional performances often overly dramatic, are incredibly evocative.  Partly due to De Sica’s use of non-actors, (Antonio played by Lamberto Maggiorani was a factory worker at the time).  True poverty appears in the face of those who have lived the hardship.  The scenes are all set on location, in the streets of Rome often in real-time without the use of paid extras.  The film is a raw and honest representation of the turmoil faced by a family man desperately trying to create a rich and fulfilling life for his family.  Against unfair circumstances we watch his fall into darkened despair and futile attempts in regaining his lost luck, and hold our breath as his dream visibly dissolves into fervent nothingness.  

The cinematography often carries long scenes in a single shot, zooming out and opening up a specific scene to its wider context.  Sometimes a sharp shift and change in direction from the running to the running away of a character.  Nothing fanciful the camera work simply allows the characters experience to drive the story.  

Although there are varying and subjective categories that delineate a great film, I would argue an undeniable factor would be a film that has the ability to move its audience.  Move being, an unexpected laugh or, a genuine sadness at the protagonists struggle.  That is why this film is so universally appreciated and revered, it forces the viewer to take Antonio and his sons hand and walk beside them in their anguished struggle, feeling their loss as if it were your own.  

 
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Bread I can eat

bread

A few years back I had stomach issues, a seemingly growing issue with women in modern society.  I was diagnosed with IBS, which meant I had to tread lightly around heavily processed goods, avoid any irritating fried food matter and generally become hyper aware of everything I was ingesting and how it made me feel.  A good safe-guard when eating was to stick to gluten-free because then I could avoid wheat.  IBS is not the same as Coeliac disease, food irritants are subjective to each individual.  There is a new diet established by the Monash University called the FODMAP diet based on certain sugar strains found in some rather unsuspecting food groups, and is again tailored to the individual.  The FODMAP diet led me to start experimenting with different ingredients so I didn’t have to give up a few of my staple food loves, one in particular being B R E A D.  I stumbled upon this recipe from one of my favourite recipe websites …http://www.mynewroots.org/site/  and absolutely adore its simplicity, versatility and above all textural taste! It is so damn delicious and can be paired with anything from scrambled eggs, marmalade and cheese, avocado and tomatoe or simply by itself, hot out of the oven slathered in butter.  Mix up the ingredients according to your taste and cupboard staples.

You can read more about the dietary goodness from the above website.  Here is the basic ingredients and method, but I have mixed it up many a time.

Ingredients:
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g hazelnuts or almonds
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (for sugar-free diets, use a pinch of stevia)
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil or ghee
1 ½ cups / 350ml water

Directions:
1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable). Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it it.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Place loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing (difficult, but important).
4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Freezes well too – slice before freezing for quick and easy toast!

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B I R T H C O N T R O L

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This is what Gordon’s bay looks like.  A secluded rocky inlet in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.  This is where you should stop reading if girls and their period make you feel icky inside.  Here is where you should go if you have an afternoon in Sydney, or live near here and need somewhere to take your bloated belly. 

 Birth control, this wonderful breakthrough in medicine allowing women control.  Control over something that for some can intermittently rule their world.  My mother impressed upon me the importance of allowing your body to rest during menstruation, speaking of native tribes where the woman would spend their period chilling in their homes/caves doing little else.  In modern Australia this is an in-practical solution given most places of work won’t accept ‘sorry I can’t come in today I got my period’ as a reasonable excuse of leave.  That’s why so many of us take medication to alleviate the side effects, control its occurrence and continue our lives without interruption.  What is startling about these oral contraceptive pills is the lack of information given to patients when choosing which one, and the possible side effects of taking ‘the pill’.  Girls talk about their side effects to one another, with strong anecdotal evidence to back up their theories, merely theories in contrast to medical discourse.  Women, those crazy hormonal creatures lacking insight ruled by a menstrual cycle, eating pills with their breakfast cereal.  I once took Yaz, until it turned me completely nutso, having read this article though I’m glad I gave it up so quickly ..

http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/marie-claire/features/world/article/-/16839237/yasmin-pill-side-effects-the-dangers-of-yaz/

 It is baffling that I like so many women know nothing of the numerous blood clots some have contracted using Yaz or Yazmine as a result.  

I tried Yaz briefly because I had heard it was the nicer sister pill to Yasmin, my peers had tested out both and spoke highly of Yaz’s relatively minimal interruptions on their emotional well-being.  However after merely five weeks on Yaz I experienced a barrage of internal anger, flashes of insane tantrums that often ended up in tears.  After one too many frustrating phone-calls to our internet provider, my room-mate watched me storm up the stairs, one heavy step at a time and slam our balcony door behind me.  She followed me up, tentatively and approached me with gentle care.  I was sobbing, phone flung on the ground and swearing to never call the internet people again.  Yes it was annoying, but really nothing to warrant the likes of an afternoon soap-opera style tantrum.  She cuddled me and soothed my grievances, and bluntly stated I needed to get off the pill.  I never took Yaz after that again, and quickly recovered my sanity.  

Another one of my friends experienced intense emotional turmoil on the pill herself and turned to the ‘mini-pill’, containing the least amount of hormones it seemed like a safe option.  The first Doctor shook his head as he wrote my prescription stressing how it was not as full-proof as other pills.  It strictly must be taken on the same hour every day, or like his niece babies can happen.  He justified it by telling me it was a temporary solution and to reconsider other forms of contraception.  Getting my prescription filled by another doctor he gave me the same unnapproving head wag, when I asked a question relating to the mental side-effects of Micronor (my chosen mini-pill), he googled the answer for me.  I visit a bulk-billing medical centre, where the wait can be up to 3 hours sometimes.  Needless to say the influx of patients is huge, in and out.  

In and out.  

Not one of the doctors informed me that it was a normal side-effect of this pill to completely stop getting your period.  A fact I could only find on internet chat forums.  I was in Mexico and I wasted alot of money on pregnancy tests and therapeutic tacos .   I had no idea how this pill interacted with my body.  Trawling the chat forum to gain as much information as I could I learned of numerous girls contracting irregular periods, the usual gaining of weight and one unlucky chick having a non-stop period for months on end.  D e v o.   The doctors were right about one thing, many girls had gotten pregnant whilst on this pill. But then again so do girls taking the full pill, because try as we might nature sometimes gets in the way of our perfectly controlled lives.  

 There is never a shortage of opinions regarding the right approach to dealing with menstruation.  While getting a facial my beautician waxed lyrically about the effect of new scientific breakthroughs enhancing skin-care products.  How wonderful Science could be for the Modern 21st century woman.  Now face creams could actively repair skin tissue, and now we know that women don’t need to get their period as much as they do.

“What do you mean we don’t need our period, I asked in genuine wonder.”

“Unnecessary, it’s actually pointless to have it so much.”

I still don’t know how that theory sits with me.  I do know that the 13,500 thousand law-suits mentioned in the above article is a startling reminder of the potential severity us girls subject our lives to, without so much as a second thought.  Would you like some milk in your tea with a side of Blood clots?  I think I’ll pass.

 

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Grave-yards

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Is it weird that I come to sit in a place of burial.  Wrapping around the Eastern Suburbs coast line is some of Sydney’s most famous beaches.  Bronte, Tamarama, Clovelly and even a pocket full of rocks which makes up the quietly sublime Gordons Bay.  Jutting out from the cliff top is Waverly Cemetery, where I sit amongst a bunch of drooping flowers, and dead people.  Bondi runners fling their sweat as they beat the metal pathways.  Victorian and Edwardian tombstones cut the skyline.  Henry Lawson’s bones are here.  Featured in many horror films, a hauntingly beautiful juxtoposition of sunlight and gravestones.  Bodies underneath the ground while many over the years walk on-top of its grassy surface.  I am an aethiest, so naturally I don’t see the point in being buried.  I think our society is fixated on finding meaning in death which is why we also fear it so much.  

When I was 19 I visited the Pere lachaise cemetery.  One of the most famous cemetery’s in Paris it was a place on our map highlighted for tourists, where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried. Sitting in-front of Jim Morrison’s grave was a man and his brown paper bottle-bag rocking back and forth.  Hunched over in a fetal like position he was a mixture of wild sobs and frenzied gulps.  Alcohol and tears drowning his blue day in a grave-yard.  Wild curly hair flicked with his jerky movements, his skin was un-washed.  What exactly was he sad about.  That Jim had died in tragic circumstance, like the event of a complete stranger somehow affected this guy’s life.  Or was he just sad and sitting near a dead dudes grave.  A dead dude that looked a-lot like him.  Maybe the strangest thing about it for me was that I, was witness to it.   Why was I, like millions of other tourists visiting a grave-yard. 

If we forgot about death, thought of it as an inevitability, that comes like spring-time and cicadas, it loses its big deal appeal.  It happens, we find an empty space, and then we move on.  What happens sometimes is that space was filled with so much richness and vitality, hard-to-find qualities that we struggle to replace.  We curse death for stealing that space away from us.  Death is amplified, the final curtain that many are too scared to peer behind.  We hate death so much, because it steals life – the ultimate.  Buddhist monks are more at peace with death, treat it like a passing.  The impermanence of life.  We know it’s coming so we shut our eyes and block our ears and dread that final ring.

Humans naturally make connections, we need to draw parallels and find meaning, without meaning we are just bodies going through the motions.  A glass of milk with your cereal for breakfast, missing the bus by a minute and eventually death.  Perhaps if we stopped trying to make meaning out of shitty occurrences we could accept more. It might lead to a life full of more courageous acts, making more of the life we do have. If we don’t live a little fearlessly then there is the possibility of a life not lived properly in time.  

Boooooooooooo-urrrrrns if I ever become that person.                                                                               ^^^